Tag Archives: Jo Anne Simon

We Endorse Evan Thies

After much deliberation ( and in fighting), we have decided to endorse Evan Thies for City Council.  Our review has been exhaustive and exhausting.  We know that our decision will not come as a surprise to many.  But we wanted to give you our thinking on the matter.

In reviewing the candidates, we looked foremost to the individual records.  We also turned a strong eye to the campaigns and who we think can actually win the race.  Jo Anne Simon seemed like a good candidate from a distance.  A close review of her record (or lack of one) took her out of the running.  Simon has been active in community politics for years.  But too often it seems that she has waffled and wavered on important issues.  She did it on Atlantic Yards and congestion pricing.  She also has no record of reform within the  Brooklyn Democratic Committee.  The final straw that broke the camel’s back has been Simon resorting in her campaign literature to lies and fabrications when she went negative.

As for Steve Levin, we really want to like him.  We think that Steve has campaigned very hard.  We also think that he has hit great themes on senior housing and early education.  But we cannot get over the fact that Levin moved into the District to run.  And we really can’t get past the fact that his headquarters are located outside the District in the Bushwick United Democratic Club — Vito Lopez’s power base.  Levin has consistently tried to separate himself from Lopez in the race.  No matter how much we like Steve, we fear that he will suffer the same fate as Diana Reyna if he tries to move too far away from his mentor.  And if he doesn’t move far away from him, we have even greater concerns.

As for the other candidates, we think none of them fit the bill.  Doug Biviano has run a nasty negative campaign.  We also think that the 33rd representative should provide intellectual fire power that we have not found in him.  We think that Ken Diamondstone lays legitimate claim to the reform and anti-Atlantic Yards mantle.  Unfortunately, Diamondstone has never been able to put together a winning campaign despite coming out of the gate four times.  Diamondstone should realize that his power lies as a kingmaker rather than being a perennial also-ran.  Ken Baer and Isaac Abraham have not really had any consideration by us.  We think that Baer has run an ineffective race and will make a poor showing.  Isaac Abraham seems like a nice person.  He is to be commended for broadening our collective understanding of the Hasidic community.  We are disappointed by his contributions from infamous property owner Joshua Guttman.  We also think that he too has no chance of winning.  

That leaves us with Evan Thies.  Evan is not the perfect candidate.  No one is.  His follow through on the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning deserves criticism.  He has also taken two developer related donations.  One from James Whalen of Muss Development.  (He contributed an identical amount to Simon’s campaign.)  He also took money from developer Dean Palin who is constructing as as-of-right project in Greenpoint.  Money is a constant struggle for campaigns and Thies has lagged behind Simon and Levin.  But we think that criticism on Broadway Triangle is misleading.  The Community Board voted by a margin of 2:1 in favor of that project.  Thies submitted testimony in opposition to its approval to the Borough President and City Planning Commission.  We are aware of no other candidate (other than Simon) that has done so.  On the plus side, we think that Evan is smart and knows the District better than any other candidate.  From north to south, he understands each neighborhood better than anyone else in the race.  His work on environmental, parks and transportation issues has been excellent.  These are all critical to the District.  He also has a great grasp of how to work within the Council to be effective and hit the ground running.  He has run an honorable and honest campaign.  Thies gets our endorsement.

Keeping It Real

Jo Anne Simon: Bald Faced Liar

 

I'm just desperate...

I'm just desperate...

We never wanted it to get here.  Biviano and Diamondstone have engaged in negative campaigning.  Now Jo Anne Simon has joined the negative campaign camp and resorts to a bald faced lie in an attack piece against Evan Thies.  The piece was distributed to the southern part of the 33rd District starting yesterday.  We expect that it will make it to the northern part tomorrow or on primary day.  

Simon’s piece claims “Evan Thies sat out the crucial committee vote that green-lighted the irresponsible Broadway Triangle development project.  If Thies had shown up and voted this irresponsible development would never have gone forward.”   Simon is just plain lying when she claims that Thies’s vote made the difference between Broadway Triangle going forward or not.  That is simply not true.  The final vote on Broadway Triangle was 23-12.  Thies’s vote did not make the difference.  For anyone familiar with CB1, they know that Vito Lopez and the Satmar bloc control what happens.

Why Simon would print this lie in a district-wide campaign piece is obvious.  She has run a completely lackluster campaign, is out of totally options, and needs to sling whatever mud she can lay her hands on — even if it is not truthful.  We are seriously disturbed that Simon would sink to this level.  She has been exposed throughout the campaign as an ineffective, waffling, flip-flopping, busybody with no real record of achievement either for her neighborhood or on reform within the Kings County Democratic Party.  With this latest piece of campaign literature, she has simply proven that she worse than we ever thought.  

Nice job, Jo Anne.  Really sad.

Keeping It Real

Jo Anne Simon & The Record of Reform

Jo Anne Simon claims she is an effective reformer and community advocate.  We wanted to take a look at her record to see how effective she really has been.  We decided to take a look at two issues that she has touted: traffic and judicial reform.

