Friday, June 19, 2009

Update on Vito Lopez's "Hide the Predator Act"

Good Video explains how Vito Killed the Sex Abuse Bill in Albany

Update on Vito Lopez's "Hide the Predator Act"
I wrote about this earlier but wanted to add more background information and add a short statement made by City Council candidate Jo Anne Simon, who is well known for being one of the few district leaders who stands up to Vito Lopez.

Assemblyman Vito Lopez, political ally of WFP and city council candidates like Steve Levin and Maritza Davilla, is under attack from child advocates for watering down a bill to protect children abused by sex offenders sheltering in religious institutions. Here's video from a local TV station (sorry, includes an ad at the beginning...thanks to a reader for passing it on to me).

Wonder how Working Families Party, Steve Levin and Maritza Davilla justify their ties to this kind of back room deal to protect child abusers from legal prosecution by their victims. Will WFP, Steve Levin and Martiza Davilla repudiate Party Boss Lopez's protection of child abusers or will they toe the line like good little hacks and support protecting child abusers? My guess is they will toe the line.

Jo Anne Simon, who is the main opponent of Steve Levin, Vito Lopez's candidate for City Council in the 33rd district in Brooklyn, had this to say about Vito Lopez's actions:

When it comes to protecting our children from sexual predators, no honest public servant should ever play politics as usual with legislation aimed at strengthening such protections. It's time elected officials stop cutting back room deals where only a select few profit and start passing legislation that benefits all the families in our communities.

Sadly, Vito Lopez cares more about back room deals than he does about protecting children.

To learn more about this issue, here is some more background from Jewish Week:

According to Marci Hamilton, professor of law at Cardozo Law School and author of “Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children,” the “correct name for the new Lopez bill [should be] ‘The Hide the Predator Act.’”

“Unlike the Markey bill, this bill does absolutely nothing to help New Yorkers identify the many secret child predators in New York, who have been benefiting from the short statutes of limitations for decades. With the Markey bill, we have a proven method of finding the predators in our midst. The Lopez bill gives them continuing cover to abuse our children.”

Lonnie Soury, a spokesman for Survivors for Justice, a group of abuse survivors who grew up in Orthodox communities, urged the legislators to “stop playing politics with our children’s lives. Any support for the Lopez bill is at the behest of, and in the interest of, the Church and a few Orthodox Jewish institutions and not designed to protect children and their families from predators.”

From the Jewish Star:

Sexual abuse activists have criticized the Lopez bill saying that it would help sexual predators. They claim it is meant to detract attention from the Child Victims Act, stronger legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Queens), which would extend the civil and criminal statutes by five years and, more critically, open up a yearlong window to bring cases that currently are beyond the statute of limitations...

Marci Hamilton, a professor at Yeshiva University and the author of “Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect its Children,” said it was a “non-event” that the Lopez bill had made it out of committee, after all.

“The bill accomplishes nothing for victims,” Hamilton explained. “It’s classic form to make them look like they’re doing something, but it is keeping the secrets and keeping the predators under wraps.”

For Hamilton, the window is the most crucial element of the bill.

“We know how the window works,” she said, noting that when a similar bill passed in California, 300 previously unknown predators were identified. “It’s pretty simple — if you’re against the window, you don’t want the predators out.”

So next time you see someone from WFP, or Steve Levin or Maritza Davilla, confront them on this issue. Ask them if they support the "Hide the Predator Act" that their political mentor and ally, Vito Lopez, has proposed.

Bishop Avidly Opposes Bill Extending Time to File Child-Abuse Suits

Published: June 4, 2009
Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn repeated a warning this week that he has leveled at lawmakers for months: If the statute of limitations on child sex-abuse lawsuits is temporarily lifted, as pending state legislation proposes, a cascade of very bad things will happen.

Religious Leaders Battle Abuse Bill in New York (March 12, 2009) His Roman Catholic diocese and others will go bankrupt. Bishops like him will be forced to close churches and schools. And wrathful constituents will punish the politicians who, in his view, will have made this all happen.

