The county’s Democratic Party machine keeps delaying reform proposals that would take power away from a select few leaders and empower rank-and-file members, critics within the body are charging.
Members pushed a reform package in September, but party honchos stymied a vote and instead promised to create a committee to review the reforms and report back in January.
But party leaders announced during a Jan. 24 meeting that the committee had not even met — let alone discussed the proposals — which riled reformers, one said.
“It’s the January meeting and we know that the committee has not met yet — even though they were supposed to — and thus there’s no update. But that’s not acceptable, the committee should have met, they should have prioritized this, and even if the committee had not met, just report back on the movement on the reforms,” said Anusha Venkataraman, president of the New Kings Democrats club, which is backing reform.
In practice, party leaders — particularly party boss Frank Seddio — have near-unlimited decision-making power regarding party policies, because so many of the county committee’s 3,000 members forgo actually going to meetings and instead sign a paper letting Seddio use their votes as he sees fit.
One reform sought to limit this practice of so-called “proxy” voting. When reformers moved to vote on it in September, Seddio cast nearly 450 proxy votes to overrule them, promising to send the proposals to rules committee and revisit the notions in January.
Another would forbid the county committee from supporting any politician convicted of felony corruption.
But when reformers asked about the rules committee on Jan. 24, officials said they were too busy with the Nov. 9 election ago to spend any time reviewing the proposals.
Then, the nine-member panel couldn’t agree on a time to meet up in the two-and-a-half months since the election, according to its leader.
“The rules committee was created after the county committee meeting, which happened in September, but we’ve been busy with something a little more important until November, and we were probably all licking our wounds in December,” said Lew Fidler. “It took us a month to get a day when all nine could be present, so we are meeting on Feb. 8. I mean could we have gotten to it faster, I suppose if we thought it was more important than electing Hillary Clinton, we could have, I personally don’t feel that way.”
But critics say that party leaders are purposefully dragging their feet.
“We’re being denied a chance to ask what’s going on in our party,” said Nick Rizzo, a member of New Kings Democrats. “County doesn’t want to justify to its grassroots what it’s been doing. They are not willing to hear any input, which is why the rules — which were so important that they couldn’t be voted on at the last meeting — had to go to a committee. They said they would be voted on this meeting, they were not. In fact there was no mention on them.”
The rules panel will meet in February, but it will not report back to the larger party until September, according to a party spokesman.