Last night was the first endorsement meeting of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID). Endorsements in three races were made: Brooklyn District Attorney and two City Council districts, the 33rd and the 39th.
In the 39th City Council race Brad Lander is running unopposed so it was between Lander and "no endorsement." Since CBID recently honored Brad Lander at their annual dinner, it is not surprising that CBID endorsed Lander for his re-election. This was a formality with Lander not making the meeting and no discussion on the endorsement.
In the 33rd City Council race Steve Levin is running unopposed. I was surprised how easily CBID endorsed Levin.
In the case of Lander, the previous differences between the club and the candidate had more to do with a previous CBID president running against Lander when he first ran. One of my main concerns about Lander was his involvement in the large-scale Working Families Party campaign finance fiasco where wrongdoing was clearly found but never prosecuted because the money was returned. This was a scandal that was largely swept under the carpet and WFP has aggressively attacked anyone who mentions it. However, CBID feels that Lander is showing considerable leadership on policy and he has basically won them over and the one scandal, which involved mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio as well, seems to have been successfully forgotten. I just hope Lander will be more careful with WFP and the campaign finance board keeps a better watch on WFP in the future. But as Lander shows himself to be a solid progressive and seems to have hit his stride on the council, CBID seems won over.
By contrast, Steve Levin was chief of staff for that by-word of corruption and sexual harassment, former Party Boss Vito Lopez, during the very time the corruption and sexual harassment were occurring. Levin was not a lowly flunky on Vito Lopez's staff...he was chief of staff. That is a position of some authority and responsibility. Steve Levin was at the heart of a very nasty, corrupt organization under Vito Lopez...yet he has in no way repudiated or sought to correct what happened under his watch. Steve Levin, like Brad Lander, is proving to be excellent on policy. Also like Lander, Levin has hit his stride on the City Council. For this reason CBID seems won over by Steve Levin as well. And yet while Vito Lopez's sexual harassment scandal and his various corruption scandals are still actively matters of discussion, CBID, the most reform-minded club in Brooklyn, didn't even raise the matter. Oddly, Vito Lopez was brought up when discussing the Brooklyn DA's race, but not when discussing the candidacy of Vito Lopez's actual chief of staff while sexual harassment was apparently rampant.
Steve Levin has discussed this issue in private and I am aware of where he stands. But a chief of staff HAS to bear some responsibility for what goes on under his watch and Steve Levin should not, in my mind, be allowed to pretend his connection with Vito Lopez never happened. The opportunity to discuss a "no endorsement" vote was offered at the meeting but no one (to be fair, including myself) took that opportunity. By the time I realized no one was going to speak up the discussion had moved on to the DA's race.
Steve Levin may well be a good guy...and he may well have been insulated from the corruption and thuggishness of the Vito Lopez staff he was chief of. But it is hard to reconcile an effective chief of staff with the level of blindness it would have taken for Steve Levin to be completely ignorant of what was occurring right under his nose. What disturbs me is the fact that Levin has in no way spoken publicly about Vito Lopez or repudiated what went on on his own watch. He wants us all to forget about it and that alone makes me unwilling to let it be swept under the carpet.
Severe wrongdoing was carried out under Steve Levin's watch and he should be willing and prepared to publicly address that and openly repudiate what Vito Lopez did. And CBID should hold his feet to the fire. But last night the name Vito Lopez was not mentioned in connection with former Lopez chief of staff Levin, but was mentioned several times when Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes was discussed.
In the Brooklyn DA's race three candidates spoke. Abe George, current DA Charles Hynes, and Ken Thompson.
The general consensus was Abe George lacked any real experience to run the Brooklyn DA's office. He seems mostly to be an extension of John Kennedy O'Hara's strange vendetta against just about everyone in Brooklyn politics. O"Hara's main target tends to be the very reform Assemblyman Jim Brennan and O'Hara and his backers have spent a great deal of time trying to portray an openly gay member of Brennan's staff as guilty of sexual assault on a woman, something that is so absurd it makes O'Hara and his supporters look ridiculous. Since Jim Brennan, despite some differences when it comes to endorsements over the years, is an ally of CBID's, it is not likely that CBID would endorse O'Hara's ally for DA.
By contrast Ken Thompson was viewed as well experienced and capable. He has worked on several important cases including investigating the David Koresch cult raid for the Clinton Administration and locally prosecuted the case against the police officers who tortured Abner Louima.
