A Call for Change and Transparency as Kings County Democratic Party Leadership Stifles Engagement at September County Committee Meeting

BROOKLYN, Sept. 29, 2018 — The biennial organizational meeting of the Kings County Democratic Committee (KCDC) on Thursday was business as usual for the Party, as longtime insiders used obscure rules to systematically exclude hundreds of active members from participating. Votes the conclusions of which are still in question were decided by the Chair, Frank Seddio, plus the hundreds of proxy votes he carried along with those signed over to him by what County leaders described in the six-hour meeting as “allied” electeds, even when most KCDC members crowded into the Kingsborough College auditorium sought a different outcome.

But, for the first time, high levels of participation and the efforts of a number of Brooklyn-based reform clubs forced a public vote for KCDC’s 13 officer positions. In a sobering moment, only 50 of 541 KCDC members present stood in favor of County leadership’s slate of County Committee officers showing attendees’ clear desire to elect a new slate of outsiders to these positions.

The meeting was scheduled to start at 6:00 PM but was not called to order until around 8:40 PM, by which time KCDC officials had counted enough proxies to give Seddio close to the total number of votes he needed to overcome the will of the majority of the members in attendance. Proxy counting continued throughout the night and County leadership periodically announced changing totals for the proxy and in-person counts, leading to more confusion and rushed decision-making.

We walked away from Thursday’s meeting sure of three things about Brooklyn’s proxy process:

  1. When members show up and participate rather than sign over their proxies, members can force a vote in the room.
  2. Proxy numbers lead to ambiguity ambiguity that the Party capitalizes upon.
  3. Proxies signed over to anyone other than the Chair or, in the case of Thursday, NKD President Brandon West, were handled arbitrarily and inconsistently. The County lacks the infrastructure (and likely the will) to solve this logistics puzzle.

New Kings Democrats President Brandon West, said, “With our partners – other reform-oriented groups from across Brooklyn – we brought so many people to the KCDC meeting that, for the first time, the vote totals mattered.”

West added, “We tried to let the County’s system for managing meetings and proxies work, and it failed because people showed up. County could neither track proxies, nor process them at an appropriate speed, nor check people into the meeting effectively, all of which limited participation but now more than ever, more members have witnessed that absurdity. We’ve been working for this participation and engagement since NKD started 10 years ago, and we’ll keep fighting for inclusion and reform.”

Where did we land?

At this meeting, we were proud to stand alongside our reform-minded partners and all the clubs and individuals in the room who came to participate in this historic moment for KCDC. The KCDC membership proved that participation matters.

For New Kings Democrats, success this year looked like more eyes on the KCDC process and increased participation of Brooklynites representing their neighborhoods. A few hundred new members – many of which joined through the NKD-convened #RepYourBlock campaign – one contentious vote that came close (allegedly within 110 votes) to electing new officers, and a proposal to reform the rules governing proxy votes might not seem like revolutionary change. In the context of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, though, these moves mean real motion toward openness and democratic principles.

What’s next?

In the short term, we plan to investigate the proxy totals and the final vote counts in the coming week. This meeting may have been business as usual, but KCDC members deserve accuracy and just outcomes.

New Kings Democrats and the new 2018-2020 KCDC members, many of whom now hold their first elected office, will continue to organize for greater transparency and more participation in our party. We will continue to focus on working towards rules changes that allow for greater, more meaningful participation and will organize through our club’s membership and reform partners. We are eager to continue to work to improve the Party, increasing access not just for our own club members, but for all Brooklyn Democrats.

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About New Kings Democrats

New Kings Democrats is a progressive, grassroots political organization committed to bringing transparency, accountability, and inclusionary democracy to the Kings County Democratic Party. Founded by veterans of the Obama campaign, New Kings Democrats serves as a training ground for individuals seeking to become more engaged in local politics, and hopes to nurture a new generation of elected Brooklyn Democratic leaders. New Kings Democrats connects Brooklynites from across the borough seeking to transform local politics.

About #RepYourBlock

#RepYourBlock is a community-led campaign of New Kings Democrats to help everyday Brooklynites reform local government by winning a seat on the 3,000-member Kings County Democratic Committee (a.k.a. the Brooklyn Democratic Party). We all think of Brooklyn as overwhelmingly Democratic, yet decisions about the borough’s Democratic priorities and candidates are made by a few party insiders. It’s time to fix this by making sure everyone—in particular those traditionally excluded from the electoral process—can access County Committee and transform the Democratic Party. It’s time Brooklyn set the standard for inclusive and accountable local politics.

Contact

Jessica Thurston
Director of Communications
communications@newkingsdemocrats.com

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