Labor Support Comes To 35th Council District Race

By NICHOLAS WELLS,  The Local

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City Council hopeful Laurie Cumbo scored two major labor endorsements recently in her bid to replace Council Member Letitia James in the 35th District, who is stepping down to run for Public Advocate.

On April 19, Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, the country’s largest property service workers’ union, announced its endorsement of Ms. Cumbo. The news came a day after the New York Hotel Trade Council (HTC) voiced its support for her campaign. As the candidates make the rounds, the endorsements will give Ms. Cumbo a leg up in a field where candidates differ more in experience and connections than in policy.

“From paid sick leave to better access to healthcare, Ms. Cumbo is fighting for the issues that matter to our members,” union President Hector Figueroa said in a statement. “Not only does she serve as a living example of the pathway to the middle class that unions create, she has vowed to protect and preserve that pathway for others.”

In addition to the recent labor backing, Ms. Cumbo is leading in fundraising, having amassed nearly $70,000 since September. Of that, $13,300 has gone to political strategists The Advance Group, according to campaign filings. The Advance Group — a 20-year-old strategic consulting firm whose recent clients have included Congressman Hakeem Jefferies and the anti-Christine Quinn group NYC Is Not For Sale – has turned Ms. Cumbo’s campaign into a well-oiled machine, holding fundraisers and maintaining a constant Twitter presence.

Ms. Cumbo speaks about expanding arts education in schools and public housing projects. She wants school buildings to be more integrated into community life, and favors transforming community boards from advisory panels to legislative bodies with power over what happens in their districts. She highlighted the Atlantic Yards project as an example of a weakened local authority trumped by outside forces.

“How is it that millions of dollars came through the district and totally sidestepped the Community Board?” she said. “These resources were plopped down into the community because people at a higher level wanted it to happen. And I don’t think that should happen.”

Ms. Cumbo, founder and director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Fort Greene, faced her rivals at a recent candidates’ forum at the Ingersoll Community Center on Myrtle Avenue.

 

Appearing at the forum were: Ede Fox, a member of Community Board 8 and former staffer to Council members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Jumaane Williams; Jelani Mashariki, director of the Pamoja House homeless shelter and an Occupy Wall Street organizer; Jesse Hamilton, a Crown Heights Attorney and District Leader, and Frank Richard Hurley, a lawyer.

At the forum, Mr. Hurley said he entered the race to “give a voice” to unemployed and homeless residents, and to get “involved in the conversation” about development in Brooklyn.

“If you build in Brooklyn, you must hire from Brooklyn,” he said repeatedly.

Mr. Hurley, who has raised $856 for his campaign, did not respond to requests for an interview.

Olanike Alabi, a former District Leader for 57th Assembly District, has not publicly announced her candidacy, but is expected to do so. Ms. Alabi has raised more than $20,000 since December. She declined to comment on the record for this story.

Any of these candidates would likely be left of center if elected, and their similar viewpoints don’t promise much political drama. They all want residents to be more involved in their communities, to increase the power of the community boards and put an end to the top-down decision-making they say has shaped the city for the past 12 years.

Increasing affordable housing, reforming the public school system and encouraging more community-based economic development are standard lines in each of their political playbooks.

With the backing of HTC and 32BJ, Ms. Cumbo now controls the table, but the powerful healthcare workers’ union 1199 SEIU has yet to make an endorsement.

Ms. James, who was reelected in 2009 with 92 percent of the vote, has not endorsed a successor.

Ede Fox is second to Ms. Cumbo in funds, having raised about $61,000 since she started fundraising in mid-2011, according to campaign filings. Many of her donations came from municipal employees and council insiders, indicating her government connections.

 

... Read more here: http://fort-greene.thelocal.nytimes.com/2013/05/01/labor-support-comes-to-35th-council-district-race/

Latima Stephens contributed reporting.

 Published:  May 1, 2013 by....fort-greene_main.png

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