Brooklyn Focus: The Reform Slate for State Committee
But unlike the Republicans, Democrats don't sit quietly and let corruption fester. In Brooklyn there is a reform movement. Too often divided, perhaps, but a reform movement none the less. And this reform movement has realized that if we want to challenge Vito Lopez's infamous corruption, we have to do so at the level of a little known and often ignored position of State Committee. In Brooklyn the positions of District Leader and State Committee are uniquely (as far as I know) combined. I assume this is so the party boss can better control both. But it also means reform challenges can target both at once. We have several races for District Leader/State Committee this year that are important challenges to Vito Lopez's corrupt hold on Brooklyn. Reform clubs like Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, New Kings Democrats and Lambda Independent Democrats are focused on these races, but most people aren't. So those of us who are engaged in the process need to help get the word out. The following are candidates who need our help against the mega-money a corrupt machine can bring to bear even in small races. These candidates deserve your support and your vote in the Sept. 14 Primary.
Brooklyn's 50th Assembly District:
These two challenges are right on Vito Lopez's home turf so are especially symbolic. There are two candidates running for the two positions who are challenging Vito Lopez cronies.
Kate Zidar for District Leader/State Committee in the 50th Assembly District:
Kate Zidar is an Environmental Planner with a professional focus on solid waste management, open space, urban agriculture and stormwater management. Kate has become a vocal advocate for Green Infrastructure as a means to provide long-term environmental health as well as reinvigorate our dwindling manufacturing employment base. Kate believes that true sustainability comes through community empowerment, good governance and long-view investment.
Kate is active in projects throughout Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Fort Greene. She serves as a board member of the Newtown Creek Alliance, where she works to strike a balance between waterfront access, environmental health and economic development in and around the city’s most polluted waterway as well as one of it’s strongest centers for manufacturing and industrial jobs.
As a demonstration of her core belief that change starts right in her own backyard, in 2004 Kate founded the North Brooklyn Compost Project (NBCP) in McCarren Park. NBCP is a volunteer-run collective that has blossomed to nearly four hundred members. The project provides an alternative to waste transfer and export while creating a local source of high-quality compost. NBCP compost fuels backyards, food gardens, street trees and parks throughout North Brooklyn.
Last year, Kate collaborated with the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project, NYC Housing Authority and resident gardeners at Ingersoll Houses on Myrtle Avenue to break ground on the Ingersoll Garden of Eden. Resident gardeners have activated an underutilized plot within their development to grow flowers, native plants and vegetables. In May of this year, she continued working with the garden and residents to nearly double the garden's size.
Professionally, Kate coordinates the Stormwater Infrastructure Matters (S.W.I.M.) Coalition, a citywide organization of public, private and non-profit partners dedicated to ensuring swimmable, fishable waters around New York City through sustainable
stormwater management practices in upland communities. Through policy, education, design and the implementation of pilot projects, the S.W.I.M. Coalition demonstrates the multiple benefits provided by Green Infrastructure: cooler, cleaner air, improved habitat and green workforce development.
Kate Zider has been endorsed by Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez and the New Kings Democrats (and by myself).
Lincoln Restler for District Leader/State Committee in the 50th Assembly District:
Running with Kate Zidar for the two positions in the 50th AD is Lincoln Restler.
Lincoln Restler was born and raised in Brooklyn, and is a proud product of the borough's schools & community institutions. Growing up in Brooklyn gave Lincoln a firsthand understanding of the importance of community empowerment, which has driven him to become a tireless advocate for his neighbors on issues of social justice, affordable housing and good government.
Formerly the Chair of the Economic Development Committee, Lincoln currently serves as the Secretary of Community Board 2 where he has fought to preserve & strengthen neighborhood affordability and quality of life. He has also worked to promote community-based, sustainable development as a board member of Pratt Area Community Council, one of Brooklyn’s premier affordable housing developers.
Lincoln serves on the boards of the Fort Greene Association, a neighborhood civic association, and Brooklyn for Peace, a grassroots organization devoted to peace and justice in our neighborhoods and beyond. He is a founding member of the Brooklyn Vanguard, a group committed to involving young Brooklynites in the Brooklyn Public Library system, and is an active supporter of many local nonprofit organizations, such as Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG), and Fort Greene Peace.
Lincoln is also the Vice President of New Kings Democrats, a progressive organization committed to involving more Brooklynites in local politics and striving to reform the local political establishment.
