Archive for the tag 'democrats'

dell

Smitherman (Source: Smitherman campaign)

Democrat Dell Smitherman officially kicked off his campaign to unseat embattled State Senator John Sampson yesterday at a launch event in Canarsie.

Flanked by family, friends and supporters, Smitherman said he’d stake his claim to represent the district on affordable housing, healthcare access and education.

“This district has a ton of potential, but we haven’t tapped into that potential yet,” said Smitherman. “That’s because in this district right now we have no state representation, and our incumbent cannot bring the resources we need back to our community. I’m running for State Senate to bring a real, progressive advocate to Albany, and finally demand our community’s fair share in the State Senate.”

The 19th District covers Canarsie, East New York and Brownsville, and also has a broad swath of Sheepshead Bay.

Smitherman, a former political coordinator for 1199 SEIU, has already picked up support from that union, as well as backing from Comptroller Scott Stringer and the Working Families Party.

The incumbent, Sampson, who served as Senate leader in 2009 when Democrats briefly controlled the body, has been charged with embezzlement and corruption, for which he has pleaded not guilty.

The New York Observer reports that the announcement didn’t go without a few swipes at Sampson:

“Every day you open the newspaper and hear about the corruption,” Mr. Smitherman told his supporters. “In this district right now we have no state representation. Our incumbent has been kicked out of the Democratic conference. He cannot bring capital funds home to the district.”

“We have schools that can be built with those capital funds. Our public libraries–we can’t get those resources right now,” he added. “I don’t think Albany is working for this community right now.”

The site also reports that Sampson is running with the backing of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, giving him an advantage despite the legal woes. Two other contenders for the Democratic line have also announced: Sean Henry and Leon Miles.

baydems

Bay Democrats Vice President Sam Tsang, District Leader Ari Kagan, and President Ben Akselrod.

Nearly a year and a half after taking on and defeating Michael Geller, the 24-year Democratic Leader of the 45th Assemby District, Ari Kagan finally has the political club he promised his supporters.

Bay Democrats celebrated its grand opening in the headquarters of the Davidzon Radio media empire (2508 Coney Island Avenue) on Wednesday with a crowd of approximately 70 people and a lineup of elected officials showering praise on the Russian-American activist.

Club leaders hailed the event as a re-opening, pointing to the group’s October 2012 formation, when they held a celebration at the Bainbridge Center in Sheepshead Bay. Advertised as a “unity club” that spanned the area’s various ethnic and religious groups, the club’s activity petered out after Superstorm Sandy hit days later, and never had an official home until now.

Kagan said now that a home base has been established for Bay Democrats, it’s time to get down to business.

“Now that Bay Democrats has a home we can focus on the issues affecting our community. I am most optimistic because of the broad support we have from the community,” he said in a press release.

The event attracted a slew of elected officials including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Assemblyman Bill Colton, Councilmen David Greenfield, Chaim Deutsch, Mark Treyger and former City Comptroller John Liu, among others.

The club is headed by Ben Akselrod, a conservative Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz in 2012. Chinese-American activist Sam Tsang will serve as vice president.

District leaders are party positions elected by registered voters of the party. In addition to influencing the leadership and platform of the local and state political party, they’re charged with rallying local bases in support of candidates. They do this largely through political clubs like Bay Democrats, which recruit and organize volunteers for campaign-related activities like petition-signing and preparing mailers.

While Kagan has pitched the club as a unity club, the vast majority of the attendees on Wednesday were Russian American, and the location, inside the headquarters of perhaps the largest Russian-language media empire, may offer a hint at the club’s target base.

And with leadership that includes Kagan, Akselrod and Tsang, all of whom have been critical of Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, it’s likely they’ll back a challenger to the incumbent in the Assembly primary later this year.

The group will hold weekly meetings on Wednesday nights.

Source: Brian Hedden via Bay Ridge Odyssey

Source: Brian Hedden via Bay Ridge Odyssey

Republican Congressman Michael Grimm is asking the federal government to earmark $600 million for the Build it Back program, the housing recovery project designed to help Superstorm Sandy victims, and take control over Sandy funds out of the hands of of local authorities, reports SILive.

While the money is already on its way as part of a larger package, Grimm wants the government to earmark that amount specifically for Build it Back and not permit New York City or state authorities any flexibility with the funds.

“The City of New York needs to take a better look at how they’re allocating their resources. It’s not their money to just allocate as they see fit. This is the people of Staten Island’s money — that was the intent of Congress. And they need to be stewards to that money,” Grimm said.

