New Yorkers' grand, central guide to elections, politics & government

What I Learned in 2013

by Ben Max


2013 was an engaging, challenging and rewarding year for me. When I left teaching in June of 2012 to move back to New York City and explore other work opportunities, I did not plan to start a politics website. But, one thing I learned, or re-learned, in 2013 is that some of the best things that happen in life are unplanned.


I also re-learned that this city is full of extraordinary people, and I am truly grateful to those who have worked with me on Decide NYC, used our site, and supported our efforts. While there have been about thirty people who have volunteered on this project with me and I thank all of them (you), I must specifically name David Baily, Tyler Dratch, and Talia Werber, each of whom did an incredible amount of work on Decide NYC in 2013. I am better from having worked with you. Thank you.


The city’s extraordinary people pool is not limited to those who have been involved with Decide NYC, of course. Other swimmers in this pool include many of the candidates for office that we profiled and covered, some of whom are about to take office. Having closely watched just about every race of the 2013 city election cycle, I got to know many of the candidates and their campaigns and platforms well. Almost without exception, I believe that the people who sought city office in 2013 did so for the right reasons: they believed that they could lead their communities and help those they sought to represent.


The extraordinary New Yorkers I’ve come across in 2013 also include the unbelievably talented and hard-working journalists who I have learned so much from and appreciate to an extent parallel to the esteem with which I hold the best teachers I have worked with. Like most teachers, most journalists in this city do amazing, important, and often thankless work. I thank you to those in the media who have been an inspiration or a source of information to me over the past year, and I hope that those of you who have had occasion to utilize Decide NYC have found what you’ve needed.


In 2013 I also learned that starting something from scratch is pretty damn hard. There’s a tremendous amount that goes into launching a venture with a big mission. While I feel good about what we’ve accomplished with Decide NYC, I also came up short on several fronts, and have learned from the experience. We’ve had a solid start, filled something of a void, and became a trusted resource to many. I wish the site had been more widely used and had a more significant impact on voter engagement and participation. I wish I had put more effort into finding funding for the site. I wish that we had held other events than our launch party, which was in April. I wish I knew then what I know now. But, the process of learning it all has been invaluable.


I have also learned how much fun Twitter is. I joined sometime in late October of 2012, I think, and since then I’ve sent over 11,000 tweets (go ahead and judge/follow me) and read millions, probably. Live-tweeting political events has been a good time and a great way to stay focused when you’re at your eighth Manhattan Borough President candidate forum.


In 2013, I learned a great deal about each of the city’s boroughs, many of its neighborhoods, its subway system, and lots of its pizza places.


In 2013 I learned some key things about the inner workings of the worlds of media, politics, and government. I learned or re-learned that you shouldn’t overstay your welcome, that being the front-runner can be really hard, that there’s a lot of money to be made in political consulting, that your family can be a huge advantage, and that content, as always, remains king. I learned that both the competition and respect among journalists is fierce, and that we are all better off for it.


I learned about issues affecting the city like transportation, policing, waste transfer, and more. I focused on and got to know the intricacies of the New York City education system and the great education debates of our time. We have so much work to do.


We also have heavy-lifting ahead to improve civic engagement, voter awareness and participation, good government, and responsible citizenship. And the Mets.


In 2013 I met so many great people who were running for office, making campaigns run, covering those candidates and campaigns, advocating on issues, and creating the laws, both written and unwritten, that govern our city. I’m eternally thankful for the year that was and looking forward to the year ahead.


May 2014 be full of learning and growth for all of us – individually and collectively. Happy new year.






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