EDITOR’S NOTE: The following abridged letter is in response to “Hello? Are you listening?,” published Sept. 27 by Cynthia Prisco, and also sent directly to Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.
Dear Ms. Prisco:
Thank you for contacting me. I feel and have always felt that the Democratic Party is best served by encouraging young, independent-minded people to join and become actively involved in the important issues facing our communities, the state, and the country.
I am thrilled at the turnout at this year’s county committee meeting where over 500 Bronxites attended. It was the largest turnout since the “Rainbow Rebellion” of 2008, where many of us were successful in making the party more open and in providing new leadership representing all corners of the Bronx.
I am very optimistic that this large turnout is indicative of the high energy that is needed for success in the November election.
Allow me to address some of your issues with the Bronx Democratic County Committee meeting. First, I am sorry that you couldn’t hear well, and I am disappointed if my efforts to conduct the meeting and ensure that important measures were voted on were interpreted by you as an attempt to strong-arm anyone.
I consider myself a progressive, as proven by my public records. I have always voted according to my values, and I believe that this has served me well during my years in the Assembly, where I have remained one of the most outspoken proponents of strong tenant protection laws, women’s health issues including codification of Roe v. Wade, fair and equitable funding for education and mass transit, health care for all, just to name a few.
And I didn’t just wake up to these issues after Trump was elected.
I tried to open the meeting on the right note, calling for Democratic unity and urging people to get involved in the campaigns beyond the Bronx to help Democrats gain the majority in the state senate, and to win more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. I hope that most people are motivated by that goal more than by any internal differences.
County committee rules, under which we are required to operate, have been duly voted on and adopted according to parliamentary procedures. These procedures are not meant to stifle free expression or any members, but to ensure that things get done. Particularly when you have a meeting with 500 people, it must be run in a fair and orderly way based upon the rules in place.
It is for this reason that I gave members a chance to speak by inviting them to use the microphone when they could not be heard.
No one was told how to vote. No one was strong-armed. County committee members simply voted. It was not a “fixed election,” as you wrote.
As to the proposed changes to the rules, I agree and believe that reforms are necessary, and I would be supportive of rules changes that make sense. While I haven’t carefully studied all of the proposals Mr. Michael Beltzer put forth to the rules committee yet, I did have a chance to glance at them during the meeting. It looked to me like there are a number of potentially good ideas that I believe should be considered.
You mentioned the meeting agenda, writing that “you managed to throw the rulebook at them and rebranded it as an agenda …” It was decided prior to the meeting that every member of the county committee who attended the meeting should be given a copy of the party rules. Despite the expense involved in reproducing the 12-page document, everybody was offered a copy upon entering the room.
Furthermore, the rules were posted on the party’s website shortly before the meeting. No one should claim that they did not have access to the rules, and one of the rules describes the agenda of the organization meeting of the county committee. Since it is an organization meeting, the tasks are to elect leadership and adopt rules — that was the agenda.
However, based on the fact that apparently some new members may not have understood that, perhaps a review of the agenda items at the start would be in order next time.
If you feel that more needs to be done to ensure that committee members are made aware of the rules in advance of the meeting, then I encourage you to visit the website ahead of meetings, make your suggestions, and continue your advocacy. We will listen and be open to considering ways to improve the meeting.
Again, thank you for contacting me, and I look forward to your continued voice and participation in the Bronx Democratic Party.
The author, an Assemblyman representing the 81st District, also is the secretary of the Bronx Democratic County Committee.