Religious leaders have been part of civic dialogue at least since Moses. More recently, Pope John Paul II and Cardinal John J. O’Connor of New York have been considered among the master politicians of their time.

But in the battle over the sex-abuse bill, which has been introduced for several years but never had a chance of passage until now, Bishop DiMarzio has mounted such an urgent and aggressive sally into the political realm that some elected officials and community leaders have questioned whether he has overstepped church-state boundaries.

In the darkest view, some say he entered into a pact with a Brooklyn power broker, Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez — ousting a priest as head of a Brooklyn community group that was tangling with Mr. Lopez. In return, according to this narrative, Mr. Lopez wrote a competing bill that would not lift the statute of limitations on abuse lawsuits.

Under current law, plaintiffs have five years after turning 18 to file suits involving claims of sex abuse during their childhood. Both versions of the pending legislation would increase the period to 10 years.

Under the version of the bill the bishop opposes, any plaintiffs, regardless of age, would have a one-year period to sue over child-abuse charges that took place at any point in their lives, no matter how long ago.

“I respect the line between church and state, but I’m afraid Bishop DiMarzio does not,” said Representative Nydia M. Velasquez, who says many of her Brooklyn constituents were upset about the forced resignation of the Rev. James O’Shea as executive director of an organization called Churches United. “His actions in this matter have been totally inappropriate.”

Both the bishop and Mr. Lopez deny having struck any bargains, or having had anything to do with the priest’s removal. Bishop DiMarzio, the religious leader of 1.5 million Catholics in the Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes Queens, has not shied away from the political arena since the Vatican appointed him in 2003.

His leading role in contesting the sex-abuse bill, which is opposed by all the state’s Catholic prelates, contrasts with the less-assertive style of Cardinal Edward M. Egan, who retired in April as leader of the neighboring Archdiocese of New York.

Cardinal Egan’s successor, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, a gregarious and reputedly talented political player, has been as opposed to the bill, but less outspoken, since arriving in New York less than two months ago.

Bishop DiMarzio, 64, attributes his passion on the issue to a fervent belief that the diocese, and the social services it provides, would be at risk if people now in middle age were to claim harm by priests who died long ago, for which the church could be liable.

In addition to the financial drain, he said, the adversarial process of litigation would present an “insurmountable barrier to bringing about what is necessary — healing.”

But some politicians feel that the bishop’s advocacy sometimes verges on bullying.

Assemblywoman Margaret M. Markey, the Queens Democrat who co-wrote the bill and describes herself as a practicing Catholic, said campaign literature labeling her as anti-Catholic poured down upon the doorsteps of her district in her last re-election campaign. “I have no doubt that Bishop DiMarzio was behind it,” she said.

Msgr. Kieran Harrington, the bishop’s spokesman, said that her charge was “totally unfounded, and she knows it.”

The story of Father O’Shea’s resignation as head of Churches United last November illustrates the inherently tangled nature of the church’s many interests in the daily life of the city.

Father O’Shea, a priest of the Passionist order and an experienced community organizer, co-founded Churches United in 2003 with Bishop DiMarzio’s blessing to help encourage neighborhood involvement in the planning of a 31-acre urban renewal project known as the Broadway Triangle.

The group drew its members from parishioners and clergymen at a dozen Catholic churches in the area around the project, where the city proposes creating 1,895 below-market apartment units in a cluster of high-rise buildings in Williamsburg.

Almost from the start, Father O’Shea and other leaders of Churches United butted heads with Assemblyman Lopez, who had been involved in the project since its conception in the 1990s.

As chairman of the Assembly’s housing committee, Mr. Lopez had helped get funds for the project. He was also founder of a nonprofit social services organization, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council Inc., one of two groups which the city has awarded some contracts for preliminary development work.

Father O’Shea and Mr. Lopez clashed over transparency in the planning process, according to former members of Churches United. In a richly diverse borough, on one of the few large tracts of land where affordable housing was promised, those clamoring for a stake included Latinos, blacks, young whites drawn to the area in the last decade, and a large community of Hasidic Jews.

