Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Have to Raise My Voice

Tuesday is primary day in NYC, which of course means we're all being bombarded with flyers, ads, etc. You all know the drill.

I got home last night to find a really sleazy flyer in my mailbox from one Delia Hunley-Adossa containing the following:

At the top of the page is a very unflattering black & white photo of my councilwoman, Letitia James.

Underneath, in bold solid caps, is the following text:

So just how much did Letitia James have to pay?

James' political career was borne of a corrupt county system that put a price on holding office and collected big from ambitious candidates like James. The party bosses ruled and the power-hungry paid for their support.

The County Organization hand-delivered James into office and James... well, let's just say that one hand washes the other.

A few points:

1. Note the juxtaposition of the word "convicted" with the photo, clearly implying , by association, criminality on the part of James.

2. Unnamed "leaders" are accused of selling "office" (which office?) in the upper-case text. Just below, the flyer asks how much James had to pay. There is nothing in the flyer specifying any charges whatsoever against James.

3. The accusations are all made via implication, which is pretty underhanded. The implicit argument seems to be the following:

  • The Brooklyn Democratic organization (never mentioned by name, btw) is corrupt;

  • Letitia James is part of the Brooklyn Democratic Party;

  • Ergo, she must be corrupt, too (this is obviously guilt-by-association, which is a slimy way to make an argument).

4. The last sentence in the flyer is in two parts. The first says "The County Organization hand-delivered James into office..." This is false. James actually had decided not to run for the council seat then held by James Davis, but his assassination led to the problematic candidacy of his brother. James then entered the race, winning handily.

5. The second part of the last sentence is another unsourced smear: "and James... well, let's just say that one hand washes the other." What's the basis for this claim? As with all the other innuendos in the flyer, no evidence is provided to support it.

So who is the object of all these innuendos and smears?

Letitia James is a lawyer whose role models were Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley & Barbara Jordan. She worked for the Legal Aid Society, then was Assistant Attorney General under then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. She served as Chief of Staff to Assemblyman Roger L. Green, then as counsel to then-State Assemblyman Albert Vann. She gained a reputation as a rough-edged election lawyer for the Democratic Party, which probably earned her the enmity of some. On the City Council, she led efforts to set up a Business Improvement District on Fulton Street, opposed Mayor Bloomberg's successful effort to repeal term limits, supported the creation of bike lanes, and for greater stimulus funding for the 35th district, and, most relevant to the Hunley-Adossa flyer, has been one of the most prominent opponents of the Atlantic Yards project.

And who, you ask, is the candidate behind the sleazy flyer?

Delia Hunley-Adossa
is a long-time community activist whose group, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, has received over $400,000 from Bruce Ratner. Yes, that Bruce Ratner--the developer of Atlantic Yards. Needless to say, Hunley-Adossa is a staunch supporter of the Atlantic Yards project. Her group is also heavily stocked with family members, according to The Brooklyn Paper, a practice commonly known as nepotism, and one we certainly don't need to see on the City Council.

Hunley-Adossa has distinguished herself in this campaign by comments in a debate at the offices of The Brooklyn Paper in which she exhibited unfamiliarity with the powers and responsibilities of the City Council, and a pronounced aversion to questioning by the news media, as reported by Brooklyn Paper:

The debate was a rare opportunity for The Brooklyn Paper to question Hunley-Adossa, who stopped returning phone calls from The Paper’s reporters months ago. She explained the snub, saying she didn’t know that we had called, though later revealed that she must have known about the reporters’ calls because they came to her home phone and cellphone — devices that she does not answer because they are “private” lines.

“It’s invasive,” said the candidate, whose opinion about privacy was not shared by the other candidates.

She promised to answer her phone 24 hours a day if she’s elected to office.

It remains to be seen whether Hunley-Adossa's veracity with regard to accessibility will be any greater if she's elected than it has been during the campaign.

Hunley-Adossa is very well funded, thanks to Ratner. The flyer in question is very well produced--heavy paper stock, glossy finish, high resolution, perfect registration, and diabolically clever wording & positioning of page elements. It looks and feels, in fact, very much like a piece one would expect to find in a Republican Party campaign. National political consultants have been hired to work on election races in NY city & state before, and this certainly feels like the work of the kinds of people who gave us the Willy Horton ad, the assaults on Michael Dukakis and the teabaggers, with their bogus claims about Obama plans for euthenasia, kidnapping and indoctrination.

Let's give the people behind this sort of campaigning the kind of result they deserve. Let's vote on Tuesday for Letitia James, who has done a good job representing us in the 35th district, and who does not reduce public discourse to the gutter level to promote her candidacy.

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