Don't look too close, please!

Don't look too close, please!

On traffic, Simon claims to have advocated for transportation and traffic improvement for fifteen years. One need look no further than Downtown Brooklyn to find the answer of whether she has been effective. The traffic is worse than ever. The parking is non-existent for local residents. Smith Street is an absolute mess in the mornings and it has been getting worse.  Just spend some time at Smith & Bergen.  It is a nightmare.  There has been no real progress on a residential parking program even though it has been discussed for years. The issue is now stuck in the State Legislature (good luck with that!).  Simon has complained about service cut backs on the G-train.  That has gotten worse as well.  Simon also points to her work on the Gowanus Expressway Task Force, which proposes placing the thoroughfare underground.  It’s a nice idea but is it happening?  Bottom Line: While it is unfair to blame Simon for the sad state of traffic and transportation in the 33rd District, she has no record of accomplishment despite touting fifteen years of work on the issue.

On judicial reform, her record also falls short.  Simon says it shows that she stood up to the Machine.  But if you compare her December 2005 reform recommendations for the Kings County Democratic Committee’s Judicial Screening Panel to the rules actually adopted you see she accomplished nothing:

  • Simon Recommendation: Have the Screening Panel (not Vito) pick the Panel’s chairperson.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Panel members should not be partners, suite mates or associated with party officials:  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Have the Screening Panel use the same review standard for incumbent judges.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Have a reconsideration process for unfavorably rated candidates.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Have a “Highly Qualified” option for judicial candidates.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Have a judicial candidate forum for District Leaders and others to see the candidates.  NOT ADOPTED
  • Simon Recommendation: Allow Panel members to communicate their review directly to district leaders.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Adopt the standard NYC Bar judicial questionnaire.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Panel review committees should consist of 2 or more individuals.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: No Panel members can act as a reference for a candidate.  NOT ADOPTED.  Panel members are allowed to communicate directly with the (Lopez picked) Panel chair about a candidate.

With basically all of her recommendations being rejected, the County’s record on judicial selections since her December 2005 proposals is completely abysmal:

  • Lopez backed his girlfriend’s brother, Jack Battaglia, for a seat on the Kings County Supreme Court over more qualified lawyers. Daily News, September 18, 2006
  • Lopez backed Richard Velasquez for a judgeship even though the New York City Bar Association and the Brooklyn Bar Association from him unqualified. Velasquez had worked for Lopez’s girlfriend, Angela Battaglia, at the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. New York Post, February 15, 2009.
  • Lopez backed anti-gay and completely unqualified candidate for the bench, now-Judge Noach Dear, even though Lopez promised that the Party’s judicial screening panel would only back candidates that were deemed qualified.

If Simon did not get her recommendations adopted, and the County’s record on selecting judges is as corrupt as ever, can she lay claim to being a reformer in this area as well?  We don’t think so.

The bottom line is that when you look at Simon’s record as a reformer and community advocate, you see years of work but no results. Even the New York Times couldn’t point to anything!  It makes us wonder how effective she will be as a council person.

Keeping It Real

Daily Kos Brooklyn Reporter Endorses Thies: Interesting Analysis & Comment

For the true junkies, we bring you the DonkeyDemBK Daily Kos endorsement of Evan Thies. On a personal note, we loved following Daily Kos during the Obama campaign. We find the endorsement interesting for the emphasis on campaign infrastructure:

—————————————-

Sun Sep 06, 2009 at 07:28:03 PM PDT
donkeydemBK’s diary :: ::

In the 33rd district I like Evan Thies. I like the fact the former Yassky chief of staff has the guts to stand up to corrupt machine politicians. His campaign is very well organized and he seems like the best shot to stop Steven Levin, who in my view is purely an extension of corrupt assemblyman Vito Lopez.

To read more about his efforts to push back against the machine, check out this piece in The New York Observer.

—————————————-

RRB:

You should also look at the following comment posted on the Daily Kos site:

“Gotta admire his determination…

One of his supporters came by last weekend and spent 30 minutes talking to us about the campaign, then had Evan call the same day and spent another 30 minutes.

by cbastian on Sun Sep 06, 2009 at 08:51:48 PM PDT”

We have only seen similar comments about the Levin operation. Nothing of the sort for Simon.

Keeping It Real

Times Endorsement Continued (Briefly)

We only have time for a really short post.  We are all busy with our families and respective significant others on this beautiful day.  We hope that you are doing the same.

Our criticism of The Times endorsement of Simon generated some interesting comment.  Due to the lack of any analysis, 11211 found it could have ended easily with: “We endorse Mr. Thies.” Norman Oder over at Atlantic Yards Report could not dismiss our view that The Times’s decision was a by-product of Atlantic Yards.  All agree that the nod to Simon was, at best, “lukewarm.”

The Times said that Thies was an “excellent” candidate for his work on reform and clean-air issues — both critical local matters.  It also found merit in Levin but could not dismiss his ties to Vito Lopez. Abraham, Biviano, Baer and Diamondstone did not get any mention whatsoever. It cited no local issue that Simon has worked on.

