Archive for the tag 'andrew gounardes'

Andrew Gounardes (Photo by Carol Dronsfield)

The following is an opinion article submitted by Andrew Gounardes, a local attorney, vice president of the Bay Ridge Democrats and 2012 candidate for State Senate

Last week, the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption released a report detailing an enraging, though not surprising, level of corruption in our state government. The Commission’s report identified so many illegal activities, and incredulous abuses of legal activities, they can’t all be listed here. Here’s just a sampling of the worst offenses:

  • Pay-to-play politics – High-powered donors contribute to political campaigns in exchange for legislation that would reap a windfall on their business interests. One developer received a real estate tax credit worth $50 million last year just to build one luxury building in Manhattan.
  • Campaign finance loopholes – New York has some of the highest campaign contribution limits in the country, and yet many donors skirt those rules by donating through different corporate and LLC accounts. One donor was found to have used 25 different corporate accounts to make $3 million in contributions.
  • Misuse of campaign funds – There are no meaningful limits on what politicians can spend their campaign dollars on. Members of the legislature routinely use campaign funds to pay for personal expenses such as car leases and personal mortgages.

So what can we do to limit, if not outright stop, such blatant corruption? The answer is pretty simple and we already do it in New York City: public financing of elections.

Currently, the campaign finance system rewards big donors and the politicians they donate to. If we lower the amount of money someone can donate to a campaign, incentivize small-dollar donations through a public matching system, and limit how those campaign dollars are spent, we can break the corruption cycle of wealthy donors buying off politicians and politicians using campaign funds to pay for vacation homes and luxury cars.

Public financing will also make politicians more responsive to voters. Under New York City’s system, any contribution up to $175 gets matched by city dollars at a rate of 6:1; a $175 donation is really worth $1050. Under the current rules in New York State, one donor who contributes $1000 has more influence than five donors who each contribute $175. That’s ridiculous. If we replicated the New York City program at the state level, those five donors contributing $175 would outweigh the one donor contributing only $1000.

Opponents of campaign finance reform say that it costs too much money. They feign outrage at spending tax dollars on political campaigns and hope that if they scream loud enough, you won’t notice why the really oppose reform: because they benefit enormously from the status quo.

Here’s the truth: public financing of campaigns will cost approximately $41 million a year, or just $3.20 per taxpayer in New York per year. In other words, getting rid of corruption in New York State will cost $9 million LESS than the $50 million tax break that our politicians gave to that luxury building developer last year. Think about that: one fewer tax break to a wealthy donor can pay for a more honest government.

To me, the answer seems clear. Let’s start cleaning up Albany and start restoring faith in state government again by enacting true campaign finance reform.

Andrew Gounardes is an attorney, vice president of the Bay Ridge Democrats and 2012 candidate for State Senate

State Senator Marty Golden. Photo By Erica Sherman

State Senator Marty Golden continues to take heat over his opposition to speed enforcement cameras as a group of protesters descended upon his Bay Ridge office at 7408 Fifth Avenue demanding he change his stance on the issue, according to a report by Capital New York.

The protest was organized by Bay Ridge Advocates for Keeping Everyone Safe (BRAKES) this past Friday and was full of people outraged over Golden’s opposition to the cameras.

“The point is you need to be in support of traffic-calming measures,” Maureen Landers, an organizer of today’s demonstration. “And his vote against [speed cameras] shows that clearly he’s not and he has not provided an alternative or a solution or taken any measures to calm traffic.”

It is believed that Golden opposes the cameras due to his ties with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA). Golden and the PBA believe that the installation of the cameras might cost policemen jobs. However, last week, we reported that Golden was willing to support the cameras if Mayor Michael Bloomberg or Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed to fund a $5.6 million busing plan for private Yeshiva school students. Golden, along with State Senator Simcha Felder, was turned down by both Bloomberg and Cuomo. Golden, along with Felder, included the funding for the private busing plan in the state budget anyway.

