Thursday, March 6, 2014

[140307] Yes, parting is such sweet sorrow ...

Dear friends, neighbors, both ...

It is my pleasure to share with you the fact that I will be joining the Office of the District Attorney of Kings County to work with youth programs.  My first day will be on Monday, March 10.

I am excited to be of service to the young people of Brooklyn who have come into contact with the criminal justice system.  I am also honored to have an opportunity to work with District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson and the dedicated staff in an important office at a historic time.

At this point in my life, working within organizations or agencies that focus on helping our communities (with minimal hype) is a priority for me.  My father's legacy of service was not built upon empty words; protecting that legacy within our family is important to me.

It is with mixed emotions, therefore, that I announce my retirement from partisan politics.

The next chapter of my life means that this political chapter must close.   Effective Sunday night (March 9), I will be resigning my Democratic Party position of State Committee member from the 52nd Assembly District, and all related positions.  I also have no intention of seeking public or party office in the future.

Furthermore, as of Monday, I will not be participating in any election campaigns on behalf of individual candidates.  This means that I will not be making endorsements, not maintaining a political Facebook page or Twitter account, not carrying petitions, not handing out literature or making phone calls, as I usually do.  (And to my friends in the judiciary, we will not be discussing any Supreme Court candidacies, either.  Sorry!)

It is indeed time to move on and I want to thank each of you for being an important part of this journey.

Serving the registered Democrats of Brooklyn and our 52nd Assembly District these past four years has been an honor and a privilege.  My work with State Assemblymember Joan Millman and my State Committee colleague Jo Anne Simon has been rewarding, and I thank them for being patient with me.  Being the only (and the first?) African-American State Committee member to represent a "majority white" Assembly District in Brooklyn has been a good experience for me. (Given demographic changes, however, I definitely won't be the last!)

I would like to give a shout out and thank the Democratic organizations operating within the 52nd Assembly District for their support of my work and their ongoing commitment to building a progressive Party that includes people from all walks of life:  the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID), the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn (LID), the Independent Neighborhood Democrats (IND), and New Kings Democrats (NKD).  If you live in Brooklyn, join a Democratic club.  You won't regret it and we will all benefit from your participation.  There will be a new website coming soon to make your club selection process easier!

As a member of the Kings County Democrats' Executive Committee, I have had the good fortune to work with good people and experience a major shift in how our County organization is operating and preparing for the future.  Chairman Frank Seddio has been a breath of fresh air and I wish him luck and strength with the changes to come.

Being a part of Brooklyn's political landscape since 1982 has been wonderful.  I had the privilege of working with my father and his colleagues in government, as well as many other individuals and efforts.  I've been candidate, campaign manager, consultant, donor and volunteer.  I have very few regrets.  Political work is a unique and wonderful thing, as is public service, in general.  They are both addictive, but not identical.  No other business uses the public's trust as currency the way politics does.  Accordingly, we see the ups and downs of this crazy life from a perspective different from that of any other business.

Sometimes you believe your own hype a bit too much; sometimes it's hard to believe enough to keep pushing through.  I have known those paid by taxpayers (or donors or philanthropists) to spout rhetoric and feed their own egos.  I have also known those working in government, non-profit and for-profit companies who truly cared more about their needy clientele than whether or not they had the corner office, a neat title, or a holiday party.

I have seen people become legends in their own minds, deaf to the wishes of those who elected them.  On the other hand, I have seen people give every ounce of themselves in service to the people -- really listening to them before they act.  I have watched bright stars implode due to temptations -- the latest sad case being the conviction of Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr.  On the other hand, I have participated in historic electoral victories, as well as victories by candidates who always made me proud -- like the late Congressman Major Owens.  I have watched alienated voters sink back into apathetic quietude.   On the other hand, I have experienced the flames of voters' passions and basked in their warmth.

I have seen lesser souls win and greater souls lose, yet, in reality, more good souls than bad souls win office.  I have seen public servants nurture their children in the best ways to stay in an honorable family business, while others simply use their children's lives to fulfill the parents' dreams of glory or wealth.  I have known staff members who relish every moment of service to their elected bosses and the constituents, and others who simply use each staff position as a stepping stone to a new title and higher salary.

I ran for offices and knew the joy of victory.  I also tasted the bitterness of defeat.  Most troubling, however, has been the exponential growth of money as the primary factor in a candidate's "viability" and ultimate sustainability.  Yet there are still a few truly "grassroots" campaigns that start up and actually win elections.  I have lived the circular life of "reformers" becoming "establishment" and the established seeking new reforms.  My life in politics may not be unique, but it has indeed been a fascinating journey.

In the end, however, there is only one metric that matters:  Did I improve the lives of those I am supposed to serve?  Whatever I do or have done through government or non-profit work -- or even for-profit work -- the answer will hopefully always be "Yes!"

