Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fidler On The Black Roof (Part One)

posted by Rock Hackshaw
Wed, 12/20/2006 - 10:25am
A rather militant black political-activist associate of mine, called a short time ago, and uttered this remark in apparent disgust; “why is it that Lew Fidler seems to always involve himself in the politics of black districts?” My reply was ambiguously nuanced yet simple, to wit: all politics is local, and all local elected officials have a right to be involved; more so when the jurisdiction that he or she represents, has contiguous borders with districts where the racial make-up maybe somewhat different to his or hers. He then retorted; “but do you see local black elected officials in the middle of things in say Bensonhurst and/ or Bay Ridge?” He further queried; “do you ever see black elected officials interjecting themselves in the elections that take place in these white areas and amongst the white candidates?” I didn’t respond to those questions. No sireee Bob; I couldn’t touch them with even a ten-foot pole. Fact is, I don’t recall at anytime- in my near 34 years involvement in Brooklyn’s politics- where black electeds were deeply involved in white races. Maybe Gatemouth could help me out here, since he has a firmer grasp on the political history than I- especially in the white areas of Brooklyn.

My militant associate then went on to chide me for hitting out at inept black electeds in my blog, while giving white ones a free pass. I had to explain that I was more involved in the politics of black districts much more so than white ones; and also, that I mostly write about my experiences within the districts I usually peregrinate. I told him that I try to write mostly from my background as a community/ political activist; this way I could verify things that may be hazy in my mind, because I could always pick up the phone and call someone who I shared these experiences with. Yet, I did start thinking about what he said concerning Lew Fidler- the current council member from the 46th district. And as time went by, I sat in my shoes and wondered: is there something to this remark?

What had precipitated this call was the news that Lew Fidler was enthusiastically backing a white-Jewish candidate, in the special election to replace Yvette Clarke in the city council (40th district). The district itself is over eighty percent non-white in population. In this race there are over two dozen potential black candidates lined up to run; a single white candidate has a tremendous chance of winning this race. Lew Fidler knows this, and as such, he is opportunistically exploiting the situation. Of course he has a right to do this, but is it necessary? Should he be doing this now?

In a city where whites make up roughly one-third of the demographics, they (whites) make up over a half of the city council’s members. The questions then became: is this inclusive enough? Is political power being shared fairly amongst the diverse racial, ethnic and nationalistic groups in NYC? Shouldn’t minorities seek to be more empowered? Shouldn’t whites be more sensitive to this?

Now that Yvette Clarke is moving up to Congress, not only do we lose a woman (and my belief is that there are not enough women holding elected office, at all three levels of government, all over this country/ likewise: positions in all three branches of government), but we are also losing a black (ditto/ same as women/ above), and also someone of Caribbean–American heritage, in a district that is heavily Caribbean. So what is Lew Fidler‘s motivation here? What is his overriding objective? Is he a friend of minority-empowerment? Can’t he see that there are too many times when people of color, are just nowhere in sight when big decisions are being made in New York-at both city and state levels? The kinds of decisions that impact more heavily on their lives, than say the quality of life for white residents. Can’t he see that way too many times, there are only whites (especially men) seated at the tables of power? Look at the three players who hold the controversial Atlantic/ Bruce Ratner project in their hands; a project that will impact millions of lives. Look at all the power positions in government; take a body count. Look at the hundreds of city and state boards and public entities, take a demographic count. Does Lew see what we all see? Or better yet: do we all see the disparities in race, ethnicity, gender and nationality? And let’s not talk about the private sector. As some of those sassy black mamas say: “let’s not even go there.”

Racial-exclusion is alive and kicking in New York City and state. Don’t tell me that Lew can’t see this. Don’t tell me that Lew (wearing those powerful lenses as he does) is totally oblivious to all this. I am sure he sees his way to the dinner table quite well, since he hasn’t lost a pound since I first met him eons ago. In fact he has gained a few over the years. Many people of color don’t eat as well as you do Lew/lol.

