Well, it looks like Vito's kid will get a challenger even though Lincoln Restler decided to give it a miss. Just to be clear, Steve Levin is good on policy, but his continued refusal to face up to the corruption of his former boss, Vito Lopez, suggests he is unrepentant for Vito's corruption...or too scared to say anything. Bottom line is he was chief of staff for Vito and to me that implies he either knew what was going on or was merely a lame figurehead. Neither looks great. Yet Levin has done his best to ignore that connection in hopes people will forget.
I think he's better than his former boss by far. But I still cannot trust him as long as he doesn't face up to his past.
Here's the announcement from Levin's challenger:
WHO: Stephen Pierson, founder and director of a successful not-for-profit organization, will be a candidate for membership in the New York City Council from Brooklyn’s 33rd District. He will be competing against the four-year incumbent, Steve Levin.
WHAT: Stephen Pierson will announce his candidacy for City Council. He will highlight his own record of accomplishments and also target the problematic relationship between Steve Levin and disgraced former Democratic County leader Vito Lopez and the impact of that relationship on the 33rd Council District. Other speakers will include individuals familiar with Stephen Pierson’s record as well as individuals involved with the local communities included within the 33rd Council District.
WHEN: This Sunday, April 21, 3:00 PM
WHERE: Brooklyn Borough Hall
– Main steps next to the plaza.
Not much info in the press release and no hint who is backing Pierson. He is a Brooklyn community board member and has hired Brooklyn reform district leader Chris Owens for his campaign.
And just to be clear...so far I see no reason to endorse in this race.
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.
I recently highlighted Yetta Kurland's City Council run and the issues (in Manhattan) related to the closing of hospitals without clear understanding of the real dynamics of healthcare in the US. Well my friend Jo Anne Simon, a Democratic Party District Leader in Brooklyn, is addressing similar issues in Brooklyn.
Here is what I said about the Manhattan situation:
...let's remember that closing of St. Vincent's coupled with the closing of NYU's Tisch Hospital, Bellevue Hospital and the VA hospital meant that emergency room coverage was critically low in Manhattan for some time after Sandy. In fact the NYU Medical Center's emergency room remains down today, though I believe their Urgent Care center is now open.
Sadly few people have been championing keeping hospitals open. The dynamic is a complex one. Hospitals almost all run at a loss. This is not because of mismanagement usually but because the cost of care in emergency rooms and ICUs is so hugely expensive that it tends to lose money at a huge rate...in order to save lives. The more people who don't have health insurance, the more people who have to depend on emergency rooms for basic care...and the more money it costs the hospitals. Reduce the number of uninsured people and spread emergency visits over more hospitals and the burden on each hospital is reduced. But leave lots of uninsured and close hospitals and each remaining hospital gets an even higher burden on their emergency rooms...driving them deeper into a financial hole.
Closing St. Vincent's just increased the burden on every other hospital. Of course Healthcare reform is a key way to improve the financial strength of our hospitals, but closing hospitals really isn't. Yetta Kurland gets that.
Well similar ill conceived crap is going on in Brooklyn as well and Jo Anne Simon is on top of it. From a recent email she sent:
Last week, NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a report showing that SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Long Island College Hospital were teetering on the brink and that closing LICH has been discussed by its board.
Tomorrow, January 25th at 11 AM, join federal, state and local elected officials in the little park across the street from LICH (339 Hicks Street) for a rally to call attention to this situation and call upon the state and the hospital to find a way to retain medical services at LICH, an all important teaching hospital in an area with an increasing number of families needing its services!
Again, let me emphasize that the closing of these hospitals is largely due specifically to the costs they bear taking care of uninsured Americans, and each hospital that closes increases the burden on EVERY OTHER HOSPITAL in the area because all those uninsured Americans will have to now either die or go to the next nearest hospital. Thanks to Yetta Kurland and Jo Anne Simon for realizing the importance of this issue. People who try to just apply some imagined "business model" seem to ignore the larger dynamics. Single payer could solve a LOT of this. But until then, we have to protect our hospitals from closing because when hospitals close, people die AND other hospitals have to take on the expensive burden of caring for the uninsured. WE ARE NOT DEALING WITH THIS, and these closings really will mean the difference between life and death for New Yorkers who have to be rushed to the hospital. This is a key reason to support both Yetta Kurland and Jo Anne Simon. It is an issue we all can ignore until we are in an ambulance and the closest hospital is further than we can survive. THAT is becoming the situation. We can fight it or accept it and pray (not my strong point) that we never end up in that ambulance.
