Thoughts on NYC City Council Races for 2009
Here is my tentative endorsement list for City Council races for 2009. Actually not really an endorsement list just yet. More like the races and candidates I am finding interesting enough to look into and watch. Consider this my shot across the bow for 2009 City Council races. This list is based on three main criteria:
1.) preferring progressives but also wanting to pick challengers who
have the best chance of winning against particularly lousy opponents;
2.) targeting some open seats, but primarily eyeing challenges to those
City Council members who voted for the Bloomberg Putsch and/or have been particularly weasley in other ways;
3.) taking Working Families Party preferences into account at least to some degree. I don't always like WFP's chosen candidates and they have accused me of being a party hack. But right now WFP is the force standing up to the worst Democrats in the city, so I would like to ally with them on this where it makes sense. For the WFP background on some of these races, go here.
My top City Council endorsement for 2009 is:
Council District 39: (Brooklyn) (open seat)
Josh Skaller http://skaller09.com/
Josh is a friend of mine, so I admit a bias. But he also is smart and extremely engaged with the community. He was president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID), and an organizer for Brooklyn for Barack and for Democracy for New York City (DFNYC). His campaign has already been extremely effective, raising ample money from small donors and getting out volunteers and paid workers on election day 2008 to increase his visibility early. Josh is endorsed by State Senator Eric Adams, civil rights attorney and candidate for Public Advocate Norman Siegel, reform Democratic activist and former Air America radio host Chris Owens, and many other community leaders. Josh is the best candidate in a very good field of candidates and, despite being a strictly grassroots candidate, actually came in second in fundraising, just behind a candidate heavily supported by developers. Josh is a good friend of ours, a solid progressive, and about as honest as you can get. This is a case where I really think the grassroots candidate can win! Josh will be one of my top priorities in 2009.
I also want to make an endorsement for my own district, Council District 33: (Brooklyn) (David Yassky is an incumbent who has betrayed his supporters several times)
It remains unclear whether Yassky will try to hold his seat or try and run for Comptroller. If he does run for re-election, he is the guy to beat. Though he insists he is definitely going for Comptroller, my wife, for one, remains skeptical of his claims...any of his claims. If he doesn't run for re-election, the Vito Lopez backed machine candidate, Steve Levin, is the guy to beat. Either way, I believe there is one challenger who can beat either one: my district leader, Jo Anne Simon
I also like a couple of the other candidates, including Ken Diamondstone and Ken Baer. But neither of these candidates, in my opinion, has what it takes to take on Yassky or Lopez/Levin. So among these three good candidates I am backing Jo Anne Simon. If one of the Kens pulls ahead in some clear way, I could see myself shifting, but at the moment I don't think that will happen. If this wasn't my own district I might sit it out, but it is my distirct, so I feel I have to make a choice and endorse even though I know three of the candidates personally.
Jo Anne Simon is, overall, a good, progressive candidate who has made the rights of the disabled one of her main issues. And she has been honored for her excellent work in this area. I sometimes find her too cautious when it comes to taking strong stands. This is my main concern about her candidacy. Many I talk to share this concern, but her campaign is by far the best organized of the candidates I like, and when she does take a strong stand I generally agree with her. I have discussed this race with several of my fellow progressives and almost unanimously we have picked Simon to back. We all like both Kens as well (Ken Diamondstone and Ken Baer), but we all feel Simon will win and will, in general, support the positions we believe in. A fellow activist also points out that even when we disagree with her, Jo Anne has intelligent and well thoughtout reasons for her stands. This is in sharp contrast with Vito Lopez, who is about nothing but his own power and helping developers, or Yassky, whose reasons for betraying his constituents are always convoluted and unconvincing. Jo Anne Simon will be a much better council member than the sell out we have now.
Council District 38: (Brooklyn) (Sara Gonzalez is the lousy incumbent we need to defeat):
I have heard that David Galarza is running for this seat. If he runs I heartily endorse David Galarza. He is the communications specialist for the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Local 1000 and he has strong links to labor. He has worked in the public affairs departments of Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, NYC Comptroller Alan Hevesi, the NYC Board of Education, and the Children's Aid Society. And he was a member of community board 7. This is a wide range of community involvement which shows broad experience I would love to see in the City Council. He's also been a reporter and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Miami Herald.
