In Defense of Old School Politics & Frank Seddio
By Stephen Witt
As far as flawed heroes go you can’t get any better than former Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio in his battle against the many-headed serpent of current progressive politics.
Seddio’s latest scrape is with Park Slope Democratic District Leader and City Council Candidate Doug Schneider.
For full transparency, Schneider’s wife, Joni Kletter, formerly served as Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s campaign treasurer and director of appointments where she received in excess of a hefty $190,000 in 2020. And as the recently appointed De Blasio Commissioner and Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) she stands to make a good chunk of taxpayer change more in 2021.
As director of appointments, Kletter was most responsible for keeping Brooklyn’s progressive leadership wing awash with political welfare jobs. This patronage mill included many of the progressive New Kings Democrats (NKD) executive and founding members, including City Council Candidate Lincoln Restler.
A good many of these patronage jobs also contributed to some of de Blasio’s worst policies such as the attempted theft of Black and Brown property owners through the Third Party Transfer program and a wave of crushing small business regulatory laws that have contributed – al0ng with COVID – to all the ‘For Rent’ signs on commercial strips.
So the other night, you had Schneider, under the guise of defending the LGBT and non-binary community, bullying mainstream Democrats on ironically their lack of transparency and inclusivity. This resulted in Seddio, an old-school Italian from Canarsie, to tell Schneider and the progressive wing to go blank themselves, and for which he apologized.
But it appears Schneider went into the meeting with a political agenda. Within an hour after the meeting, he sent out an emailed release complete with a short clipped version of Seddio’s comment from the four-hour meeting, asking for donations for his city council run.
“The fact that Doug Schneider had prepared a press release ready to go literally an hour after the meeting concluded speaks volumes that this was a rehearsed effort to try to support his campaign and simultaneously distract from the fact his partner [Kletter] is a senior de Blasio official in a district where the mayor is extremely unpopular,” said one Democratic Party source, who received the release.
This recent dust-up reveals a growing faultline between old and new school thinking in Brooklyn Democratic Party politics.
Basically, the old school holds the big tent theory that the borough is made up of various races cultures, religions, ethnicities, etc. and each group should have some seat at the table.
This school decentralizes the party apparatus in that it lets, for example, the Italians control their neighborhoods, the Blacks control their neighborhoods, the Jews their neighborhoods, the Latinos their neighborhoods and so on. Organizationally, this is done mainly through elected district leaders – one male and one female in each district and the centralized leadership through the county chair pretty much stays out of the business of individual districts and lets them run things themselves.
This old school approach is exhibited in the recent squabble in which the LGBT and non-binary communities wanted inclusivity in district leadership roles in that current district leadership is comprised of one traditional male and female leader in each district. The executive committee, made up of the 42 district leaders – in a contentious vote – approved a compromise and said they would select some LGBT and Non-binary people as part of the at-large executive committee.
The new school approach has the NKD attempting to centralize the party’s thinking and policies through its ‘Rep your Block’, initiative where it seeks like-minded thinkers to usurp district leaders and issues in the community in order to gain control of the rank-and-file Democratic County Committee, which in-turn can then vote to re-centralize the power in the hands of the few.
‘Rep your Block’ rattles a good many long-standing communities as being political gentrification because it often sidesteps longstanding neighborhood political clubs and ignores many of their own long-standing issues and concerns.
From this vantage point, the progressives – like all political thinkers – have some good ideas well worth exploring, but they are unwilling to recognize that inclusivity and transparency is a two-way street.
And given a choice between the two, I stand with Seddio and the old school.