However, no matter how CBID's members looked at it, it was hard not to endorse Charles Hynes, the man who has repeatedly been considered the most progressive DA in the country and whose alternatives to prison programs are models for the whole country. Charles Hynes is not the most endearing of people. And he has been justly criticized for turning too much of a blind eye to sexual abuse among the Hasidic communities in Brooklyn. But his overall record on reducing recidivism, taking a liberal approach to drug offenses, prosecuting corruption in Brooklyn politics (even if he has perhaps been too gentile on Vito Lopez!), and in addressing domestic violence in Brooklyn. Both Abe George and Ken Thompson portrayed Charles Hynes as being a poor leader and the Brooklyn DA's office as being rudderless. There were some of us in the audience who could attest to the fact that this is not true. I for one served two weeks on Grand Jury service in the Brooklyn DA's office and saw a very impressive organization clearly led effectively from the top by Charles Hynes. Ken Thompson's platform often focused on issues that had nothing to do with the DA's office: expanding after school programs and ending stop and frisk. Ken Thompson's platform sounded more like John Liu's very progressive platform for mayor rather than a platform appropriate to the DA's office. Both Abe George and Ken Thompson came off as unrealistic and often inaccurate in their criticisms of Hynes.
In the end CBID endorsed Charles Hynes for re-election because whatever his flaws, he runs THE most progressive and one of the most effective DA office in America. In contrast to Steve Levin, who was endorsed with hardly any discussion, the good and bad aspects of Charles Hynes were discussed in detail and overall, contrary to the portrayal made by Abe George and Ken Thompson, the good was seen to far outweigh the bad. I should note that I was not a fan of Charles Hynes back in 2005 when he last had a serious primary challenge, though in that case his main challenger was a lackey of the Clarence Norman machine, John Sampson whose one main plank in his platform seemed to be to get Clarence Norman off the hook for his corruption. Since then I have to admit that the more I learn of Charles Hynes the more I have to admit he seems the man for the job and CBID overwhelmingly agreed despite liking Ken Thompson.
Upcoming Mayoral Candidate Forum in Brooklyn: Supposedly Reform Democratic clubs Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Lambda Independent Democrats, Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform, Independent Neighborhood Democrats, Southern Brooklyn Democrats, and New Kings Democrats team up to host a mayoral forum in Brooklyn April 3rd, 6pm, at St. Francis College, 180 Remson Street in Brooklyn Heights:
Walmart Tanking...Costco Kicking Ass: seems Walmart's plan to screw customers and employees for executive profits is finally failing...Costco and Target are reaping the benefits of Walmart's fall. Looks like NYC was right to fight Bloomberg and Quinn and keep Walmart out.
Message to Cuomo: Fracking causes earthquakes! Oklahoma's biggest recorded earthquake EVER was caused by fracking. Do we really want this in our state?????
North Dakota to women: All your bodies are ours! Once again prune-faced Republicans want to own women's bodies.
John Liu's bid for mayor: draws the biggest crowds, like everyone else maxing out donations, most liberal candidate, only candidate for mayor to oppose stop and frisk. Bill Thompson gets grumpy over Liu's stop and frisk comments.
And more on Bloomberg's lapdog Quinn: The Wrath of Quinn: council members threatened with loss of slush funds if they don't endorse her.
Not a new meme but one worth repeating: Marriage equality, good for the bottom line
Self-defense for women in Brooklyn: Karate and Self-defense classes for women and transgendered in Brooklyn...some classes taught by my wife (who can probably kick your ass!!
Most years at Passover I write a diary focused on the origins of Jews based on my expertise both in genetics and history. Passover celebrates, supposedly, the escape of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. It is an origin myth and like most origin myths (Thanksgiving included) it has some clear BS and some threads that probably connect to real history. The escape from Egypt is considered one of the defining moments in Judaism, perhaps THE defining moment. Into this event is in some ways placed the entirety of the ancient Jewish identity, supposedly divided into "12 tribes," as well as the defining of Jewish religious law. That is a lot to put into one holiday! But there is a more general theme, that of the struggle for freedom that many cultures can relate to. read more »
These videos are from the March 5th Mayoral Forum hosted by Democracy for NYC (seems Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson didn't show)
Former City Council member Sal Albanese:
Community leader and radio broadcaster Erick Salgado:
Former City Council member and current NYC Comptroller John Liu:
Former City Council member and current public advocate Bill de Blasio:
Trying to give as much exposure to the candidates as possible since this is a pretty important election and voter turnout may be low.
