Are you ready for election day tomorrow?

I'm not talking about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or even some obscure Assembly race, it's time for you to get into the spirit of participatory budget season!

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, let me explain: 28 of the city's 51 City Council districts are now part of a program that allows voters to have a direct say in how some "bricks and mortar" money is spent in their backyard.

The idea is that actual residents have a better idea of what their neighborhood really needs than someone in big government.

And I'm totally against the idea.

At my coffee shop in Rockaway, someone was explaining to me how past voting has worked. People in one neighborhood – who have a relatively high level of civic participation – get behind one proposal that will be on the ballot and vote in a bloc. Therefore, they usually win.

Of course, that's how democracy works. But do you really need direct democracy to determine whether a handball court gets built?

In a year in which we're already asking most New Yorkers to vote four times, it doesn't really seem smart or fair to expect them to vote again to decide whether a few hundred thousand dollars will get spent on a playground construction project.

You can bet that smarter and wealthier people will have more of a clue about this budgeting vote, hurting poorer parts of every district in which residents have a lower rate of involvement.

Last year, a grand total of 1,383 people voted in my district – out of the roughly 165,000 people who live in it. That's hardly democracy in action. 

There are two solutions: you can try to get everyone to vote (good luck unless you're handing out free cronuts) or you can scrap the whole system.

There's a reason we elect -- and essentially hire -- City Council members: it's to get to know the problems of each neighborhood and make the difficult choices facing our districts. They're the people who have to sit through every civic meeting and City Council hearing so we don't have to. Pitting block against block over some discretionary money isn't fair to some residents – and it takes some difficult decision making out of the hands of elected officials.

So this weekend, I really don't want to vote. Hey City Council: do your job.


Bob Hardt