SoHo Politics— September 2011 Elections

“Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits— a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.” 
― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

Personally, it is no great surprise that the media distorts reality. It occurs in numerous publications. The Villager, Downtown Express, have their own agenda, Newsday caters to law enforcement in Suffolk County and the Hamptons (indictment were avoided by making nice after the circulation scandal), the NY Post (Murdoch has his own problems), and the Daily News prefers some politicians over others. Hunter Thompson is a favorite because he hated all media, thought they were all whores, and distrusted journalists even though he was among the best of them.

Fortunately, the truth usually leaks out in various forms. Whether it is simply word of mouth or just another underground publication. It doesn’t always get proper lip service after its read by straphangers but those who know better ultimately get the picture.

Take the recent elections in SoHo, which involved a handful of candidates for District Leader, arguably one of the most fundamental democratic political positions. In Manhattan, amongst many clubs, Downtown Independent Democrats (D.I.D.) has grown as a political force and now carries significant weight in reviewing candidates and maintaining relations with elected politicians. Members of political clubs are able to express their views and the view of others in the community, so a successful political club is an interface with the elected structure of City government. Clubs serve a useful political role. Even at its worst, Tammany Hall provided jobs and helped constituents survive horrendous economic times. Currently, the heir to Tammany is Jim McManus, a very influential District Leader of the McManus Midtown Democratic Club in Hell’s Kitchen.

Recently, District Leaders supported by D.I.D., won landslide elections over their opponents. Former District leaders Linda Belfer and David Reck (who now heads his own political club with Bill Love) were defeated in their bid for re-election -- by John Scott, Jenifer Rajkumar and Paul Newell. All won by at least a two-thirds majority. Jean Grillo was re-elected unopposed. All are D.I.D. members.

What was significant about this election was the fact that the elected politicians, including Nadler, Maloney, Silver, Squadron and Chin, supported the incumbents— all of whom lost. The People supported the winners. It is a lesson to all of us that political power is ephemeral and not to be taken for granted.

However, the reaction by the media, especially the NY Post and Daily News portrayed the election as a rejection of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is the elephant in the room of Downtown politics. Unfortunately, knowing the media and its affiliations, which they often pander to, this was untrue but widely circulated. Those publications were playing to whatever agenda was convenient.

Silver was not really part of this equation. D.I.D. had had enough of some “difficult” relations with Reck and Belfer. Grillo was uncontested and Newell was running for re-election, not election. While there may have been disagreements in the past, the Newell election was no longer a hot topic. Silver’s power was never contested and his influence is undiminished.

To set the record straight, though, the community did well and at worst for Downtown’s politicians – all were reminded that decisions still remain with the people.

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