FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: WEDNESDAY JANUARY 25, 2017
Press Contact: Anusha Venkataraman, President, New Kings Democrats ([email protected])
KINGS COUNTY DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE BLOCKS REFORMS ON TRANSPARENCY AND ETHICS
Brooklyn, NY — In a move emblematic of New York State politics, the Kings County Democratic County Committee (aka Brooklyn Democratic Party) failed to provide substantive updates on a set of ethics and transparency amendments to the governing rules of the Brooklyn Democratic Party committee proposed by Kings County reform activists at the previous County Committee meeting on September 21st of 2016.
The reform amendments were proposed by Brooklyn reform clubs the New Kings Democrats, Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform, and Southern Brooklyn Democrats (and subsequently endorsed by Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats) with the objectives of: 1. Increasing transparency in Executive Committee decision-making processes like the nomination of judges; 2. Strengthening Party ethics to disallow public officials who have been convicted of public malfeasance from being supported by the Party; and 3. Broadening participation by limiting the use of proxy votes and allowing for resolutions to be distributed via email and posting on the Party website. A full list of the the common sense reforms brought forward can be found at http://www.newkingsdemocrats.com/county_committee_reform.
The proposed reforms were motioned for a vote as five separate amendments to the Party Rules committee by members of Kings County Democratic Committee at the September 21st meeting. Kings County Party Chairman Frank Seddio, who replaced disgraced late Assemblyman Vito Lopez, promised a review of the progressive reforms by a Rules Committee made up of members of his choosing and a report-back at the January meeting.
At this meeting, Executive Director of the Kings County Democratic Party Jeff Feldman committed to providing details and answering questions on the review of the reforms by the party’s newly created Rules Committee following a panel discussion on Women in Public Service including Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. After the panel Feldman adjourned the meeting without giving updates on the state of the proposed reforms, failing to bring transparency to the antiquated Brooklyn Democratic Party yet again.
Brooklyn is one of the most Democratic counties in the country yet decisions on the local party platform are made by a few party insiders at the lesser-known County level. Since the election of Donald Trump, attendance at local Democratic clubs and County Committee reform groups has risen dramatically. Hundreds of attendees, including both County Committee members and newcomers looking to get more involved in local politics, packed the auditorium and were even turned away due to space capacity at the Coney Island Hospital location.
“New Kings Democrats is appalled that no update was provided on the status of our rules reforms, the membership of the committee appointed to consider those rules changes, or whether nominations to the committee have been considered. This is not democracy. Withholding information and suppressing engagement of the County Committee members did a disservice to the panel of accomplished female elected officials, as many of whom spoke to the importance of providing access, resources, and support to women seeking to enter politics. As New Kings Democrats, we will continue to open the doors that we have been able to pry open and share information and resources valuable to anyone underrepresented in or looking to improve our Party,” said Anusha Venkataraman, President of New Kings Democrats, after last night’s meeting.
“The county’s bylaws outline the agenda to be followed at all meetings. Meeting after meeting, we’ve prepared questions to ask at the appropriate moment. But after following the rules to the letter again and again, a coalition of reformers seeking nothing more than to be heard has been repeatedly thwarted by the opaque and exclusionary methods of the Party. If they continue to refuse to make their processes transparent, participatory, and inclusive, Democrats are in danger of losing a generation of voters in the years ahead,” said Brandon West, member of the County Committee from the 52nd Assembly District.