“Father O’Shea wanted inclusiveness and open discussions,” said Rob Solano, a former board member. “Vito was doing business in private. He didn’t want to hear about it.” In an interview, Mr. Lopez said his only interest was “to make the process move expeditiously.”

Among the many competing demands in the community, the most sensitive involved housing allocations among ethnic groups. Father O’Shea wanted those questions decided in open talks, said Luis Garden Acosta, another group member.

Last November, Bishop DiMarzio summoned Father O’Shea to diocesan headquarters to voice concerns about his work, said another priest who attended the meeting, the Rev. Anthony Hernandez, a member of Churches United, who would later demand Father O’Shea’s resignation. He said the bishop’s discontent focused on “Father O’Shea’s inability to compromise.”

Asked with whom the bishop said Father O’Shea was unable to compromise, Father Hernandez said the bishop was speaking broadly; and that the bishop’s fear was that Father O’Shea’s approach would be seen as promoting the interests of Catholics over other groups, like the Hasidim.

In late November, Father O’Shea resigned, and Churches United was dissolved.

In December, Mr. Lopez, who had supported Assemblywoman Markey’s bill in three previous years, introduced his competing sex-abuse bill.

The sequence of events triggered suspicions. “In Brooklyn, everybody knows what happened,” said Diana Reyna, the city councilwoman who represents some neighborhoods in the Triangle. “Father O’Shea was a pain in the neck to Vito Lopez. Vito Lopez charmed the bishop into an understanding that he could be of help with this bill if the bishop just make this priest go away.”

Mr. Lopez said the charge amounted to “character assassination of the bishop.” He said he changed his mind about the legislation because he studied the issue and decided he had been wrong to support Ms. Markey’s bill, he said.

Monsignor Harrington, the bishop’s spokesman, called the claim ”outrageous.”

Father O’Shea, who agreed to make limited comments about the incident as long as they were not construed as critical of Bishop DiMarzio, described his relationship with Mr. Lopez as “contentious.”

He said the view that he seemed to favor one group’s interests over another’s was a topsy-turvy version of reality: “I was trying to bring more people into the process. To be as transparent as possible,” he said. “The tension started because Vito Lopez was operating secretively.”

Asked why he resigned as executive director of Churches United, Father O’Shea said, “I was asked by the diocese to step down, and I did” — a characterization disputed by the diocese. Monsignor Harrington said Father O’Shea was removed by his fellow priests.

Sign in to RecommendMore Articles in New York Region » A version of this article appeared in print on June 5, 2009, on page A18 of the New York edition.

Party Boss Vito Lopez Protecting Sex Offenders The Daily Gotham

Codes Committee Advances Markey Sex Abuse Bill, Not Lopez's Bill ...

Church Pushes to Defeat Proposal to Open Window for Older Sex Claims

NY Assemblyman
Lopez's Bill Harmful to Clergy Abuse Victims ...

Controversial child sex abuse bill fails to advance

Mark Appel at the Markey Bill Rally

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cleric who fought land deal axed


A Brooklyn pastor was forced to resign Wednesday because he opposed a massive development deal backed by a powerful Democratic assemblyman, opponents of the project claim.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio "pressured" the Rev. James O'Shea to step down from Our Lady of Monserrate in Bedford-Stuyvesant, his backers claimed.

O'Shea headed a group called Churches United fighting to be included in plans to develop a 30-acre site in the Broadway Triangle section of Brooklyn, said group secretary Robert Solano.

"The bishop has thrown out Churches United's bylaws, completely overlooked the fact that we are an independent, nonprofit organization and has forced his will upon us," Solano said. "And for what? Politics, ugly politics."

Comprised of about 20 Brooklyn churches, Churches United was created in 2004 to protest what it says was an unfair bidding process during the development stages of the property, which Rep. Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) plans to turn into affordable housing.

The group wants affordable housing, too, but says local churches were not allowed to participate in the bidding process.

"It seems clear that Bishop DiMarzio is under political pressure to stop the Broadway Triangle opposition," said Churches United member Juan Ramos. "It is reprehensible that he would go after Rev. O'Shea - an inspiration to so many in his community - so harshly."

