Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Park Slope FInally Joins the Vito Lopez Machine

“He’s one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met, unbelievable,” he said. “Vito Lopez has brought so much dignity and political acumen and respect to the borough of Brooklyn.”

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--Steve Levin, newly elected City Councilman from Park Slope, praising his mentor, corrupt Party Boss Vito Lopez

Steve Biviano, Jo Anne Simon, Ken Baer and Ken Diamondstone were four reformers running for the 33rd City Council district. Of them all, Jo Anne Simon was the only one with even a glimmer of hope of winning. This was true from almost the very start. Baer and Biviano were nobodies who picked up almost no endorsements. Diamondstone might have been a contender had he picked up Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats and Lambda Independent Democrats. Once he lost those two clubs, I knew the writing was clearly on the wall in big bold letters: Jo Anne Simon is the only chance to keep Vito Lopez from electing his aide as the City Council representative from Park Slope.

Progressive reform Democrats are good at one, and sometimes ONLY one, thing: forming a circular firing squad that destroys any chances they have of winning. Reform democrats in Brooklyn spectacularly destroyed themselves and, in the process, handed Park Slope to Vito Lopez all nicely wrapped up with a bow. And, not surprisingly, Steve Levin is thrilled as can be and giving full honors to Vito Lopez. Park Slope is now part of Lopez's domain and we can thank the circular firing squad led by Ken Baer, Ken Diamondstone and Dough Biviano.

But they aren't the only ones to blame. It is true that had they all banded together, uniting behind Jo Anne Simon (or had things been differently, I would have urged them all, Jo Anne included, behind Diamondstone) their numbers would have brought a win over Levin...barely. But even divided reformers could have won had there not been two other factors: WFP's alliance with the machine (thus proving that WFP are machine hacks as of this year) and voter apathy. Without these two factors, Steve Levin would be just a random shiny faced kid that Vito Lopez had failed to foist on Brooklyn.

WFP: you have chosen to side with Vito Lopez and you worked hard to bring the corrupt machine's rule into Park Slope. I'd like to say voters will remember this, because Park Slope does not like Vito Lopez and his corruption. Sadly, WFP gambled on voters basically being too apathetic to care...and they were probably right. Show voters some shiny campaign lit and they don't care if Levin kisses Vito Lopez's ass or not.

Voter apathy...if there is one thing you can always count on in politics, even more than the left's skill at forming a circular firing squad, it is that voters are apathetic and even if a politician is caught red handed breaking laws or shamelessly lying, voters will either not vote or vote for the sleazy bastard anyway. In fact, I would argue that more than any other factor, those voters who DIDN'T bother voting in the primary are most responsible for opening their streets to Vito Lopez. I can't tell you how often people have told me they hate Vito Lopez or that Vito Lopez is an embarrassment or whatever else about Vito Lopez. Yet I bet most of those people complaining about Vito Lopez didn't bother to get their butts to the polls to prevent Lopez from moving his crony into our Council seat. Similarly, liberal, pro-gay pro-reform Brooklynites didn't bother voting or caring when Vito Lopez foisted a homophobic, unqualified man named Noach Dear into a civil court judge seat. The fact that Vito Lopez can pretty much do this kind of thing at will, regardless of scandals or the lack of any real qualifications in his candidates really means reform is useless in Brooklyn. If voters really don't care if Vito Lopez runs our neighborhoods like private fiefdoms that he bestows as will, then no amount of unity or activism on the part of groups like CBID, LID, DFNYC or whoever will be able to stop Vito Lopez.

I should note that in the 39th the lack of unity among the progressive reform candidates was not so much of a factor. It is true that Josh Skaller would have had a better shot had Zuckerman and Reilly endorsed him, but the numbers show even that wouldn't have been enough, and, unlike the 33rd, there was no bashing of eachother among the reformers. So I think the WFP/Vito Lopez alliance of corruption and voter apathy were the two main factors in the 39th.

And Lopez knows it. That is why he really can be quite tolerant of reformers no matter how hard we try to get him indicted, ousted or defeated. He can be tolerant because we are little more than gnats buzzing around him as long as voters don't care. I think WFP finally woke up to that this year and basically cut a deal with Lopez. Why not? Both WFP and Vito Lopez know that violating laws, lying and cheating will, in the end, win you elections in NYC with almost no consequences...and plenty of spoils. Park Slope is now added to Vito's spoils system of running things. And I am sure Biviano will continue to vacuously pretend he invented reform in Brooklyn, but really we have proven ourselves little more effective than his delusions.

Congratulations Vito Lopez. You have become just as effective at turning corruption into political power as any corrupt Republican. Democrats around here have no moral high ground when confronted with the crimes of Republicans because we elect our own sleaze.

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