City Council District 39
Age: 40; Occupation: Senior Fellow, Pratt Center for Community Development, Pratt Institute
Education: University of Chicago (B.A.); University College London - Anthropology (M.S.), Pratt Institute - City and Regional Planning (M.S.)
Campaign website: http://bradlander.org/
Brad Lander, whose experience includes the Fifth Avenue Committee, Community Board 6, and the Pratt Institute, feels that he has a proven track record of results, pointing to his success in helping to secure the implementation of bus rapid transit while at the Pratt Institute. Mr. Lander cited one of his top issues as land use and maintaining the character of his district. As a parent with children in the public school system, he would also prioritize education, and would work to connect PTAs with school leadership teams to assist struggling schools and support for after-school programs. Mr. Lander stressed the importance of housing affordability, which he would address through retrofitting buildings. Mr. Lander supports the designation of the Gowanus Canal as a super-fund site because he feels that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the best ability to achieve the needed results within the area. He recognizes the need for public input, coordination, and infrastructure planning, and said he personally favors mixed use of the site that includes residential, manufacturing, and water-front space. In addition, he would also like to enhance civic involvement in the community by setting an expectation of citizen service. Mr. Lander considers himself a strong backer of small business, and if elected would advocate for a tax credit to building owners who rent their spaces to locally-owned businesses at below market rate, and supports a proposal from Councilmember Robert Jackson in Manhattan to create an arbitration process to assist renters with rent renewals.
Mr. Lander, a strong supporter of Citizens Union issues, is a proponent of consolidating council committees and giving committee chairs greater independence, especially with respect to hiring committee staff. Believing that council discretionary funding should be more transparent, he raised concerns about the current lack of accountability for groups that receive funding from the council to deliver the results they promised, and pledged to require status reports from any groups he funds. While Mr. Lander feels strongly that the council should not be able to increase its own salaries, he did caution against overly restricting the power of the council, which serves as a balance in government. Mr. Lander, a supporter of term limits, said the process for altering term limits was deeply flawed and would like to see this issue on the ballot to give voters a chance to decide.
Mr. Lander, whom Citizens Union has worked with in the past, reflects a strong commitment to the organization’s agenda. His knowledge of not only reform issues, but those within the district, proposals for what he would like to accomplish if elected, and promise of making a strong positive impact in the council are what make Mr. Lander Citizens Union’s preferred candidate.
John L. Heyer II
Age: 26; Occupation: Former Special Assistant to Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz
Education: Fordham University - Theology and Political Science (B.A.)
Campaign website: http://www.johnheyer.org/
[Candidate did not appear for scheduled interview.]
Gary G. Reilly
Age: 35; Occupation: Attorney
Education: Rutgers College - Economics (B.A.), Rutgers Law School (J.D.)
Candidate website: http://www.garyreilly.org/
Gary Reilly, who worked in the civil sector after law school, while also becoming very involved in the community with a particular interest in improving public transportation, is now running for city council in order to implement his vision for the community. He named some his chief concerns as transportation, diversifying the economy, job creation, public schools, and neighborhood preservation. Mr. Reilly promises to hold town hall meetings twice a month, believing that the job of a councilmember goes beyond a nine-to-five schedule. He sees overdevelopment and redevelopment as very serious issues in his district. With regards to the Gowanus Canal, he said the issue is very complicated and any project for the area would need to take into consideration flood planes around the canal, clean up (preferably by the EPA), and land use, especially considering the amount of residential and manufacturing space that would be desirable and appropriate for the area.
On government reform, Mr. Reilly is concerned with the amount of power currently held by the mayor and the city council speaker. He believes that committee staff should report to the committee chair. In addition, he would advocate for greater transparency of discretionary funds and the budget. With regards to term limits, Mr. Reilly said he is generally agnostic on the topic, but did express his opinion that the council was wrong in overturning the two previous referendums in its extension of term limits. Mr. Reilly considers himself passionate about good government and a consummate outsider. He believes he is the best candidate because of his independence, especially since he has not accepted contributions from lobbyists or developers.
Josh P. Skaller
Age: 40; Occupation: Manager, Information Technology / GlobalWorks, Inc.
