Saturday, August 29, 2009

Conservatives Running in Liberal Brooklyn

Tucked in the middle of two predominantly liberal districts in Brooklyn (the 33rd and 39th City Council districts) there are pockets of conservativism. Mostly when people think of these districts they think of the battle between the reformers and the machine candidates. In the 33rd the frontrunners are reformer Jo Anne Simon vs. Vito Lopez machine hack Steve Levin. In the 39th the frontrunners are reformer Josh Skaller vs. Working Families Party machine hack (to the extent of being caught up in the big WFP scandal this year) Brad Lander. But in sach of these districts the machine candidates are also locked in another struggle: the attempt to take conservative votes from the sole conservative candidate in the district.

In the 33rd district, Isaac Abraham is a Satmar Hasid who is running on a combined platform of opposition to Vito Lopez and what for the district as a whole would be extreme conservativism. Isaac Abraham has been a supporter of Connectitcut Senator Joe Lieberman, the former Vice Presidential candidate who became a McCain supporter in 2008. Abraham, who is running in the Democratic primary, has gone on record urging Jewish Democrats to re-register Republican. Abraham supports tax-payer funded school vouchers for private schools, a tradtionally Republican stand. Abraham is also opposed to gay rights and is anti-choice. These stands put him at odds with most of the voters in the district but is more in sync with the orthodox Jewish and old-school Catholic neighborhoods. Competing with Abraham for these conservative votes is the machine candiadte Steve Levin whose boss, Vito Lopez, has connections in the conservative neighborhoods and is pulling strings to get the conservative vote for Levin over Abraham and is exploiting personality conflicts among the Hasids to siphon away votes from Abraham. So Hasids have the choice of voting their values (and so voting for Abraham) of voting according to political alliances and exchange of political favors (and so voting for the machine's Steve Levin). It should be noted that Levin's boss has had a history of supporting Republicans over Democrats before he became Party Boss, and even after that has had a history of actively discouraging challenges to Republicans in Brooklyn, so Vito Lopez certainly has his connections to conservatives.

In the 39th district the conservative candidate, John Heyer, isn't coming from the Hasidic community but from the old-school Italian Catholic community. He is also anti-choice and pro-school vouchers. His views on gay rights are more nuanced than those of Isaac Abraham, but still amount to opposition to gay marriage in the eyes of the LGBT community. Initially Heyer's sole source of support seemed to be the conservative end of the Catholic community and the candidate who was making the most inroads into the Hasidic community was Brad Lander whose connection to the scandal-ridden WFP machine, brought him an endorsement from ultra-conservative (politically), homophobic Jewish Assemblyman Dov Hikind. (I hear rumors that Brad Lander is receiving help from Vito Lopez's machine as well, but, as with rumors I heard last year about Lopez helping Roger Adler, do not seem well-founded or, at least, don't seem to represent any substantial help). This devil's bargain between Brad Lander (progressive and anti-Israel) with Dov Hikind (intolerant unltra-conservative pro-Israel Jew) does not sit well with either Hasids or progressives and seems to be backfiring. Brad has received criticism from the liberal majority in the district for eagerly seeking out Dov Hikind's endorsement, and Hikind is receiving considerable criticism in the Hasidic press for his support of a liberal, anti-Israel candidate. Both also receive criticism for making a deal that clearly is a purely political bargain that is the specialty of political machines and not in line with reform values that appeal to the majority of the district. This has been exploited by the genuine conservative in the district, John Heyer, who has recently made a blitz on the Hasidic community and been VERY well received as being FAR more in line with Hasidic values. Hasids traditionally prefer their candidates to be anti-choice, anti-gay rights and pro-school vouchers. AND pro-Israel. So Heyer now looks to be bringing together the coservative elements in the district while Lander's progressive credentials have taken a hit because of his ties to Dov Hikind.

Both Abraham and Heyer are dedicated community activists and I have found myself respecting them for their dedication. However, they are both appealing to predominantly Republican social values and to voters who, outside of NYC, would probably be Republican voters. Both also find themselves locked in a battle with the candidates linked to scandal-ridden machines, Steve Levin and Brad Lander, and so can make claims to being reformers despite their anti-progressive stands. The machines use their web of political connections to call in favors among conservative leaders and thus siphon conservative votes from the real conservatives.

