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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Brooklyn Focus: NYC 33rd City Council Race: The Most Experienced of the Reform Candidates

    The 33rd City Council Race is, above all else, a battle to defeat the corrupt Vito Lopez machine which is trying to muscle into this district with the candidacy of Vito Lopez's aide Steve Levin. And there are two excellent reform candidates running: Jo Anne Simon, a current female district leader in the district, and Ken Diamondstone, a long-time community activist. Both of these candidates have been among the core opposition to Vito Lopez for many years and both have a long record of dedication to the community. To me, Jo Anne Simon and Ken Diamondstone are really the only two candidates worth voting for in this race. Steve Levin is tied to the corruption of his boss Vito Lopez. Ken Baer has garnered almost no support. Evan Thies seems okay and has picked up a few good endorsements, but he has done little compared to Ken Diamondstone and Jo Anne Simon. Isaac Abraham is way too conservative for the district and is unlikely to do well outside of the Hasidic community. And Doug Biviano, the kid who bills himself as the reform messiah, has put on a big show, but has never actually done anything for the community the way Ken Diamondstone and Jo Anne Simon have. In palce of substantial experience or accomplishments Biviano has isntead gone negative, trying to link all the other candidates to the Vito Lopez machine despite the fact ONLY Steve Levin is actually connected with Lopez and ALL the other candidates have been part of the opposition to the machine and its corruption for years before Biviano came on the scene.

    So the race boils down to two good candidates, Jo Anne Simon and Ken Diamondstone, against the Vito Lopez machine candidate, Steve Levin. I have chosen Jo Anne Simon simply because she has formed a strong coalition of reformers and progressives behind her, even taking endorsements from groups that could have been Diamondstone's core support.

    I know both Diamondstone and Simon fairly well and like and respect both. There have been many fights I have participated in where one or both of these candidates were strong advocates for the community. Diamondstone's opposition to Bruce Ratner and his strong support of progressive candiates year after year has been powerfully inspirational. I once had the pleasure of seeing him almost single handedly stand up to the then-Clarence Norman machine (this was right before Norman was convicted and Lopez took over as the crime boss of Brooklyn politics) during their County Committee meeting. Jo Anne Simon has, along with Alan Fleishmen, been one of very few district leaders to routinely stand up to and vote against Vito Lopez in County Committee and Judicial Committee meetings. When Vito Lopez tries to appoint a new judge as a polticial favor, Jo Anne and Alan are the most consistent no votes. In fact, to some degree most of what I know about fighting the machine comes from these three people: Ken Diamondstone, Alan Fleishman and Jo Anne Simon. Jo Anne Simon has also been a long-time advocate for disabled rights including arguing, and winning, a landmark disabled rights case (Barlett v. New York State Board of Law Examiners) before Judge Sotomayor. She has also founded and/or served with several disabled advocacy organizations including Association on Higher Education And Disability, the Committee on Legal Issues Affecting People with Disabilities of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and the New York Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. I can say from personal experience, that if I go to Jo Anne Simon with a problem, she takes the time and effort to help.

    Ken is more of a firebrand in style, is quicker to take a stand more aggressive in asserting that stand. This is often an approach I respect, but it also can at times make coalition building and compromise harder. Jo Anne is more cautious and thoughtful in her decisions and more focused on building consensus rather than contention. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. But it is quite likely that Jo Anne's approach is more successful, at least at the present, since she is the one who has been able to build a strong coalition backing her candidacy while Diamondstone even lost some of his core support to other candidates.

    For example, three organizations could have, together, catapulted Diamondstone to frontrunner status among the reform candidates. Diamondstone had (and presumably still has) a close relationship with Lambda Independent Democrats, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, and Working Families Party. Together, these three organizations would have been the core of a strong coalition that would have been hard to beat. However, Lambda and CBID both endorsed Jo Anne Simon instead of Diamondstone, and Working Families Party has opted to side with the corrupt machine this year in several races, including this one. I know many who voted in one or more of these organizations to endorse Jo Anne Simon who maintain their liking for Diamondstone, but I think it shows Jo Anne Simon's strengths that she was able to make her case and add these two reform clubs to her coalition. Ken's more aggressive and firebrand style failed to bring this coalition together even though it is often quite inspiring to watch at other times.

    The coalition supporting Jo Anne Simon includes quite a few individuals and organizations I respect quite strongly. Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez is one of my favorite local politicians and has been one of Vito Lopez's strongest opponents. State Senators Eric Adams and Velmanette Montgomery as well as Assemblymembers Joan Millman and Jim Brennan have also endorsed Jo Anne. Councilwoman Tish James, one of the strongest opponents of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards scheme has also endorsed Jo Anne. I resepect these electeds far more than I do Steve Levin's corrupt mentor, Assemblyman Vito Lopez. District Leader Alan Fleishman has been Jo Anne's partner in opposing Vito Lopez for years and has endorsed Jo Anne Simon. Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, LAMBDA Independent Democrats, 504 Democrats (focused on disabled rights) and NYC Community Council have all joined Simon's coalition. Many others have as well. Ken Diamondstone also has been endorsed by people I respect drawing from a similar range of support (civil liberties, LGBT rights, anti-Ratner and anti-machine advocates), but nothing like the coalition built by Jo Anne Simon.

    Her ability to build this strong coalition of reformers and progressives, her long years of advocacy for disabled rights, and my personal observations of her advocacy for the community and her opposition to Vito Lopez's machine year after year all combined to convince me to support Jo Anne Simon for the 33rd City Council district.

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