This November, we are highlighting Young Professionals working to make sure all New Yorkers across the City and State have the information and resources they need to vote.
Congratulations to our November Spotlights of the Month, Timothy Chubinidze, Office of the Queens Borough President, and Allie Swatek, New York City Campaign Finance Board!
Just like many immigrant families in Queens, my parents came to this country in 1993 with hopes of providing a better life for their children. Without their sacrifice, hard work, and support I would not be where I am today. I was born and raised in Queens. I spent all my academic years at schools in Queens. Queens is all I know and I would not change a thing about that. #QueensRising
I am most proud that I am learning and growing in a field that is traditionally not easy to get into. I began as an intern at the Queens Borough President’s Office, which luckily turned into a full-time position. I had no expectations of working in an elected official’s office but once I saw first-hand what public servants can be capable of, I knew this was the field for me.
My advice would be to seek volunteer opportunities and find someone who can help guide and mentor you. Fortunately for me, during my Bachelor’s Program at Queens College, I happened to meet Professor James Vacca who is not only the best professor in the world, but was also a New York City Councilmember in the Bronx. Professor Vacca is someone who I can bounce ideas off of, seek advice from, or just simply complain to. Having a mentor is key to prevent you from making mistakes which can be avoided. Just as important, seek volunteer opportunities. This goes especially for any aspiring young professionals out there! Get involved at your local civic organization, join your monthly community board meetings, and get to know your local elected official offices. Is your local Councilmember holding a community cleanup? Go and help out! Speak with people and begin building relationships, things have a way of coming to fruition as long as you show dedication, consistency, and most importantly, are willing to put in the work!
I realized I am a New Yorker when I am out of state and I cross the street when it is “clear” to cross and not when the crosswalk sign changes to the walk guy. In New York, we don’t need the walk guy to tell us when to cross. We cross when it is clear to cross!
My first internship was working for a New York City Council Member and I thought it was just the most exciting job. Local government is so powerful because it truly is a laboratory for new and interesting policies and programs meant to improve people’s lives. Cool initiatives that reflect our core values as New Yorkers—like public pre-kindergarten, the public matching funds program, and affordable housing—will always be a huge draw for the policy nerd in me. There was a time when I wanted to work for the federal government or an international governing body, but I always end up coming back to the City because of the impact local government can have in individual lives.
I am most proud of helping New Yorkers learn about ranked choice voting, which we used for the first time in the June primary elections. There’s always a lot of nervous energy around big changes and educating almost 5 million voters is no simple task. But, 95% of voters found their ballot easy to understand and to cast. The roll-out was successful thanks to the dedicated community organizers and voting advocates we worked with to make sure our messaging resonated with voters in their communities.
I’m especially grateful to the disability rights advocates who taught me about voting system accessibility. The CFB included audio descriptions at our candidate debates and designed an excellent large-print flyer based on their feedback. I voted using the ballot marking device, which allows voters with disabilities to mark their ballot privately and independently, and that experience helped me to better understand how someone with a visual impairment experiences voting. I’m now much more intentional about incorporating accessibility principles into our work.
Always critique your assumptions. My team at the CFB does voting behavior research and we’re always looking for new and interesting ways to describe the electorate and analyze why and how people vote. Nothing is more important than being able to take a step back to make sure we’re asking the right questions and incorporating other points of view into our analyses.
I felt the most like a New Yorker when I moved to Austin, Texas to attend graduate school. I complained all the time about having to drive everywhere because there was no reliable public transportation. Sidewalks in Austin also abruptly disappear in the middle of a block, so I also gained an appreciation for our wonderful (and complete) system of sidewalks in NYC. Shout out to the New Yorkers maintaining our sidewalks!