Reporters Notebook: The Silent Majority in the Mayoral Election

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Mayoral Candidate Shaun Donovan. Photo by Stephen Witt

While covering mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan’s digital initiative to improve the city’s trash collection on Friday in front of the Williamsburg Sanitation Garage, a passing motorist yelled, “F**King liberals” out the driver’s side window. 

The comment stuck in my head as Donovan unveiled his CleanStat initiative based on a similar program in Los Angeles, which uses maps and grades every single street in the city from 1 (clean) to 3 (not clean). This makes it easier to monitor progress and gives residents a real-time way of complaining if their trash isn’t picked up.

“By integrating data more effectively into the mapping, tracking, and picking up of our city’s garbage, we too can drastically improve the way we meet New Yorkers’ needs,” said Donovan. “Los Angeles was able to have such incredible results by assessing the cleanliness of its streets quarterly, which means that if we are able to track our progress closer to real-time, we can expect to see even better results.” 

After speaking with Donovan I walked into the garage and flagged down a middle-aged sanitation worker as she waited in the queue of garbage trucks waiting to get into the garage.

“I haven’t decided who I’m going to vote for mayor,” she said. “There are too many candidates in the race.”

The woman, whose name is being withheld as she is a civil servant, said she has been a sanitation worker for 15 years, was from Bedford-Stuyvesant and didn’t believe in defunding the police. “We do need cops,” she said. “Maybe we need to put in a different strategy to monitor the police, but not defund them.”

“What about Eric Adams?” I asked. “He used to be a cop.”

“I know Eric Adams, but I’m not sure what he stands for. He has a long history in New York City, but I want to hear him in the debates. I know he’ll probably get a lot of police officers to vote for him.”

As we continued chatting, I was struck by the worker’s thought process and common sense approach. This got me wondering about the passing motorist again. It is possible this mayoral election will be decided by people like he? The not so silent majority yelling profanities out car windows. 

Or perhaps it will be decided by the young progressive crowd, who have held such sway in the recent state budget with their punitive tax-the-wealthy political war cry. 

But if it were up to me, I hope the race is decided by people like this sanitation worker. That as we consider our recovery, these are the types of attributes needed in our next mayor.