In political circles all over Brooklyn, people are poised for a “David Yassky redux”; they are talking about déjà vu all over again. So why Lewd Fidler would be pushing a white candidate into this special election, right on the heels of the divisive “Yassky” imbroglio- during the last congressional primary in the 11th district- is anyone’s guess. Lewd Fidler wins no awards for sensitivity this year folks. Tell him not to expect too many Christmas gifts next Monday; Santa aint coming his way.

It’s only a matter of time before the mainstream media picks up this budding story (first broken by Helen Klein from the Flatbush Life newspaper), about what I have called “Yassky2”. That’s when we will all see whether or nor Lew Fidler intends to go through with this insensitive plot. Isn’t our community divided enough from the last fallout? Do we need this so quickly on its heels? And by the way, don’t think for one minute that Harry Schiffman doesn’t have the right to run for the seat: he does. It’s just a matter of timing. This development could further polarize things here folks. Given the events of last thanksgiving, where police excesses have again compounded race-relations in this city, shouldn’t we go the Rodney King route and try to “all get along”? Should we not nip things in the bud before they fester like an ugly sore? You tell me; all of you out there in “out-there-land”; all of you who come on this site, to blog, or observe, or whatever.

This past Monday, Lew Fiddle was out parading his candidate (Harry Schiffman) around the Thomas Jefferson club, during their annual Christmas party. And when a candidate is squired around by “Biggie Smalls Lew”, people take notice. Just like when E.F. Hutton speaks about the stock market people listen, so it is too when Lew Fidler pushes a candidate. Ask Clarence Norman; Lew Fidler tormented him with Joan Gill for years. He was the architect of Joan’s election as female district leader in the 43rdAD. He was behind her all the way. He always supported her challenges to Clarence. He also supported James Davis when he (James) challenged Clarence in 1998 and 2000.

In races all over Brooklyn, Lew's fiddle has been (for many years) playing in the background. Whether it is for judgeships, or for senate, assembly, council or district leader, Biggie Lew has played his strings. But now some blacks are getting angry at fiddler Lew folks; I am just the messenger here, so don’t beat up on me in your comments to this thread. You see Lew’s hands have been fiddling on many a black roof for quite a while now. In 1993, he orchestrated the successful “stop Colin Moore” initiative that prevented the militant Caribbean-American attorney/political-activist/black-nationalist from becoming the councilmember from the 45th district. He has always supported Rhoda Jacobs in the 42nd AD, where the demographics show that over 85% of the residents are non-white. Ms. Jacobs has held that office for almost 30 years. In fact, in the 209 year history of the New York State legislature, that area has never been represented in the Assembly by a non-white; same for the 41stAD (Helene Weinstein).

In the conversation with my associate, he stated emphatically that Lew Fidler is no friend to black empowerment (Afro or Carib/ same difference). He said that Blacks, Asians and Latinos in New York, should challenge the powers, in all the areas where their numbers are high. He cited Lew’s council district as an area where so-called minorities make up the majority in terms of demographics. He said that Lew is also the district leader of the 41st AD, and he hasn’t had a challenge in more than 10 years. That district is also majority-minority he says. He believes that with all the problems facing blacks and Latinos in NYC (AIDS, housing, education, health-care, crime, high unemployment, police-brutality, drugs, recidivism, etc., etc.), that there is an overriding need for more black and Latino officials to be elected to state and city offices, in order to slice those apple-pies larger (state and city budgets), to bring more resources into communities of color, so that we can better tackle these deadly and crippling issues.

Returning to the 40th council district, and the specter of a white candidate in the special election, my associate believes that people like Kendall Stewart, Nick Perry, Vito Lopez, Yvette and Una Clarke (and other prominent electeds), need to have a sit down with Biggie Lew, and tell him in no uncertain terms: to back up. What do you think?

Stay tuned-in folks.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Councilman Lew Fidler's Holiday Bonus

Friday, December 01, 2006 Random Insane Rants
"I am proud to be a member of the City Council, and if I could and I had to, I would do it for nothing. But I can't get Ithaca College to give my son room and board for nothing, I can't get Sunoco to give me free gas, and I can't get my mortgage company to waive my mortgage."