Bottom Line: Given how blandly The Times crafted its position, we do not think that endorsement is the game-changer Simon’s otherwise lackluster campaign was hoping for.

Keeping It Real

Times Endorsement & Atlantic Yards

The New York Times endorsement this morning was missing only one thing:  “Forest City Ratner is the development partner for the Midtown headquarters for The New York Times Company.”  In a pretty naked nod to its development partner, the Times endorsed the one candidate who has done more to undermine unified community opposition to Atlantic Yards than any other:  Jo Anne Simon.  The Times could not bring itself to write on Councilwoman Letitia “Tish” James’s race in the 35th District because opposing her would be too obvious.

Simon protests that she has been an early and vocal critic of Atlantic Yards.  Like most politicians, she believes that if she repeats something long enough it will be the truth.   The fact remains that Simon started BrooklynSpeaks to “have a seat at the table” in negotiating with Ratner.  She leads the “mend it, don’t end it” camp on Atlantic Yards.  Bottom Line: Simon has been an early and vocal supporter of bargaining on Atlantic Yards.  We believe that is the reason she got the nod from the Times.

Here is the endorsement for those of you who have missed it:

District 33, Brooklyn (Downtown Brooklyn, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights): There are several excellent candidates vying to replace Councilman David Yassky, who’s also running for comptroller. Stephen Levin would be a prime candidate except for his entanglement in the Brooklyn Democratic Party machine. Evan Thies, an aide to Mr. Yassky, has been active on reform and clean-air issues. Jo Anne Simon has an impressive legal background and has been a strong community organizer who has done important work for the disabled. We endorse Ms. Simon.

Pretty lukewarm even for a sell out.

Keeping It Real

Jo Anne Simon & More Questionable $$$

Following up on our earlier report of Jo Anne Simon’s real estate related campaign contributions, we are deeply troubled because she has also taken money from three board members of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (“BBPDC”).  BBPDC is a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation (“ESDC”).  ESCD is the state agency that has been approving Atlantic Yards through by-passing the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Process.  BBPDC is behind the controversial recommendation to build luxury apartments in Brooklyn Bridge Park so maintenance and operations can be self-financing.  Simon claims that she is opposed to development in the park. We question her commitment to that position one the one hand when she is taking money from the members of BBPDC board with the other hand.

 

Why can't you people leave me and my contributors alone?

Why can't you people leave me and my contributors alone?

 

 

The Biviano campaign did not pick up on this clear conflict of interest when attacking Simon for taking money from real estate developers and brokers.  “Nicky215” on the Brooklyn Heights Blog did and we looked into it further.  Nicky posted, “Joanne (sic.) has gotten conributions from ESDC board members that want 1000 luxery (sic.) condos in Brooklyn Bridge Park. To be specific $250 from Joanne Witty, $1250 from David Offensend, $1000 from Henry Guttman and $250 from his wife Karolyn Guttman.”

We checked the Campaign Finance Board donations disclosures for the Simon campaign and found Nicky 215 was completely accurate regarding the donations:

Witty, Joanne
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Unemployed
Civic Volunteer
01/14/2008  $250.00

Offensend, David G.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
NY Public Library
Executive
11/16/2007  $250.00

Offensend, David G.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
NY Public Library
Executive
06/27/2009  $1,000.00

Gutman, Henry B.
Simpson Thacher
Attorney
01/11/2008  $500.00

Gutman, Henry B.
Simpson Thacher
Attorney
07/31/2009  $500.00

Witty, Offensend and Gutman are all listed as members of the BBPDC board of directors.  Simon also took $250 from Henry Guttman’s wife, Karolyn Guttman.

Gutman, Karolyn S.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Retired
05/06/2009  $250.00

With the 6:1 match, these donations total $6,250 (5.8% of the $108,033 in total funds Simon has in her war chest for the campaign).  The Biviano campaign claimed that Simon took 306 contributions totaling $24,068.00 from real estate related interests.  The combined total of questionable funds amounts to 28% of Simon’s total fund raising.

We think that these donations pose a clear conflict of interest for Simon because she has publicly stated her opposition to development of luxury housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park. She also touts her engagement on this issue on her law firm website. We are also disturbed by the appearance of a conflict of interest because BBPDC is a subsidiary of ESDC, which is overseeing approval of Atlantic Yards. We would be interested in the opinion of Norman Oder and DDDB regarding Simon taking funds from board members approving ESDC development in Brooklyn Bridge Park. We believe that Simon should immediately return donations by Witty, Offensend and the Gutmans. Simon already has a considerable war chest for her City Council race. She can return these funds without giving up her advantage over the other candidates in the race. We recall another District Leader/33rd District Candidate who won the fundraising battle but lost the war — Steve Cohn. Simon’s disregard for the implications of her fundraising may well lead her candidacy to a similar fate.

Keeping It Real