(re: “Nepotism is dismantling democracy in plain sight,” June 6)
I write this in response to the recent Jennifer Firestone Point of View in The Riverdale Press charging the Dinowitz family with nepotism.
I would remind Ms. Firestone that, in America, anyone may run for office. If we were to bar members of political families from holding office, we the people would have been denied the service of the Kennedys, Al Gore, and our respected state senator, Alessandra Biaggi.
Ms. Firestone seizes on an error made on Eric Dinowitz’s website — and immediately corrected — in her tortured attempt to support a charge of nepotism against the Dinowitz family. She claims Eric is guilty of “receiving unwarranted speaking and advertising privileges from his father’s government position.”
Clearly Ms. Firestone’s activity in politics was aroused by enthusiasm for Alessandra Biaggi. However, she has been active politically for years, and she should be aware of Eric’s unpaid volunteer service to the community during at least the last five years.
I am not referring to Eric’s service to the community as a dedicated teacher, for which he is paid, or for his union work for which he was not paid, or his advocacy work for the disabled. I am referring to his service on Community Board 8 for two years, recently chairing the aging committee.
And most of all, I refer to his work as district leader for our Assembly district, a position he was elected to in 2014.
For those who don’t know what a district leader does, it is a boring, time-consuming, unpaid position in the Democratic Party. As district leader, Eric has run the petition drives in our district for the last five years, and has consistently collected more signatures for candidates than any other district in the Bronx.
The district leader then reviews each signature to make sure there are no errors, and has them bound before filing them.
Eric also has been responsible for organizing phone banking and canvassing efforts — both essential and frustrating activities. His work to elect Democrats nationally and in New York State with other grassroots party members has resulted in electing Democrats upstate, securing the Democratic majority in the senate, and nationally in a Democratic House.
When progressive members of the Ben Franklin Club complained that there was no readily accessible information on how to be elected to the Democratic County Committee, Eric Dinowitz arranged a workshop to prepare for the next county committee election.
He has also advocated for campaign finance reform, and accessibility on the subways. If Eric Dinowitz has had opportunities to speak on public issues, he has certainly earned them in unpaid valuable public service.
It seems Ms. Firestone’s issues with the Dinowitz candidacy is really a problem with the party system. Her description of candidates being “shepherded through a system by their elected parents and the county leadership” implies that the party system itself is necessarily anti-democratic, and is insulting to voters.
Significantly, she fails to mention that Eric is not the only candidate running for city council. Eric Dinowitz still has to be elected by the people in the primary. If the Democratic voters endorse his candidacy in the primary, it might be based on the service Eric has given to the community.
I will add that Alessandra Biaggi’s victory is evidence that the party system is not anti-democratic. The party cannot protect a corrupt candidate, or one who fails to represent the interests of his constituents.
What it can do, at its best, is marshal the efforts of grassroots constituents to elect good representatives, and pass good legislation.