Golden responded to the protest with a statement that called for the placement of more 20 MPH speed zones around schools, a proposal that did little to quell the anger of his critics.

“Marty Golden is completely tone-deaf and oblivious to the impact this technology could have on keeping our streets safer,” Andrew Gounardes told Capital New York. Gounardes is a Bay Ridge attorney who ran and lost against Golden last year and is considering a future rematch.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz celebrating during an election night party at the Turkish Cultural Center of Brooklyn. (Photo: Erica Sherman)

By now, the whole world knows that the American people chose to send Barack Obama back to the White House for another four years. But how did your local elected fare on election day? In short, Southern Brooklyn will see little if any change, with all incumbents but one returning for another term. Here’s the roundup.

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Kagan

Newly-elected 45th Assembly District Leader Ari Kagan will celebrate the launch of his new democratic club tonight. Called Bay Democrats, Kagan said his goal is to unite Southern Brooklyn’s democratic factions under one banner.

The grand opening will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Bainbridge Center, 3093 Ocean Avenue. Kagan expects approximately 150 supporters to join him, along with a slew of elected officials from around Brooklyn and New York City.

Kagan, a Russian-American reporter and activist, unseated 24-year incumbent District Leader Mike Geller during last month’s primaries. The district leader position, listed on the ballot as the Member of the State Democratic Committee, is an unpaid, nongovernmental representative. District leaders help pick the party’s chairman, appoint judges, provide on-the-ground support for local campaigns and hire poll workers.

Though advertised as a “unity” club, Kagan’s base so far looks a lot like the emerging conservative Democratic blocs dominating recent elections, primarily comprised of right-leaning Russian immigrants and Orthodox Jews. Leaders of both communities are expected tonight, along with leaders of the Asian and African-American communities, who Kagan helped rally to Ben Akselrod’s side in his failed bid to win the democratic primary against Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz.

The base might be founded in conservative democratic politics, but Kagan said he’s up to the challenge of rallying support for candidates he calls “modernist progressive.”

He’s already endorsed left-leaning candidates including congressional candidate Mark Murphy and State Senate candidate Andrew Gounardes.

“In each case, I’m explaining my reasons for support, like with [Congressman Michael Grimm, whose name has surfaced in several corruption investigations],” Kagan told Sheepshead Bites. “It’s not like I’m doing it out of the blue.”

The event is expected to attract several members of the Highway Democratic Club, the centrist group led by Geller. Kagan also said Akselrod, Gournardes, Murphy, Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio, congressional candidate Hakeem Jeffries, Comptroller John Liu, Councilmembers Michael Nelson and David Greenfield, State Senator Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein will all be in attendance.

State Senator Marty Golden. Source: NYSenate.gov

According to a report in Vos Is Neias, New York State Senator Marty Golden reversed his stance on the NYPD’s controversial “spying program,” which allegedly targets mosques and other Muslim gathering points in a citywide counter-terrorism effort.

Golden, a Republican, who had previously provided his signature to a letter praising Police Chief Ray Kelly and the NYPD in their efforts for “going to precisely the source of the problem,” now has stated the opposite at a forum hosted by the Arab-American Association of New York.

“Anybody that would spy on any religious institution is absolutely wrong. I do not stand by anybody who would do that,” said Golden in response to a question wondering if Kelly should apologize. “If [Commissioner Kelly] has, he should apologize – but it hasn’t been proven that he has.”

The spying program, which, according to the AP, targeted “Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and cataloged every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames.” It has led to no leads, cases, or arrests.

Golden’s call for an apology was not overlooked by Democratic challenger Andrew Gounardes, also present at the forum, who reminded voters of Golden’s previous support for the initiative.

Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz, Independent Party candidate Ben Akselrod and Republican Russ Gallo. Cymbrowitz will not attend the debate.

The Manhattan Beach Community Group will host a debate during its meeting tomorrow night featuring candidates for Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz’s seat. (Corrected)

Except Cymbrowitz won’t be there.