My friend and sometime adversary Gatemouth (who I last saw gracing the table of an honoree of the proudly PROGRESSIVE organization CBID) has this strange obsession. He LOVES to attack progressives. He twists many of his diaries into gratuitous attacks on progressives. The yogic moves he makes to turn as many of his diaries into a tirade against progressives would make Richard Hittleman look stiff. Well, even before Richard Hittleman was a stiff.
Oddly, on many issues Gatemouth might well be considered more progressive than I am, though he labels me among his progressive targets. Though solidly liberal, I am a bit to the right of both my wife and Gatemouth, who probably would agree almost completely with each other, though she is an officer of CBID and he loves to denigrate CBID.
I am not sure why he slants so much of what he writes in this way. Often it seems a non sequitur in otherwise very accurate, detailed, and targeted diaries. But I guess everyone has to have their strange obsessions. For Gatemouth it seems to be turning much of what he writes into a gratuitous attack on progressives. Sure, one can find foolishness among progressives. But you can find foolishness among pretty much any group. So why obsess to such a degree on progressives?
Right now, Gatemouth is on a jihad against current State Senator and Brookyn BP candidate Eric Adams. And he is making points that I think are well worth making. Senator Adams needs this kind of scrutiny. And many of my progressive friends would agree that Adams needs this kind of scrutiny, even if they don't necessarily agree that all of Gatemouth's points about Adams are that important to them. But I think they all agree with Gatemouth's main point: Adams is an opportunist. Honestly, Gatey, how many people would disagree with that? He is, after all, a politician. How many politicians have you known who weren't at least to some degree opportunist? I can name some. But most didn't get far.
But does does being an opportunist rule Adams out as being worthy of endorsements by progressives given the opposition he has had to date? If a progressive challenged him in a primary these days wouldn't you start singing "To Dream the Impossible Dream" at them?
Interestingly, before any progressive organization I know of has endorsed or spoken out about Eric Adams in the BP race, Gatemouth is saying progressives are supporting him blindly. Well, from what I can tell progressives ask one question Gatey is also asking: why does Eric Adams get a seemingly smooth path to BP? That very question came up among progressives I recently shared some good dim sum with. Now if Gatey actually hung out with the progressives he is so obsessed with (other than tagging along when said progressives honor his former boss, Senator Marty Connor) he might know progressives are a more skeptical lot than he realizes. Well, at least in this particular case.
He also claims that progressives have seen Eric Adams as a reformer. This is, as far as I know, a misunderstanding on Gatemouth's part. The progressives I know have ALWAYS felt Adams was too close to the Brooklyn machine, and I have personally commented that he was one of the few candidates who could get support from both the machine and progressives at a time of very bitter conflict between the two. I respected Adams' ability to pull support from both sides...but I never said he was himself a reformer per se and I don't think anyone else has.
But Gatemouth does have a point that many progressives (my wife and I included) DID endorse Eric Adams enthusiastically when he ran for State Senate, and given the points Gatemouth loves to dwell on it is worth asking why. So far, as far as I know, the same progressives haven't said one word about his run for BP because they have other things on their mind than his so far pretty much uncontested run for a ceremonial position.
But what about the progressive support Adams got as a State Senator? Gatemouth suggests that this support is based on thin air and with no real consideration of his past.
I disagree. For my part my first encounter with Eric Adams was prefaced with my wife's tirade against him based on a letter exchange she and Adams had in, I believe, the NY Times. My wife had taken some considerable exception to Adams on an issue and considered him a grandstander. So both of us started biased against him...but in the end endorsed him. Did we do so blindly? Hell, ANYONE who knows my wife knows she never does anything blindly but is one of the more analytical people you will ever meet. I would like to think I come close to her on this. I think my wife and I approach any candidate based on what they have done, who supports them, what they say (and how they say it), and who they are running against. It is not one thing we focus on but a kind of sum total of these things. My wife has her own very analytical approach. I have a different one that involves looking at voting records, endorsements, and how interest groups rate candidates. Sometimes, when there is more than one candidate i am considering who has a chance, I even assign numerical values to particular votes, endorsements and interest group ratings and mathematically figure out who comes closest to my ideal for a candidate. But always there is also a consideration of who is the best candidate of those who actually have a shot of winning. In which case I may sit it out or endorse someone who has no shot.
There are very real reasons why Eric Adams gets progressive support, and I am sure Gatemouth is well aware of this. It just gets in the way of his prejudice.
