Sunday, March 22, 2009

Packing the Club

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

-- Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968), Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

A time-honored method of controlling a political club is known as “packing” or “stacking” the club. Simply described, either a candidate or nominee operating for a vested interest brings new members into the fold at a moment in time so that at the next vote they will be qualified to make the right choice.

While political clubs have lost their luster, there are still arguments in favor of an organization that expresses the wishes of a community or territory – sometimes pulling broader influence with it.

Downtown Independent Democrats" has developed out of SoHo and has carried the reputation of being truly independent along with it. SoHo itself has evolved from artists who ventured into a gothic jungle of warehouses and printing factories from places like Greenwich Village to escape the status quo. Leaders like Kathryn Freed, Jim Stratton and Sean Sweeney gave D.I.D. a special flavor.
As a result of D.I.D. successes, it is one of the few political clubs that aspirants really care about for endorsements. Scott Stringer, for example, managed to win his race for Borough President of Manhattan due, in part, to the vote in SoHo – and the support of D.I.D. The support of a truly independent club actually does still garner votes.

So, at various times, several political candidates have attempted to pack the club with their supporters in order to control the vote for officers. This past Fall, Julie Menin reportedly attempted a coup (which she denies) – followed most recently by Alan Gerson’s efforts. Gerson was actually supported by D.I.D. in the past but has fallen into disfavor with many rank and file club members. He is rumored to be packing the club so that his upcoming race will gain the support of the club once again. A number of current D.I.D. members who, due to Gerson’s fealty to Bloomberg on term-limits (he supported them) and his dubious record in SoHo, belong to the ABG club – “Anyone But Gerson.” While Menin is no longer believed to be trying to pack D.I.D., as Gerson has continued, Gleason is also reportedly trying to even the score by placing some of his people on the roster.

Gleason has suddenly started to get a serious second look as someone who will respond to the needs of SoHo residents.

There is nothing immoral or illegal about trying to take over a political club but there are certain rules of conduct that have always been followed NOT in the tradition of Tammany Hall. With quality performance in office, a club normally welcomes the enlargement of its membership base from an elected official. Not so, in this case.

The Prosecution Rests

In a recent interview we spoke with Cy Vance, Jr., the frontrunner in the race for Manhattan District Attorney.

It was like a blast of fresh air in a discussion that touched upon his plans for improvements in our criminal justice system. Bob Morgenthau, who is retiring this year, has provided us with a sense of fairness in Manhattan and clearly Vance seeks to improve upon that legacy. The full interview will be published in the April SoHo Journal in addition to next week’s blog. Stay tuned Rangers.

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