The fight for the 33rd Councilmanic District was never considered “scrappy” until Tuesday night, when candidates posed no−holds−barred questions to their opponents and showed some of their true colors in the process.
The outcome of the Park Slope Civic Council’s 33rd Councilmanic forum was best described by candidate Ken Baer: “We’re not as congenial as the guys in the 39th Councilmanic District.”
“[The candidates for the 39th Councilmanic District] seem to be more ‘buddy, buddy,’” he said. “We get along well enough, but we each have very different personalities.”
The poorly attended forum, held at P.S. 282 on Sixth Avenue near Berkeley Place, started off without a hitch, although two of the candidates −− Steve Levin and Doug Biviano −− were absent. A forum coordinator claimed that he was to blame for Levin’s absence because no one had invited him until just a few days earlier. The council did allow Levin to fax over an opening statement, which was read to the audience.
When contacted, Biviano claimed that he was never invited to the forum.
“I didn’t know about it until later that night,” he said. “It seems to be an oversight, but I’m pretty bummed out.”
“I couldn’t sleep and I punched my pillow a few times because I missed this great opportunity to address the voters,” he said.
But pillow feathers weren’t the only things that were ruffled. The dander of all the candidates in attendance was certainly up when Park Slope Civic Council chair and forum moderator Ken Freeman allowed the candidates to ask one of their competitors a question.
Candidates Ken Diamondstone and Evan Thies immediately turned their attention to candidate Jo Anne Simon in an apparent back−handed move to knock the supposed front−runner down a few pegs.
Diamondstone took her to task for her approach on the Atlantic Yards Project and asked why she co−founded Brooklyn Speaks, a group that wants to bring changes to the much ballyhooed projected instead of joining Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which wants to take the project out of developer Bruce Ratner’s hands.
Thies asked Simon why the Independent Neighborhood Democrats, a group he claimed she was affiliated with, had endorsed John Heyer for the 39th City Council District even though he is anti−choice and against gay marriage.
Slightly taken aback, Simon scrambled to answer Diamondstone, claiming that everyone should come to the table to talk about Atlantic Yards. She completely refuted Thies’ query, claiming that IND is not supporting Heyer and that she was pro−choice.
When it was her turn, Simon asked Thies if he would continue to lead a committee in Community Board 1 during the course of this election, which she saw as a conflict of interest.
Thies told this paper that he was indeed planning to step down as the election heats up, although there are no rules mandating his departure.
“I’m stepping down, but not because it’s a conflict,” he said.
Candidate Issac Abraham also posed a question to Thies although the question was more of a political statement.
He picked apart Thies’s claims that he had worked on environmental issues, when in fact all of the work was done while he was getting paid as a staffer for City Councilmember David Yassky.
“I’ve done a lot of work on the environment −− all without being paid,” he said.
Baer’s question −− which held true to his stance on improving the environment −− was for all the candidates: “Do you own a car and did you drive it here?”
After the forum, Simon said she didn’t come to the forum expecting to be grilled by her challengers.
“The politics of division and distortion that were on display last night and that is precisely what Jo Anne Simon is trying to change,” Kelly Donnelly, Simon’s campaign spokesman, said in a statement.
Most of the forum was dedicated to questions Park Slope Civic Council members submitted, Freeman explained. The “let the candidates ask” portion was the highlight of the night.
“It was definitely more compelling,” he said. “Somebody recommended this to me at the [39th Councilmanic] forum and it really worked. There was more of a debate than everyone just making speeches.”
Giving the candidates an opportunity to throw a spotlight on each other actually gives the audience a deeper insight into a candidate’s character.
“When they’re given a chance to ask the questions, some of them throw an elbow while others throw softballs,” Freeman said.
©2009 Community News Group
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