City Council Election 2021: David Gold Sets His Sights on Big Changes, Including Abolishing the Electoral College

David Gold.

By Carol Tannenhauser

David Gold is not your average City Council candidate. “That’s the truth,” he confirmed, in a recent phone interview with WSR. Gold, 54, is the third of six candidates who we are profiling (alphabetically), in preparation for the June 22nd Democratic primary for the District 6 seat. A lifelong Upper West Sider, he is currently executive director and president of Democratism, a nonprofit organization that “seeks to make our federal election system more democratic,” he explained. Previously, he ran a community arts and education organization, founded and led a software company, practiced plaintiff-side complex litigation, and served as a law clerk to Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He holds a JD from Columbia Law School, a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BA from Brown University.

Why is he running for City Council?

“My goals, ultimately, are very much in line with what you would expect from most City Council candidates who have a chance in this neighborhood,” he said, “but what I really want to do — what sets me apart is that I believe we can achieve those goals by making big changes.”

Like eliminating the Electoral College.

West Side Rag: Is that a local issue?

David Gold: It is absolutely a local issue. Every issue we are talking about in this campaign is profoundly affected by our failed politics in Washington. We can’t achieve any of the most important goals that many of us share without removing the right-wing bias from the federal election system. I’m not proposing some radical new idea of democracy. It’s the basic principle that prevails in almost all democracies in the world, which is that the executive, in this case the president, should be chosen by the people, and there should be proportional representation in Congress. As it stands now, the system is rigged in favor of the Republicans, which has a negative effect in many ways on New York City.

WSR: Who rigged it?

DG: It’s a very old democratic system, the first of its kind. It was formed out of a group of states that were still largely independent of one another. It was a compromise system. The reason it’s so bad now is that our politics nationally are polarized mostly along urban-rural lines. It would benefit New York City and New Yorkers to make the system democratic, because it’s now anti-city. It’s also white supremacist. You can’t really claim to be fighting white supremacy if you don’t take seriously the problem that our system not only undercounts city people, it undercounts black people and over-counts white people.

WSR: But why is this an Upper West Side issue from the point of view of fixing it?

DG: Because the federal government doesn’t have a way to fix itself, but we can solve that if we start locally. Democratism, offers a method for changing the election system of the federal government to make it truly democratic. We propose doing this by a vote of the people, which can be triggered by local governments. We would propose something called the Democracy Decree, which could be adopted in the New York City Council. If it were adopted in enough local legislatures around the country, it would trigger a vote of the American people, which could bring about the popular election of the president and proportional representation in Congress. So far, no other city council members seem very much aware of it, but what I’m saying is, if you’re not talking about this issue, you’re not talking about the most important issue to the future of New York City, and, furthermore, an issue that can only be addressed in the first instance locally.

WSR: So, that’s why you’re running?

DG: I’m doing it because I think it’s a very rare moment, when the crises of the last year have opened up an opportunity for really substantial change. We need to seize the moment. I got into the race because I believe I have proposals that could change the whole city for the better — the whole nation if we pursue them. Even from a conventional standpoint, I think I’d be a really great member of the City Council. I don’t know what kind of politician I’ll turn out to be, but I think I have the qualities to be a good legislator, especially for the Upper West Side. I share the values of Upper West Siders; I have good judgement; I have a lot of skill at analyzing laws and regulations; I’ve run a business; I know how to do numbers and budgets; and I like to learn stuff, to listen to my neighbors and consider both sides of issues and discuss and analyze them and come to good conclusions together. The main reason I’m doing it though, is because I think it’s really possible to do something transformative.

WSR: Tell me about your connection to the neighborhood.

DG: I grew up on the Upper West Side. So did my wife, six blocks away from me. We’ve raised our two sons here. My wife’s parents and mine, who are good friends with each other, all still live here, too. We also have other relatives in the neighborhood, and a lifetime of close friends and acquaintances who live or work here. I’ve seen all the neighborhood’s changes and challenges since the 1970s. Through my own experience and those of close friends and relatives, I know what it’s like to grow up here, grow old here, play here, learn here, be sick here, and recover here. If this were an ordinary time, I would leave this to the people who have made a career out of politics or hope to. I’m running because right now, we’re at a rare moment when there’s not only a need for real change, but also a hunger for real change, and we need to think big and creatively about it. That’s what I’m offering.