Gatemouth's main objections seem to be the contradictory observations that Eric Adams spent some time as a Republican and that Eric Adams has had some good things to say about the Black Muslim movement. Usually not accusations thrown at the same candidate...and especially not usually TRUE accusations thrown at the same candidate! Gatemouth's objections have validity. And, as I said above, I applaud his airing them. But he is wrong in thinking progressives lack their own at least semi-logical political algebra when deciding who to support.
So why did I initially become a, somewhat reluctant and somewhat skeptical, Eric Adams supporter? What first caught my attention (and my wife's attention) was the fact that he was an ex-cop who also had close ties to the New York Civil Liberties Union and civil rights attorney Norm Siegel. A very unusual combination. Now to me, cops, who are represented by a public sector union (a good thing in my book...and in the book of most progressives), are a sometimes problematic but hard working and underpaid public servants who hold a dangerous job we all depend on. They all too often, in their problematic aspects, come into conflict with our civil liberties, represented heroically by the NYCLU and people like Norm Siegel. When someone can unite these two worthy but all too often disparate interests I take notice.
Even very recently, Norm Siegel and Eric Adams teamed up to support increased gun control, an issue where Gatemouth is likely to be more progressive than I sometimes am. They also appeared together on Yetta Kurland's radio show talking about the same issue: http://www.yettakurlandlive.com/12-19-2012/
Now let's look at who donates to Eric Adams. Public sector unions are his largest source of donations. Again, generally considered good things by progressives, liberals, Democrats and everyone other than Republicans. His next two largest categories of financial support are more worrisome to me: insurance interests and developers. But being supported primarily by labor is a good thing in my book. And I think Gatemouth would to some degree agree.
What about endorsements? Among those groups who have endorsed Adams (not current but for his State Senate runs)
Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn
NARAL Pro-Choice New York
New York AFL-CIO
Professional Staff Congress City University of New York (PSC-CUNY)
Public Employees Federation
United Federation of Teachers
Hmmm...LGBT, abortion rights, AFL-CIO, teachers and public employees...now I may have some occasional beefs with some of these organizations at times, but overall I don't see why I should go out of my way to oppose a strong candidate who is supported by these groups.
How about ratings from interest groups. Well the NRA HATES Eric Adams. Again something that would endear him even more to Gatemouth than to me. Adams gets low marks from the Conservative Party. Sounds good to me. Now he does get middling marks from the RIght to Life Committee...worrisome he didn't do worse in their eyes, but he is endorsed by NARAL so on balance that's good. EPL-Environmental Advocates (an environmental group) gave him high marks except for 2012 where he gets mediocre marks.
Okay, by no means perfect, but if we looked over the whole record of the NY State Senate Eric Adams does quite well...even if that may be damning with faint praise.
Then there is what Eric Adams says. A speech that exemplifies what I personally have heard him say frequently and I wish MANY more Democrats would say:
Now Gatemouth could argue that because that was at a CBID dinner, Senator Adams was just telling us what we wanted to hear. Fine. So what does he say on the floor of the Senate. Well, he was a strong advocate for Marriage Equality when it was looking like a tough sell:
Maybe not articulate, but a damned good advocacy for marriage equality. Even doing what many blacks have refused to do: compare the fight for marriage equality to the fight for civil rights for blacks. And his statement "when I pass these doors my bible stays out" warms my heart as a progressive, a liberal, a Jew and a Democrat. Seems damned progressive AND liberal to me!
So let's see, Eric Adams has ties with Republicans (but gets low ratings from the Conservative Party and the NRA) and with Democrats (including the machine, reformers, progressives and conservatives), has ties with Black Muslims and Hasids (neither of whom I have a lot in common with), and has ties with cops and the NYCLU. You can get two messages from this, probably BOTH true. Eric Adams is an opportunist. Well, duh! I mean he's a politician. There are few politicians who win who aren't. You can also say he is a coalition builder. They are not mutually exclusive.
His voting record is a good one. He has particularly taken liberal/progressive stands on gun control, stop and frisk and marriage equality that I think Gatemouth would be at least as pleased with as I am, if not more so.
So don't tell me I haven't thought out my stand regarding Eric Adams. And I triple dog dare you to face my wife and say she hasn't thought it out. I encourage Gatemouth's current crusade because it is info that is well worth publicizing. But my past (I have said nothing about his BP run to date) support of Eric Adams always had some reservations, always recognized his machine ties, and always was based on the fact that despite my reservations he took the right stands on key civil liberties issues that matter to me.
Got a problem with that Gatey?