Education: Hampshire College (B.A.); Columbia University (M.A.) Campaign website: http://skaller09.com/
Josh Skaller, a grassroots leader and community activist, said he is frustrated with the lack of response from the city’s elected officials and he would work to increase opportunities for a participatory democracy that functions from the ground up. Mr. Skaller touted that fact that he has more donors than any other council campaign in Brooklyn and has one of the lowest per capita contribution rates.
He said his first priority if elected would be land use with a focus on increasing community involvement and building more affordable housing. Mr. Skaller asserted that all development should be community led. On the use of eminent domain for development projects, Mr. Skaller stated that while the creation of a hospital is one acceptable use of this power because it serves the public good, the Atlantic Yards project, of which he is a strong opponent, is an example of the abuse of this tool since very few would benefit he argued. Additionally, Mr. Skaller stated that he was an early supporter of a federal super fund cleanup of the Gowanus Canal because he feels that the EPA, not developers, is the most appropriate agency to do this, and is disappointed with city government’s inaction on the canal to date. In terms of development of the area, Mr. Skaller would like to prioritize its clean-up and then receive community input as to what the land should be used for, although he does not support luxury housing development at the location. Mr. Skaller recognizes the need for local job growth and suggested the presence of green job training centers which would provide workers with new job opportunities and provide the community with contractors who are able to install green facilities. In regards to education, the candidate is chiefly concerned with the absence of arts and science in the classroom, class size, and standardized testing.
On reform issues, Mr. Skaller is supportive of much of Citizens Union’s agenda, and high on his list would be to reform the budget process in order to increase transparency and efficiency. With regards to the recent discretionary funding issues, Mr. Skaller would specifically advocate for the elimination of discretionary funding and the advancement of further campaign finance reforms. Mr. Skaller said he is concerned about the impact of money on campaigns and would like to see more done to monitor where contributions are coming from. On this point, he mentioned his pledge not to accept donations from developers. Mr. Skaller believes the council could be reformed by giving committees more independence from the speaker, and would passionately advocate changing operations to allow committee staff to report directly to committee chairs. Mr. Skaller supports terms limits and was disappointed by the recent council vote to extend them, saying that a referendum on the issue is needed. Mr. Skaller is a strong candidate, and Citizens Union felt that, despite not being our preferred candidate, would make a good representative for his district and an ally for government reform.
Age: 48; Occupation: Executive Director, Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation (on leave)
Education: Emory University - Business Administration (Bacherlor Degree); American University (J.D.)
Campaign website: http://www.zuckerman2009.com/home/index.php
Bob Zuckerman, on leave as the Executive Director of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, is running for city council because he believes that his experience working with government, in community service and as a small business owner makes him uniquely qualified to bring change to the council and his district. As a former aide to a New Jersey Senator, he highlighted the fact that he is the only individual in the race that has worked in government. With regards to the Gowanus Canal, Mr. Zuckerman said that he would like to create a “green district” around the area, and require that new buildings in that district be LEAD certified. In addition, he promised to hold a town hall meeting in every neighborhood at least once a year. Mr. Zuckerman pledges to utilize a mobile office, which he has named “Council on Your Corner,” to bring himself and his staff to constituents one night a week. He would also prioritize protection for small businesses, and would advocate for a property tax incentive for building owners to sell their storefronts to local businesses.
Mr. Zuckerman is a supporter of government reform and the Citizens Union agenda. He said that he would put all applications for council discretionary funding online and require reports from groups he funded. He said that the first piece of legislation he would introduce would be to implement a ban on outside employment for council members. He believes that since elected officials are making what he considers a full-time salary, each member should be working full time. The only exception he mentioned was allowing councilmembers to teach a class or two at a local college, so long as it did not interfere with their duties as an elected official. On the issues of term limits, Mr. Zuckerman favors twelve-year terms for legislators because it makes government less of a revolving door. Nonetheless, he said that the council’s vote to extend them was reprehensible. Mr. Zuckerman advocates the changing of the City Charter to ensure that a matter decided by referendum can only be altered by a referendum. It is evident that Mr. Zuckerman believes strongly in good government issues and would serve capably and push a reform agenda, if elected.