Thus far, the billions in federal aid money flowing into city coffers has come in the form of Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) and has allowed the city to be flexible in the way it spends it. In a letter to Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Grimm advocated that the city needs an additional $600 million just for housing alone, and that the city should have no say in how this cash is spent.

“I don’t have faith that the city will do the right thing for the people that I represent in Staten Island,” Grimm said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that the continuing government shutdown could cause serious delays in distributing Superstorm Sandy relief money. The New York Daily News is reporting that Bloomberg and mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota all expressed the same opinion that the shutdown could harm people and businesses trying to recover from the storm.

With much of the federal workforce furloughed, aid money flowing from Community Development Block Grants is likely to be slowed due to the lack of government workers pushing it through the system.

In his weekly radio address, Bloomberg described dire consequences if the shutdown doesn’t end soon.

“Right now, Washington’s gridlock is doing real harm to our nation’s economy – and if they don’t get their acts together soon, New York City families, especially those who endured the worst from Hurricane Sandy, will feel real pain,” Bloomberg said, “If, for example, you’re a business owner in the Rockaways, this could mean a longer wait time to get grants and loans – prolonging what has been an already difficult and cumbersome process for so many.”

Bloomberg also said that politicians in Washington had lost sight of the fact that their disagreements were affecting the lives of real people, stating that, “Enough is enough.”

The Daily News described how both De Blasio and Lhota agreed that the gridlock in DC must come to an end, yet they both descended into partisan bickering over who was to blame:

“The Republicans in the House if they want to live up to the phrase patriotic should settle this problem now so the people in this country who have suffered from natural disasters don’t suffer more,” [de Blasio] said.

“Mr. Lhota is a Republican. He’s a proud republican. He is someone who’s been a Republican all his life. And his party continues to do things that hurt the interests of New York City. And I think that Republicans like him should have long ago fought back against the negative trends in their party. They should not have accepted it and they should have considered leaving the Republican Party,” he said.

“I don’t understand in this day and age how someone could continue to be a Republican and say that they want to help New York City move forward.”

Lhota condemned the shutdown and insisted trying to tie him to Republicans in Washington is unfair. “I’ve blasted the Congressional Republicans for their actions,” he said.

“While I may be a Republican, I don’t believe in what those Congressional Republicans are doing. They’re serving themselves, they’re not serving the people who elected them.”

City Councilman Lew Fidler. Photo by Erica Sherman

City Councilman Lew Fidler. Photo by Erica Sherman

Democrats across the city are rallying behind the perceived inevitability of Bill de Blasio becoming the Democratic nominee after the candidate narrowly slipped by the trigger for a runoff in the preliminary vote count, and are urging Bill Thompson to concede his desire for a recount to force to a runoff. Councilman Lew Fidler, though, is not one of them. An ardent supporter of Bill Thompson, he’s urging his friend to keep the campaign alive.

In the first returns, it appears that de Blasio just barely eclipsed the 40 percent margin needed to avoid a runoff with Thompson, who finished second with 26.2 percent of the vote. If a recount does find de Blasio under the 40 percent threshold, Thompson and his supporters are hoping that voters who cast ballots for Christine Quinn, John Liu and Anthony Weiner could be persuaded to make up the difference. This is exactly what Thompson supporter Fidler is banking on, striking a defiant anti-de Blasio tone in his remarks to the Daily News.

“When people realize what they’ve done, they’ll reconsider and vote for Thompson,” Fidler said.

Fidler’s stern support of Thompson is flying in the face of a bevvy local Democrats, who once endorsed the likes of Quinn and Thompson, jump ship and back de Blasio. A report by Politicker made a long list of politicians and labor groups switching to Team de Blasio:

The Democratic and labor establishment, however, has indicated they have little appetite for another primary race. Indeed, the two Democrats who will be locked in a citywide runoff for public advocate, Councilwoman Tish James and State Senator Daniel Squadron, were among those endorsing Mr. de Blasio today.

“There are two reasons we are supporting Bill de Blasio. He tells the truth, and he’s a fighter for the middle class, working class and poor. That’s an awfully good combination, and we’re excited to get behind his campaign,” Dan Cantor, executive director of the WFP, in a statement. “Bill de Blasio has dedicated himself to addressing the soaring inequality that characterizes New York.”

Despite all the momentum that the de Blasio campaign is mounting, Fidler had strong words for anyone who backed Thompson and are now considering supporting de Blasio.

