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Fresh choices in three Brooklyn races

The Brooklyn Paper
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It has been wisely said that only a foolish man makes the same decisions over and over again, yet expects different results. But that is what voters do all too often: pick the same tired leaders, send them back to Albany or to Washington for decades, then somehow expect these incumbents to bring about change.

What we get instead, of course, is the same old politics.

But on Primary Day, Tuesday, Sept. 9, voters in several Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods will have a rare opportunity to alter that sad political calculus by sending a newcomer to the statehouse and another to the House of Representatives (selection in these Democratic primaries is tantamount to election); and in Bay Ridge (where there will be a Republican opponent in November), Democrats will be asked to choose their candidate to replace the disgraced GOP Rep. Vito Fossella, who is not seeking reelection.

Here are our preferences:

Powell for Congress

Rep. Ed Towns has been in office since 1982. Yet in those 26 years, he has achieved so little that it is shocking that he has only rarely faced a Democratic challenger.

Towns claims to have a rare skill at netting pork-barrel appropriations for his district (which stretches from northern Brooklyn Heights through Fort Greene and central Brooklyn on to East New York). But that talent is hardly the best measure of congressional talent. And even if it were, Towns is certainly no better than most of the other 434 House members at snaring key allocations.

Indeed, Towns has been in the House longer than more than 400 congressmen — yet he does not even chair a committee! In an interview with The Brooklyn Paper’s editorial board, he touted his leadership of a government oversight subcommittee — one that reviews every single government purchase, he said. When questioned, he conceded that he has not even held hearings to investigate the cronyism and overpayments that have been rampant during the Bush Administration.

Two years ago, when this newspaper reluctantly endorsed Towns for reelection, we wrote that “if the Democrats take back the House, Towns’s seniority will give him added clout.” The Democrats did take back the House, yet Towns’s seniority has meant little to his Brooklyn constituents. Indeed, when asked to name his major achievements, he ticked off the same two bills that he mentioned at his endorsement interview two years ago!

And when the discussion turned to foreign policy, Towns was completely baffled by even simple questions about the Russian invasion of Georgia and the planned deployment of U.S. missiles in Poland — both stories that had been widely covered in the media that very week. Perhaps it’s not vital for every member of Congress to have a deep understanding of the entire world, but Towns was so clueless that we were left in shock.

• • •

Newcomer Kevin Powell, a rap music writer, inspirational lecturer and community organizer, has the kind of fire in the belly to shake up the doldrums that Towns tolerates. In his interview with The Brooklyn Paper’s editorial board, he put forth a vision of the kind of hard-working, easily accessible, knowledgeable and committed congressman he hopes to be.

It was hard not to catch Powell’s enthusiasm for changing inside-the-Beltway business as usual.

While Powell’s history of violence — including an incident as recently as four years ago — is alarming, a reckless past (as long as it stays in the past and as long as the candidate is genuinely open about his shortcomings) need not disqualify an otherwise meritorious candidate from elected office, particularly when he’s running against an invisible man.

As such, we endorse Kevin Powell for Congress in his uphill challenge to the status quo in the 10th congressional district.

McMahon for Congress

In Bay Ridge, Democratic voters have two worthy candidates for the congressional seat being vacated by scandal-tarred Rep. Vito Fossella.

But the choice between frequent candidate Steve Harrison and Councilman Mike McMahon is clear: McMahon is far more experienced and ready to serve constituents of the Bay Ridge-Staten Island district on Day 1.

We certainly admired Harrison’s 2006 run against Fossella. With a bare-bones budget and no support from the national Democratic party, Harrison got 43 percent of the vote — the most that anyone had ever gotten against the one-time GOP powerhouse.

And we have no doubt that Harrison would be a strong fighter for the oft-forgotten Bay Ridge portion of the district, which he served for many years as chairman of Community Board 10.

But McMahon has been impressive as a member of the City Council, showing true leadership on issues like solid waste, ferry service, and ensuring that there is always a nurse on duty in every school.

That’s why we strongly endorse Mike McMahon for the 13th congressional district.

Squadron for Senate

Voters in Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Williamsburg and Greenpoint have been represented for 30 years by state Sen. Marty Connor, an affable, behind-the-scenes power broker who has quite simply not been the same since he was deposed as Senate Minority Leader (by future Gov. David Paterson, no less!) in 2002.