The group announced the debates earlier this month, noting on its website that Republican Russ Gallo will join them, along with Ben Akselrod, representing the Independence Party following his primary defeat against Cymbrowitz.

“Mr. Cymbrowitz has declined, in writing, stating that the MBCG is unable to be impartial,” they wrote on their website.

According to Brooklyn Daily, Cymbrowitz sent a letter stating, “A community group that has expressed public criticism of any candidate is simply not an appropriate sponsor for a debate.”

The paper adds:

Cymbrowitz also accused Zalcman of harassment during the primary, claiming the civic leader called police to make sure his campaign staff stayed an appropriate distance from the polling site at PS 195.

“I actually saw Ira Zalcman giving my workers a hard time, and he even called the police out to measure the 100 feet,” said Cymbrowitz. “So, that’s what it was about.”

Zalcman refuted those allegations as well.

“I went to PS 195 in the morning, I voted, and I left,” he said.

State Senator Marty Golden and Democratic challenger Andrew Gounardes are also expected to go toe-to-toe again make an appearance, after a series of contentious debates largely in the Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights section of the district.

During their first debate on October 9, the two resorted to attacks, at times raising their voices as they discussed women’s rights, guns and education, among other topics. They repeated their performance in a debate last week. and tomorrow night’s event will bring the electoral brawl home to Southern Brooklyn.

However, the two aren’t formally debating tomorrow, the group told Sheepshead Bites. They will each be allowed 5-minute statements and may take a few questions from the audience, but organizers did not think it would be practical to hold two debates.

The Manhattan Beach Community Group will also give updates to its members on the dog run and other community developments.

The meeting is tomorrow, October 24, at 8:00 p.m. in the auditorium of P.S. 195 (131 Irwin Street).

CORRECTION (5:09 p.m.): The original version of this article indicated that Golden and Gounardes would be debating at the meeting. We have been informed that that is not the case, and have updated the article to reflect that. We apologize for any confusion.

State Senator Marty Golden and his upstart opponent, Democrat Andrew Gounardes, faced off at a debate last night hosted by the Dyker Heights Civic Association.

The 30-minute debate got heated at points, with Golden and Gounardes occasionally raising their voices and breaking with debate protocol to ask each other questions or attack one another.

Among the issues discussed were gun control, women’s rights including emergency contraceptives for rape victims and fair pay, and education.

Education is how Andrew Gounardes opened the debate, attacking the 10-year incumbent for failing to bring home the bacon for local schools. He claimed Golden has voted 99 percent of the time with the Senate Republican leadership, which he said had been neglecting New York City’s schools, siphoning off funding and ignoring issues of overcapacity in New York City. The Senator responded by calling the claims “pure fantasy” and noted that he had brought funding to local schools, including adding 4,000 seats to the district.

On a separate question about education, Golden received boos for expressing his support for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s handling of the city school system, while Gounardes said the state needed to do a better job ensuring the mayor is fulfilling his obligation to students, which, he said, appears not to be the case given college-readiness rates and school standards.

The crowd appeared to overwhelmingly support Senator Golden, many sporting Golden and GOP stickers – but Gounardes also brought a contingent of supporters who cheered him on. Both appeared to have “plants” in the crowd – or people who posed questions that exposed the weakness of their opponent.

One of those questions came from a female Gounardes supporter, who asked Golden if he supported Missouri Congressman Todd Akin’s statements that rape victims should not have access to emergency contraceptives. It seemed Golden was pretending not to hear the question, and then rephrased it as “Should [rape victims] get emergency services immediately upon rape? Yes, they should.”

Gounardes won a round of applause for immediately shooting back that Golden had voted three times against a bill that would provide contraceptives to rape victims.

The insurgent opponent also won accolades when Golden made a few verbal stumbles, such as suggesting that New Yorkers can’t afford to provide equal pay to women and that importing oil and gas from Canada qualified as energy independence.

