Wednesday, February 28, 2007

An Invitation to Mayor Bloomberg

Earlier today Mayor Bloomberg responded to tonight's Rally for NYC Public Schools by announcing a new initiative (the appointment of a new parental engagement staffer, I believe) intended to give parents a say in the process. I don't have any more details because the announcement was made without, um, any public involvement.

Working Families Party Co-Chair Bertha Lewis extended an open invitation to Mayor Bloomberg to start a real dialogue:
"Better late than never. While we applaud the Mayor for realizing - mere hours before a major community meeting on the schools - that something is deeply wrong with the relationship between the Department of Education and parents, it unfortunately is another example of what the system's stakeholders are angry about, which is lack of consultation before new initiatives are announced.

We would encourage the Mayor and the Chancellor to start a real engagement process tonight by coming to St. Vartan's Cathedral at 6:30 and listening to the concerns of parents, teachers, children and others who care deeply about our city's schools."
Will Bloomberg accept? Stay tuned for details.

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Rally for NYC Public Schools Tonight

It's time for the public's voice to be heard again in our public schools. Tonight at 6:30pm, at St. Vartan's Cathedral on 2nd Ave, parents, teachers and students are rallying to tell Chancellor Klein to stop the proposed school reorganization and listen to the community.

The New York City Department of Education has put out another proposal to reorganize our schools, but they're not consulting the public or accepting public input. That's three major reorganizations in five years, and the public has NEVER been consulted about ANY of these reorganizations, even though each reorganization is chaotic and destabilizing for parents and teachers and for our kids. This from a Chancellor who repeatedly claims to want to bring stability to the system.

Instead, the Department of Education only listens to its consultants. That's taken us to a point where they can't even get our children TO school, much less do the right thing once they are there.

The school bus debacle is a perfect example of what has gone wrong. The Department of Education was warned - repeatedly warned - about potential problems with cutting bus service. They ignored the warnings and did it anyway, and the rollout was a disaster. We need to make sure this stops happening.

But the school bus debacle is also a powerful example of what can happen when parents, teachers and students stand together and demand change.

The Department of Education doesn't like to admit when it's wrong, but there's a growing outcry among parents, teachers and kids that things aren't right with the way our school system is being operated.

This lack of basic respect for parents and kids has sunk relations between parents and the school system to their lowest level in many years.

That's not healthy for our kids, our teachers or our schools.

It's time for the Department of Education to let the public in and start listening to us.

We need to see a real change in the culture of the Department of Education. Parents have been complaining about a lack of voice for years, and those complaints have only grown louder with each passing year and each new reorganization. We need to see parent's concerns reflected in the Department of Education's plans.

Teachers and parents have repeatedly called for reducing class size, for school safety programs, for universal pre-kindergarten, for transforming our middle schools and for building effective pathways to college.

Our kids need stability and quality instruction, not more structural change. But the Chancelor's reorganization plan doesn't include any focus on what actually happens in the classroom. Whatever happened to instruction?

Let's see a real "Marshall Plan" to turn around low-performing middle schools.

Let's see a humane balance between teaching and testing.

Let's put the public back in public education

That's why tonight at 6:30pm at St. Vartan's Cathedral on 2nd Ave, parents, teachers and students are rallying to tell Chancellor Klein to stop the proposed school reorganization and listen to the community.

Working Families Party Co-Chairs Bertha Lewis and Bob Master will kick things off, and we'll hear from students, parents, teachers, United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, NYC Central Labor Council Executive Director Ed Ott and more.

Join us tonight at 6:30pm at St. Vartan's Cathedral on 2nd Ave between 34th and 35th Streets (take the 6 train to 33rd St).

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New York Subway #7 Worldwide

The New York City subway system has been rated #7 in the world by, um, Virgin Vacations.
Highlights: Offers express services that run on separate tracks from local trains. The MTA is currently testing out LED displays in subway stations to let commuters know when the next train is expected to arrive. 24 hour service. Unique and distinct artwork (mosaics) throughout the system.
Check out the full list.

Health Care and Food Safety

There's a health care debate playing out in the "Another Voice" section of the Buffalo News. Today's Another Voice features an op-ed essay from Western New York Working Families steering committee member Eric Walker:
"Our free market health care system works very well for insurance companies and drug companies, which are making record profits. It does not work well for families, who are watching their premiums and co-payments become more outrageous every year.

Forty years ago, we had a different problem in health care. Elderly people had been priced out by insurance companies and couldn't afford insurance on the free market.

Instead of defending the insurance companies, people demanded a real solution. The government created Medicare, which provides health care to millions of seniors far more efficiently than any private insurance company.

Today, millions of New Yorkers work hard but can't afford health insurance. We can get bogged down in ideology or we can demand real solutions.
. . .
We need solutions that work, and when it comes to life-saving medical care, throwing sick people on the tender mercies of the free market hasn't been effective. Medicare showed that government can be incredibly effective in health care, efficiently and economically providing care to people who need it.

While Southwick's ideology demands that government is the problem, the rest of us should not overlook the plain fact that, for millions of Americans, it has been the life-saving solution."
It's worth reading all of Eric's op-ed.

Eric wrote his letter in response to an earlier Another Voices op-ed by Lawrence Southwick Jr that made the claim:
"The free market does a superb job of delivering food at ever lower costs.

Get government out of the way and health services will do so as well."
I'll point out that our government is actually heavily involved in food delivery - both subsidizing food production and insuring food safety - to the benefit of us all. In fact, news that government is "getting out of the way" of delivering food and "conducting half the food safety inspections it did three years ago" is a cause for concern.

Maybe that makes the point best - government getting out of the way means killer spinach, poison peanut butter and dinner served with a side of E. coli. Personally, I prefer more government involvement, thank you very much.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

State Legislature Takes on Affordable Housing

The fight for Starrett City - a proxy in the larger fight over affordable housing - is expanding to a second stage as state legislators propose the "Save Starrett City Law", which would protect nearly 65,000 apartments by closing a loophole that lets building owners benefit from affordable housing programs but then stop providing affordable housing.

The state's Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program exchanges tax-exempt financing for affordable housing. Currently, if a building was built after 1973 and the owners leave Mitchell-Lama or Section 8 they're not subject to rent stabilization laws. The Save Starrett City Law would mean building owners who leave Mitchell-Lama or Section 8 affordable housing programs would still have to follow rent stabilization laws.

Working Families supports the Save Starrett City Law. Here's Executive Director Dan Cantor quoted in a New York Times article:
"Starrett City represents everything that we really think this city should be about . . . It's called the 'Save Starrett City Law,' but it really should be called the 'Save New York City Law.'"
Look for more this week on this issue and ways for you to get involved.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Limit the Mission

House Democrats are moving forward with their plan to end the war through a "Readiness Strategy" that limits the number of soldiers that can be sent to Iraq by requiring that troops be sent to Iraq with proper equipment and training. Bush regularly sends troops to war without the equipment they need and without training for the mission they're embarking on.

Now Senate Democrats are discussing an alternate strategy to limit the authority granted Bush by the 2002 congressional resolution authorizing the war.

Working Families supports limiting the use of funds to protecting our troops' safety and bringing them home.

With the differing approaches, expect more discussion on what comes next. The positive is these approaches aren't mutally exclusive. How do we pursue all three at once and bring the troops home?

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Are Working Families Welcome in NYC?

The Drum Major Institute and the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College are hosting an April 2 conference to address just that question. The agenda for the American Dream in the Big Apple conference includes presentations of new research, two panel discussions and an open discussion. Conference topics include income inequality and affordable housing. The speakers announced so far include heavy hitters like New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson and Representative Anthony Weiner (both frequently mentioned mayoral candidates), Finance Commissioner Martha Stark (one of the finalists for state comptroller), and UFT President Randi Weingarten, with more to come.

Find out more on the DMI Blog or at 646-660-6851 or

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Fox News's Laugh Track

This Keith Olbermann (video) spoof of Fox (via Crooks and Liars) is pretty funny.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Next Time, Hunt the Republicans

The GOP kids from NYU went through with their sick little joke. They were substantially outnumbered by protesters carrying the message, "We Are All Immigrants."

It's worth still shining a light on the ugliness. Below are a screenshot of the event promotional page from Facebook (via Gothamist) and a short video (via Gawker) focusing on the response.

'It's a risk, rather than a right, to join a labor union'

There's a great report at written by Alec Dubro on a panel discussion organized by the Economic Policy Institute and convened in Washington today. Here are some highlights (but go read the whole thing if you can):
The leadoff hitter was probably the nation’s best-known progressive economist, New York Times columnist and Princeton professor Paul Krugman. He made two points that need to be instilled in every reader and TV news viewer, as well as every business reporter:
1. The United States is "pretty good at generating overall growth," but that doesn't translate into broad prosperity.

2. "We did not realize it until we lost unions how crucial they are to our well-being."
. . .
Audience member Ann Hoffman, formerly of the garment workers union, noted that in the 1930s and early 1940s, garment workers earned higher wages than did auto workers, "because they'd had a 30-year head start in unionization."
. . .
Tom Kochan, co-director of the Institute for Work and Employment Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed up by citing some familiar but essential facts: At least 20 percent of workers who try to organize their fellows wind up fired; that labor law in its current form is a disgrace; that at the moment, "it's a risk, rather than a right, to join a labor union." He also said that the proposed Employee Free Choice Act now in Congress, which would ease unionization, "is just a first step in encouraging productive labor-management cooperation."
. . .
The final speaker was Harley Shaiken, University of California at Berkeley professor of geography specializing in unions, trade and Latin America.
. . .
We've come a long way down from there, said Shaiken, and car makers don't think in terms of societal good any more. He said that Toyota plants in the U.S. were paying slightly above the wages negotiated by the UAW in American plants, but now that the domestic auto makers are escaping from their contracts, Toyota has a new strategy. Despite being an extremely profitable enterprise, Toyota circulated a memo, leaked to Shaiken, saying that since they don't have to contend with a vigorous UAW, they intend to "cut wages dramatically."

Nevertheless, Shaiken said that six of the 10 most efficient auto plants in the U.S are union shops—including the joint GM-Toyota plant in Fremont, California. "Competitiveness," he said, "goes beyond just cost, and cutting wages can cut productivity."
More to come on the Employee Free Choice Act.

WFP interviews LCV

The New York League of Conservation Voters is one of the groups Working Families is working with more as we take action on global warming.

I sat down with (well, emailed) Marcia Bystryn, NYLCV's Executive Director, and asked a few questions:
1. What is the NYLCV working on?

We're gearing up to put out our legislative and executive agendas. They contain a series of environmental priorities that when combined will offer New York State a solid and comprehensive climate change and smart growth action agenda. They range from increasing mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and stronger energy efficiency standards to smart-led transportation growth.

In New York City, we've already laid out a sustainability agenda to compel the Bloomberg administration to begin to implement its 2030 plan today. There are some obvious action steps the mayor can take in 2007 to get that ball rolling, and we plan to push for action this year. In March, we'll be releasing our 2006 Scorecard for the New York City Council to hold members accountable for their environmental promises. The council has a big role to play in making sure that New York is a national leader on global warming and other issues.

We're also very active at the local level to encourage elected leaders to take action on climate change. In the absence of federal action on global warming, there's been some real innovation happening at the local level across New York. We spearheaded a countywide global warming task force in Westchester, and we intend to lobby other local elected officials to take on similar efforts in their counties, cities, and towns.

2. How will global warming effect New York state?

Because New York sits on the coast, the implications are huge. As sea levels rise, coastal areas will face increased flooding and major beach erosion. Heat waves of increasing intensity and prolonged periods are expected. Hotter summers mean more smog in metropolitan areas, which exacerbates asthma and other diseases. Certain bird species that depend on New York's coasts could be affected, and maple forests and wildlife will be threatened by rising temperatures.

3. What is New York doing now to address global warming?

New York State is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which takes a significant step towards cutting heat-trapping emissions from power plants. But it's not enough, and we need the regulations to enforce it and to expand it to include other sources, not just power plants. California, under the leadership of Gov. Schwarzenneger has been the leader in the pack on this issue, and we expect nothing less from our new executive Gov. Spitzer. It's great that Gov. Spitzer has budgeted dollars to enhance the capacity of the Office of Climate Change at DEC, but we need strong, ambitious fixes through executive orders that begin to mandate emissions reductions from every sector of the economy so that New York can be a national leader on this issue.

4. What opportunities do you see to take action on global warming here in New York?

There are many opportunities, and RGGI provides a great starting point. With a strong and immediate commitment from Gov. Spitzer, we could begin to see real movement around RGGI. There has also been a strong push from environmental groups and editorial boards to encourage Gov. Spitzer to lead New York in the direction that Gov. Schwarzenegger is taking California and to issue executive orders that address global warming. Also, smart growth, which favors pedestrian- and transit-oriented development over sprawl, is shaping up to be a huge priority for the Spitzer administration. This type of smart-led development is also an effective greenhouse gas reduction strategy.

The localities also have a huge role to play. In Babylon in Long Island, for example, the government just passed one of the most forward-thinking green building standards in the nation. We're looking to other localities in Long Island, Westchester, and the Capital District to take on similar climate change and smart growth initiatives.

5. What election work does NYLCV do?

We are an environmental political action committee, and we endorse candidates at every level of state and local government in New York State. We also have an Education Fund that educates the public, candidates, and elected officials on the environmental issues that pertain to their areas.

6. When will you start looking at the 2007 elections?

As a matter of fact, we're looking right now.

7. What elections do you have your eye on?

There's a lot happening at the local level. The Yonkers mayoral race could be a big one, and environmental issues around smart growth and transportation are heating up there. We also have our eye on a few local races on Long Island and in the Capital District. We'll keep you posted.
Stay up to date at the NYLCV blog.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

NYU College Republicans to America: We Hate You

Kids will be kids, and College Republicans will be College Republicans. But the "illegal immigrant hunt" that the NYU chapter has planned for tomorrow in Washington Square Park goes about three steps beyond the pale (hat tip to Gothamist).

Cheers to the hundreds of students who plan to protest.

Here's what happened at a similar event at the University of Texas in Austin where protesters far outnumbered the moronic "hunters" from the Young Conservatives of Texas:

The organizers of the "hunt" -- the officers of the NYU CRs -- have been good enough to provide their contact information on the Internet in case anyone wants to express their feelings about Thursday's adventure:
Please feel free to contact any of our officers via email:

President, Sarah L. Chambers,
Vice President, Rakibul Islam,
Secretary, Cait Kannall,
Treasurer, Neal Sangani,
Webmaster, Greg Hammond,
Social Chair, Richard Rossi,
Campaign and Internship Chair, David Laska,

Blair Bringing British Troops Home

Tony Blair is rejecting George Bush's escalation strategy and bringing British troops home. Blair is bringing 1,600 British troops home now - that's around a quarter of the British troops still in Iraq - with 3,000 more to come home by the end of 2007 and the rest to follow in 2008.

Senator Kennedy gets it right:
"No matter how the White House tries to spin it, the British government has decided to split with President Bush and begin to move their troops out of Iraq. This should be a wake up call to the administration.
. . .
Eighteen other countries have already withdrawn or dramatically reduced their troop presence in Iraq. A majority of the American people voted last November for a changed policy in Iraq. A majority of the House and the Senate, a unanimous Baker- Hamilton Commission and numerous generals have rejected the Administration's policy in Iraq. And now our country's strongest ally has rejected it."
But the Bush administration still refuses to face facts.

From Condoleezza Rice:
"The coalition remains intact and, in fact, the British still have thousands of troops deployed in Iraq."
Those British troops are leaving, and they're leaving for a good reason.

And from Dick Cheney:
"I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well."
Give me a break. Or, better yet, bring U.S. troops home now and call it an affirmation that things are going pretty well. But let's not kid ourselves: Iraq is in a civil war, George Bush won't face reality, and our troops are paying the price. Congress needs to force Bush to change course and bring the troops home.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Just Say No To Starrett City Sale

The fight over affordable housing in New York is coming to a head in Starrett City. Home to 14,000 people, a development group led by David Bistricer has proposed buying Starrett City for $1.3 billion. With a price tag that high, analysts agree that Bistricer intends to make his money back by converting Starrett City to luxury condos.

How will those 14,000 residents get forced out to make way for condos? Bistricer's Flatbush Gardens property in Brooklyn has 8,792 housing violations, including 1,800 violations in the last 18 months. And by opting out of the state's Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program, Bistricer will be able to raise rents - expect an immediate rent hike of $200 a month. As the combination of lower maintenance and higher rent drives people out, the space will be converted to luxury condos.

If we don't do something now, who knows where in the state our kids will be able to afford to live.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson has the power to reject the deal, and Senator Chuck Schumer has called on Jackson to do so:
"Experts across the board agree: it will be impossible for someone paying this price not to convert the units into high-price rentals or ritzy condominiums. Without question, a sale at this price will change the character of Starrett forever."
The state of New York holds the mortgage on Starrett City, so if Jackson doesn't do the right thing then Governor Spitzer can step in. From the AP:
New York's new Democratic governor, Eliot Spitzer, who campaigned on the promise that he would protect the working class, is another powerful tenant ally -- with leverage.

State officials hold Starrett's $234 million interest-free mortgage and can approve or reject any new owner.
The same article highlights another option to protect affordable housing:
And development of vacant land on the site -- another buyer draw -- also requires state and city approvals.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has pledged to enforce a 1998 court order barring Bistricer from converting rental buildings to condos or co-ops because of "financial improprieties." Indeed.

More to come.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

How Much to Own a Home?

The Drum Major Institute has put out their overview on the middle class squeeze. Here's the piece that jumped out at me:
An annual income of $84,957 was needed to qualify to purchase the median priced U.S. home, which cost $248,000 in the third quarter of 2006, according to the Center of Housing Policy. This put homeownership beyond the median annual salaries of such solidly middle-class occupations as registered nurses (median salary $58,640), elementary school teachers ($47,104), police officers ($45,780), and accountants ($47,604). (click here)
If we want America to be a nation of homeowners then that needs to change. What are your ideas for making housing more affordable?

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Friday, February 16, 2007

House Votes NO on Surge

Today the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution that says NO to George Bush's plan to increase American involvement in Iraq, 246 to 182. Now the real fight over the war's budget can start.

See who voted which way.

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House Votes Today on Iraq Resolution

The U.S. House is set to vote today on a resolution opposing George Bush's plan to escalate American involvement in Iraq. Today's vote to say NO to escalation is a self-described "first step" by House Democrats towards bringing the troops home.

The WFP agrees that sending more of our troops into harm's way is wrong, and that our U.S. Representatives need to take this first step towards bringing our troops home.

More details are emerging on the next steps that House Democrats have planned to bring the troops home (read this post for background).
The powerful speaker of the House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, said she will support money for US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan only if the Pentagon meets strict standards of rest, training and equipment for the soldiers.
. . .
"If we are going to support our troops, we should respect what is considered reasonable for them: their training, their equipment and their time at home," Pelosi said, according to the Post.

"What we're trying to say to the president is, you can't send people in who are not trained for urban warfare . . . who are not prepared to contend with an insurgency."

The all-volunteer US military is already stretched thin and unable to supply enough armored vehicles or body armor for all deployed soldiers, according to published reports.
. . .
Her remarks coincided with a similar statement Thursday by Representative John Murtha, a Pelosi ally and war critic.

Murtha, who heads a key budget subcommittee that can block funds to the military, said he wants the troops to spend at least one year at home between deployments, would end a program forcing soldiers to remain in the military after their contracts expired, and would make sure the soldiers are fully "combat ready" before heading into a war zone.
More on Murtha in this article:
Democrats say the votes are the first step toward forcing Bush to change course in a war that has killed more than 3,100 U.S. troops and lost favor with voters.

"This country needs a dramatic change of course in Iraq and it is the responsibility of this Congress to consummate that change," said Rep. John Murtha, who chairs the House panel that oversees military spending.

Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, is preparing legislation that would set strict conditions on combat deployments, including a year rest between combat tours; ultimately, the congressman says, his measure would make it impossible for Bush to maintain his planned deployment of a total of about 160,000 troops for months on end.
Finally, here's an online briefing by Rep. Murtha on what comes next:

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

More on the "Readiness Strategy"

Following up on yesterday's post on Iraq, Rep John Murtha discussed requiring that military units meet formal Army readiness standards of training and equipment before they're deployed to Iraq. Since Bush wants to deploy troops to Iraq without training and body armor, this would counter the proposed escalation.

In today's House debate, Bush's proposal to escalate American involvement in Iraq drew criticism from House Republicans. The most telling comments from the Republican side came from Florida Representative Ric Keller:

"Imagine your next-door neighbor refuses to mow his lawn and the weeds are all the way up to his waist, so you decide you're going to mow his lawn for him every single week . . . The neighbor never says thank you, he hates you and sometimes he takes out a gun and shoots you. Under these circumstances, do you keep mowing his lawn for ever?"

And the U.S. Senate is getting back into the act, announcing that they will start debate this Saturday on the anti-escalation resolution after the House votes this Friday.

Before Friday's House vote, make sure you tell your Representative to keep going until the troops come home.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Democrats' Iraq "Readiness Strategy"

With the House debate on Iraq in Day 2, new details of the Democratic strategy to end the war are becoming public. From
Top House Democrats, working in concert with anti-war groups, have decided against using congressional power to force a quick end to U.S. involvement in Iraq, and instead will pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options.

Led by Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., and supported by several well-funded anti-war groups, the coalition's goal is to limit or sharply reduce the number of U.S. troops available for the Iraq conflict, rather than to openly cut off funding for the war itself.
. . .
Murtha, the powerful chairman of the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, will seek to attach a provision to an upcoming $93 billion supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan. It would restrict the deployment of troops to Iraq unless they meet certain levels adequate manpower, equipment and training to succeed in combat. That's a standard Murtha believes few of the units Bush intends to use for the surge would be able to meet.

In addition, Murtha, acting with the backing of the House Democratic leadership, will seek to limit the time and number of deployments by soldiers, Marines and National Guard units to Iraq, making it tougher for Pentagon officials to find the troops to replace units that are scheduled to rotate out of the country. Additional funding restrictions are also being considered by Murtha, such as prohibiting the creation of U.S. military bases inside Iraq, dismantling the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and closing the American detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
It's worth reading the whole article.

We'll get to see this strategy in action here in New York, as Republican Reps Randy Kuhl and Vito Fossella decide how they're going to vote. New York Republicans Tom Reynolds, Peter King and John McHugh have decided to vote for expanding American involvement in Iraq, while James Walsh is going to abandon his Republican colleagues and vote to oppose the Bush expansion plan. From Newsday:
Two of New York's Republican lawmakers stayed on the fence Tuesday as Congress began debating a resolution opposing a troop increase in Iraq - a measure that could have more sway over their political futures than on U.S. fighting forces.
We'll let New York Rep Charlie Rangel have the last word:
"Today, you have to decide whether or not you want this war to continue, and how many people have to die . . . [the resolution opposing escalation] is not going to hurt our beloved warriors, it's going to help our country, it's going to help them."
Right on.

What do you think? Ending the war is the important thing - is this plan the way to do it?

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Westchester-Putnam Chapter: Raising Wages and Winning Elections

The Westchester-Putnam Working Families Chapter is having a good week.

Last night, the Yonkers City Council passed a living wage bill, with the wage indexed to inflation. The vote was originally set for next Tuesday, but the City Council President said, "what the hell, let's do it now", and they did. Now comes the hard part: the bill passed with 4 5 votes, but and it needs 5 votes if there's a veto. With elections coming up in November, expect whether the Mayor vetoes the bill and who votes to override that veto to become hot campaign issues.

But the Westchester-Putnam Chapter wasn't there to celebrate their victory, because yesterday was also Election Day. The chapter endorsed winning candidate Ken Jenkins. Ken won with 81% of the vote out of 2,232 votes cast, and more than 5% of Ken's votes came on the WFP line.

Keep up the good work!

Find the Working Families chapter nearest you.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

House Debate on Iraq: Day One

The U.S. House of Representatives is debating George Bush's plan to increase American involvement in Iraq.

Democrats plan to take a self-described "first step towards reducing American participation in the war" this week and pass a nonbinding resolution that says NO to escalation.

Working Families agrees that sending more of our troops into harm's way is wrong, but we're not satisfied with nonbinding resolutions. We want the troops brought home from Iraq.

There's reason to believe we're moving in that direction. Some of the highlights from today's debate include Rep. Jerry Nadler (via MyDD):
"That is why this resolution must be only the first step.

In the Supplemental Budget we will consider next month, we should exercise the only real power we have - the Congressional power of the purse. We will not cut off the funds, and leave our troops defenseless before the enemy, as the demagogues would imply, but we should limit the use of the funds we provide to protecting the troops while they are in Iraq and to withdrawing them on a timetable mandated in the law. We should provide funds to rebuild the army and to raise our readiness levels, for diplomatic conferences in case there is any possibility of negotiating an end to the Iraqi civil war, and for economic reconstruction assistance, but above all, we must use the power of the purse to mandate a timetable to withdraw our troops from Iraq.

We must use the power the people have entrusted to us. The best way to protect our troops is to withdraw them from the middle of a civil war they cannot win, and that is not our fight."
and Rep. Louise Slaughter (via Daily Kos):
"This resolution - and the debate this week - is only the beginning.
. . .
In March, for example, we will consider the President's supplemental funding request. Soon afterward, we will consider the regular authorization and appropriations bills for the war. All of these debates will be detailed and significant.

But before we go forward, we must first know where we stand. Our goal this week is to clearly establish whether Congress agrees or disagrees with the President's current approach to Iraq. If the answer is no, then we will have the basis for forcing a change in that approach.

It is my most sincere hope that the vote we take on Friday will be the first of many that will help produce a better end to the war in Iraq than the one our current course will produce."
Rep. Slaughter's whole speech is on YouTube:

If you agree that we need to bring the troops home, let your U.S. Representative know.

And if you have a favorite speech or line from today's debate, share it in the comments.

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House Debate on Iraq Starts

The House debate on Iraq has started - watch it on C-SPAN. What do you think needs to be done?

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Charlie Rangel Takes On Income Inequality

The gap between wealthy families and working families is growing. Real median income is falling, poverty is rising, and fewer workers have health insurance. The price of college is shooting up, leaving new college graduates saddled with loans for years. And while this is happening, Bush tax cuts go to benefit Wall Street stockbrokers who took home $24 billion in bonuses last December.

So credit Representative Rangel for taking testimony on wealth inequality in his new position as Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee to see what can be done to help working families make ends meet (via the Daily Politics). Raising the minimum wage will help, but that's only a first step. Rep. Rangel is looking at what to do next.

The AFL-CIO has weighed in, you can read more here, here, here, here, and here's the full list of Ways and Means Committee hearings.

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Global Warming and Monroe County

Remember the record warmth in December? Well now parts of upstate New York are getting hit with record snowfall - 12 feet and 2 inches so far, breaking the state record from Decmeber 2001 of 10 feet and 7 inches.

As global warming changes weather patterns and causes extreme weather - like hotter winters and heavier snowstorms - parts of New York are starting to take action.

Monroe County's the latest, with a plan to generate energy from the Mill Seat Landfill by converting methane gas that the landfill gives off into energy instead of releasing it into the air. Methane is an intense global warming gas, and the amount of methane gas from the landfill is equivalent to 54,000 cars. Converting that methane gas into energy will generate enough energy to power between 4,000 and 6,000 homes.

More on what needs to be done soon.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

NY-SD7 Post-Election Numbers With Maps

Here are maps of turnout percentage (pdf) and Craig Johnson's percentage of the vote (pdf) in the recent State Senate special election on Long Island.

Serious number junkies will want to look at the pdf versions, but the basic breakdown is blue means a high percentage on both maps, green is a medium percentage and yellow is a low percentage.

Turnout first:


And the percentage of the vote that Johnson won:


Here's the SD7 turnout percentage pdf and the SD7 Johnson percentage pdf.

I'm blown away by how many people voted in this race: 50% turnout anywhere in a special election is, frankly, amazing. When you throw in freezing temperatures, wow.

I also want to see the effect of canvassing on turnout and Johnson's vote, but that'll take longer to put together. Still, it looks like Port Washington really came out strong for Craig; our canvassing there got a great reception.

What stands out to you?

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Albee Square Mall Says NO To Wal-Mart

Today at 1pm the Albee Square Mall, located in downtown Brooklyn, and UFCW Local 1500 will announce a deal to respect the wishes of the community and exclude Wal-Mart from the development. Community organizations, members of the New York City Council, the Working Families Party, State Senator Eric Adams, faith-based leaders and other unions - who all played a part in striking this deal - will also be in attendance.

Here's UFCW Local 1500 President Bruce Both:
"On the issue of Wal-mart, the developer and their representatives acted in a professional and responsible manner hearing our concerns about the devastating effect a Wal-mart would have in Brooklyn. . . . They have made it clear to us that there are no plans now, nor will their be in the future, to bring Wal-Mart to the Albee Square Development."
UFCW Local 1500 Director of Special Projects Pat Purcell added:
"The developers representatives, keeping with their cooperative approach, have agreed to continue to meet with the coalition to discuss other issues such as affordable housing . . . all parties understand the win-win situation that come from accountable and responsible development and open communication between developers and the communities. The people in the community want and deserve a voice. We look forward to a continued open and positive dialogue"
The agreement will be followed by a protest against Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has declared that moving into Brooklyn is a priority for the company. Protesters include UFCW, the Change To Win Union, Jobs With Justice, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality the Working Families Party, the New York Central Labor Council, ACORN, New York City Council Members Leticia James, Erik Dilan and David Yassky, State Senator Eric Adams, the Teachers Union, the Laborers Union and the RWDSU.

This comes admist a growing number of missteps by Wal-Mart and increased problems for the company resulting from their anti-worker business practices, including a gender-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart that is moving forward. Those practices include poor pay, forcing workers on public assistance and punitive sick leave policies where a worker can be fired for taking care of a sick child.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

WFP Gets Credit

In the post-election glow from Craig Johnson's, make that Senator Craig Johnson's, big win yesterday, the accolades are starting to come in. We went to the mat for Craig, canvassing for hours every day in freezing weather, pulling our organizing staff out of the rest of the state and putting them up in a Long Island hotel for 2 weeks to work on the race, and sending all our staff into the field for GOTV - which is why the Times -Union called us "one of Johnson's biggest supporters" - so the kind words are gratifying.

Here's what Newsday had to say the day after:

DAN CANTOR (Working Families Party state chairman) The state party has made its mark as an influential political player, having given Johnson his spokesman in Alex Navarro, its ballot line and its support.
The Daily News's blog, 'Daily Politics,' agrees:

The Working Families Party made a clean break with Joe Bruno and the Senate Republicans after years of playing footsie in order to move specific legislative items forward (e.g. the minimum wage increase). As far as I can tell, the party more or less bailed out the Johnson operation, giving 75% of its staff over to the Johnson campaign for 3 weeks -- WFP supplied the campaign with 75 field canvassers, a hyperactive communications director, and support from party-linked unions, proving as always that there is no substitute for seasoned ground troops.
Aw, shucks. We were glad to do it!

Crains (no link) writes:

The Working Families Party, which broke with Senate Republicans, to endorse Johnson along with private-sector unions 32BJ, RWDSU, CWA and UFCW.
Over at Urban Elephants they're having a tough day, but they're facing facts:
Let me just say this. Check
Submitted by Scott Sala on Wed, 02/07/2007 - 10:07am.

Let me just say this. Check the WFP votes for Johnson. Their frontman ran Johnson's GOTV. I got no less than 10 emails from WFP. Yes, I subscribed long ago.

On the other end, I directly emailed O'Connell's campaign email address off an official email announcement to ask for anything UE could do to help - post GOTV times/dates, etc. I never got a response. I'm not a big street campaigner, but I know there are thousands of Republicans like me. We'll do it if - IF - persuaded. I wasn't in this race.
GOTV Makes and Breaks Campaigns
Submitted by Robert on Wed, 02/07/2007 - 10:45am.

Scott you make a great point. When it comes to get out the vote operations, dems leave no stone unturned, and especially neither does their radicalized alter-ego party the WFP. They will do whatever it takes to make sure their voters get to the polls. This is why they beat us almost every special election anywhere downstate.

Republicans, on the other hand, think it is enough to mail 20 pieces of mail and maybe send a few automated or live phone calls and that people will be motivated to vote. In zero degree weather, few people are naturally motivated to vote.

From Nassau GOP Watch:
Congrats to all the people on the ground that helped Criag win.

The Working Families Party really helped pull this off and the NYS blogs like the Albany Project lit a fire for this race.
And this from a diary at Daily Kos by Rusty5329:
Some may know that the Working Families Party (WFP) ran the vast majority of the field operations. WFP canvassers knocked on 45,000 doors over 28 days. The goal was to make sure that not a single voter in Nassau County would be able to forget about the election. Turnout, turnout, turnout. This whole race came down to turnout. Whoever could get the masses off their asses was going to win. So the Dem's called in the best canvassers in the state.
That's us.

The New York Times weighed in with an article over the weekend:
The Working Families Party, which helped run Mr. Johnson’s field operations, demonstrated skill and clout.
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Craig Johnson Wins in SD7

Craig Johnson won the special election for an open New York State Senate seat in the Seventh Senate District. Here are the unofficial election night results:


This was a big win, and it took a lot of work from a lot of people. To many people to mention, but let me thank the volunteers from across the state who filled the phonebanks and knocked on doors, the 129 people who donated $6,056 online to win, The Albany Project, Daily Gotham, Nassau GOP Watch, Communications Workers of America, SEIU Local 32BJ, UFCW Local 1500, RWDSU, UAW, Long Island Progressive Coalition, the WFP Nassau Chapter and - most of all - the 100s of canvassers who went out day after day in the, literally, freezing cold to talk to voters and pull them out to vote. Those canvassers were the engine we rode to victory, and they deserve everyone's thanks.

We'll let Craig close this post off with the prepared text of his victory speech:
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Today you made history.
  • For more than 30 years, every Senate Seat on Long Island has been held by Republicans
  • For 100 years, THIS seat has been held by Republicans
  • Today we bid those years farewell and begin a new century.

As Democrats, we are on our way to a new majority in the State Senate - a cause that was advanced tonight but that continues starting now.

As Long Islanders, we are heading towards property tax reform - that will help our seniors and overburdened middle class.

And as New Yorkers, we will help Eliot Spitzer finish the job of changing state government so it works for all of us, not just the well-connected few.


I mention Eliot Spitzer - and in the campaign we spoke about Joe Bruno. But this campaign wasn’t about either of them. It wasn’t even really about Craig Johnson and Maureen O'Connell.

It was about the men and women, the children and the seniors, the working families of Roslyn, New Hyde Park, Great Neck, Port Washington and Elmont and all of the 33 villages of the 7th Senate District.

This election was about the hopes and dreams of the people I am now proud to call my constituents.

I asked you to vote our hopes - our hopes for a Nassau County that's more affordable for our seniors and working and middle-class

I asked you to vote our dreams - our dreams that our children will be able to find good jobs and homes they can afford here on Long Island.

You have my word that I will go to Albany to help all of us here on Long Island realize those hopes and those dreams.


I need to say a word about my opponent. As a nurse and as an elected official, Maureen O'Connell has dedicated her life to helping others.

This was a hard campaign, but there are no hard feelings. Maureen has had a noble career and I’m happy that she will continue as a colleague in government.


This is not my victory. This is your victory. More than 1,000 people gave up days, weeks of their lives to dedicate to this cause. I wish I could personally thank each and every one of you tonight. And I will try to do that over the next few days.

But please let me take the next few minutes to single out a few people who have been so important to this cause.
  • My great friend and our great Governor, Eliot Steamr--- Spitzer
  • My county chair – Jay Jacobs
  • Our two great State Democratic Chairs – June O’Neill and Dave Pollak
  • My new leader – soon to be the Majority Leader – Malcolm Smith and my Old Leader, Judy Jacobs
  • Our two great U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton
  • Nassau’s Three Members of Congress: Gary Ackerman, Carolyn McCarthy and Steve Israel
  • Three of Nassau’s greatest elected officials – My County Executive Tom Suozzi, my Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli and my Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman
  • So many other great elected officials, friends, supporters . . .
  • Thank you to the unions that supported me –
    • the Nassau, Suffolk and New York City PBA
    • CWA
    • 32 BJ
    • the Painters
    • the Auto Workers
    • the Steamfitters
    • R.W.D.S.U.
    • and U.F.C.W. Local 1500
  • and the Pride Agenda
  • Thank you to my campaign staff – who worked so hard for so long especially Brian Stedge, Nathan Smith, Marc Lapidus, Doug Forand and Alex Navarro – and everyone else – I’m sorry I can’t mention everyone.
  • and to Dan Cantor the young men and women from the Working Families Party who knocked on 45,000 doors for our cause
  • Thank you to my fantastic support network – my father, my sister, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my sister-in-law,
  • And finally the two most important influences on my life
  • My Mom, Barbara Johnson, and My Wife, Liz.

And let's remember what we fought for. We are Democrats, but we don't just fight to elect our own for our own sake.

We fight for:
  • Taxes that are fair for our seniors and middle-class
  • Housing we can afford
  • Health care for every man, woman and child
  • including the pursuit of tomorrow's cures today
  • Schools that help every child reach their full potential
  • Stewardship of the environment for our children and grandchildren
  • The freedom to control our bodies
  • Marriage equality,
  • The right to organize
  • And a government that works for every one of us, not just the well-connected few,
And we will keep on fighting until we have fully realized the hopes and dreams of every New Yorker.

Thank you very much. God bless you. And God bless America.
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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It's Election Day in SD7

and it's going to be close!

If you live in the district, be sure to VOTE FOR CRAIG JOHNSON ON ROW E, the WFP ballot line

And tell your friends who live in the district or who have friends that live in the district to vote for Craig Johnson on Row E

You can still help us win. Head out to any of these staging areas in the district and we'll put you to work:
Mineola: Mineola LIRR station, take a campaign shuttle to the Portugese Heritage Society at 133 Willis Avenue.
Walking Directions: at the Mineola LIRR Station cross to the NY-bound side of the tracks. Walk on Station Plaza N (turns into 3rd Avenue as you pass the hospital) and turn right on 1st Street. Walk 2 blocks on 1st Street to Willis Avenue. Turn left on Willis Avenue and walk half a block to 133 Willis Avenue.

Great Neck: Great Neck LIRR station, take a campaign shuttle to 169 Middle Neck Road

Port Washington: Port Washington LIRR station, take a campaign shuttle to 691-3 Port Washington Boulevard
If you're not sure if you're in the district, it includes Albertson, Baxter Estates, Bellerose, Bellerose Terrace, Carle Place, East Hills, East Williston, Elmont, Floral Park, Flower Hill, Franklin Square, Garden City Park, Great Neck, Great Neck Estates, Great Neck Gardens, Great Neck Plaza, Greenvale, Harbor Hills, Herricks, Hicksville, Kensington, Kings Point, Lake Success, Manhasset, Manhasset Hills, Manorhaven, Mineola, Munsey Park, New Cassel, New Hyde Park, North Hills, North New Hyde Park, Old Westbury, Plandome, Plandome Heights, Plandome Manor, Port Washington, Port Washington North, Roslyn, Roslyn Estates, Roslyn Harbor, Roslyn Heights, Russell Gardens, Saddle Rock, Saddle Rock Estates, Sands Point, Searingtown, South Floral Park, Stewart Manor, Strathmore, Thomaston, University Gardens, Westbury, and Williston Park.

Here's a map of the district as well:


Follow the election results at

And afterwards, come on down to Leonard's of Great Neck for the Craig Johnson Election Night Victory Party. Festivities start when the polls close at 9 pm. Leonard's of Great Neck is at 55 Northern Blvd. in, you guessed it, Great Neck.

This is it!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Republican Official Refuses to Comply with County Attorney Order

For the past few days, Republican State Chair Joe Mondello has been saying publicly that he plans to engage in a campaign of voter intimidation on election day with blanket requests for identification. On Saturday, the NY Times reported Mondello said, "Our poll watchers and election inspectors will challenge people to show some kind of identification as to who they are."

The County Attorney's office issued instructions to the Board of Elections that they reach out to poll workers, and make sure that they were informed of the law and the special circumstances under which poll workers were to request identification:
"I am requesting that you immediately notify all special election poll workers and inspectors that they must not request identification of any person seeking to vote, unless there is an "ID" notification next to the bar code for the voter name on the registration poll ledger prepared by the Nassau County Board of Elections."
The Republican response to these instructions was to was to disobey the county Attorney's directive.

Below are two letters, the Nassau County Attorney's letter


and the Republican response


Update: A Nassau County Supreme Court Judge is ordering Republicans to comply with election law and not intimidate voters in tomorrow's special election, and has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday at 9:30 am. The order was sought by Nassau County because the Republican commissioner of the County Board of Elections refused to comply with a County Attorney directive to follow election regulations and prohibit voter intimidation. The Nassau County police will deliver notice of the court order to every polling place in the Seventh State Senate district when the polls open at 6am on Tuesday.

Here are the three pages of the Judge's order




2nd Update: Follow this story at the newly launched Nassau Voter Protection blog.

Tomorrow is Election Day! Don't let the Republicans steal the vote!

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O'Connell MO: Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Flyers endorsing Maureen O'Connell continue to get her in trouble.

Here's the newest O'Connell flyer:


The most glaring error is the claim that O'Connell's a State Senator. She's not, no ifs, ands or buts. The rest of the flyer also gets things wrong.

Take, for example, the claim that O'Connell designed the nation's first at-home care program for cancer patients. The truth is, the Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx actually designed the nation's first at-home care program for cancer patients - 30 years before O'Connell's program.

O'Connell also talks up her performance as Nassau County Clerk, even as she refuses to release - or even respond to - an audit critical of her performance in office.

And let's not forget the O'Connell campaign's Osama-Balboni flyer. Over the weekend the Daily News took O'Connell to task in a scathing editorial well worth a read that asks, "How desperate is the GOP to hold onto the Nassau County Senate seat that's up for grabs Tuesday?"

But here's the key:
"In a photo, [O'Connell] stands next to ex-Nassau Sen. Michael Balboni, now Gov. Spitzer's top security adviser, beneath the official seal of the state Office of Homeland Security. A voter might assume she runs with their support. But Balboni has not endorsed anyone, and Spitzer is backing Democrat Craig Johnson. Also, Homeland Security strongly objects to this politicization of its logo, calling it 'completely inappropriate' and 'arguably illegal.'"
No wonder O'Connell is keeping her campaigning to friendly audiences.

Daily Gotham, Community Alliance and The Albany Project have more on O'Connell's ever-changing positions on the issues.

Tomorrow is Election Day!

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Absentee Ballots Give Johnson an Edge

Absentee voting numbers from the Nassau County Board of Elections give Craig Johnson (D-WFP) the edge over his opponent Maureen O'Connell (R-I-C).

These numbers go through Saturday, and are broken down by party registration. Tomorrow is Election Day in the Seventh State Senate district special election on Long Island.
Democratic Party: 699
Republican Party: 646
"Blanks": 177
Independence Party: 18
Conservative Party: 15
Liberal Party: 3
Right to Life Party: 1
The word from the Johnson campaign is that they're "cautiously optimistic" but everyone needs to keep working hard.

This is a fraction of the people who will vote in the election, so even though it's encouraging, it also show how close the race will be. Your involvement will make a difference in who wins, so find a way to help!

Tomorrow is Election Day!

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

NY-SD7: Eliot Spitzer on the campaign trail

Eliot Spitzer hit the campaign trail earlier today with Craig Johnson as part of the "Moving New York Forward – 33 Stops in 33 Hours" barnstorming tour of the Seventh Senate District. Craig is visiting each of the 33 villages in SD7 in the 33 hours leading up to the Feb 6 special election.

Here are some pictures from the campaign trail:



Tomorrow at 12:45 pm, U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will join Craig Johnson for a Get Out The Vote rally at the American Legion Hall, 60 Hill Avenue, in Elmont. Monday is the last day of campaigning before the voting starts in the special election for an open New York State Senate seat.

Come out and meet Craig and help the campaign Get Out The Vote!

Can't make it out? Help with a donation.

Here's Craig's Monday schedule and the last 16 stops on the "Moving New York Forward" tour:

1. 6:10-8:25am - Train Station, Port Washington

2. 8:45am - Haven Diner, Port Washington

3. 9:05am - Starbucks, Port Washington

4. 9:25am - Baked to Perfection, Port Washington

5. 9:45am - Northwinds Coffee & Tea Co., Port Washington

*** 6. 12:45 pm - Get-Out-the-Vote Rally with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton - American Legion Hall, 60 Hill Avenue, Elmont, NY. ***

7. 2pm - Stop 20 Diner - Elmont, NY

8. 3:30pm - North Shore Farms, Port Washington, NY

9. 4:05pm - Park Delicatessen, Port Washington, NY

10. 4:45pm -- Door-Knocking, Roslyn, NY

11. 6:00pm - Train Station, Great Neck

12. 7:30 pm - Gino's Pizza, Great Neck, NY

13. 8:15 pm -- Seven Seas Diner, Great Neck, NY

14. 9pm - Starbucks, Manhasset, NY

15. 9:30pm - CVS drugstore, Roslyn Heights, NY

16. 10pm -- Sullivan's Quay, Port Washington, NY

2 days until Election Day!

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Unions Go To Bat For Craig Johnson

Here's a copy of the mailer about Craig Johnson (D-WFP) and the Feb 6 special election for an open New York State Senate seat being sent to members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ, United Auto Workers (UAW), United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1500, and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Johnson_RowEmailer_back Johnson_RowEmailer_front

It's just one of the ways these unions and the Working Families Party are campaigning to Get Out The Vote and elect Craig Johnson on February 6.

2 days until Election Day!

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Great Neck News Endorses Craig Johnson for State Senate

The Great Neck News, a local weekly paper, has issued a powerful endorsement of Craig Johnson (D-WFP), calling him "Impressive - in his command of the facts, his stand on issues, and his character." The endorsement also sums up Maureen O'Connell's view of the public she is campaigning to represent, saying "she has barely set foot in Great Neck during the entire campaign."

Craig Johnson has now gotten nearly every editorial endorsement in the race, including Newsday, the Great Neck News (below), the Franklin Square-Elmont Herald, the New York Daily News and the New York Times.

Here's the full endorsement of Craig Johnson by the Great Neck News:

Vote Feb. 6 in Special Election

Readers of this page are aware that we do not take kindly when candidates refuse to come before "the public" to answer questions at a debate. It is a great test of character, how the candidates do handling tough, even partisan questions.

Republican candidate Maureen O'Connell didn't just duck out of the debate, she dissed the Leagues of Women Voters (Great Neck, Manhasset and Port Washington), by suggesting that she better needed to spend her time meeting the "public" instead of participating in the debate.

That got in my craw because I am a huge fan of the League of Women Voters. What an incredible slap at the women and men who work so hard day in and day out to preserve active participation in voting, and who happen also to be scrupulous about being nonpartisan.

In fact, partisanship is a big issue in this campaign.

Republican Michael Balboni, who had so effectively served as State Senator, was famously bipartisan, working in close partnership with Democratic Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, to get things done for the community, and the community loved him for it. Senator Balboni spent a lot of time in Great Neck and working on behalf of Great Neck schools, parks, libraries, the Great Neck Art Center.

But if Maureen O'Connell was anointed by the Republicans to fill his shoes, she is no Balboni. Indeed, she has barely set foot in Great Neck during the entire campaign, with the exception of a brief stop at the Great Neck Senior Center at the Great Neck Arts Center, carefully avoiding any kind of interaction with the press (if you can believe that: a politician avoiding the press).

During her political career in the New York State Assembly and now, during this campaign, she has never deviated from the Republican line, and there is no reason to expect she will going forward.

What she told us when we finally caught up with her where she was clearly most comfortable, at the American Foreign Legion in East Williston, surrounded by about 100 men representing various police and fire unions provided curious insight into who she was. Each speaker seemed to make some connection between September 11, and how Ms. O'Connell would somehow protect their interests. When I asked her whether, in the interests of New York State's security, she would support a State Senate resolution to ask Governor Spitzer to keep our National Guard here in New York rather than in Iraq, she said, "I would ask [Balboni] for his recommendation."

In contrast, Democratic candidate Craig Johnson can claim to be independent, based on his record as Nassau County Legislator.

In numerous appearances in Great Neck, Mr. Johnson (who claims he is a "Great Necker by marriage" since his wife, Elizabeth Kase Johnson, was raised here) has stood unequivocally in support of funding stem cell research and development, women's reproductive rights, access to health care and protection of the environment.

He can also justifiably claim to being a "fiscal conservative," steadfastly standing behind the votes he made in the County Legislature to bring back Nassau County to fiscal health from near-junk rating. More impressive, he stops himself at each instance where he might be making fiscal promises that he is not sure he can keep, when it is so much easier for a candidate to promise the world.

Like Ms. O'Connell is doing, in pledging to bring back a few hundred dollars more in STAR rebates. What she doesn't mention is that for this to actually happen, she would have to get the rest of New York State outside of Long Island to go along with her idea of "redistribution" of state revenue. Fat chance.

Ms. O'Connell's disingenuousness is alarming, and not just her campaign's flat statement that they can't reveal where the candidate will be at any given time. Much has been made about an audit of her County Clerk's office by Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman that is being kept secret because it may be critical of her management abilities.

Ms. O'Connell has lashed back that Mr. Weitzman, a former mayor of Great Neck Estates, is being political. And yet, Mr. Weitzman, a Democrat who is in contention to become New York State Comptroller, has refused to comment on the report or release it.

When we asked her campaign why she does not simply release the report, we were told that the deputy clerk who Ms. O'Connell assigned to work with the Comptroller's office "is out on maternity leave. She is scheduled to be back on Feb. 5. At that time, Maureen and her will sit down and review the proposal and then request a meeting with Mr. Weitzman." That sounds like stone-walling, which I don't think is an admirable trait in an elected representative.

On the other hand, Craig Johnson has been impressive – in his command of the facts, his stand on issues, and his character. He is independent when he needs to be. He will be our champion, even if it means bucking up against Governor Spitzer and Democrats, should that be necessary. He has proven as much in the Nassau County Legislature. And he is clearly in tune and in step with the values that Great Neckers have demonstrated are important, time and again.

As a Nassau County legislator, moreover, he brings the experience and knowledge-base about our local problems that he could work to rectify at the state level. He understands the problems of cost-of-living, of school funding formulas, of transportation, of the impact of Medicaid, health care and prescription drug costs that we face.

We can look to him to be an advocate for government reform, hopefully breaking the Republican stranglehold that has prevented New York State from moving forward, to back development of alternative energy technology and biotech that will promote jobs and the state's economy; promote universal health care and reductions in prescription drug costs. He has clear proposals that could help alleviate some of the property tax burden on Nassau County, including working to get more state aid for school districts and attacking Medicaid fraud and waste.

O'Connell has tried to play catch up with some of these issues, but generally, her proposals are empty rhetoric, unsupported by her record in the State Assembly.

Mr. Johnson's platform is about moving forward, and positioning New York State to compete in the future in alternative energy, stem cell research, jobs and economic development. We like his proposals for biotech development, which could bring thousands of jobs to our area, for using the State's buying power to encourage manufacture of hybrid vehicles, as well as lower prescription drug costs.

At one rally he shouted out, "Do you want to move forward?" I don't know about you, but I like someone who is about moving forward, rather than stonewalling.

Craig Johnson has received endorsements from the New York Times, Newsday and now this newspaper. We see him as being in line with the values of Great Neck, and likely to be responsive to this community. Many other individuals and organizations we admire share this view.

But though Mr. Johnson's list of groups and supporters who back him may well outnumber his opponent's, and it may well be that a majority of voters in the district back his election, still, none of that will matter because it will all come down to who comes out to vote in the Special Election, on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

In this election, every vote does count. Will it be yours?

-- Karen Rubin, Editor
2 days until Election Day!

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Moving New York Forward – 33 Stops in 33 Hours

Craig Johnson (D-WFP) is setting a blistering campaign pace leading up to Election Day on Feb 6 as he campaigns for an open State Senate seat in New York's Seventh District on Long Island.

Starting this morning, Craig launched the "Moving New York Forward – 33 Stops in 33 Hours" tour. He's campaigning in every one of the 33 villages in the Seventh District from this morning until the election starts, leaving no stone unturned to Get Out the Vote. The tour will take Craig to morning bagel stops, religious services, Super Bowl parties, and popular lunch hour spots.

Governor Eliot Spitzer and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer will campaign with Craig Johnson at different stops during the day.

Come out and meet Craig and help the campaign Get Out The Vote!

Can't make it out? Help with a donation.

Sunday Schedule:

1. 7am - Let There Be Bagels, Port Washington

2. 8:15am – Best Bagel, Great Neck

3. 9:30am – Constituent Meeting, Great Neck

4. 11am – First Baptist Church, Westbury

5. 12 noon – Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center – East Hills

6. 12:50pm - St. Brigids Church – Westbury

7. 1:45pm – Supermarket -- Manhasset

8. 2:30pm -- House Party – Great Neck

*** 9. 3:05pm - Waldbaum's – 40 Great Neck Road, Great Neck, NY (Campaigning with Sen. Charles E. Schumer) ***

10. 3:40pm – Cosi – Great Neck

11. 4:15pm – House Party – Great Neck, NY

12. 5:15pm – Super Bowl Party – Roslyn Estates, NY

13. 5:50pm – Super Bowl Party – Roslyn Estates, NY

14. 6:40pm Super Bowl Party – Sands Point, NY

*** 15. 7:30pm – Super Bowl Party – Great Neck, NY – with Gov. Eliot Spitzer ***

16. 8:30pm – Super Bowl Party – Kings Point, NY

17. 9:45 pm -- Finn McCool's bar/restaurant – Port Washington, NY

2 days until Election Day!

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Republicans Threaten Dirty Tricks in SD7

Three days from election day, Maureen O'Connell's campaign is falling apart as Craig Johnson (D-WFP) racks up endorsements and public support in their Long Island race for an open New York State Senate seat.

The Republican response? Threaten dirty tricks. Joe Mondello, the Republican Party chairman for New York State and Nassau County, is already threatening to harass voters going to the polls, claiming that he's scared of "an onslaught of people from New York City being bused here and trying to vote."

Mondello knows that no one is being bused to Long Island to vote; he's looking for an excuse, however flimsy, to justify illegally harassing voters at the polls. Since O'Connell hasn't campaigned in many parts of the district, Republicans can safely assume that anyone turning out to vote in the parts of the district that they've abandoned is voting for Craig.

The Johnson campaign has a legal team in place to deal with Republican voter harassment and is requesting federal election monitors to prevent voter intimidation. But they can't be everywhere at once.

That's why we need you. The WFP canvass has grown to 100 people for the final weekend, and it'll grow again on election day. Supportive unions and local activists are getting involved. But the campaign needs literally 100s of people to turn out for it's Get Out The Vote plan.

There's still time for you to get involved. Sign up today!

You'll be glad you did, because you'll know that you helped win a key State Senate seat in the dead of winter (or what passes for winter these days).

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Friday, February 02, 2007

NYC Police Benevolent Association endorses Craig Johnson for State Senate

The NYC Police Benevolent Association joined their brothers and sisters in Nassau County and endorsed Craig Johnson for State Senate. Craig is running for an open New York State Senate seat in a Feb 6 special election.

The NYC PBA has more than 2,000 members living in the Seventh district.

In endorsing Craig, the NYC PBA cited his tough-on-crime record and his long-standing support of local law enforcement agencies. From PBA President Patrick Lynch:
"Craig Johnson has spent his entire public life making sure that our police departments have all the tools and support that they need to make sure that our streets are safe and that our families are protected . . . He is the best candidate to continue the work of Mike Balboni."
Craig had this to say:
"We need to support our men and women in blue as they fulfill their charge in making our communities and our streets safe places for our families . . . I am proud to accept the endorsement of the New York City PBA and, as your state senator, pledge to do everything in my power to make Nassau County a safer place for our families."
Here are some pictures from the event:



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Franklin Square-Elmont Herald, New York Daily News Endorse Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson has picked up two more endorsements in his State Senate campaign - one from the Franklin Square-Elmont Herald, which is the first local weekly paper to make an endorsement in the SD7 special election, and one from the New York Daily News.

The Daily News urged voters to "cast their ballots for Democrat Craig Johnson, who outshines his opponent on the issues and is committed to reforming Albany." In contrast, the Daily News says Craig's opponent Maureen O'Connell "refuses to release a draft audit that, one can only conclude, criticizes how she has run the clerk's office."

Read the whole Daily News endorsement online or read more about the O'Connell audit scandal here, here and here.

The Franklin Square-Elmont Herald editorial isn't online, but here's their endorsement:
Johnson for 7th Senate District

The special election for the 7th Senate District, which includes Franklin Square and Elmont, will determine whether the Republicans maintain their five-seat state Senate majority.

The implications of the race, however, extend beyond the state capitol. Democrats hold a 10-9 edge in the county Legislature. If the Democratic candidate for the Senate, Craig Johnson, wins on Tuesday, there will be a special election to fill his seat in the 11th Legislative District. Power in the county Legislature would hang in the balance.

Residents of Franklin Square and Elmont may not be well acquainted with Johnson, who has served in the county Legislature since 2000. The 11th District lies within the Town of North Hempstead, and prior to 2000, when Johnson won a special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of his mother, Barbara, he had never run for office.

In seven years, Johnson's star has risen in the county Democratic Party. In fact, while he was one of five potential candidates screened by a Democratic committee, party sources say that Johnson was the primary choice from the moment the vacancy was created in late December, when then Gov.-Elect Eliot Spitzer named newly re-elected state Sen. Mike Balboni as his choice to be the state's deputy secretary for public safety and homeland security.

It's easy to see why. Johnson is an informed legislator who tackles every task laid before him with vigor, as evidenced by his tireless campaigning in the three weeks since he was designated to run. As a county legislator, he serves as vice chairman of the Legislative Budget Review Committee, and also sits on the Economic & Community Development and Labor; Public Safety; Government Services & Operations; and Towns, Villages, Cities committees. He became the youngest legislator ever named chairman of the county Finances Committee in 2004, overseeing Nassau County's $2.2 billion budget.

Johnson, who is in lockstep with Spitzer's reform agenda, which includes plans for a $6 billion property tax cut over three years, also supports federal and state legislation to reduce prescription drug prices by requiring the government to negotiate for lower prices for drugs for the Medicare program.

A self-described advocate of a woman's right to choose, Johnson was endorsed by the Planned Parenthood of Nassau County Action Fund, Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York and NARAL Pro-Choice New York, and has also garnered the support of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights advocacy group.

His opponent, Maureen O'Connell, refused to speak to the Herald regarding her stand on abortion, calling the election "not about social issues, but about property taxes and its crushing burden on Long Islanders." O'Connell, the county clerk and a former state assemblywoman, is an intelligent woman, a Registered Nurse with a law degree. She may think her social politics in this election are immaterial, but taking a stance on an issue is one measure of a candidate's character.

We respect O'Connell's view on abortion - whatever it is. And we take serious issue with Johnson's condescending campaign advertisements criticizing O’Connell’s moral positions, as if few share them. His ads report that she has the full support of pro-life organizations, as though that’s something to be ashamed of. Johnson needs to understand that a significant number of residents of the 7th S.D. hold right-to-life beliefs, and at the very least deserve a representative who respects his constituents and their beliefs.

That being said, Johnson has earned a reputation as someone who works well with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and he appears to be champing at the bit to get to Albany. The Herald enthusiastically endorses Johnson, and looks forward to a special election in the county Legislature to determine where the power, on a more local level, will lie.
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