The Dean Generation Runs for City Council

041408 skaller web The Dean Generation Runs for City CouncilIntern Em Whitney sends this dispatch from last night’s D.F.N.Y.C. event:

Last night in Murray Hill, among a Bear Stearns (post-buyout) crowd at Butterfield 8, Democracy For New York City—an offshoot of Howard Dean’s Democracy for America—introduced its first-ever candidates at its first-ever City Council Forum.

It was a big moment for D.F.N.Y.C. As noted in the opening remarks, D.F.N.Y.C. is one of the few “grassroots” political action committees to have come out of Dean’s 2004 campaign that still hasn’t produced a viable candidate for office.

They hope that’s about to change. Josh Skaller of Park Slope is running for the seat Bill de Blasio is term-limited out of, and Steven Behar of Bayside wants the Tony Avella seat.

“As much as we like bucking the establishment, we can make a lot of progress on our principals once we have our foot in the door,” said Tracy Denton, executive director of D.F.N.Y.C, from a spot near the bathrooms in the back of the bar. “And, if Josh and Steve vote the wrong way on the bill, we will storm their offices and kick their asses.”

She handed it over to the M.C., who said, “I’ll be doing the comedy tonight.” Then he asked the candidates to explain their views on the Council leadership’s discretionary slush fund.

“I think it’s absolutely outrageous that there’s a $5 million trust fund kicking around City Council,” Skaller said. “Clean money, clean elections. We need a political ecosystem filled with reform-minded, good-government politicians, and we need to work seat-by-seat to fill them.”

“The first thing we need is a Speaker willing to let other people speak,” Behar said.

“So, if you are elected, will you make a commitment not to take money from members’ funds?” one committee member asked.

“A lot of good comes out of the moneys that council members bring back to the districts [from member’s funds],” said Behar. “The problem isn’t that they bring money back, it’s the lack of transparency, and the lack of equality."

The crowd nodded and returned to their beverages.

Other questions covered: real estate money for campaign finance, zoning, congestion pricing, unjustifiable war, impeaching Dick Cheney, immigration and “how to prevent Wall Street from sneezing and New York City getting a cold.”

I pulled aside Councilman Dan Garodnick, who represents the district where Butterfield 8 is located.

“I want to see the government work,” he said. “This group is progressive, grassroots and that’s the kind of movement I want to affiliate myself with.”

How does he feel about the inevitable impending turnover in 2009?

“I’m not cheering for Quinn to go, " he said. "She’s been doing great things. Obviously, this investigation led to an unfortunate revelation…that’s what I think.”

Later on in the evening, I spoke to Ken Diamondstone, who wants to unseat State Senator Marty O’Connor of Queens (as does Dan Squadron).

“Oh-nine is going to be a zoo,” he said, because so many elected officials will be term-limited from office. “Nothing’s going to get done.”

Will we have help with public transportation, more G trains, buses, anything?

“No. We can’t get more of anything until we stop the fucking war.”

UPDATE: Within hours of posting this, an email came in announcing that Ken Diamondstone will not run for Marty Connor’s senate seat. “I’m not going to engage in a three-way primary that divides the progressive vote,” the statement from Diamondstone says.