O'Shea could not be reached for comment.

Solano said three members of Churches United - all Brooklyn pastors - secretly met Wednesday to dissolve the organization and said the remaining members planned to take legal action.

A call to DiMarzio was not returned last night.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Now, Vito Lopez Has Warm Words for Mike the Mayor

NY Obsever, By Azi Paybarah, 11/13/08

Michael Bloomberg, who plans to seek re-election next year, is rekindling his friendship with Brooklyn Democratic County Leader Vito Lopez, who hosted the mayor at a community meeting last night.

Bloomberg was greeted with thunderous applause when he walked into the gymnasium inside the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Center, the epicenter of Lopez’s world. In front of a crowd of school children (still in uniform!), their parents, older residents and a few Brooklyn politicos, the two politely argued as to how often they agree: 98 percent of the time, or just 97 percent of the time.

Before fielding a handful of questions from the audience, Lopez introduced the mayor warmly. He lauded Bloomberg’s “commitment to education and to Bushwick, and for that alone, the mayor is a hero and should be a hero to the people here.”

The first three people to ask questions began with lengthy thank yous to the mayor.

One simply wanted to know how to thank city health care workers that got insurance for a five-year-old girl 24 hours after she was hospitalized for a random gunshot wound.

One potentially thorny question came from an older woman, Maria Gomez, who asked what the mayor planned to do about senior centers. The administration has a plan to restructure them, and possibly reduce services in some.

But after hearing the mayor’s answer--“We are not walking away from our seniors”--Gomez nodded approvingly and mouthed “Thank you.”

The entire event lasted about an hour. Once the mayor left, Lopez posed for pictures with a few people. In between photos, I asked Lopez how he thought it went.

“You saw the applause,” he said.

I asked Lopez if he thought Bloomberg has learned how to connect better with regular New Yorkers who don't live on the Upper East Side.

“He’s warmer, he’s much more gracious, and he fits right within the personality of the community that he’s at. So, today, the people here felt a lot of warmth, and they were excited. They’ll remember this day for a long time.”

He added, “I’ve met Shirley Chisolm when she first started, I knew Geraldine Ferraro. I think some people change, and the mayor has made a remarkable change and he really is extremely sensitive. If he had a little bit more time, he’d be hanging out and walking through the crowd.”

With the 2009 mayoral race right around the corner, I asked Lopez if he’d support Bloomberg, who is not in any registered party, running in the Democratic primary. To do so, Bloomberg would need permission from three of the city’s five Democratic County leaders.

“It’s all relative to who runs,” he said. Then, as if obliged, he added, “But I’m the Democratic County leader. My obligation is to the Democratic Party. That’s a judgment I will make four or five months from now.”

AZI PAYBARAH can be reached via email at

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Judge’s Loss Looms Large for Party Chief

Vito J. Lopez, the Democratic Party leader in Brooklyn, faced a setback Tuesday when a candidate he backed lost her race.

JONATHAN P. HICKS, September 20, 2007,New York Times
Since he became the Brooklyn Democratic Party leader two years ago, Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez has sought to develop a sense of unity among its disparate and competitive political players.

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Go to City Room » And while there have been some notable successes, there have been setbacks. The most high-profile stumble came on Tuesday, when the candidate Mr. Lopez supported for a Surrogate’s Court judgeship in Brooklyn was handily defeated by one endorsed by reform-oriented groups and a wide array of politicians.

Normally, a surrogate race in a sleepy September primary is seen as a sure thing for a Democratic county leader. But ShawnDya L. Simpson, a Civil Court judge whom Mr. Lopez supported for the surrogate seat, lost decisively with about 40 percent of the vote.

Diana A. Johnson, a State Supreme Court justice, won the nomination with 60 percent of the vote. And in doing so, she proved that the coalition behind her could be a more effective force than the party organization. Although both candidates are black, the race had strong racial overtones. Most black elected officials had urged Mr. Lopez to support Justice Johnson, who had their overwhelming support, and felt slighted when he did not.