Professionally, Lincoln is a Program Officer for Asset-Building and Financial Services at the NYC Office of Financial Empowerment, where he works to develop safe and affordable banking opportunities for New Yorkers with low-incomes. Previously, Lincoln worked at the NYC Comprehensive Neighborhood Economic Development initiative, a community and economic development program focused on generating economic opportunity in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Lincoln has also worked as the Research Coordinator at the City University of New York Dominican Studies Institute.
Lincoln holds a bachelors degree in Africana Studies and Latin American Studies from Brown University, and resides in Fort Greene.
Lincoln Restler has been endorsed by New Kings Democrats, Lambda Independent Democrats, myself and the following:
"Lincoln is a tireless advocate for progressive values. I've worked with him since his days at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, and admire his independent voice, leadership and commitment to bringing diverse constituencies together. I am proud to endorse Lincoln Restler for Democratic State Committee."--NY City Council Member Diana Reyna
"I am supporting Lincoln Restler for Democratic State Committee because now, more than ever, we need independent, reform-minded leaders who aren't afraid to challenge the status quo. I have worked closely with Lincoln for years in his capacity as a community advocate in Fort Greene; he works hard, he thinks for himself, and he'll be a fierce representative for our community on the State Committee."--NY City Council Member Letitia James
“As a lifelong community organizer, I know that real change starts at the grassroots level, and I believe that electing Lincoln and other community activists to the State Committee will foster greater community engagement in New York City politics. I have been in the trenches with Lincoln and I know he is a leader who will make a difference in our communities.”--NY City Council Member Jumaane Williams
“As someone who has consistently stood up to the Brooklyn Democratic Machine, I know a true reformer when I see one and Lincoln Restler is the real deal. Lincoln is a progressive, independent advocate for reform, and I look forward to working with him on the State Committee.”--District Leader, 52nd AD, Jo Anne Simon
"In an election year when many young candidates for State Committee are just poorly disguised proxies for Vito Lopez, Lincoln Restler has proven himself to be an independent community leader who isn't afraid to stand up to Brooklyn's unethical Democratic machine. Brooklyn deserves better, which is why I am supporting Lincoln Restler for State Committee."--District Leader, 52nd AD, Alan Fleishman
"We need more strong independent voices on the State Committee, which is why I enthusiastically endorse Lincoln Restler. Lincoln's energetic advocacy for transparent and truly democratic government will be a tremendous asset. I know Lincoln will continue to fight for openness, excellence and fairness as a leader in the Democratic Party."--District Leader, 60th AD, Joanne Seminara
Brooklyn's 52nd Assembly District:
This is the inverse of the 50th where reformers are challenging Vito's cronies. In the 52nd Vito has put up his own cronies to challenge reformers in a traditionally reform district. One of the reform candidates running is my good friend Chris Owens, a tireless champion of reform in Brooklyn.
Chris Owens for District Leader/State Committee in the 52nd Assembly District:
Chris Owens has been endorsed by Lambda Independent Democrats, Brooklyn's largest and strongest LGBT political organization. Here are Chris and John Liu at Brooklyn's Pride Parade this year:
Chris' theme is: "Stop The Corruption! End The Dysfunction!" From his website:
Chris is a public school graduate as well as a public school parent. He has an M.P.A. from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, a B.A. in Sociology from Harvard University, having graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. Professionally, Chris has worked with low-income populations in need of quality health care and better public education.
Chris Owens has been a musician, a politician, an activist arrested protesting police brutality and the closing of NYFD Engine Company 104, an organizer, an Air America Radio host, and a fighter against Atlantic Yards and for sensible development. Chris has been involved with numerous organizations, community initiatives and election campaigns. For his community work, Chris Owens has received honors from People for the American Way and the Brooklyn Children's Museum, amongst others. Chris Owens is the most qualified candidate to serve as our Democratic State Committee member.
Today, the Kings County Democratic machine wants to control votes and endorsements in our Assembly District and the County Leader is running candidates to make that happen. Unfortunately, a history of judicial corruption and unethical behavior distinguishes the current Party leadership.
Chris Owens, however, is defending our district. The Owens campaign is supported by City Council member Letitia James, retired Congressman Major Owens, Park Slope activist Eric McClure, Boerum Hill community leader Sandy Balboza, former Community School Board 15 President Marsha Borenstein, musician Dan Zanes, FUREE activist and Wyckoff Gardens resident Beverly Corbin, Atlantic Yards hero Daniel Goldstein, the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID) and the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn (LID), amongst others.
