Pokemon Go to the Polls

What did the 2018 midterms mean for East Coast architects?

East News Professional Practice Transportation Urbanism
The 2018 midterms saw voters go to the ballot over a range of initiatives and politicians that could have a major effect on work for architects and urbanists. (Martin Falbisoner/Wikipedia)
The 2018 midterms saw voters go to the ballot over a range of initiatives and politicians that could have a major effect on work for architects and urbanists. (Martin Falbisoner/Wikipedia)

Let out a sigh of relief (or keep holding your breath); the 2018 midterm elections are over, and voters passed judgment up and down the Eastern Seaboard on a wave of politicians and ballot measures that will impact architects, construction workers, and transportation enthusiasts.

Climate change policy was also, though not as explicitly, up for a vote alongside more concrete measures. Although the dust is still settling, AN has put together a primer on what the election results mean from Miami to Maine.

New York

Democrats now control all three branches of government in New York State and are poised to rewrite the state’s rent stabilization laws…assuming Governor Andrew Cuomo lets them. As Gothamist noted, the 1971 Urstadt Law prevents New York City from usurping Albany’s authority and passing more stringent rent control laws than those at the state level, even as the city spirals deeper into its affordable housing crisis. The new year will bring a vote on all of the laws that oversee the city’s affordable housing stock, meaning that the newly inaugurated state legislators will be in prime position to demand stronger tenant protections.

The real estate industry in New York City has historically donated to campaigning Republicans and the reelection of the industry-friendly Cuomo, however, so it’s unclear how far the governor will acquiesce. As the NYPost broke down, tenant activists are amped up at the possibility of tamping down annual rent increases and ending the ability of landlords to raise rents after investing in capital improvements.

Cuomo’s reelection also likely locks in the decision to place Amazon’s HQ2 (or 2.5) in Long Island City. The governor had been a huge booster for NYC’s bid for the tech hub, promising hundreds of millions in state subsidies.

On the national front, the election of a number of “climate hawks,” including New York 14th District representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the 19th District’s Antonio Delgado, will bring a group of climate-action hardliners to Washington. It’s expected the new crop of progressive voices will press the House on plans to transition toward sustainable energy and curb America’s dependence on fossil fuels.

More importantly, 16 Republican House members—more than half—on the 90-person bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus were voted out. On its surface, the collapse of the caucus sounds like a bad thing for environmentalists, but as Earther notes, the group was known for advancing milquetoast, business-friendly proposals that ultimately went nowhere. Although any climate action coming from the House needs to pass the Senate and would land on the President’s desk, where it would presumably wilt, the momentum for change is slowly building. Any climate change–confronting action will likely have an outsized impact on zoning codes in New York and beyond and would require construction teams and architects to implement steeper resiliency measures into their projects.

Maine

In Maine, voters overwhelmingly passed Question 3 by a measure of 2-to-1, ensuring that the state would issue $106 million in general bonds for transportation projects. Of that, $80 million will be used for roadway and bridge infrastructure construction and repair, $20 million for upgrading airports, ports, harbors, and railroads, and $5 million for upgrading stream-facing drainpipes to lessen the impact on local wildlife. One million will also be spent to improve the pier at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.

Florida

Ron DeSantis is the new governor and Rick Scott is likely to move up to become a senator. During his tenure as governor, Scott, although presiding over a state uniquely vulnerable to flooding and coastal storms, was a staunch climate change denier and banned the phrase from all state documents and discussions. DeSantis appears to be cut from the same cloth, telling crowds during a campaign stop over the summer that climate change, if it exists, can’t be mitigated at the state level. What this likely means will be a continued lack of action to mitigate climate change and its effects on a state level.

Soccer lovers can rejoice, though, as 60 percent of voters endorsed allowing David Beckham’s Freedom Park to build on the Melreese Country Culb. The $1 billion Arquitectonica-designed soccer stadium, hotel, “soccer village,” and office, retail, and commercial space will span 73 acres.

Michigan

Gerrymandering looks like it’s on its way out in Michigan after a 60-40 vote to redraw the state’s districts. Over several decades, the state legislature had used its redistricting power to cram Democrat or Republican constituents (depending on who was in power at the time) into congressional districts where their impact would be marginalized.

Now, after the passage of Proposal 2 and the subsequent amending of Michigan’s constitution, a 13-person, bipartisan panel will be established to redraw the state’s internal boundaries. Four Republicans, four Democrats, and five non-party identifying individuals will make up the commission. Barring a court challenge, money for the initiative, including pay for its members, will be allocated from the state budget come December 1, 2019. After that, the commission will draw up the new districts for the 2022 election using data from the 2020 census. The panel will convene every 10 years, in time with the census, and can only be disbanded after the legal challenges to its decisions are completed. Any Michigan citizen who hasn’t held political office in the last six years can apply to become a commissioner.

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