--Quote provided by Gotham Gazette, said in the November 15th New York City Council's "Stated Meeting." (The City Council Votes Itself a Raise)

"I am not in the luxurious position that Mayor Mike Bloomberg is in, to be able to do his job for $1 a year."

--Quote provided by The New York Times (Council Votes to Raise Pay of Top Officials, November 16, 2006)


--City Councilman Lewis A. Fidler (D-46th Councilmanic District) on paying his bills by voting himself a $22,500 raise.

Because it's not like being a City Councilman is officially a part-time job and Councilman Fidler isn't also making between $90,000 and $260,000 above and beyond the Council salary and his stipend as Assistant Majority Leader...right?

Although this is already half a month old, with the coming of December and the holiday season (and Bill O'Reilly's horror that I used the word "holiday") upon us, this is an opportune time to revisit the hefty bonus the City Council voted for itself. Upon seeing the quote from the Gotham Gazette's report of the Stated Meeting, this is a good time to address Lew Fidler on his actions.

According to Citizens Union, states the Times, Fidler did indeed report an additional income that is between one and three times the base salary from the Council. Including the $15,000 stipend awarded by the Council, this means that Fidler made between $195,000 and $385,000. This is based on the previous base Council salary of $90,000. The new $112,500 base salary was retroactively applied to begin on November 1, 2006. With Fidler's stipend, his Council earnings alone, given a full year, would amount to $127,500.

A chart provided by Gotham Gazette shows Fidler's total income, including various other salaries and bank accounts and his Council salary and stipend, amounts to "at least $179,000" for 2004.

This does not mean that Fidler is sitting in the lap of luxury the way top athletes, executives, and Mayor Bloomberg enjoy. However, for Fidler to suggest that he is struggling with his bills and thus deserves a 25% raise on his part-time Council salary is in extremely poor taste and only makes him look like a man stuffing his pockets with no oversight, which, many would argue, he is.

Most of the residents in the 46th also struggle to make ends meet and ensure that their families are given the care they need. However, since they do not have the luxury of being able to vote for their own 25% raise just in time for holiday shopping, they have to find other ways to stretch their paychecks to pay their bills. Instead of arguing that he needs a pay raise, Fidler could have paid those bills by cutting expenses.

Fidler seems to have been in a position to be able to have saved for his son's education. However, if he was unable to do so, like many families, he could have looked for scholarships with his son or have taken loans to finance his son's education. The downside of the loans, as those who take them find out, is that they cost more money in the long run. This is the price for not being able to pay for college up front. But, it is a worthwhile investment, from someone that is currently taking heavy loans to finance an education.

Instead of paying Sunoco money for gas, Fidler can instead take mass transit, as many in the 46th do. He would find out that it is normally a pain in the ass to commute from most parts of the 46th to Manhattan as there is a lack of mass transit options available. The best options from the 46th are the several express buses formerly operated by the Command Bus Company, although the trip from deep within the district takes one hour or more one-way on most days. It would be a great incentive to lobby for an expansion of mass transit options for the people residing in the 46th Councilmanic District.

To pay for housing, assuming he has already taken advantage of the low mortgage rates in the years past, a move might be in order. Whether it is to a cheaper home or even to a rental, many people do have to move to cut back on expenses. It does not seem like Fidler would need to move into an apartment like the two-room postage-stamp sized apartment that I have, but such a move would mean savings on monthly expenses and also on property taxes.

When there's a will, there's a way, especially considering all of the options that Fidler could choose from given his combined incomes. I did intern for Fidler's office briefly and I still do consider him one of the finer members of the Council. I'm even disappointed that my apartment sits on the wrong side of the border cutting through this street and has locked me into Kendall Stewart's 45th District. However, this act and his less-than-classy comments are very disappointing, to say the least.

Since the act has already been done and there is no way to review and possibly revise, the only thing that Fidler must do now is to be a leader and to help his constituents and New York City residents reach a position where they can worry about paying bills on the level that he has to worry about them. Many people are truly struggling and much work remains to be done.