WSR: Can you beat Gale Brewer?

DG: Well, um, so…I think she’s beatable or I wouldn’t be doing this. Clearly, she has name recognition. I’m hoping that people will learn about what I’m trying to do, and they will see that a vote for me could be really important.

The Democratic primary is on June 22, 2021. It will utilize ranked-choice voting, which you can read about here. The above interview was condensed and edited for clarity.

Click on their names to read profiles of two other candidates: Gale Brewer and Maria Danzilo.

Next: Sara Lind.

NEWS | 30 comments | permalink
    1. blacklikeu says:

      Sounds like a nice guy who veered way too far to the left.
      Eliminate term limits is more important, especially at the local level, than eliminating the Electoral College.

    2. Juan says:

      Wow. All those book smarts and not a lot of common sense. Sure, I’d also like to get rid of the electoral college. But a city council candidate needs to be able to address a lot of other issues more within their scope of responsibilities. Next.

    3. UWS Voter says:

      Man, I am dying for a progressive candidate, and I dislike the EC as much as the next guy–but I am just not buying running for a city council seat on a platform of dismantling the electoral college. What are his opinions on schools, the subway, housing, zoning, etc? The local issues our national representatives may not have the opportunity to be engaged with? I hope he speaks about more local issues in the future.

      Thanks for these profiles, WSR.

      • David Gold says:

        Thanks. I do also speak about entirely local issues. And if you look on my website, you’ll find another democracy proposal that’s entirely local and goes to a range of long-standing problems, including our housing crisis, empty storefronts and protecting local businesses, and many others. See and please contact me with any questions.

        • Michella says:

          Your views on the lucerne shelter? Your views on Sara Linds Lincoln center housing proposal? Your views on broken windows?

    4. EdNY says:

      A noble thought – but as a practical matter, the Electoral College could only be abolished by a constitutional amendment which would require the small red states to go along. Why in the world would they when it would reduce their influence? Please don’t waste my time with pie-in-the-sky ideas that sound good but have no chance of working. The best way to ensure that the president is elected by popular vote is getting more states to sign onto the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Look it up.

      • David Gold says:

        In fact, the Compact (like a constitutional amendment) would require red states to go along, which is one reason it cannot succeed. A second is that by its own terms, it allows any state to withdraw from it anytime up until six months before an election, so if a red state did join it (which it won’t), it could always drop out. Finally, the whole compact would probably not be enforced by the Supreme Court, given the right wing personnel. Only local power, beginning in local legislatures, like the City Council, can address this.

    5. UWS Voter says:

      I don’t even think he thinks he’s a serious candidate, so I wonder what the purpose of the run is. There are existing groups advocating to abolish the electoral college. Wouldn’t it be simpler to join one?

    6. Balebusta says:

      This is 100% a hard pass for me. All that education and yet he has jumped off the deep end with all the hard leftists. He’s not exactly wrong about the electoral college, but I would not say that’s the most pressing issue for the UWS. I am desperate for a moderate so he will not get my vote.

    7. good humor says:

      Too left and lacks local focus

    8. Erica says:

      @EDNy, Yes, there is a way to get rid of the EC without an amendment – each state has to enact it on their own though. I like his thinking…David, would love to learn more about your thought on local usages as well.

      • David Gold says:

        Thanks, Erica! Check out my campaign website (maybe linked in my username), which is growing, for more information on the local issues and the democracy proposals. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

    9. Otis says:

      I agree with the other commentators.

      Overhauling the Electoral College is a national issue, not a local issue.

      The priority of City Council members should be to look out for the interests of the people they represent rather than to go on some quixotic quest to change the national landscape.

    10. Bb says:

      But what does he think about the stones used at the bull moose run dog park?

    11. 72RSD says:

      Does Mr. Gold have an opinion on how the electoral college will change compliance costs for Local Law 11 and the ever-expanding Landmarks districts that envelop our neighborhoods? Does the Electoral College have a view on bike lanes? Yeesh.