Golden, for his part, effectively presented his opponent as rabidly anti-gun and portrayed his own record on gun safety as a more effective and moderate approach. He also scored points by aligning Gounardes’ view on renewable energy investments with that of the Obama Administration, which has recently taken flak for providing $90 billion in breaks for green energy industries with little return shown on the investment.

Watch the debate above – it will likely be the most expansive, interesting and exciting to happen this year in Southern Brooklyn.

A resident of 2800 Coyle Street, shareholders of which tried to boot their board in 2010.

Frequently, Sheepshead Bites receives messages from aggravated co-op apartment building residents, taking issue with their board. In the past, co-op shareholders have even organized anti-board rallies in attempt to overthrow the board.

Tomorrow night, frustrated co-op shareholders can express their dissatisfaction and discuss the challenges they face at a town hall meeting in Sheepshead Bay, hosted by Davidzon Radio, Assembly candidate Ben Akselrod and Senate candidate Andrew Gounardes.

If you have complained to Sheepshead Bites in the past, or are simply annoyed with your situation as a co-op shareholder, attend this meeting and speak your mind. Representatives from the Attorney General’s office, elected officials, and lawyers who deal with co-op issues were invited to join. Share your experiences with them, and maybe something will come of it.

Gounardes, the Democratic candidate for the NY State Senate’s 22nd District, and Akselrod, Democratic primary challenger for the State Assembly’s 45th District, and the Cooperative Community Organization will host this meeting on August 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the Davidzon Radio Office, located at 2508 Coney Island Avenue on the second floor.

State Senator Marty Golden will hold a class for professional women on “Posture, Deportment, and the Feminine Presence” in the workplace, angering women’s rights advocates who think women would be better served with good policy, not antiquated etiquette.

The taxpayer funded-event has caused controversy after Golden’s website promised to teach attendees how to “Sit, stand, and walk like a model” and how to “walk up and down a stair elegantly.”

“In these economic times, when so many people are out of work, and graduating with advanced degrees to set themselves apart in the workplace, events such as these are also important,” spokesman John Quaglione told City & State.

However, at least one feminist blogger is upset, especially in light of the senator’s vote against the Fair Pay Act, legislation designed to close the wage gap between male and female workers.

“The actual issues women face aren’t addressed by special classes on ‘the art of feminine presence’ and how to ‘walk up and down a stair elegantly,” writes Jill Filipovic, a blogger for Feministe. “Our political leaders should be focusing on necessary policy changes to make sure that all women are paid fairly and are able to succeed professionally… A 1950s-style etiquette class focusing on feminine charms rather than actual business acumen is insulting, regressive and wasteful.”

Democrat Andrew Gounardes, who is running to replace Golden this November, issued a press release criticizing the Senator’s priorities. “Somehow, in the year 2012, there are still women across New York who earn less than men do for the same work. It’s sad. It’s wrong. And it’s time for every one of us to stop looking the other way and to start doing something about it,” Gounardes said.

Golden has since removed references to how to “Sit, Stand and Walk Like a Model” and how to “walk up and down a stair elegantly” from the event listing on his website.

- Justin Santoro

With the dust settling in Albany over redistricting, our neck of the woods is going to see a lot of new faces.

Manhattan Beach, for example, has already seen State Senator Marty Golden at recent civic meetings. The Republican politician representing Marine Park, parts of Sheepshead Bay, a huge swath of Bensonhurst and just about all of Bay Ridge has opened his office’s doors to the neighborhood, telling them he can handle constituent complaints. Of course, he doesn’t quite represent them yet – the new lines take effect in January. But with no political representation (it’s currently in Carl Kruger’s old district), he’s offering to pick up the slack.

And, of course, it also gets his name out there before elections in November, when he’ll be facing off against Democratic upstart Andrew Gounardes.

We’ve interviewed Gounardes before, when he made his case for the seat to Bensonhurst Bean readers.

Last night, Gounardes appeared before the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association to introduce himself and make his case again. In the video above, he talks about funding for public schools, Occupy Wall Street and mass transit.