Meanwhile the true progressive reformers, like Jo Anne Simon and Ken Diamondstone in the 33rd or Josh Skaller and Bob Zuckerman in the 39th, compete over the majority of the district with eachother and with the machine candidates who try to downplay the scandals their respective machines are associated with. Can the conservatives win enough votes exclusively through the conservative pockets of the district as the majority end splits the majority vote? Can the web of political favors the machines draw on be enough to combine enough conservative votes with votes from the majority of the district despite the fact that these two districts tend to prefer reform candidates? Or can one progressive reformer in each district draw enough of the majority vote despite machine money and connections to carry the day? Needless to say I prefer the last of these three options.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

NYC 40th City Council Race: Trust in the Rock

One of the best, if rather long-shot, candidates this year is a fellow blogger, Rock Hackshaw. I have followed Rock's blogging pretty much since I started paying attention to NYC politics and was always amazed by his intelligence and an encyclopedic knowledge of Brooklyn politics. I have also been amazed by his honesty and integrity, two features that are very rare in NYC politics and features that are central to the candidates I am most strongly supporting this year like Norman Siegel, Josh Skaller and Jo Anne Simon. Rock combines this honesty, integrity, intelligence and knowledge with a rock-solid (pun intended and quite apt) determination and stubborness when it comes to fighting the good fight.

I read Rock's excellent and detailed blogs long before I met him. But the first time I met him I was even more impressed. I first met Rock in person when Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes had a blogger event to showcase all his good works. Rock was there and, in typical Rock fashion, bluntly challenged the DA on political corruption in Brooklyn, refusing to let Hynes duck the question. Watching Rock and Hynes go at it was quite entertaining since both were formidable personalities. I have since seen Rock challenge other equally formidable personalities such as Andrew Weiner who came all the way from Washington, DC to speak to a CBID meeting to tell everyone he didn't have time in his busy Washington schedule to make a final decision about running for mayor. Rock raised his hand, said how much he wanted to see Weiner run, then bluntly called bullshit on Weiner's excuse by asking what he was doing at the CBID meeting if he was too busy in Washington to make a decision about running for mayor. Andrew, for once, seemed to realize he was caught. I noticed Weiner disappeared from the local political scene for awhile after that.

Rock is not afraid to call bullshit on anyone, and with the City Council so full of bullshit we desperately need someone with integrity and intelligence in there calling people out for their bullshit. Rock is the person to do that. By contrast, the incumbent, Mathieu Eugene is definitely part of the city council bullshit. Eugene routinely refers to himself as Dr. Eugene but refused to provide any proof whatsoever, or even a consistent story, showing he is really a doctor. The difference between Eugene and Hackshaw is night and day. Rock has even put together a comprehensive and detailed platform that he is running on. I do not agree with every detail of his platform, but I am amazed at the amount of thought and consideration that went into it and I think it shows how serious and dedicated Rock is to his community. He also offers a detailed biography and even resume for voters to consider. Rock is one of those people I feel comfortable disagreeing with because I know he will ALWAYS listen to the other side and consider it carefully. Rock is willing to change his mind if a reasonable arguement is presented to him. Of all the candidates running for City Council this year, I think he would represent the greatest challenge to the current corrupt status quo.

NYC 35th City Council Race: Re-electing one of the few honest councilmembers

For me the 35th City Council is one of the easiest. In this case there is an excellent incumbent running for re-election, and she is NOT one of the incumbents who voted themselves a third term despite the clear opposition of the voters. Councilwoman Letitia James is one of the very few Council members who actually has integrity and who actually cares about the community she represents.

For example, Tish James is one of the Council members who have been helping to get school supplies to children of homeless families through Project Back to School. A surprisingly few Council Members are helping with this effort, but Tish James is one of them.

Here are a handful of the things she has done (taken from Wikipedia):

[Tish James] established the Urban Network, a coalition of African-American professional organizations aimed at providing scholarships for young people.

In 1994, James championed the Primary Health Case Development Bill in the City Council, which expanded day care resources for working families across the city.

In 1996, James negotiated the Welfare Reform Act on behalf of the New York State Black & Puerto Rican Caucus. James also served on former New York Governor Mario Cuomo’s Task Force on Diversity in the Judiciary.

She is also one of the real champions of the fight against Bruce Ratner's taxpayer-funded over-development scheme for Atlantic Yards. Here is a video of Tish James speaking to this issue:

Tish James has also spoke out against AIG bailout money going to Barclay's to pay for the naming rights to the Ratner Arena, something I think taxpayers didn't bargain on when their money went to bailout the banks.