“Grow a pair and don’t rush to judgment,” Fidler told the Daily News.

When asked if Fidler’s hard line against de Blasio would melt if Thompson was defeated once and for all, Fidler wouldn’t give an inch.

“I’m not prepared to answer that,” Fidler said, adding that, “I am going to be with Bill Thompson until the last vote is counted.”

natraj-bhushan

Natraj Bhushan

Vying for the Democratic nomination to replace term-limited Michael Nelson in the City Council’s 48th District, Natraj Bhushan is making technology the cornerstone of his platform, saying that a councilman’s office should be a hub for information and innovation.

The 27-year-old Brighton Beach native, son of an Indian father and Pakistani mother, has provided legal assistance to constituents in Nelson’s office during and after Superstorm Sandy. He later moved on to providing services at Councilmember Leory Comerie’s office. His experience in those roles, he said, has inspired him to conceive of software to better empower residents through adding transparency and efficiency to constituent services.

“I believe, if you empower the community to solve its own problems, you don’t need us [elected officials]. We’re in the background. I want to de-emphasize the individual and emphasize the community,” he told Sheepshead Bites. “And I think the way you do that is to give everybody the resources. Give them the information.”

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City Council candidate David Storobin

City Council candidate David Storobin

In an interview, Republican City Council candidate David Storobin characterized Democratic candidate Ari Kagan as someone who has never held a full-time job, thus making him unqualified as a potential councilman. In the interview, conducted by Matzav, Storobin also expressed his opinion that Kagan would be a puppet of the Democratic machine.

When asked about what he thinks of his opponents in the Council race, Storobin singled out Kagan and held back no punches in his description of him:

One of my opponents is Ari Kagan, a 46-year-old who has never had a full-time job in his life. He talks about creating jobs, but why couldn’t he create one for himself first? As a fellow Russian-American, I find this to be an embarrassment. This community worked very hard to build itself up after coming to this country penniless, and right now almost everyone has joined the middle class. But out of all the successful people, Frank Seddio and the Brooklyn Democratic Party bosses decided to back the only person I know who is permanently unemployed because they know he’ll be the easiest to control. Why did no Democratic politician offer him a real, full-time job, something Kagan desperately wanted during his 16 years of political involvement? If he wasn’t good enough for the Democratic politicians, why is he being forced upon the people of this district?

I think the difference between someone like myself who was raised poor and started his own business at the age of 25 versus someone who has never landed a full-time job in his life is very clear.

In response to Storobin’s characterization, Kagan’s campaign spokesperson sent Sheepshead Bites the following quote, touching on parts of Kagan’s resumé, and slammed Storobin for mudslinging:

Like many New Yorkers, Ari worked a number of jobs to provide for his family. He is proud to have served as a part-time staffer to prominent elected officials, in addition to his work as a journalist, hosting popular radio and television programs and writing for a weekly newspaper in a growing and vibrant immigrant community. In fact, Ari worked full-time at the Russian Jewish Forward while pursuing his degree at Baruch College as a full time student. It’s not surprising that once again David Storobin chooses to bring his campaign into the gutter – he never fails to disappoint. Along with being factually inaccurate, his comments ignore the important contributions made by hardworking women and men in community and ethnic media.
debate

Screenshot from debate video, produced by Jacob Kornbluh

The Democratic candidates for the 48th District of the City Council, currently represented by Michael Nelson, tested the limits of civil discussion during a heated forum hosted by the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition, with each candidate chiding the others for dirty campaign tactics and stances on issues contrary to the Orthodox community.

Sheepshead Bites couldn’t attend the forum, which was held in the heart of one of the most conservative communities in the district at Young Israel of Midwood, but reports by Politicker and NYCElects.com show that the discussion quickly turned negative, as the candidates lobbed rhetorical bombs – and meows – at one another.

Politicker reports:

Unlike in other parts of the city, endorsements from groups like the teachers’ union were treated almost as liabilities. And openly admiring George Bush–either father or son–was not.

“When I went down to the [United Federation of Teachers], I walked into the office and I said to them, ‘I don’t want your endorsement, but I’m here out of respect. I’m gonna come answer the questions and what my issues are,’” said Chaim Deutsch, an Orthodox Jewish City Council aide, to applause.

Ari Kagan, a Russian-American district leader backed by the UFT, fended off attacks from rivals and even prodding from a moderator about whether he would be committed to defending private school education, particularly tax credits for families with kids attending Yeshivas, while running with the support of a public school teachers union.