I am also looking into:
Council District 47 (Brooklyn) (Dom Recchia is the sleazy incumbent to beat)
I have heard a few names running against Vito Lopez puppet Recchia who is best known for his lack of interest in his community. So far the only person I am sure is running is Todd Dobrin. Recchia is the developer favorite, machine candidate. Dobrin appears to be the old-school union candidate from what I can tell. Need to learn more about Todd before endorsing, but if given the choice between a sleazy, developer supported machine candidate and an old-school unnion candidate, I'll pick the union candidate.
Council District 45 (Brooklyn) (Kendall Stewart is the terrible incumbent to beat)
I am considering endorsing Rodrick Daley, a teacher that the WFP seems to be considering. But I need more info on him before deciding. On paper (or at least on his still underdeveloped website) he looks good, and if WFP is considering him, he probably has a shot.
Council District 40 (Brooklyn) (Mathieu Eugene is the incumbent to beat)
This one I may sit out, but it interests me for two reasons in particular. The incumbent seems extremely unreliable, to the extent of seemingly lying about being a doctor. He refers to himself as Dr. Eugene, but seems to have no degree that he can verify or any expertise in medicine he has displayed. This strikes me as just a bit disturbing. Not to mention it completely blows any credibility he might have.
Second, fellow blogger Rock Hackshaw is running for this seat. Now, for me to outright endorse Rock, he'd have to move just a tad to the left on a couple of issues here and there. But I do know he is an honest, very thoughtful, and very tough guy who could be excellent stirring things up a bit in the council.
Council District 25 (Queens) (Helen Sears is the incumbent to beat)
The candidate I am endorsing is Daniel Dromm. Dromm is a a public school teacher. I often like supporting real community members like teachers and police officers for office because I think they bring more to a legislature than the usual lawyers we elect do. Dromm was a founder of the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens and chapter leader of United Federation of Teachers, PS 199Q. He has been endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers, Mark Green, and others. WFP seem to be considering him as well. Dromm received the "Community Service Impact Award" from the Times Ledger Newspapers (2006), the "Outstanding Teacher of the Year" PS 199Q Principal's Award (2006), and the "Citation of Honor" from the Queens Borough President (1995). Seems like exactly the experience we need on the City Council.
Council District 31: (Queens) (James Sanders is the lousy imcumbent to beat)
I am considering endorsing Marquez Claxton for this seat. Marq Claxton is a former NYC Police Officer and co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. He is currently the chair of the Public Safety Committee for Community Board 13. He has been endorsed by Eric Adams (who I know and respect) and is being considered by the Working Families Party as a candidate. So far he sounds good to me on paper, but I do not know him and no one I have talked to is familiar with him. But so far he is my choice for this seat. Here is Eric Adam's endorsement statement:
MANHATTAN: In these two Manhattan races there are two possible candidates in each race I am considering endorsing.
Council District 3: (Manhattan) (City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has recently led the betrayal of voters in the City Council, is the incumbent here...I also have been given clear evidence that Quinn is a petty, vindictive creep)
Yetta Kurland is a Civil Rights advocate who strikes me as the best candidate. If she can demonstrate she has a good shot of winning I will heartily endorse her.
My second choice would be Maria Passannante Derr. She looks good on paper (or at least on her website) but she strikes me as not being as reliably progressive as Yetta. I'd need to learn more about her before I'd endorse her.
Council District 1: (Manhattan) (Alan Gerson is the voter-betraying incumbent to beat)
If he runs, Rocky Chin (the 2001 candidate supported by WFP and Americans for Democratic Action who almost won) is the guy I will endorse for this seat. He was part of Asian Americans for Obama '08 and WFP seems to be considering endorsing him again.
If Rocky doesn't run, Margaret Chin http://www.margaretchin.com/ (no relation to Rocky) would be my choice. She isn't ideal, but she is certainly better than Gerson.