The surrogate position is vacant because Judge Frank R. Seddio resigned in May.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Lopez said the defeat should be seen in a larger context. The party organization’s record of successes in races for judgeships has been unmatched by his predecessors, he said.

“Since 2005, when I got this position, there have been 10 contested races for judges,” Mr. Lopez said. “And, altogether, we’ve won 9 of the 10. That’s unheard of prior to my being the county leader. And I’m proud of that record and of the work we’ve been doing.”

He also said that the Democratic Party in Brooklyn, the largest Democratic organization in the state, had been more inclusive in its endorsements than in the past — supporting an ethnically diverse field and an openly gay candidate — and that it was on far more solid financial footing than it used to be. Under his stewardship, he said, the party has gone from being in debt to having money to expand its staff.

Mr. Lopez said that the surrogate candidates were well qualified and that he would do everything he could to support Justice Johnson. She faces Theodore Alatsas, a lawyer running on the Republican and Conservative Party tickets, in November.

“It was a race, it’s over; I congratulate Diana Johnson and her campaign,” he said. “The important thing is now for us to move forward and to determine how we can become a solidly unified Democratic borough.”

Still, many politicians suggest that the loss of a surrogate race is a blemish that exposes weaknesses in the party’s leadership. Tuesday’s race was unlike other judicial races in the borough in the last two years. It was a high-profile contest that brought together a number of political clubs and labor unions — most notably the Transport Workers Union — and many politicians, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, to work against the organization.

“When I was growing up in Brooklyn, a surrogate race was considered a sure win for the organization,” Mr. Sharpton, the best-known supporter of Justice Johnson, said yesterday. “But clearly the election results show that the organization can be taken on and defeated. It showed that when the playing field is level, the organization can come up short.”

Gary Tilzer, Justice Johnson’s campaign manager, put it more bluntly, saying of Mr. Lopez: “He’s a county leader who can’t deliver votes. And if you can’t win a surrogate race in an off-year election, what muscle do you have with candidates running for mayor or other offices?”

Political analysts suggest that while Mr. Lopez’s candidate lost, some defeats are expected for a leader of a party as large as Brooklyn’s. Also, the party is still reeling from a scandal that culminated in February with the conviction of Clarence Norman Jr., the former Brooklyn Democratic leader, for extorting money from judicial candidates.

Mr. Lopez might well be encouraged because the forces opposing the party organization are not particularly unified. In fact, those coalitions tend to form on a contest-by-contest basis, with the characters changing from one race to the other.

“With everything that’s happened in the judiciary in Brooklyn, Vito’s loss shows that being the county leader in Brooklyn is a work in progress,” said Evan Stavisky, a political consultant who works primarily with Democratic candidates.

“Let’s face it,” Mr. Stavisky said. “The Brooklyn Democratic Party, though it’s the largest, hasn’t been a strong unified machine since the days of Meade Esposito,” who led the Brooklyn Democratic Party for a quarter century until he retired in 1983.

He added: “Being the county leader of any borough has headaches; being county leader of Brooklyn is an Excedrin headache.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Brooklyn Dem's Judicial Convention is a Much More Serious Sham

Sunday, September 21, 2008
The Brooklyn Optimist

Last week, The Optimist went inside the Kings County Democratic County Committee meeting and exposed it as bad theater. Unfortunately, he didn't know in time about the one-night-only comedy extravaganza that County staged the following evening.

I'm talking, of course, about the Brooklyn Democratic Party's judicial convention, the backroom bonanza where Vito Lopez doles out seats on the bench to his kowtowing cronies. One Optimist reader with intimate knowledge of the event wrote us to say that if only they had had a video camera to record last Tuesday's spectacle then many a Brooklyn jurist would have had to forfeit their seats in shame the next morning when the tape surfaced to the public.

The Daily News wasn't there live, but they did write a damning editorial on Friday, denouncing the event as "a glimpse into the odious nature of how the political bosses make judges in New York". For even more on this sham, check out Oneshirt's post on Room Eight here.

