For many months, Lincoln Restler, the winner and loser of two incredibly-tight, back-to-back district leader campaigns, has been a chief antagonist of Brooklyn Councilman Steve Levin and was seriously exploring a highly-anticipated run against him. Today, however, Mr. Restler ultimately decided against the bid, freeing Mr. Levin of his most serious opponent this year.
“A number of people have asked me about my plans to run for office again and I wanted to share my thinking directly with you,” Mr. Restler wrote in an email to supporters this evening. “I have decided not to run for City Council this year. While I’ve had my share of disagreements with Councilmember Stephen Levin, I also respect that he has been a member of the Progressive Caucus, has brought participatory budgeting to our community, and has strived to actively represent our neighborhoods.”
One of the fiercest disputes over the decennial redistricting process raged on after the final versions of the new City Council district maps were released this week. Councilman Steve Levin insisted the process through which the districts were drawn was focused on substance while his potential rival, Lincoln Restler, repeatedly dismissed the new Council maps as rooted in political concerns.
“There was never a serious discussion,” Mr. Restler argued. “This was a political deal made by the Speaker and the local council member and it’s clear throughout the entire process that it’s nothing more than an incumbent protection program.”
Mr. Restler’s long-rumored bid to unseat Mr. Levin took a significant hit when the redistricting dust finally settled. In their final lines, the commission tasked with the decennial redrawing of City Council boundaries upheld an alteration to Mr. Levin’s 33rd District that added tracts of Hasidic Jewish voters likely to back Mr. Levin and removed parts of Brownstone Brooklyn favorable to Mr. Restler.
It was the multicultural American Dream, the only hope of ambitious Russian immigrants and the possible death knell of Orthodox Jewish communities, all at once, at least according to some of those testifying at the redistricting hearing last night in Brooklyn.
It was not the controversial draft map that placed potential Council candidate Vito Lopez in a neighboring district–the aspect of this year’s redrawing of the City Council lines to reflect the new Census numbers that has attracted the most media coverage–that sparked the controversy last night. Rather, two versions of Councilman Michael Nelson’s 48th District offered alternating realities for competing demographic groups, dominating the public hearing in front of most members of the Districting Commission.
“Look, this election is a whole lot bigger than just one person, especially a little guy like me who needs to stand on this chair,” 28-year-old Lincoln Restler declared as he artificially towered over a packed room at the Brooklyn Winery in Williamsburg a couple of weeks ago. “The machine has their candidate, they’re going to pour all of the resources they’ve got into this district leader race. But, for every hack elected official that they’ve got on payroll, we’re going to have to reach out to 10 of our neighbors.”
The “machine” in this case is the Kings County Democratic Party and its chair, Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Mr. Restler sees his re-election campaign as a critical aspect of the effort to topple what he describes as the corrupt status quo in Mr. Lopez’s organization.
Mr. Restler, who has the honor of holding the obscure position of district leader, is very aware of the fact that despite the lofty rhetoric of his campaign, he’s talking about an unpaid office with few official responsibilities.
“Any elected office, even an elected position you’ve probably never heard of, is a platform to advocate for one’s community,” Mr. Restler said in his speech, still standing on the chair. The crowd rightfully laughed after “you’ve probably never heard of.”
The City Council passed Resolution 1172 yesterday opposing the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which declared corporations have the same first amendment rights as individuals, a concept that has come to be known as corporate personhood. This decision, which was made just shy of a year ago, prohibited the government from placing limits on individual contributions and has become a favored target of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Protesters affiliated with Occupy Wall Street supported the passage of the Council’s anti-corporate personhood resolution and approximately twenty of them packed the observation balcony during the stated meeting yesterday where they applauded for the bill and booed dissenting members. In addition to expressing opposition for the Supreme Court decision, the resolution called for a Constitutional amendment “to provide that corporations are not entitled to the entirety of protections or ‘rights’ of natural persons, specifically so that the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is no longer a form of constitutionally protected speech.” Continue reading “City Council Passes Anti-Corporate Personhood Resolution”→
Most of the media might have moved on from the Occupy Wall Street protests, but for at least two Brooklyn City Council Members, the protest efforts won’t be so quickly forgotten. Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Steve Levin attended last night’s General Assembly, joined by prominent civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, and experienced what Councilman Williams generally referred to as a productive and peaceful affair. Continue reading “Councilman Williams: Last Night's Occupy Wall Street Event Went Well”→