The Race to Replace...Yvette
Yvette Clarke's City Council seat will be vacant as soon as she is sworn in January 1st as the new Congress Critter from NY-11. The race to replace her will be a very hotly contested one with probably a huge number of candidates getting in on the game. At last night's Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats meeting last night (where more factional fighting provided the same kind of entertainmen as a bombing stand up comic) two candidates for the 40th City Council spoke. Both came off well. These are my impressions of them.
Jesse Hamilton is fresh from a great win against the corrupt Brooklyn machine when his grassroots campaign beat the machine by about 2:1. For those of us who want to see the end to Clarence Norman/Vito Lopez corruption in Brooklyn, Hamilton's win was sweet. When running for district leader he says he was endorsed by both David Yassky and Chris Owens, though I should note there was also controversy over his first endorsing, then un-endorsing Yassky then campaigning for Chris.
Hamilton came off endearing but a bit unpolished, but this fits his description of his self as being a "community activist, not a politician." He now adds district leader to his resume of serving on Community Board 8 and being elected to the school board in the Crown Heights area where he served as president. During his stint on school board he claims that district's preformance improved by 12%. He attributes this to a better connection between the school board and ALL segments of the district, reaching out to every school and setting up awards for students to encourage better performance. By better engaging parents the school board better served the students.
Hamilton focused on the need for housing for Brooklyn's seniors, need for better healthcare rather than closing of hospitals, balancing a healthy community with development, education (of course) and job creation.
When asked about "Atlantic Yards" he gave a somewhat vague answer, but I should note that questions about "Atlantic Yards" encompass development of the area in general and really the questions should be regarding Ratner's corrupt and overblown plan. Hamilton's answers regarding Atlantic Yards emphasized the need for affordable housing and jobs, but indicated that the scale of the project was ludicrous and that the way it has been forced down the throats of the community was despicable. He particularly emphasized that circumventing the existing community boards in favor of other neighborhood groups who were receiving money from Ratner was distasteful. I would call it corrupt, but Hamilton avoided that word.
Both my wife and I liked Hamilton both as a person and what he said. I particularly like his coming from an anti-machine, community-oriented position.
Now, as an ancient history buff, I am favorably biased towards any woman named "Zenobia." Zenobia was a third-century CE queen of Palmyra in the Syrian desert who successfully rebelled against and held off the Roman empire for years. A colorful "warrior queen," she is one of histories most interesting personalities.
But, of course, Zenobia McNally is not Zenobia of Palmyra, though she did seem a dedicated and nice person.
Zenobia McNally, rather than being queen of Palmyra, is a small business owner and works on the Neighborhood Housing Association, an agency that helps people buy their first house.
Zenobia emphasized affordable housing, jobs, and education in particular and overall came off competent and very knowlegable. My wife was as impressed with her as she was with Jesse Hamilton and overall I was left with a feeling that they both, judged by national standards, were good people and would be good in the city council. I will say, however, that I felt slightly more uneasy about Zenobia because of a couple of red flags.
Zenobia focused on affordable housing and jobs in a way that sounded too much like a code for being pro-Ratner. Now both affordable housing and jobs are necessary, but too often these are linked with unsound development these days and that was a red flag for me. However, no one, no matter how anti-Rater they are, is against affordable housing and job creation and all four of the plans for the Atlantic Yards development include affordable housing and job creation.
Zenobia did seem too wary of directly criticizing Ratner's plan. She did say that as it was first proposed it was too big. She then indicated that it has already been scaled down, then added, somewhat mumbling, that it could be scaled back more. She did not emphasize the distasteful (corrupt?) way the Ratner plan has been pushed foward the way Jesse Hamilton did. All of that added to the red flag about her regarding Atlantic Yards.
The final red flag was who she mentioned favorably. While Hamilton made reference to Chris Owens in particular, and David Yassky in passing, Zenobia made positive references to Marty Markowitz and Carl Andrews. Now in each case it was regarding positive actions they each took, but it is still worrisome if they are the people she makes reference to. She also made no reference to the corruption in Brooklyn, a key point Hamilton made.
So, I liked both Zenobia McNally and Jesse Hamilton. Zenobia came off more polished, but Jesse came off more direct and trustworthy to me. My wife liked both about equally, and the red flags I saw regarding Zenobia were fairly vague.
I hope to meet more of these candidates in the future and pass along my impressions.