09/13/2013 05:51 pm ET Updated Nov 13, 2013

A Common Sense Idea to Save NYC $20 Million

Three days after primary day, New York politicos are still focused on the Democratic mayoral primary, debating whether Bill de Blasio's 40.3 percent lead will hold to avoid a runoff (required if none of the candidates secure at least 40 percent of the vote). A quick look at the numbers shows it is likely that once the final votes are counted, he will still have over 40 percent of the votes, and thus no runoff will be necessary, even if Bill Thompson doesn't heed calls from Democratic leaders for him to drop out of the race.

The Public Advocate race on the other hand, will surely require a runoff, as the two front-runners -- City Council Member Letitia James and State Senator Daniel Squadron -- secured just 36 percent and 33 percent of the vote respectively.

As a result, per New York State Law, New York City's taxpayers will have to fund a runoff at a cost of approximately $20 million for an office that has a total annual budget of $2.3 million. Turnout on October 1st is sure to be minuscule, as the Public Advocate race is nowhere close to top-of-mind for busy New Yorkers.

Whoever wins the runoff will become the next Public Advocate, as not a single Republican is running for the position.

Here's a simple, common sense idea that could save $20 million: postpone the Public Advocate runoff, and hold it during the November 5th general election. Why not decide our next Public Advocate at the same time we select our next mayor, when New Yorkers will be heading to the polls in droves?

There are a few issues with this plan that make it highly unlikely:

  • By holding the runoff concurrent with the general election, it would allow all New Yorkers to vote in what is supposed to be a Democratic Party primary. This would ultimately be a good thing, as it would give the incoming Public Advocate a larger mandate.
  • Changing the runoff would require a change in New York State law, which won't be easy as the State Assembly and Senate are both out of session.

Nonetheless, if the would-be Public Advocates James and Squadron, as well as the current Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, all advocate in favor of this plan, perhaps common sense would prevail and $20 million would be saved.