“Maybe you want to look at Ari, who has accepted the endorsement of UFT but in the same breath says he supports vouchers,” Mr. [Igor] Oberman remarked.

When asked if he supported school vouchers, Oberman said it would never happen in New York City, and encouraged attendees to “see through the bullshit” of what he believed to be pandering in other candidates’ support for school vouchers.

The Politicker report continued:

All of the candidates further reveled in panning more liberal-leaning Bloomberg administration policies like the proposed regulations on large sugary beverages–Mr. Oberman called the proposal “retarded”–as well as the tax burden on small businesses. Mr. Oberman, the Working Families Party-backed candidate, blasted Mr. Kagan for not denouncing independent expenditures being paid on his behalf by a real estate-backed group, portraying him as a future puppet of wealthy real estate developers.

Tacking right, Mr. Kagan hit right back.

“I never knew that I would come from the former Soviet Union to listen about class warfare in the United States of America from a person who also came from the former Soviet Union. I’m shocked, a little bit,” Mr. Kagan said.

As Mr. Kagan and Mr. Oberman traded blows, another candidate, Theresa Scavo, a professed admirer of both President Bushes, periodically cried “meow,” implying the two men were engaging in frivolous cat fights.

“I’m not getting down in the mud with any one of these three,” she declared. “I am finding this so disgusting sitting here, the three of them clawing at each other … the three of you are behaving like children!”

Scavo may have aimed to stay above the fray, but was dragged down into it after Deutsch targeted her for allegedly speaking ill of seniors, accepting the support of the National Organization of Women, which he said “had an agenda with gays and lesbians,” and for being complicit in deceiving the community when a supporter allegedly used a pen name to write a positive profile of her in a Sephardic magazine – an allegation which she “meowed” through.

NYCElects.com reports:

Mr. Deutsch also attacked Ms. Scavo for slamming ‘seniors’ sleeping at community board 15 meetings and for having Mike Geller, the former District leader in the 45th AD, pen articles in favor of Ms. Scavo in the Image Magazine under a pen name ‘Kim Grell’.

Scavo called Deutsch a liar after he made the claim about seniors, clarifying that she told then-Congressman Anthony Weiner that there were seniors sleeping at the Board meetings. She did not respond to the allegations regarding Mike Geller and the article in Image Magazine, but did dismiss the endorsement from the National Organization of Women, noting that she received it because she’s the only woman in the race.

Although the issue was not tackled directly during the debate, Scavo has expressed support for gay and lesbian marriage equality to Sheepshead Bites, as has Oberman. Deutsch and Kagan, as well as the Republican contender, David Storobin, all stand opposed to marriage equality.

From the reports, Deutsch appeared to be the instigator of the negativity, slamming each of his rivals one by one, including an allegation against Kagan that he had altered his first name – from Arkady – in order to draw more support from the frum community. Kagan mailers also printed his first name in Hebrew, another sore point for Deutsch.

“I will not be like my opponent … Mr. Ari Kagan, advertising as the name ‘Ari’ in Hebrew, making people think he is the Orthodox candidate,” said Deutsch, according to Politicker. “I will not fool anyone. I will not lie to you.”

“I am very proud of my name. I legally changed my name in 2002 before I ran for anything. I never knew that writing my name in Hebrew is wrong. What is wrong with you, Chaim?” Kagan replied, according to NYCElects.com.

Jacob Kornbluh, author of the NYCElects.com report, filmed the video below. He told Sheepshead Bites he hopes to have the full version online tonight, which we’ll add to this post.

Councilmen Lew Fidler and Jumaane Williams together. (Source: NY City Council via the Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

A terrible photo of councilmembers Lew Fidler and Jumaane Williams together. (Source: NY City Council via the Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

First term Councilman Jumaane Williams has been a rising star in the New York City Council and his introduction into the world of politics can be partly attributed to local Councilman Lew Fidler. A report in the New York Daily News tracks Williams’ interesting path to political success as well as the unlikely bond the councilman shares with Fidler.

Williams, 37, was elected to the City Council in 2009 as a Democrat representing parts of Midwood, Canarsie, Flatbush, East Flatbush and the Flatlands. The Daily News described Williams’ childhood challenges as well as his early career path as an actor:

Williams, who wears his hair in dreadlocks, spent his early years labeled a problem child, prone to verbal outbursts. It wasn’t until his teens that he was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“I thought it was just a behavioral problem,” his mother, Patricia Williams, a native of Grenada, told the Daily News. “But he was always a caring person, which I think drives him to achieve what he does.”