Chris is a liberal and reform Democrat from way back:
Chris Owens' goal is to make Brooklyn's Democratic Party a fair and transparent organization -- and, therefore, a more inspirational organization for voters. Chris believes that the Democratic Party can be transformational for America and for Brooklyn -- but it takes alot of work. Chris was an early supporter of the 2008 Democratic nominee for President, Barack Obama, and an early supporter of Howard Dean (2004), Al Gore (2000), Tom Harkin (1992), Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988, and Ted Kennedy (1980). At the local level, Chris has supported legislative and judicial candidates who pledge to move political reforms forward...
A major theme of Chris Owens' political activities has been to increase the participation of lower-income communities in the political process. In the early 1990s, Chris led the statewide reform wing of the Democratic Party - the NYS New Democratic Coalition - opposing rules that restrict ballot access, and fighting improve the process of selecting judges, fighting for same-day voter registration and for campaign finance reform (including caps on media spending), and fighting against conflicts of interest. In 1999, Chris received the Good Guy Award from the Brooklyn Women's Political Caucus for his political work.
From 1996 through 2003, Chris served on the Political Action Committee of NARAL Pro Choice NY, protecting a woman's right to choose by educating policy makers and providing political support for pro-choice candidates. He is the only African American male to have served in this position. In 1999, Chris Owens engaged in civil disobedience and was arrested protesting the murder of Amadou Diallou. He was also arrested in 2003 at Engine Company 204, protesting the closing of six firehouses in New York City -- four of which were in Brooklyn.
Jo Anne Simon for District Leader/State Committee in the 52nd Assembly District:
Also running in the 52nd is Jo Anne Simon, who has been a thorn in the side of Vito Lopez for many years. She has been a champion for disabled rights for many years now and has been endorsed by Lambda Independent Democrats, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats and New Kings Democrats.
Brooklyn's 53rd Assembly District:
Esteban Duran for District Leader/State Committee in the 53rd Assembly District:
Note to Esteban: Got a website? It would help!
Here is New Kings Democrat's statement on Esteban Duran:
Esteban Duran, a lifelong Brooklyn resident, is a candidate for State Committeeman in the 53rd Assembly District. Esteban's parents emigrated from the Caribbean in the early 1970s, and settled in the south of Williamsburg. Esteban's family stressed dedication to community service, and became leaders at Transfiguration Parish. Esteban went on to graduate from Transfiguration Catholic School, La Salle Academy, and then got his BA from the University of Connecticut. After graduating from college, Esteban went to work as a youth organizer for the El Puente after-school program at MS 50.
In 2003, Esteban was selected to join the National Urban Fellows program and had the opportunity to work in the Chicago Public Schools. After successfully competing his assignment in Chicago, which included working with Arne Duncan, the current U.S. Secretary of Education, Esteban graduated with his Masters in Public Administration from Baruch College in 2004. In 2005, Esteban worked for Council member Diana Reyna and helped in her successful reelection bid. In 2006, Esteban joined the NYC Council as a Policy Analyst and then worked for the NYC Department of Education as an Education Council Specialist. In that role, Esteban helped train parent volunteers across New York City on how to access quality education and help advocate for their children's needs.
Esteban has been a member of Community Board 1 since 2005, serving as chair of the Education and Youth Committee. He is also a founding member of New Kings Democrats, and the Chairperson of Churches United for Fair Housing.
Esteban has been endorsed by Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, New Kings Democrats and myself.
41st Assembly District:
Also of note in the fight against Vito Lopez is an unlikely candidate: Lew Fidler in the 41st Assembly District. Lew Fidler has traditionally been an ally of Vito Lopez's but has never been a blind follower. Fidler refused to go along with Vito Lopez's petty little temper tantrum against City Councilwoman Diana Reyna, so Vito Lopez threatened Lew Fidler with a challenge. Fidler essentially laughed in Vito's face in public. I have seen many Vito Lopez allies end up being Vito's strongest enemies. I feel Lew Fidler has the makings of a reform candidate some years down the line given the signs of a developing falling out between Vito and Lew. May not happen but it is always a good idea to support dissent in the enemy's ranks. So I put in my personal plug for Lew Fidler. Despite his (now possibly crumbling) alliance with Vito, Lew seems a good guy. Lew has also been endorsed by the Lambda Independent Democrats.