Maintaining the Grassroots in Brooklyn: New Brooklyn Leadership
I am both a big fan and a big critic of the progressive grassroots. I think at their best, it is the progressive grassroots that can bring out the best in American government. And this recent election showed the worth of such grassroots movements like Act Blue, Progressive Majority and MoveOn.org. But one of my main criticisms of the progressive grassroots is their lack of unity and ability to stick it out for the long haul.
Chris Owens, a favorite grassroots progressive in Brooklyn and favorite bugbear of City Councilman David Yassky, is doing his best to make the grassroots in Brooklyn both more unified and more effective with a new initiative (and organizing base for future campaigns) called New Brooklyn Leadership.
What could bring together Michael Bouldin, Daily Gotham coiner of the term "Green tools of the right" and members of the Green Party?
Chris Owens can do it.
Last night was Chris' thank you party for those who helped him in his recent run for Congress, and his announcement of the New Brooklyn Leadership movement.
At its root, this is an attempt to keep together the very active, very dedicated grassroots coalition that rallied around Chris Owens' candidacy and to hone that coalition into a more effective and lasting tool. And it was a good start. Members of both IND and CBID were there, representing the area's two best known "reform Democratic" clubs. Members of the Green Party were there, including former Brooklyn BP candidate Gloria Mattera. Daily Gotham's own anti-Green enthusiast Michael Bouldin was there. Members of Develop, Don't Destroy Brooklyn were there. Bigwigs from New Democratic Majority were there. It was, in short, a pretty good cross section of the recent Norm Seigel (2005) and Chris Owens (2006) campaigns and probably the most active participants in Brooklyn's sometimes thin grassroots. There were over 100 people in the room at one time, and people were coming and going, indicating that many more were probably there at some time or another.
Chris Owens, Bill Batson and Eric Adams were the three recent Democratic candidates I saw there. I was quite happy to see these three together because, although they are not always on the same page on all issues, these are the three 2006 candidates I highlighted as examples of what I call a "community candidate," a candidate who has already shown true dedication to the community, establishing a relationship of service to the community before asking the community to support his or her candidacy for office. It was great to see these three excellent and highly dedicated community activists together, and it was great to once again congratulate Eric Adams in his election to the State Senate. Many at Chris Owens' event spoke of having high hopes for Eric Adams in the State Senate despite the Republican domination of that branch of our State government.
New Brooklyn Leadership will hopefully be the ongoing result of last night's enthusiasm. Here are the Principles of New Brooklyn Leadership as announced by Chris [with my comments in brackets]:
1. New Brooklyn Leadership supports public policies that promote and establish peaceful relationships between people and nations, recognizing that all people are equal. [I can hear Gatemouth groan at this one, but it is a sound basis for progressive leadership, with precedents in efforts by Woodrow Wilson through Jimmy Carter. As a principle it is a good place to start considering foreign policy, even though I feel Theodore Roosevelt was also right in saying it helps to have a big stick to back up peaceful policies].
2. New Brooklyn Leadership supports public policies that protect the lives of United States residents through strong security measures and maximized civil rights and liberties. [Amen! This is what I am talking about when I say we should focus on al-Qaeda, not Iraq, and when I say that Bush has helped the terrorists defeat us by throwing out our Constitution in his failed fight to "bring Democracy to Iraq." I also think this is where Steve Harrison was coming from when he faulted Bush lap dog Vito Fossella for his support of the unPatriot Act and his failure to call for screening of all cargo coming into our ports. Protect American citizens and liberties together!]
3. New Brooklyn Leadership supports public policies that promote and establish equitable social, economic and political outcomes for all Americans, including quality public education, affordable and accessible health care, and quality and affordable housing. [Sounds like a good summary of the Democratic Party platform from FDR on.]
4. New Brooklyn Leadership supports public policies that recognizes that a diverse collection of strategies and methodologies must be employed to ensure successful, positive outcomes for constituencies. [I take this to mean both Michael Bouldin and Greens are welcome and respected...]
New Brooklyn Leadership's Vision: An electorate in Brooklyn that is motivated and mobilized to vote in every election for candidates who represent the best interests of the borough and of each individual jurisdiction. [Excellent idea! I have been pushing the grassroots to focus on elections like judicial elections, county committee, district leader, Brooklyn DA, etc. Hopefully this new movement will help to focus grassroots attention on more than just infighting and bring out a better effort for people like Paul Wooten, whose run for Brooklyn DA sadly fell below the radar of most progressive activists.]
Mission: To maximize voter registration and voter turnout within Brooklyn regardless of an individual voter's profile through the development of appropriate outreach methodologies and the development of quality candidates for public and party offices. [Note to Chris and myself: we should talk to Progressive Majority, which is already doing a great job of this in other states.]
1. To prepare voter-related resources that are current, thorough and user-friendly.
2. To increase overall voter turnout by increasing the number and percentage of younger voters who cast votes to a level that parallels turnout within other age cohorts.
3. To utilize various strategies and methodologies to create the infrastructure needed to support the vision and mission of New Brooklyn Leadership, including the use of not-for-profit and for-profit business entities as well as political organizations.
Let's see where this goes.