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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).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

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

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  • Thursday, September 03, 2009

    Brooklyn Focus: NYC 35th City Council Race: Re-electing one of the few honest councilmembers

    For me the 35th City Council is one of the easiest. In this case there is an excellent incumbent running for re-election, and she is NOT one of the incumbents who voted themselves a third term despite the clear opposition of the voters. Councilwoman Letitia James is one of the very few Council members who actually has integrity and who actually cares about the community she represents.

    For example, Tish James is one of the Council members who have been helping to get school supplies to children of homeless families through Project Back to School. A surprisingly few Council Members are helping with this effort, but Tish James is one of them.

    Here are a handful of the things she has done (taken from Wikipedia):

    [Tish James] established the Urban Network, a coalition of African-American professional organizations aimed at providing scholarships for young people.

    In 1994, James championed the Primary Health Case Development Bill in the City Council, which expanded day care resources for working families across the city.

    In 1996, James negotiated the Welfare Reform Act on behalf of the New York State Black & Puerto Rican Caucus. James also served on former New York Governor Mario Cuomo’s Task Force on Diversity in the Judiciary.

    She is also one of the real champions of the fight against Bruce Ratner's taxpayer-funded over-development scheme for Atlantic Yards. Here is a video of Tish James speaking to this issue:

    Tish James has also spoke out against AIG bailout money going to Barclay's to pay for the naming rights to the Ratner Arena, something I think taxpayers didn't bargain on when their money went to bailout the banks.

    Out of this fight against Ratner's destruction of an entire community for his own profit comes one of the top reasons I like Tish James: she is basically a good person who can disarm even her most vocal opponents. This reminds me of an event I saw four years ago that really solidified my respect for Councilmember James. I was helping out the Ferrer campaign back in 2005 by the Atlantic Yards terminal, handing out fliers and urging people to meet Freddy Ferrer. Ferrer was shaking hands and talking to people, making the personal connection with voters that he can be so good at and which does not show up on television or when he makes a speech. A friend commented on how surprised he was at the warm reaction Ferrer was getting. I had seen that many times, though clearly it didn't help get him elected.

    Alongside the Ferrer supporters were a handful of loud Ratner/Bloomberg supporters. I suspect some of them are hired to go around pretending to be community members supporting Ratner's mega-development projects, and some are probably genuine supporters who see Ratner's plan as a necessary evil. The Ratner/Bloomberg folks were playing an odd good cop/bad cop act where a couple of super loud, obnoxious idiots would chant and be confrontational while a few other people would come up and politely and reasonably engage people.

    So the Ratner/Bloomberg folks were there playing good cop/bad cop. They were putting down both Ferrer and Letitia James, the Councilwoman who represents the area being destroyed by Ratner's Altlantic Yards plan. They were pretty mean in their comments about Letitia James and I wondered what would happen when Letitia showed up to support Freddy. I mean a tall, imposing, outspoken black woman who doesn't take BS is certainly not going to take crap from a bunch of Ratner bullies, was my thinking.

    Letitia James did show up. A cheer came from her supporters, which she met with her typical big smile. Then she saw the Ratner/Bloomberg folks who were just putting her down and who she has probably met dozens of times as they go around opposing all who oppose Ratner.

    Here come the sparks, I thought.

    But what Letitia did shows her character better than the sparks I was expecting. Her smile broadened when she saw her opponents and she went up and gave each of them a big hug. She went into the midst of her opponents, and showed that she didn't fear them and didn't hate them just because they opposed her. She showed the issues are issues, they don't have to be personal. I don't know what they were thinking, but those tough bullies sure seemed momentarily charmed by Letitia's grin and big hug. They looked just a little sheepish, in fact. The tension dissipated and we all went back to what we were doing.

    THAT is why I love Letitia James. It was a moment that few politicians could have pulled off and she did it naturally and smoothly because that is who she is.

    Letitia James has also been endorsed by Uniformed Firefighters Association- Local 94, Stonewall Democrats of NYC, 504 Democrats, NARAL Pro-Choice NYC PAC, the Freelancer's Union and the New York Community Council, among many others.

    Letitia James' main rival in the primary, Hunley-Adossa, is basically a Ratner-funded candidate whose sole agenda is furthering Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan with no real concern for the community's needs.


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