Seriously, people, when is Brooklyn going to get its act together? We have far too many talented artists to keep churning out such drek. Long time Brooklyn reformers had hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would finally bring an end to this fiasco, but unfortunately the Roberts Court (surprise, surprise) shamelessly sided with corruption as usual. Super scumbag Justice Scalia was brazen in his majority opinion: "Party conventions, with their attendant 'smoke-filled rooms' and domination by party leaders, have long been an accepted manner of selecting party candidates."

Justice Stevens, in a concurring opinion, stated his reasons for upholding Brooklyn's codified cronyism in a slightly less infuriating manner: "I recall my esteemed former colleague, Thurgood Marshall, remarking on numerous occasions: 'The Constitution does not prohibit legislatures from enacting stupid laws.'"

So, that's where we are. I can't fault Vito. The ball is in the court of our State's legislators. As long as they refuse to act on behalf of the people and change our "stupid laws", Brooklynites will continue to suffer injustice.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Judicial Sausage Factory Continues, Almost Nobody Noticed

Judicial Sausage Factory Continues, Almost Nobody Noticed
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posted by Oneshirt
Fri, 09/19/2008 - 11:10am
After the former county leader goes to jail for corruption connected with judicial elections, a U.S. Federal Judge Gleeson calling them unconstitutional - fixed - and extensive condemnation by the city’s newspaper editorial pages, the charade called the Brooklyn Judicial Convention continued like nothing ever happened. In fact like a wounded animal or king the situation has grown grave and depraved.

Nothing has been learned by the experiences of the past 5 years a delegate whispered into my ear when boss Vito was not looking. Something very bad is happening to our way of life and culture. Our system of democracy, separation of powers, built in political party conflict has failed and nobody cares. The business as usually continuation of the convention is proof that our culture has changed so much that exposure and shame which used to be enough to cause reform has been replaced by a get over society, where morality or doing what is right does not matter. What is even more frightening, if it was up to the press there would be no record. Only the Manhattan gadfly a modern day Thomas Paine made sure there was a public record.

Today's Daily News Editorial

“For a glimpse into the odious nature of how the political bosses make judges in New York, we direct your attention to a letter in Friday's Voice of the People by veteran court watcher Alan Flacks. On Tuesday, Flacks dropped in on the Brooklyn Democratic Party's ceremony for elevating faithful lawyers to the bench. The party calls it a convention. It's not. It's a charade, currently directed by boss Vito Lopez.” – September 19, 2008.

U.S. Judge John Gleeson Rules Judicial Conventions Unconstitutional
"The highly unusual processes (judicial convention - the lone state in the nation to elect judges this way) by which that extremely important office (Supreme Court Judge) is filled perpetuate local political party leaders control and deprive the voters of any meaningful role," the judge wrote in the decision. "The result is an opaque, and undemocratic selection procedure that violates the rights of the voters and the rights of candidates who lack the backing of local party leaders."

The Flacks letter to the Daily News Which Resulted in Today’s Editorial:

Sausage Factory Floor

Manhattan: I attended the Kings County Democratic judicial nominating convention Tuesday. It was orchestrated "Soviet-style." Short, sweet, lady- and gentleman-like, the script called for the eight candidates to be designated or redesignated without opposition, even for supposed "open" seats. Before adjournment, each judge candidate got up and gave a short thank-you speech. Every one of them expressed gratitude to the party district leaders for their support, and they also expressed effusive thanks to and praise of County Leader Vito Lopez (photo). One "re-up," John Leventhal of the Appellate Division, Second Department (after inquiring if the press was present) thanked now-imprisoned county leader Clarence Norman as well, and another called Lopez "the greatest county leader ever." After adjournment, I spoke with a number of delegates who voted "automatically" and didn't seem to know for whom they were voting. They didn't know, and were just told for whom to vote.