And by the way, Bloomberg's closing of firehouses creates the same problem if you have a fire in your building or a neighboring building. Right now you are less likely to have your home survive a fire thanks to the closing of firehouses. When we cut back on teachers, nurses, firehouses and hospitals, EVERYONE gets fucked. Sadly, not too many people are talking about this. Jo Anne Simon IS talking about it and Yetta Kurland is making it the focus of her run for City Council. More power to both of them.
More from Jo Anne Simon... read more »
A short time back I took City Councilmembers Steve Levin and Brad Lander to task for, what seemed at the time, a casual decision to defund the Doe Fund's clean up efforts in Park Slope. I particularly took them to task for misleading statements and for denigrating the Doe Fund overall, which I found difficult to stomach because the Doe Fund is one of the most successful (among the ONLY successful) organizations for reducing recidivism among parolees.
Steve Levin has shown no interest in this issue...or any issue in the district from what I can tell. I guess as long as he has the backing of corrupt Party Boss Vito Lopez (his mentor) he feels he can cruise along with no problem...particularly since he also managed to get the formerly decent Working Families Party backing him as well, creating a nasty and disgusting alliance between the Vito Lopez machine and a Working Families party that at BEST skirted the law, and in reality had to scramble to avoid prosecution after breaking some campaign finance laws for the likes of Steve Levin.
But Brad Lander, who I have had some serious disagreements with, seems different than Steve "Vito's Kid" Levin. Brad Lander HAS been involved with the community, even if I disagree with him on the Doe Fund's role in the community, and he took the time to respond to my article taking him to task.
Let me begin by reviewing what I wrote before, then quoting Councilmember Brad Lander responding to my article, then giving something of a rebuttal from myself and giving a different opinion from Councilmember Daniel Dromm. read more »
I want to preface this article by saying that Councilmember Brad Lander has been doing some good things recently which I want to acknowledge before I lay into him on this issue. In particular I want to re-emphasize the good work Brad Lander has been doing with the Center for Anti-violence Education (which my wife teaches at) to get self-defense classes for women in the areas where there have been a spate of assaults on women. I should note fellow Councilmember Steve Levin has NOT been involved in helping the community on this issue. Councilmembers Brad Lander, Sara Gonzalez, Tish James have and they deserve credit for it.
But there is another issue where Brad Lander and Steve Levin have made, in my mind, a serious error.
It all started with my building's resident Yenta (by her own admission) asking me why 7th Ave is no longer being cleaned up. Until recently, she observed, men in blue outfits (a collaboration between the city and the Doe Fund aimed to help the homeless and parolees transition back into society and employment) would help the city empty the garbage and clean the streets. Recently those blue-uniformed men disappeared from 7th Avenue and in their place garbage piled up everywhere adding to what my wife already referred to as the "7th Ave. Stink." I have to say 7th Ave. smells worse on average than any other street I personally walk down in Brooklyn or Manhattan. And now that the Doe Fund people have disappeared from 7th Ave. the stink is getting worse.
To me this is not, however, primarily about the cleanliness of our neighborhood. It is about a program that is one of the most successful in the nation in getting homeless and parolees back into society. Here is the description of the Doe Fund from their website:
Ready, Willing & Able is The Doe Fund's holistic, residential, work and job skills training program which helps homeless individuals in their efforts to become self-sufficient, contributing members of society. Ready, Willing & Able has helped more than 4,500 men and women become drug-free, secure full-time employment, and obtain their own self-supported housing. The program targets the segment of the homeless population considered the hardest to serve: single, able-bodied adults, the majority of whom have histories of incarceration and substance abuse. Criteria for acceptance into the program is that the applicant be ready, willing and able, both physically and mentally, to work and maintain a drug-free lifestyle.
Folks, this kind of program saves taxpayers money in the long run. Like vaccinations and education, programs like this are one of the best investments society can make with taxpayer money. And, like cutting education, cutting this program is one of the dumbest moves a government can make because it will COST us all money in the long run. read more »