Out of this fight against Ratner's destruction of an entire community for his own profit comes one of the top reasons I like Tish James: she is basically a good person who can disarm even her most vocal opponents. This reminds me of an event I saw four years ago that really solidified my respect for Councilmember James. I was helping out the Ferrer campaign back in 2005 by the Atlantic Yards terminal, handing out fliers and urging people to meet Freddy Ferrer. Ferrer was shaking hands and talking to people, making the personal connection with voters that he can be so good at and which does not show up on television or when he makes a speech. A friend commented on how surprised he was at the warm reaction Ferrer was getting. I had seen that many times, though clearly it didn't help get him elected.

Alongside the Ferrer supporters were a handful of loud Ratner/Bloomberg supporters. I suspect some of them are hired to go around pretending to be community members supporting Ratner's mega-development projects, and some are probably genuine supporters who see Ratner's plan as a necessary evil. The Ratner/Bloomberg folks were playing an odd good cop/bad cop act where a couple of super loud, obnoxious idiots would chant and be confrontational while a few other people would come up and politely and reasonably engage people.

So the Ratner/Bloomberg folks were there playing good cop/bad cop. They were putting down both Ferrer and Letitia James, the Councilwoman who represents the area being destroyed by Ratner's Altlantic Yards plan. They were pretty mean in their comments about Letitia James and I wondered what would happen when Letitia showed up to support Freddy. I mean a tall, imposing, outspoken black woman who doesn't take BS is certainly not going to take crap from a bunch of Ratner bullies, was my thinking.

Letitia James did show up. A cheer came from her supporters, which she met with her typical big smile. Then she saw the Ratner/Bloomberg folks who were just putting her down and who she has probably met dozens of times as they go around opposing all who oppose Ratner.

Here come the sparks, I thought.

But what Letitia did shows her character better than the sparks I was expecting. Her smile broadened when she saw her opponents and she went up and gave each of them a big hug. She went into the midst of her opponents, and showed that she didn't fear them and didn't hate them just because they opposed her. She showed the issues are issues, they don't have to be personal. I don't know what they were thinking, but those tough bullies sure seemed momentarily charmed by Letitia's grin and big hug. They looked just a little sheepish, in fact. The tension dissipated and we all went back to what we were doing.

THAT is why I love Letitia James. It was a moment that few politicians could have pulled off and she did it naturally and smoothly because that is who she is.

Letitia James has also been endorsed by Uniformed Firefighters Association- Local 94, Stonewall Democrats of NYC, 504 Democrats, NARAL Pro-Choice NYC PAC, the Freelancer's Union and the New York Community Council, among many others.

Letitia James' main rival in the primary, Hunley-Adossa, is basically a Ratner-funded candidate whose sole agenda is furthering Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan with no real concern for the community's needs.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My Updated Endorsement List for NYC


Mayor: Bill Thompson. Here is Congressman Weiner's endorsement of Bill Thompson:

Public Advocate: Norman Siegel wholeheartedly. Norman Siegel has also been endorsed by the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Democracy for NYC, Park River Independent Democrats (Upper West Side), the Village Reform Democratic Club, the Grand Council of Guardians (an organization of African-American law enforcement officials), Room 8 blogger and Brooklyn City Council candidate Rock Hackshaw, the New York Metro Area Postal Union (APWU, AFL-CIO), Audubon Reform Democratic Club (Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights), and Brooklyn Democrats for Change (Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Fort Hamilton, Bath Beach and Gravesend). Here was Norm's kickoff event:

Comptroller: In this race there are two complete hacks with no finanacial experience whatsoever (Katz and Yassky) and two candidates who have solid financial experience (Weprin and Liu). Which means it comes down to only two viable candidates: David Weprin and John Liu since in an economic crisis we do NOT want inexperienced hacks running the city's money. Of the two, I prefer John Liu partly because his background was as a mathematical physicist, and I love it when science nerds enter politics, but also because Liu is more progressive than Weprin. I believe either would make a good Comptroller but I have been supporting John Liu. And for the record, currently John Liu is my 4 year old son's favorite politician, and I have found Jacob has a good sense of whose good and who isn't. Her is John's campaign announcement:



33rd City Council District: Jo Anne Simon. This is a chance to stop a power play by corrupt Brooklyn Party boss Vito Lopez whose aide is running against Jo Anne. Jo Anne is our current district leader and has a national reputation as an advocate for disabled rights who has argued and won some major cases (including before Judge Sotomayor). Jo Anne Simon has also been endorsed by the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, ChangeNYC, 504 Democrats, and Lambda Independent Democrats, among others. Here is a video of Jo Anne Simon testifying before the US Senate on ADA Amendments:

34th City Council District: Diana Reyna. The first woman of Dominican-American descent to be elected to NYC public office. Reyna is being heavily targeted by Brooklyn Boss Vito Lopez because she hasn't gone along with his corruption. In essence, she is being punished for her independence, and I personally want to see more independence from the Brooklyn machine. This is another race where we can stop a power play by a corrupt party boss. Diana Reyna has been endorsed by Councilwoman Tish James and Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez (both of whom I greatly respect), Lambda Independend Democrats, DC 9 Painters Union, IUPAT, American Federation of Musicians, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators and Teamsters, Local 237.