Alan Flacks

Brooklyn District Attorney says the Supreme Court election system corrupts
Charles Hynes: Amicus Curiae Brief in Judge Lopez Torres vs. NYS Board of Elections:

“New York’s uniquely constructed and statutorily- mandated nominating process for the state Supreme Court, which in effect places ultimate control over who becomes a state Supreme Court justice in the hands of powerful county political party leaders, creates and sustains a breeding ground for corruption and malfeasance and undermines the public’s confidence in the judiciary."

Feldman and his Friends Play the System
“Similarly unseemly was the role played at the convention by Jeff Feldman, a one-time party honcho who was indicted with Norman but won dismissal of charges. No longer exiled from the convention, Feldman helped run Tuesday's show.” -– NY Daily News Editorial, September 19, 2008.

Judge Gleeson, U.S. District Court Cited Jeff Feldman’s action in the decision
“Beginning in March of 2003, then candidate for Supreme Court Lopez Torres wrote repeatedly to the Kings County Democratic Committee to learn three basic things; (1) the date, time and place of the convention; (2) the names of the delegates, so she could lobby them; and (3) whether she could address the delegates at the convention. She did not hear from its Executive Director, Jeffrey C. Feldman until September 4, 2003, after she once again requested the information. Feldman response is difficult to reconcile with the defendants' gauzy characterizations of a democratic process open to all party members who seek the office of Supreme Court Justice. He began by mocking the request for a list delegates to lobby: "AI erroneously believed that a learned jurist, such as yourself, would be well aware that Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the Democratic Judicial Convention stand for independent elections in the Primary Election, yet to be held. Thus no such list existed "anywhere in the world," Feldman helpfully added. As for Lopez Torres's inquiry about addressing the convention, Feldman wrote as follows: "I suffer from the innocent belief that the floor of the Convention is open, only, to elected Delegates and their successors.” - Judge Gleeson, U.S. District Court

Besides the press also missing, from this year Judicial Convention, were most of the reformers who in the past protested actions at the convention. Only Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats president Chris Owens and past president Josh Skaller stood alone in opposing this year’s convention, handing out a newspaper to every delegate outlining needed changes to the way New York “elects” Supreme Court Judges.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said Judicial Conventions are bad, declaring that :

“The Constitution Does Not Prohibit Legislatures From Enacting Stupid Laws.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the courts did not have the constitutional right to change the way New York chooses it Supreme Court Judges not one elected official has spoken out about changing the STUPID LAW. In fact the good groups which conspired with the elected officials before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to allow Judicial Conventions to continue at the same time allowing candidates to petition there way onto the ballot are like the press missing action on this issue. In fact like the elected officials the good government groups have not commented on the STUPID LAWS.

For more information on the proposed changes proposed by Owens:

For more information about the Judicial Convention, efforts to change it and a record of judicial corruption over the past 5 years:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Farce": A Review of Last Night's Brooklyn Democratic County Committee Meeting

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The Brooklyn Optimist

Last night, 181 Members of the Kings County Democratic County Committee huddled in an auditorium at St. Francis College in downtown Brooklyn to participate in the theatre of the absurd.

Move over Samuel Beckett, Vito Lopez in the hizzy.

Despite my unflappable optimism, I can't say I was surprised at how the night went. Though this was the first time I had attended the notorious affair, I had been warned in advance as to how these performances go. Basically, a bunch of elected officials and party loyalists take turns literally reading from a script to dutifully enact whatever agenda Vito Lopez has decided upon, and then call the meeting to a close as quickly as possible, so that its members don't get a headache from too much democracy all in one night.

Except for a few hiccups, that's precisely how last night played out. Taking every opportunity to eschew debate and neutralize dissent, the officials cast by Vito to read the script handed out to them earlier in the day did so as quickly as possible and then exited stage left.

The only people in the chorus who seemed to have missed the director's notes were Councilman Charles Barron, political blogger David Michaelson (a.k.a. mole333) and his wife Joy Romanski (corresponding secretary of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats), and the 50+ newly elected members of the County Committee from the New Kings Democrats political club.

