What I'm Working On #1
Reforming poli sci degrees // original MNY research // curriculum design // fundraiser
Maximum New York began as a blog in October 2021, then became a class in March 2022, and has since become a quickly growing, integrated set of projects.
Retiring the Modern Political Science Degree
MNY’s mission is to bring more minds online to tackle the problems in New York City and State government. Most people do not know how these work, and they have no way of finding out.
I’m solving that problem immediately by teaching classes like The Foundations of New York (100+ students and counting), but I’m also working on reforming existing undergraduate programs in political science, politics, and government. To that end:
If you are a current or former student in one of these fields (or an adjacent one that requires governmental understanding), or a current or former instructor, I’d like to hear from you. What do you think about your program? Did it equip you well? Do you have a robust understanding of how the government works?
Some ways to think about “robust understanding”:
Could you draw a basic diagram of your local/state/federal governments? Do you have a firm opinion on what properly qualifies as a good “basic diagram”?
Do you know what the law is?
Do you know what a corporation is legally, and how they play a role in government?
Could you draw a basic timeline of your city/state/federal government’s development?
Original research on the New York City Council
The New York City Council has 51 members, each from a district within the five boroughs. Famously low voting rates,1 combined with things like off-cycle elections, mean the influence of entrenched voting blocs is disproportionately powerful (maybe you like this, maybe you don’t). So: how competitive are these districts really?
If you take District 34 (my own) as an example: before my current representative was a council member, she was the chief of staff of the previous council member (who is now the Brooklyn borough president). And before the previous council member had that job, he was the chief of staff of the council member at the time. Sure, we have term limits. But they might not bring the fresh blood they’re supposed to. These incumbent chains can go back quite far, although they’re not always obvious.
I’m working with MNY alumni to map out the incumbent chains in all 51 council districts, and assign each a weighted incumbency score. I will also examine how these incumbent chains can hurt and help, and how much of the city council you’d want to be from one.
Curriculum Design, and Foundations of the Federal Government
As part of the citizens law degree project, I’m creating several new courses to debut in 2024. Each class will combine theory with writing and actually doing things. Some highlights:
The Foundations of New York: State. The companion course to The Foundations of New York: City. We’ll examine the state government in detail, understand the different parts of the government and its principal actors, and take a deep dive into state law, the state constitution, and state courts.
The Foundations of the Federal Government. Just in time for a presidential election year. If you want to actually know how the federal government works, take this class. By the end of it, you’ll be able to look up pieces of legislation, understand them, and trace them in a basic fashion through the implementation process, among many other things.
How to Build a Skyscraper. We’ll be taking a close look at the politics, land use, construction code requirements, architecture, economics, and more of building a skyscraper. This class will require The Foundations of New York: City as a prerequisite.
MNY’s $150,000 fundraiser
I kicked off MNY’s $150k fundraiser on August 21, and we’re up more than $18k so far! In addition to my salary, this will pay for programming, event space, research materials, contract work, and more—all for the next year. MNY is also revenue-driven.2
[$$$======================] ←where we are
[$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$] ←where we’re going
How you can help 🗽
Send this to people and institutions who you think could or should give directly
Email me if you want to host a fundraising party, or invite me to speak at your event
In the city’s 2021 general election, only 23.3% of eligible voters voted. (New York City Campaign Finance Board, “2021-2022 voter analysis report",” p.57)
Even further: of the age 18-29 cohort, only 11.1% of you voted. (ibid, p.59)
Of the age 30-39 cohort, only 16.3% of you voted. (ibid, p.59)
From the fundraiser post:
Maximum New York is a non-profit project!
But: the world of government and civics does not need yet another non-profit that exists merely to provide salaries to its employees, using the non-profit structure as a fig leaf to prop up claims of social good and ward off critiques of profligacy and inefficacy.
Maximum New York has explicit goals: educate 1,000 New Yorkers by the end of 2025, and 10,000 by 2029, and keep them networked together. This will be measured by how many people graduate from The Foundations of New York, although there will be other classes and other ways to engage.
Further, MNY will be supported by revenue as much as possible, and it has been up until this point—non-profits are allowed to have revenue, if you didn’t know! It’s vital that MNY’s education is accessible, but also connected to the corrective feedback of the market. If a civics education can actively compete in the open market of attention, it has won one of its hardest battles. Donations will be used to cover fixed overhead costs, like salaries, but my goal is to match donations with revenue.
Being a non-profit doesn’t mean being a non-value. Non-profit corporations should aggressively deliver value to society just like their for-profit siblings, just in a different form enabled by a different form of legal incorporation.