35th City Council District: Letitia James wholeheartedly. An amazing woman! Here is a video of Tish James talking to a rally opposing a local overdeveloment scheme:

36th City Council District: I told one candidate I wasn't endorsing in this race. But there are two candidates I consider worth bringing to people's attention: Saquan Jones and Mark Winston Griffith. I have friends I respect supporting each of them.

39th City Council District: Josh Skaller. My favorite candidate this year. I know Josh well. Very smart, very honest, very progressive and reform minded. And he has been running one of the best grassroots campaigns I have seen. He is ahead in fundraising while refusing to take any corporate or developer money. THAT is an amazing accomplishment already. Josh has been endorsed by Howard Dean, Assemblyman Jom Brennan, State Senator Eric Adams, New York Metro Area Postal Union (APWU, AFL-CIO), International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 237, 111 and 854, Service Employees International Union (Special Officers and Guards, Local 177), Democracy for America, the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Democracy for NYC, and Public Advocate candidate Norman Siegel. Here is video of Howard Dean's endorsement of Josh:

40th City Council District: Rock Hackshaw. Rock is a fellow blogger and his knowledge of Brooklyn politics is amazing. I differ with him on some issues, but I know him and his honesty and integrity are unquestioned. And honesty and integrity are something we desperately need in Brooklyn, partucularly when they are paired up with intelligence and an encyclopedic knowledge. Since Rock is running against a guy who actually lies about being a doctor and is as strange and squirrely as you can get, Rock would be a very welcome change.

45th City Council District: Two candidates I like. First Terry Hinds. I have three people giving very good recommendations for this guy. But I also think Rod Daley is good and represents a chance to get another educator on the city council.


19th City Council District: Steve Behar. I have met Steve at several Democracy for NYC events. Great guy who has worked tirelessly for progressives in NYC and throughout the state. He has been endorsed by Councilman Tony Avella (whose seat he is running for), Queens County Progressive Democratic Club, Democrats for New Politics, Democracy for New York City, Democracy for America, and Public Advocate candidate Norman Siegel. Here is video of Steve Behar at Netroots Nation:

24th City Council District: Jim Gennaro. Excellent environmental advocate pushing for more biodiesel in NYC to reduce pollution, and a strong advocate for preserving the safety of our drinking water.

25th City Council District: Daniel Dromm. One of my favorite candidates this year. A teacher and gay rights advocate with excellent credentials. Daniel Dromm has been endorsed by Stonewall Democrats, the United Federation of Teachers, 504 Democrats, and ChangeNYC, among others. Here is a campaign video from Dromm:

26th City Council District: I like Brent O'Leary. An active Dean Democrat! While spending time in Japan he helped organize Democrats Abroad Japan and in 2004 was elected to the Democratic National Committee. Strong advocate of Dean's 50 state strategy. This is the kind of guy I want to see more of in politics! Brent O'Leary has also been endorsed by Change NYC.

29th City Council District: I like Mel Gagarin. I like his experience with the National Foundation for Women Legislators and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Seems like a very interesting candidate worth supporting. Mel Gagarin has also been endorsd by Change NYC.

31st City Council District: Marquez Claxton. Another one of my favorites. Very much in the Eric Adams mold, he combines police force experience with as strong civil rights focus. I have been following his run and like much of what he says. He has been endorsed by State Senator Eric Adams and Change NYC. Here is State Senator Eric Adams endorsing Marq:


12th City Council District: Jerome Rice. Former National Guardsman and corrections officer who is also a strong voice for Civil Rights. I like these people who bridge law enforcement and civil rights. It is a refreshing trend! Jerome has also been endorsed by State Senator Eric Adams and Change NYC. Here is State Senator Eric Adams endorsing Jerome Rice:

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1st City Council District: Margaret Chin is my choice for this seat. Here is a video of Margaret Chin:

3rd City Council District: I am supporting civil rights activist Yetta Kurland. Yetta has been endorsed by Downtown Independent Democrats, ChangeNYC, 504 Democrats, and the New York Blade, among others. Here is a video of Yetta Kurland at a NYC Schools Rally: