17, No. 17
26 - Sept. 8, 2004
In the Public
Flagg Seeks Engel's Seat
While much of the fireworks in the race for the 17th
Congressional District stems from the charges and countercharges between
incumbent Eliot Engel and challenger Kevin McAdams, there's a third
candidate in the Democratic primary struggling to be heard.
Jessica Flagg, a 52-year-old Riverdale resident who was active in Rep.
Dennis Kucinich's campaign for president, says she doesn't have as much
money as the other candidates but is working hard to get her activist
Flagg said she was inspired to run during the presidential campaign when
"it became evident to me that the Democratic platform was being
manipulated by the media. The issues were trivialized and the people who
were trying to make this an issue-based campaign were
Paramount among the issues Flagg cares about is the war in Iraq. She
believes war is obsolete for a country like America with its massive
military, and economic and diplomatic might. "We have to fight the war
of ideas and ideals and those kinds of wars don't get fought with bombs and
guns," said Flagg, in the kind of exclamatory tone suitable for a stump
speech. "Those kinds of wars get fought with imagination and education
and humanitarian aid and by delivering a quality of life that allows people
She supports setting up the West Bank in Israel as a "Peace Zone to be
settled by equal numbers of Palestinians and Israelis."
"Occupying the West Bank for Israel is putting themselves in harm's way
forever," said Flagg, who grew up in Babylon, Long Island and lived in
England during her high school years. "It's putting out their chin and
asking to be hit." Though she knows this view might be unpopular
with many in the district, she says that there is a "significant peace
voice in this district."
Environmental and energy policy is also at the center of her campaign (she
calls Bush's performance in this area "criminal") and Flagg, an
environmental and management consultant calls, for the kind of single payer
universal health care program described in HR 676, a bill supported by 33
House Democrats. Engel is not among them, Flagg said. Like many
Democrats, Flagg believes that the 2000 presidential election was unfair.
But she also bluntly states, "The election was a coup d'etat."
And she blames her fellow Democrats for letting it happen. The Democratic
Party was unbelievably absent," she says. ". . . [T]hey gave away
Flagg has lived in the Bronx for only two years.
"I wouldn't pretend to know the Bronx all that well," she said.
But she said she got to know the diverse district that stretches from the
north Bronx into Rockland County when she was gathering petition signatures
Flagg calls Engel a "decent man" who "stands for good
things." But, she says, "he's not out there leading the
If she loses this year, would she challenge Engel again in 2006?
"If he were to become a really forceful proponent of the kinds of
changes that I'm talking about, I might not feel the necessity to try to run
again," she said.
Bucking Most Bronx Dems, Dinowitz Endorses
Local residents familiar with the intricacies of Bronx Democratic politics
forgiven for being a tad confused last week. That's when Assemblyman Jeffrey
Dinowitz, a staunch liberal Democrat, endorsed Assemblyman Stephen Kaufman,
who is in a tight political battle with Assemblyman Jeffrey Klein to replace
Guy Velella as state senator in the 34th District. Klein and Kaufman are
Democrats with similar voting records but Kaufman is also running as a
Republican and probably will vote to keep Joe Bruno, the bête noire of city
Dems, as leader of the Senate. That's why Senate Democrats are pouring much
of their campaign resources into this local race: the seat is key to their
dreams of wresting control of the legislative body from the
In a more logical universe than politics, Dinowitz, who is nothing if not a
strong partisan, might support Klein toward this end. Klein is also the only
Bronx assemblyman to come around to Dinowitz' side in opposing the
construction of a filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park.
One explanation is that Klein is a member of the borough's regular
organization, the longtime nemesis of Dinowitz and other Riverdale
Democrats. But even Oliver Koppell, Dinowitz' mentor and standard bearer of
Riverdale Dems, appeared to put party over intramural rivalry when he
endorsed Klein and even took his remarkable effort at political détente a
step further by supporting Naomi Rivera, the daughter of Bronx Democratic
boss Jose Rivera, in her bid to replace Klein in the Assembly.
Dinowitz explains his endorsement of Kaufman this way: "I've worked
with both of them in the Assembly for 10 years and I know both of them very
well, and I've found that Kaufman is more straightforward. . . . I don't
always agree with him but I can trust him."
As for the issue of Kaufman running as a Republican, Dinowitz said that if
he thought the Democrats had a chance of taking over the Senate this year,
or even in two, four or six years, he might have made a different decision.
But, he said, "I don't think that's going to
And, regarding the filtration issue, Dinowitz said he and Kaufman were upset
by a Klein mailer claiming credit for parks funding the borough would
benefit from as a result of the filtration plant project, even though Klein
now opposes the filtration plant project.
"Look, the filtration plant has to be built," said Klein spokesman
Jordan Isenstadt. "If it is indeed built under the Mosholu Golf Course,
then the Bronx has been promised $200 million for parks. That money is in
the MOU [memorandum of understanding]. Assemblyman Klein thought he would be
negligent to not push for [the area] to get necessary improvements to their
parklands if the filtration plant is indeed built."
The contents of the MOU -- the document that will delineate which parks will
benefit from $243 million in water bond money -- have not been made public
yet and the City Council has not yet approved it. But various lists of parks
allocations have been circulating, including one Kaufman sent the Norwood
News that includes the projects Klein claims credit for in the 34th Senate
Ed. note: The Norwood News coverage area lies almost
entirely in the 33rd District. While Guy Velella represented much of Norwood
and Bedford Park in the 34th District for many years, redistricting after
the 2000 Census resulted in the exclusion of all of the two neighborhoods,
except for a single block on Parkside Place in Norwood. The turf was ceded
to the 33rd District, now represented by State Senator Efrain
Gonzalez Issues Press Release!
Ordinarily, we wouldn't consider a politician issuing a press release
blasting his colleagues and the governor for failing to pass a budget very
newsworthy - ironic maybe, but not newsworthy. But State Senator
Efrain Gonzalez' news release made the cut for two reasons.
First, he has not ever, to our knowledge, criticized the Byzantine ways of
legislature. But maybe this is a hopeful sign of things to come with
editorial boards all over the state and the Brennan Center at NYU
documenting how completely incompetent New York's legislature is.
And second, this is the first press release the paper has ever received from
the senator. In an interview a few years back, the senator said he liked to
communicate with his constituents in less traditional ways, like putting
fliers under people's doors.
Maybe the fact that Gonzalez is facing a primary challenge from former state
senator Israel Ruiz is getting him to communicate with constituents via the
Hey, this is what elections are all about.
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