Connor is a tired figure who conceded to our editorial board that he would not even be running for re-election if he didn’t think that Democrats had a chance to retake the Senate. He claims that he would be reenergized if his party retakes power — maybe yes, maybe no — but what if the Democrats don’t? Then we’d be certain to get another two years of worn-out representation.

And on one of the most significant issues in the district — the subversion of Brooklyn Bridge Park from an urban oasis with the potential to rival Central and Prospect parks, to an economic development site driven by condominium and commercial development — Connor let us all down. It was Connor’s bill in 2005 that created the financing scheme that sets aside park residents’ payments in lieu of property taxes as the maintenance budget of the park, a faulty plan likely to give residents of the supposedly public park more control over what goes on there. It also allows commercial development in the park to take place without public scrutiny.

Connor’s opponent, Daniel Squadron, is an ambitious politician like his patron, Sen. Charles Schumer. But unlike Connor, who has been content to sit on a minority bench in the Senate for so many years, blaming his party’s lack of control for his own lack of performance, Squadron is a man on the move who will fight hard and work diligently, if only to make himself electable to Congress someday. Political ambition is hardly a sin.

We do have some reservations about Squadron. He’s barely worked outside the political world and, in fact, he doesn’t need to work at all, thanks to a trust-fund established by his late father, the ultimate insider legal eagle, Howard Squadron. That trust-fund, together with the Schumer machine, is responsible for this contest; voters in the district might be excused if they were unaware that there was even a contest — Squadron’s slick, sometimes negative direct mail pieces came almost daily; responses by Connor’s underfunded campaign were too little, too late.

• • •

We don’t agree with every one of Squadron’s proposals, but we’re impressed with the fact that he has energized political discourse in the district. On virtually every topic in which voters are interested — transportation, reforming Albany, neighborhood character and affordability, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the environment and schools — Squadron has put forth positions that remind voters of how little energy Connor has brought to bear on these intractable problems.

For these reasons, we endorse Daniel Squadron for the 25th state Senate district.

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Reader Feedback

Javier from East NY says:
Sure, you guys did a great job of bashing incumbent Ed Towns. But your 2 paragraphs on Powell? That's an endorsement? Are you kidding me? The guy doesn't even have a college degree. Why? Because he beat the crap out of some woman. Yes, this is the man that you endorse for congress. Not only that, but your interview of Towns was terrible. You didn't ask any hard-hitting questions AT ALL. The fact that you are willing to throw your entire publication's endorsement behind a guy that hasn't even run for school board or even been ALLOWED to take a class on government is, as far as journalism goes, despicable. No, Towns does not chair a full committee, BECAUSE THE CHAIRMEN OF THE TWO COMMITTEES HE SITS ON HAVE EVEN MORE SENIORITY THAN HE DOES! One of them (John Dingell) is, by far, the most senior member of congress. Towns' senior seat on the most powerful committee in government (energy & commerce) is a seat most members would kill for. As a constituent in the 10th district, the thought of Powell representing me scares me to death. This guy is an egotistical, violent moron. God help us if this is the kind of person who should be elected to the US house of reps--at least run for school board first.
Sept. 3, 2008, 1:22 pm
Jessica from Williamsburg says:
I am shocked, and deeply saddened, that the Brooklyn Paper would endorse Powell. I do not want someone with such a horribly violent past representing me in Congress. For god sakes people, he BIT another reporter four years ago.

This and the piss poor journalism they have conducted in the race has led me and many of friends to boycott the paper. Please let me know when your reporters and Editorial board start to take their jobs seriously.

Shame on you.
Sept. 3, 2008, 1:41 pm
Christina from Bed-Stuy says:
Why so much negativity towards Kevin Powell? Why shouldn't we give him a chance if he has oplenly spoken about his past and is willing to step up as a leader for a district who has been neglected by a senior politician who time after time shown his community that he has no interest in us? I'm going to give Powell a chance. Do you guys work for Ed Towns by the way? Your negativity is repulsive. How about you write why Towns SHOULD be elected rather than why Powell should not.
Sept. 3, 2008, 1:47 pm
Jessica from Williamsburg says:
I do not work for Ed Towns, nor do I think he is a great member of Congress. My reasons for supporting Towns is purely because Powell would be a huge mistake for our community. I am hoping we find someone better in 2010.

The reason for the negativity is that I do not want a member of Congress representing me that has repeatedly assaulted both men and women, a self declared recovering "misogynist" and is severely narcissistic.

Did you actually listen the the softball questions that the BP lobbed at Powell? The man called a sitting Congressman a racist, and the staff just laughed. Did they grill him on biting a reporter? Did they ask him what his "public therapy" consists of (where he claimed his communications with voters makes him a less violent person)? Did they call him out on his campaign's many mistakes? Did they actually try to get him to explain how he plans to accomplish his few differences with the Congressman?

Of course not, that would be credible journalism.
Sept. 3, 2008, 1:59 pm
Jessica from Williamsburg says:
In addition, the article written along with the Powell interview podcast used to mention the fact that Powell called Congressman Towns a racist....For some strange reason the original article was edited and it no longer appears.

I'm calling and emailing the Brooklyn Paper advertisers right now and making sure to tell them I won't use their product or service until they pull their advertising. I urge everyone who is dismayed at the BP's lack of journalistic integrity to do the same.
Sept. 3, 2008, 2:19 pm
Issac from Williamsburg says:
Powell is a horrible choice for Brooklyn. He is offensive and too violent, and way, way too inexperienced. He lost my vote when he promised us he'd bring us bacon. Just pathetic. Towns has been delivering for a long time, and G-d willing, he'll continue to do so. Look what he did for minorities recently: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/ny10_towns/250.html

What has Powell done? Who did he offend or attack today?
Sept. 3, 2008, 4:28 pm
LadyJane from Bed-Stuy says:
Wow, BP, you guys really have your head in the sand. Powell for Congress? Get real!!! The guy is a psycho who doesn't even have any significant support. He is a violent soul who would be a horrible, horrible representative for the 10th. I mean, what has the dude even done for anyone? Yeah, he went to Nawlins to help after Katrina, and he's put together some male self-help-therapy groups or whatever? But, has he ever reached out to Towns to offer to assist with any of Towns's initiatives? And it would have been nice to perhaps have even a paragraph about precisely what policy plans of Powell's you guys like, as opposed to just a few paras on how much you hate Towns.
Sept. 3, 2008, 4:36 pm
LadyJane from Bed-Stuy says:
BTW, Jessica, who are some of the advertisers? Names please, thx.
Sept. 3, 2008, 4:37 pm
Knickerbocker from Ft Greene says:
Just want to join the chorus of Nays to the Brooklyn Papers endorsement of a violent thug like Kevin Powell.

In fact, the only criteria BP seems to have for any of these endorsements is whether the candidate appears 'energetic'. Making an anti-incumbent philosophy your main consideration is completely irresponsible. Determining the candidates qualifications and positions is your obligation as media outlet, and BP has failed miserably in that respect.

Ed Townes and Marty Conner aren't going to light up the airways with their antics, but if that is all BP looks for in a candidate, I will be look elsewhere for my local news.

BP should, like John McCain, withdraw their nomination and properly vet their suggested candidates before backing these losers.
Sept. 3, 2008, 5:47 pm
Javier from East NY says:
Do I work for Ed Towns? No. Am I an informed voter who wants the best option for the community in which I live? Absolutely. Ed Towns may not be the be-all end-all candidate--I never professed that he was--but how can any informed, rational citizen vote for Powell? Just because a candidate is younger and, perhaps, more charismatic than the other is no reason to vote for him. Powell needs to understand that Congress is not a big book-signing, and the BP needs to start becoming less of a tabloid before I start to get my news from them again.
Sept. 3, 2008, 7:15 pm
Bebe from East LI says:
I dont think its fair for people to attack his character because of one human flaw that he has openly said he is aware of. He has his flaws and has been dealing with them for some time now. Most importantly he has taken the negative experiences in his life and made them positive by acting as a mentor for young men and women.
Sept. 4, 2008, 1:34 am
Reena from Brooklyn says:
Its ridiculous for readers who claim to be "long time" or previously "loyal" readers of this publication to threathen the writers with boycotts. What happened to free speech and healthy debate? If you enjoyed reading the paper before and though the writers were somewhat informed then maybe you should give Kevin Powell a chance a not base your desicions on one incident.
Clinton cheated but he was still a good president, in my opinion. Bush did coke and he was a horrible pres, in my opinion. Its about whos best qualified its not a popularity contest.
Sept. 4, 2008, 1:39 am
LadyJane from Bed-Stuy says:
LOL! Way to go BP!!! You have endorsed someone who is violating FEC regulations, who has been notified by the FEC to cease and desist, and who is - according to the Federal Election Commission - NOT EVEN A CANDIDATE!!!

Clearly R8NY is better at vetting folks than you guys:

http://www.r8ny.com/blog/slothman8888/exclusive_powell_violating_the_fec.html

But if you won't take it from me or from R8NY, maybe the FEC can show you how foolish your publication looks now:

http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?_28039812601 0

God, do you guys have any editorial board or integrity in journalism? Letting your hatred for Towns boil over so much that you actually endorsed someone who has been lying to the public by making himself out to be a legitimate candidate for congress? And taking their money under FALSE pretenses?!?

Pathetic, BP, pathetic.
Sept. 4, 2008, 4:32 am
Gersh Kuntzman (Brooklyn Paper) from Editor says:
Our news story about the Powell campaign explains this in full. Read it here:

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/31/35/31_35_bm_powell_towns.html

Thanks for the spirited debate.

GERSH KUNTZMAN
Editor
Sept. 4, 2008, 11:56 am
LadyJane from Bed-Stuy says:
Hey Gersh -

Wait, I saw this story last night. You changed the story and added the quotes from Erica Perkins. Don't you think it's worth it to point out that originally, the campaign was avoiding your reporters questions?

Certainly, if this was a known oversight and problem, they would have been able to respond right away when the issue was uncovered, no?

But, they had the entire night to think up excuses, and you just quietly added them in without any "UPDATE: originally the Powell campaign did not respond, but the following day Erica Perkins responded, blah, blah, blah..."?

Jeez, lousy endorsement as well as limited sense of integrity in reporting the facts. Fact is, the Powell campaign probably didn't even know what happened! That is why they didn't have a response for a full day. Jeez ...
Sept. 4, 2008, 5:49 pm
J.D. from Clinton Hill says:
No wonder Towns refused to attend a "debate" at Gersh's rag. Their own story reports Powell making a reckless, unsubstantiated charge of a shady and possibly illegal deal offered by Towns (it's against the law to offer a candidate an inducement, including another office, in exchange for dropping out of a race).

But does Gersh follow up? Nope. He looks the other way and endorses a man who has just lied to his face. And not surprisingly, it soon turns out the same politicians has deceived the public, including the paper's readers, by not disclosing his fundraising totals and sources.

Great work, Gersh! Your Pulitzer is waiting.
Sept. 5, 2008, 12:21 pm
William Harris from Boerum Hill says:
Also, you should have noted that Connor declined your offer to buy a $5,000 advertising package when seated to be interviewed by you. Squadron accepted and got your endorsement.
Everybody knows this, what do you say?

Bill Harris, Boerum Hill
Sept. 5, 2008, 8 pm
Issac from Williamsburg says:
Kevin Powell's campaign just published a final plea for support in advance of the election tomorrow.

Does Powell explain whether he filed his FEC paperwork? No. Does Powell explain why he came in so woefully below his fundraising targets? No. Does Powell explain why he didn't publish his 50-page "Plan" earlier than Friday so the voters could read it? No.

But, he did make one comment about the "Plan" that tells alot about what he thinks of himself:

"And please also see my full vision as a Congressman, which I call The Plan: A New Way for the 21st Century. My team and I feel it is the most PROGRESSIVE agenda ever set forth by a Congressional candidate."

http://www.kevinpowellforcongress.org/featured_blogs2/2008/09/08/september-9/

So, apparently Kevin is running for the G-d of Congress. This shows the type of arrogant personality that Kevin has, and why he doesn't have the temperament to be a member of Congress.

I mean, Kevin Powell has written the most progressive legislative plan of ANY CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, "EVER?!?!?!?"

Kevin Powell, in the 11th hour, Kevin Powell finds a way to remind everyone that he's too self-centered for Congress and bad news good for Brooklyn.
Sept. 8, 2008, 8:51 pm

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