Charles Barron, who incidentally is a far better actor than any of the extras sent by Central Casting to play Vito's goons, began his sparkling performance by challenging the largely ceremonial adoption of the Committee's rules on the grounds that he had not been given a chance to review them in advance. The fact that someone dared to disrupt the show early on palpably unnerved the crowd, which suddenly had to confront the possibility that the airy musical they had come to see had been surreptitiously replaced by the complete works of Ibsen.

Councilman Lewis Fidler, playing a toned-down version of Councilman Lewis Fidler, took it upon himself to calm the crowd, arguing that were the County Committee not to adopt the rules that the meeting would not be officially convened (bad), the Kings County Democratic Party would not be a legally sanctioned body and thus incapable of appointing judges (very bad), and that the globe would go flying off its axis and plunge into the sun (maybe not so bad if McCain gets elected).

A few eventful scenes later, Charles Barron again took the stage and delivered the evening's only noteworthy monologue. Unfortunately, I couldn't scribble it down fast enough in my program, but it began: "This is ridiculous! I've never been to a more scripted meeting in my whole life! This is insulting!" His eloquent soliloquy was saluted with scattered enthusiastic applause and then promptly dismissed as a rant.

The rest of the evening's sound and fury was left to the members of the New Kings Democrats, who tried their best in the role of "Reformers", but were overshadowed by Vito Lopez and the 670 Proxies. Every time the night's Chairman State Senator Marty Connor would call a vote on any proposal not in the script, if the yeas and the nays sounded even (NKD's members made up a vocal third of the audience), Connor would dispense with the pageantry and remind the crowd that there was a superstar with 670 votes to his name waiting in the wings ready to make a surprise cameo at any time. Since this one man was worth over three times the value of those in attendance (despite all the electeds there), Connor's forthright observation always settled the issue conclusively.

Speaking of Connor, this reviewer would be remiss in not acknowledging that he was genuinely moved by the veteran's performance as "Broken Man in Twilight". Now I can't claim to have seen Connor in his heyday, but as last night's Richard III, he brought an unexpected candor to the proceedings. He appeared not as a grand Senator, but as a mere man in need of a horse, beset with the anguish that comes when the realization that he will never again be king.

As for the rest of the ensemble, Vito Lopez was captivating, but unbelievable, in the role of "The Gentle Giant" (seriously, that guy is towering).

Assemblywoman Annette Robinson and District Leader Olanike Alabi were disappointing as "The Early Adjourners". For those critics who will allege that the New Kings Democrats didn't accomplish anything last night, I would point to the bit parts read by this duo as the reason NKD didn't get more of a chance to shine. By ushering the show to a close before any new business could be proposed, Robinson and Alabi cheated a good portion of the audience out of the cost of admission. I was particularly dispirited by Alabi's role. Usually, one of the only truly progressive District Leaders, she could have made something of her part, but instead preferred to mail it in. I know she could have done better.

Equally disappointing were "The Electeds". And I mean all of them, except for Charles Barron. Not a single one of them in attendance last night (District Leaders included!), has any chance of being cast in 2009's much-anticipated blockbuster release "Brooklyn's Real Reformers". Of course, their agents and acting coaches will try to convince you otherwise next September, but don't believe the hype.

Last, but not least, The Optimist found himself unexpectedly the central figure in one of the night's only moments of true levity. I attended the meeting not yet knowing of the outcome of the primary race I ran last week to represent my tiny swath of Greenpoint as its Democratic County Committee Member. The good people at NKD took it upon themselves to nominate me for appointment to the committee on their slate of candidates for the 50th Assembly District. When Chairman Connor read the competing slate of candidates, it turned out that in the 93rd Election District Morgan Pehme's opponent on the competing slate was none other than "Morgan Pehme".

I stood up in the meeting, announced that I happened to be "Morgan Pehme", and said that the reason NKD had nominated me was because I did not yet know the outcome of the primary. Chairman Connor smiled and said, "Apparently, you won. Congratulations. Everyone seems to like you." My victory was greeted with perhaps the warmest and only non-controversial round of applause of the night.

I wonder if I'm still going to be as universally well-liked after you read my review of last night's show?

As always, I will remain optimistic.