Wednesday, November 5, 2008

David Yassky

Yassky ‘betrayed’ voters
By Gersh Kuntzman, The Brooklyn Paper, 10, 30, 08

Voters are angry about the City Council’s 29–22 vote last week to set aside term limits and allow Mayor Bloomberg to run for a third term — and lots of them are taking it out on David Yassky.

The Brooklyn Heights councilman has become the main whipping boy for Brownstone Brooklyn outrage about the Council’s Oct. 23 vote to set aside two prior public term-limit votes — mostly because this self-proclaimed reformer has been shown to be just another self-serving, double-talking pol, critics said.

“Yassky’s real intention was always to serve another four years in office,” said Ken Diamondstone, who had planned to run for Yassky’s seat, but is now undecided because Yassky is now widely expected to abandon his quest to succeed no-longer-term-limited City Comptroller Bill Thompson and run for re-election instead.

“By doing an end run around the people’s strong stance on [term limits], Yassky clearly demonstrated that he believes his own interests trump the voice of the voters,” Diamondstone said.

Hours after the historic vote last Thursday, Yassky argued before the Independent Neighborhood Democrats, a reform-minded Carroll Gardens political club, that he did just the opposite.

He explained that after long soul-searching, he decided that he could support a 12-year term limit if it went before the public again. Yet when his amendment to do just that was defeated, he voted with the mayor.

And that’s not kosher in so-called progressive circles.

“David’s vote was more painful than the other 28 ‘yes’ votes because he represents a district that leads the city when it comes to politicial reform,” said Alan Fleishman, a Democratic district leader and Yassky constituent. “David’s ‘yes’ vote was politically motivated based on his aspirations to run for higher office. The voters of Brownstone Brooklyn deserved better.”

Yassky’s Council colleague, Bill DeBlasio, who opposed the term-limit change, blasted Yassky’s lack of integrity.

“He was not sincere,” said DeBlasio (D–Park Slope), who now says he’s running for Public Advocate, though he could run for his own seat. Yassky “did not act with integrity” because his amendment “was not offered in an honest spirit.”

“It was an artifice and a maneuver on his part to give him cover,” added DeBlasio. “How could you call for a referendum and then vote for the mayor’s bill?”

Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens) also attacked Yassky’s integrity.

“What he did was not the progressive thing,” said Millman. “It outraged people. And his explanation was convoluted and torturous. If you put forth an amendment, you need to gather support for it. And if it fails, you should vote against the bill.”

Reached on Tuesday after hearing a week’s worth of criticism, Yassky rejected the notion that he opposed overturning the public will on term limits even though his ultimate vote did just that.
“I believe I still have the moral high ground because in the end, I voted for what is in the best interest of the city,” he said. “I did want to change term limits. I said that all along. I did not want to do it by overturning the will of the voters, but when that failed, I voted for 12 years instead of eight.”

Yassky claimed that personal motivation had nothing to do with his vote; he said he is still running for Comptroller, just as he was before he voted to allow himself to run again for his seat.

But most political insiders believe that Thompson will eventually choose a safe re-election as comptroller over running against the billionaire mayor.

“And when that happens,” said one local elected official who sought anonymity because he is still raising money for his own run against a no-longer term-limited councilmember, “Yassky will get to appear like a good Democrat by announcing that he won’t take on Thompson.”

And when THAT happens, the insider continued, the five people who were already running for Yassky’s seat — Ken Baer, Diamonstone, Jo Anne Simon, Evan Thies and Steve Levin — will opt out rather than face an incumbent with a comptroller-sized war chest.

UPDATE: On Friday, former New York State Sierra Club chapter chairman Ken Baer told The Brooklyn Paper that he is in the race whether Yassky runs again or not. A story on the subject is here.

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