He gravitated towards acting in his 20s, landing small roles in rap duo EPMD’s video for “Da Joint” and Solo’s “Touch Me.”

Despite his dreams of becoming an actor, Williams was always interested in politics, joining the student government when he was a student of Brooklyn College. The Daily News described how Fidler helped put Williams on the path towards a different kind of stardom, that of the political nature:

Ironically it was Fidler — the councilman who heaped praise on Williams when voting no on his Council bills — who helped bring him into politics. A friend who knew Williams from his time in student government at Brooklyn College recommended him to Fidler, a Democratic district leader.

The woman recommended him even though Williams and Fidler had been on opposing sides of issues.

Fidler ended up appointing him to the community board, and he became deeply involved in Brooklyn politics.

Williams has made waves recently for leading the charge against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy, successfully sponsoring legislation that allows residents to sue the NYPD for profiling people racially, for sexual orientation, suspected immigrant status, gender or homelessness. Williams scored praise for his handling of the measure, diplomatically arguing his case without resorting to divisive rhetoric.

An example of this is when Williams heard the news that a federal judge ordered reforms on the stop-and-frisk policy, he tweeted a photo of himself with Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg’s deputy mayor, stating that, “It’s about disagreeing without being disagreeable.” Needless to say, such an act would be a touch out-of-character for Councilman Charles Barron.

Even though Fidler sided with Bloomberg’s subsequent veto attempt of the measure, the Daily News noted the councilman heaped praise on Williams, saying that Williams changed his “perspective” on stop-and-frisk.

Source: Senator Golden's offices

State Senator Marty Golden (Source: Senator Golden’s offices)

Subpoenas were issued to huge real estate firms that scored a windfall in tax breaks in legislation crafted by Republican State Senator Marty Golden and signed by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Moreland Commission, a group set up by Cuomo to investigate public corruption, is looking into how developers of ultra-rich hotel-condo towers gained the valuable breaks.

Previously, we reported on the dubious legislation sponsored by Golden, which allowed huge tax breaks for five Manhattan properties. The legislation is expected to save developers like Extell Development, Silverstein Properties and Thor Equities tens of millions of dollars. The bill, which enjoyed bipartisan support and was signed into law by Cuomo, tacked on the expensive properties to the city’s 421-A program, a measure designed to spur residential building construction in less-dense areas of the city and subsidize affordable housing. Projects like One57, which is a 1,004-foot luxury tower featuring penthouses on sale for more than $90 million, were initially excluded from the program until Golden and other state politicians voted to include four developments as an exception under the umbrella of 421-A benefits.

Extell Development, which is building One57, has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign chests of both Democrats and Republicans, spurring the Moreland Commission to look into the affair. The independent Moreland Commission was set up by Cuomo after state legislators failed to pass comprehensive anti-corruption measures this year.

The Wall Street Journal described how the impending investigation might bring to light the uncomfortably close relationship between state politicians and major real estate developers:

One person who examined a subpoena from the commission, known as the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, said the information requested was extensive, seeking emails and other communications with lobbyists and elected officials over multiple years relating to the tax break.

Kathleen Rice, Nassau County District Attorney and co-chairwoman of the commission, said the commission has begun issuing subpoenas, but she declined to say who received them or the topic of the inquiries. “We have not prejudged anyone or anything—we are going to follow whatever evidence we have, wherever it goes,” she said.

A spokesman for Extell said the company “will cooperate fully with any agency trying to improve government.”

The subpoenas could eventually help shed light on advocacy and lobbying by the real-estate and development sector, long a powerful force in Albany politics. Top landlords and their advocacy groups traditionally are prolific donors, contributing millions of dollars each election cycle collectively to the campaign committees of governors and influential members of the Legislature, and the outcomes of policies like taxes and rent regulation can cost—or make—them fortunes.

Golden and Assemblyman Keith Wright, the Democrat who sponsored the bill in the Assembly, may also be questioned during the investigation. When initially questioned by the press as to why the five properties were included under the umbrella of the 421a benefits, Golden and Wright both pleaded ignorance.

“These projects were ready to go,” Golden told the Daily News. “I’m not sure where they came from,” Golden said in response to who earmarked the developments for special favor.

“These five properties — it was important that they benefit from the piece of legislation probably, and I don’t know why, because some of the folks in the Senate wanted them to be included,” Wright told the Daily News.

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