Principles Trump Personalities in Brooklyn Democratic County Leader Race
They were branded mavericks and outliers. But in the weeks since Brooklyn Democratic County Leader Vito Lopez imploded, Brooklyn’s trio of ‘reformers’ – District Leaders Chris Owens, Jo Ann Simon, and Lincoln Restler – intensified their call for new ways of doing County business. And they are not alone. Progressive Democrats are speaking up, too. They all say the time has come for transparency, diversity, and decentralization of power.
Chris Owens is calling for an immediate elimination of at-large committee membership. When Lopez appointed 11 at-large members, the outcry was heard all across the borough. Any vote taked by the 42 elected district leaders could be swayed by the Lopez 11. Now, Owens wants them gone.
Although members of any organization expect regularly scheduled meetings, this practice does not occur in the County Committee. Owens wants a commitment to establish bi-monthly meetings, with public schedules, proceedings published on a functional website, and secret ballot voting.
Owens also wants specific subcommittees to handle county business, consideration of separating the roles of State Committee and District Leader, and a public pledge that the County Chair shall not directly engage in solicitation of funds.
Local district leaders have expressed their own suggestions for better county operations.
Robert Cornegy (56th AD) wants to maintain diversity on the executive board. He says at-large members add diversity, but he wants their voting right taken away. Cornegy believes there needs to be better representation of diversity on the Civil and Supreme Kings County bench because “70% or more of those sentenced on the Kings County bench are people of color.”
Annette Robinson (56th AD) sees a need for “transparency, the calling of regular meetings, an active county committee, and diversity in the judiciary.” Robinson said a best practice would be to bring all elected officials “under a unifying tent” so that they can work together for the benefit of all residents of Brooklyn. According to Robinson, as things currently stand, there are no meetings with representatives on the city, state, and federal level “as a County.”
Walter Mosley (57th AD) would like to see subcommittees already in the by-laws “empowered.” He also thinks there is need for “decentralization of power” so that “just in case of an emergency, the County will function.”
Assemblyman Karim Camara’s name was floated as a potential candidate for County Leader. “I was approached. What I have been doing is having active discussions with the coalition that approached me. As it stands, I am currently not eligible. My priority now is to continue being part of the discussion so that we collectively can find ways to create a reform agenda for Brooklyn politics.”
Camara thinks there are guiding principles that can be introduced into County Committee. “Independent of my potential candidacy, I think there is a strong argument that can be made for not restricting who the Chairperson is to current District Leaders,” he said. “We have some dynamic District Leaders, many of whom would be very capable to be County Leader. By the same token, I think we should not limit it to that group of individuals.”
“Whoever the next chair is,” Camara said, “I think that is something that Chair and the District Leadership could consider -- the pros and cons of restricting leadership to the current district leaders.”
By expanding the potential pool, Camara thinks the person should be “a resident of Brooklyn -- an individual who has made a mark, whether it’s raising money for the party or a political strategist for the party -- someone who is deemed to be a leader and who can help galvanize the other District Leaders. Part of the challenge is for them to look at the pros and cons of both. It should be given very careful thought, at the very least. Independent of my particular candidacy, I would love to be a part of the discussion of the best way to reform Brooklyn politics for the better of the County of Kings.”
According to Weyman Carey (58th AD) there is immediacy to settling County business: next year Brooklyn will be electing 6 Supreme Court judges: three are aging out, and there will be three additional open seats.
Originally pubished in Our Time Press, September 6, 2012
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