      Thank you WSR for these interviews, they are really helping me understand the candidates. Truly a top-notch service to the neighborhood.

      So far Maria Danzilo (who I had not heard of before the WSR profile!) seems to have the right priorities.

    12. Jen says:

      He is not getting my vote

    13. G says:

      Gale Brewer is a nightmare. has been for years and years.

    14. NotImpressed says:

      After reading this, I have absolutely no idea how he plans to address the immediate problems of homelessness, petty crime, dirt, and other issues.
      It’s like reading a bio of someone running for school treasurer and finding out what their views are on space exploration.

    15. Rob G. says:

      Can someone explain why Upper West Side representatives seem to be more interested in focusing on national politics than fixing the own neighborhood? Are they that blind to what’s going on around them?

      • Peter says:

        It’s much easier to complain about national issues than actually work hard to m solving local issues. Its difficult work and not easy to deal with crime, homelessness, empty storefronts etc. These rich people aren’t impacted by the lockdowns or other issues like most people are. Do they ride the subway, send their kids to public schools? Has their livelihood been impacted in the last year? Probably not. That’s why they dont focus on local issues.

        • Truth Bearer says:

          Extremely well put and why the UWS looks the way it does now. Not one candidate shows the bravado to commit to making changes or at least fighting tooth and nail to get things in order for all of us, which would get the troubled mentally ill or drug addicted into programs that are enforceable and work.

    16. David Gold says:

      Thank you for the great piece! I responded to some of the comments. I do of course also have positions on questions people already think of as local issues. Some are on the website, which is growing, including a local democracy proposal that goes to housing, local businesses and many other entirely local issues. Please be in touch for more. David

      • brandonsos says:

        What is your position on Gale Brewer supporting James Oddo for NYC Deputy Mayor and calling him “a first-rate human being” and “a first-rate public servant” when he supported NYPD profiling Muslims and was against mosques opening both in Manhattan and in his own council district?

    17. Iris Z Feldman says:

      David Gold would do well to watch SAFEGUARD streaming on Amazon, so named because of what Abraham Lincoln said, “Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only SAFEGUARD of our liberties.”

    18. Pedestrian says:

      I’ll be frank. NYC needs council candidates who focus on the needs of the city. If the electoral college is his big issue, I’d say he’s running for the wrong office!

    19. Lefty Realist says:

      Fantasyland. You can’t abolish the EC without the agreement of 38 states. Why would AK, MT, UT, WY! ND, SD, NE, KS, OK, AL, LA, MS, WV ever agree to it, diminishing their power radically? (Not to mention SC, TN, IA, KY, and various others.) Maybe the stupidest local platform plank I’ve ever heard of.

    20. JerryV says:

      Abolishing the Electoral College by constitutional amendment is a hopeless task and a waste of time to pursue. Instead, aim to get more States to agree to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), an agreement among a group of U.S. States and D.C. to award all their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the popular vote national popular vote. It is designed so that the candidate winning the popular vote is elected president. As of March 2020, it has been adopted by fifteen states and the District of Columbia. Together, they have 196 electoral votes, which is 36% of the Electoral College and 73% of the 270 votes needed to give the compact legal force. New York has already approved it, but we need other States to pass it.

      • Jill says:

        It seems to me that he’s one of several running on ideology versus critical local issues. Clearly Sara Lind is using this seat, in a neighborhood to which she is fairly new, to advance broader and extreme ideals. Bike lanes seem more important than the survival of small businesses and education. Gale can’t seem to leave office and already betrayed the UWS over the last year.

    21. Thank you WSR for bringing this to my attention! I’m sure that David gold has many opinions about local issues but I found his explanation of the connection to the Electoral College issue dead on.
      Nice that WSR was fair enough to put in the other links.

    22. Havehaddit says:

      As a Westsider, I want my council member to focus on where I live: the Upper Westside. I don’t see the pandemic crisis as an opportunity for radical change. I don’t see this specific seat as a platform for abolishing the EC. Having read 3 profiles so far, my money is on Maria Danzilo as a smart, sensible candidate.