This week in Brooklyn politics

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Gonzalez supports Chavez holiday

Councilmember Sara M. González introduced a resolution last week seeking to establish March 31 as a national holiday honoring heroic farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.

Her legislation, though symbolic, “is not only important to the thousands of Mexican American and Latino residents who live and work in the neighborhoods I represent,” said González, whose district includes Sunset Park, Red Hook, and parts of Bay Ridge and Park Slope, “it is important to millions of people from every ethnicity, race and background throughout the city and country who view Cesar Chavez as a timeless champion for those people who do not always have a voice.”

Born on March 31, 1927 in Arizona, Chavez organized migrant laborers in California and co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW).

Chavez’s activism eventually led to the passage of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which was the first law in the United States governing farm labor.

Felder eyes City Finance Commissioner position

Sources say that City Councilmember Simcha Felder is eyeing the job of City Finance Commissioner, which pays a hefty $189,700 annually.

The position opened up last April when former commissioner Martha Stark quit following revelations that she had a close friend and relatives on the payroll.

Michael Hyman was appointed Acting Commissioner of Finance on May 4, 2009, but political insiders think Felder is making a play for the spot.

The job could be his if Mayor Michael Bloomberg is re-elected.

Stark was only one of two African-American commissioners in the Bloomberg administration, the other being Human Rights Commission head Patricia Gatling.

When questioned about the move, Felder said he was thinking only about a third term in the City Council.

Who said it would be easy?

A local source in the know tells us that Brooklyn’s own Elizabeth Holtzman, the former comptroller, district attorney, congresswoman and United States Senate candidate, recently went up to county Democratic boss Vito Lopez to “kiss the ring he keeps in his back pocket” — but Lopez was said to have tartly replied, “So, I hear you refused to sign Steve Levin’s petition when they came to your door.”

Levin, Vito’s chief of staff, is a candidate for the hotly contested 33rd City Council District. Holtzman, the source said, works for the law firm Herrick, Feinstein LLP but still harbors political ambitions, having most recently put her name forward for the Senate vacancy ultimately filled by Kirsten Gillibrand.

“I suspect that the ring kissing is not transactional, but rather global-relational — like burying a bone for a rainy day,” the source mused.

Power-hungry pols

City and state politicians are putting their need for authority over the needs of children, Brooklyn parents say.

“There’s a lot of political posturing on the mayor’s part, on the Senate’s part and on the Department of Education’s part,” said Christopher Spinelli, president of School District 22’s Community Education Council (CEC), which represents schools in Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach and parts of Midwood, Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay.

“Although I hear the rhetoric of ‘it’s all about the children,’ that’s not what this is about,” Spinelli said. “This is all about retaining power and control of the school system.”

“I think our state legislators should get their act together and come together and take care of what we have paid them to do,” said Yoketing Eng, president of District 21’s CEC, which covers Coney Island and Bensonhurst.

Bickering in the public advocate race

The four candidates to succeed Betsy Gotbaum as Public Advocate spent much of their time attacking each other’s records and work ethics, when they weren’t defending the need for the office in the first place, at a July 9 candidates’ forum sponsored by City Hall News.

“When I organized with parents and child care centers that were threatened with closure, where were you on this important issuei” asked Brooklyn Councilmember Bill De Blasio of opponent and former Public Advocate Mark Green.

Green pushed back, highlighting his record and his release of 100 policy ideas which will frame his campaign. Brooklyn-born attorney Norman Siegel asked De Blasio why he opposed designating the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site. De Blasio said that he believed the city would clean the site up faster than the EPA and hoped that areas around the Canal would be developed for affordable housing.

Meanwhile, Queens Councilmember Eric Gioia spent much of the debate speaking about why he wanted to run for the office.

“I’m not an insider. I never will be. I have never run for anything except City Council and 6th grade class president.”

“How’d you doi” asked Edward Isaac Dovere, the debate’s moderator and editor of City Hall News.

“I won,” Gioia said.

Tighter than ever

In the 45th Council District, it’s getting to the point that you can’t tell your candidates without a scorecard.

After shrinking for a while over the spring as candidates — seeing a crowded field — backed off, the number of insurgents hoping to be the one to knock embattled incumbent Flatbush City Councilmember Kendall Stewart off the Democratic line in this September’s primary suddenly has started to grow.

Most recently, Ernest Emmanuel, a perennial candidate, entered the race.

Also now in is a third Williams. With Jumaane Williams and John Williams already vying for the nomination, confusion can only grow with the addition of taxi driver Godwin Williams into the candidate pool.

Add another four candidates — Rodrick Daley, Erlene King, Dr. Dexter McKenzie and Sam Taitt, all of whom have been committed to the race for a while — and you can see why Stewart is smiling.

“The more the merrier,” he remarked at a recent forum, which was also attended by Daley and John Williams.

When Daley shook his hand, Stewart’s confidence was clear. “Soon, you’re going to be congratulating me,” he predicted.


Also attending the same East Flatbush forum, which dealt with help available to small businesses, was former City Councilmember Tracy Boyland, a member of the Bedford-Stuyvesant political dynasty running to recapture her old seat in the 41st Council District.

Boyland — who was term-limited out in 2005 — is vying against incumbent Darlene Mealy, who defeated Boyland’s father William Boyland for the open seat four years ago. Also eyeing the seat are Terry Clifton, Anthony Herbert, Janelle Hobson and Tulani Kinard.

Stewart, who had addressed the group earlier, asked for the microphone back before he left the gathering to remark on Boyland’s presence at the forum, and praised her work on the City Council.

Ravitch response

Brooklyn state senators aren’t too keen on Governor David Paterson’s appointment of former MTA Chair Richard Ravitch to the post of Lieutenant Governor.

At least two local pols said that Ravitch, who was sworn in at Peter Luger’s in Williamsburg Thursday, would do more harm than good.

“Governor Paterson’s action was not productive in aiding the process,” said Bay Ridge State Senator Marty Golden, a Republican, who concurred with the opinion of many that Ravitch’s appointment was unconstitutional. “This move will be shown to be no more than a cynical attempt to improve his poll numbers by showing some form of leadership far too late.”

Flatbush State Senator Kevin Parker was in agreement.

“It’s more of an obstruction than a help,” said Parker, who added that the appointment had nothing to do with the Senate parties settling their differences, which occurred just hours after Ravitch was sworn in.

Birthday wishes

When you’re running for office, you use anything you can to your advantage.

City Council hopeful Brad Lander is using the day he was born.

Lander’s parents sent a letter to supporters last week saying that they could best honor his 40th birthday (he was born on July 8, 1969, just a few days before Neil Armstrong landed on the moon) by donating $40 to his campaign, or helping spread the word about his candidacy by knocking on 40 doors. Supporters can also invite 40 friends to meet with Brad and hear about what he’s all about.

In the final analysis, this is probably the only time a politician might wish he was older. Just think about how much more he could accomplish if he was 60!

Send political tips, gossip and hearsay to editorial@cnglocal.com.

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