So, friends, I will continue to offer commentary on a limited number of subjects (e.g. - music and popular culture), but partisan politics won't be one of them.

Yes, parting is such sweet sorrow ...

Friday, January 31, 2014

Apples & Oranges! Pete Seeger and Super Bowl 48!

Dear Friends, 


Are you using Facebook?  If so, I have two favors to ask of you:

- - Please help me honor the memories of Pete & Toshi Seeger, family friends and providers of personal inspiration.  I knew Pete & Toshi my entire life.  They had dinner at our house, my brothers and I sang for them, they supported my father's political work, and Pete welcomed me to the People's Music Network for Songs of Freedoms and Struggle back in 1984.   Pete understood "struggle" and celebrated the struggles of everyone in this difficult world.

We are collecting signatures to support the renaming of a portion of the Hudson River for Pete & Toshi Seeger, who loved the Hudson and did so much to improve the quality of the water and environment.  All you have to do is LIKE this Facebook page!  Just click here to go to Facebook and get to the page.

- - Please support my activism within the Democratic Party here in Brooklyn by also LIKING my political Facebook page!  This is where I post articles and my pithy commentary!  You may or may not agree with everything I have to say, but you'll know what's going on.  Just click here and LIKE!


Need a place to go for Sunday's Super Bowl 48?

Friends of mine have put together a blow-out Super Bowl event you might want to check out!  Meet me at MIST Harlem!

46 W. 116th Street  (5th Ave & Lenox Ave/Malcolm X Blvd), New York, NY 10026
#2, 3 Trains stop on the corner!  #6 Train stops 3.5 blocks away!  "C" Train stops 2 blocks away!

- - Enjoy Super Bowl 48 on three theater-sized screens!
- - Enjoy the music of DJ Jon Quick & VJ Myke Walker!
- - Enjoy a performance by Allure and other entertainers!
- - Be part of our live radio broadcast!
- - Be a raffle winner!

Happy Hour:  3:00 pm - 5:30 pm (Discounted food and drinks)
The Game:    6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
After Party (with surprise NFL guests from a city starting with the letter "D"!)

Advance tickets:  $40.00
Tickets at door:  $50.00
VIP tickets:  $65.00

To purchase tickets on-line, click here now!

For off-line ticket purchases in Harlem/Manhattan, call 917-683-6735, 646-334-7430 or 917-743-8967
For off-line ticket purchases in Brooklyn, call 973-866-6322 or 917-903-5509
For off-line ticket purchases in the Bronx, call 917-743-8967
For off-line ticket purchases in Queens, call 973-866-6322
For off-line ticket purchases in Yonkers, call 914-426-4419

For all other off-line $50 ticket reservations, call MIST at 646·688·5886.  You must leave your full name, your telephone number AND email address, and the number of tickets you are reserving.

For more event information, contact Geoffrey Atkins:  210-852-0322
A production of GREDT & Associates, Inc., and New England Broadband, Inc.






Chris Owens

Member, NY Democratic State Committee, 52nd Assembly District 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Election Day 2013 - Bill, Scott, Tish, Ken and Ballot Questions and ...

As Tuesday, November 5th approaches, there appears to be an unusual calm.  Is it a calm before a huge storm?  That remains to be seen.

The challenges facing New York City's next municipal administration are significant.  Those who allege that there are no impending crises underestimate the importance of the upcoming labor negotiations, the new modifications to police practices and oversight thereof, the potential sunset of Mayoral control over education, and infrastructure replacement costs ... to name a few issues.

Your vote on Tuesday for Democrats is an important statement regarding the future of New York.  The dominance of a more "corporate oriented" approach to governance is coming to a halt -- if not an end.-- and this will have ripple effects across the City and State, as well as the nation.  Let's give this change a chance.

Accordingly, I urge you to help elect Bill de Blasio as the next Mayor, Scott Stringer as the next Comptroller, and Letitia James as the next Public Advocate.  This is a unique team with great potential to deliver a better New York City for all of us.  Furthermore, there are a number of Democratic City Council candidates who really need a strong Democratic turnout to ensure their victories.

In Brooklyn, there is a race for the position of District Attorney -- a countywide/boroughwide role that is undergoing a transformation.  After 24 years of service, the incumbent D.A., Charles "Joe" Hynes, is about to retire due to his defeat in the Democratic Primary election this past September.  Unfortunately, Mr. Hynes has chosen a less gracious exit from his District Attorney role by campaigning as a newly minted Republican, which makes your vote for former Assistant U.S. Attorney and Democrat Kenneth P. Thompson extremely important.  Brooklyn needs a change and there is always room for improvement in an office such as the District Attorney's.

You will also find a number of proposals on the ballot for your consideration -- you must turn over your ballot to vote for these items!  Such proposals -- changes to the New York State Constitution -- are usually misunderstood due, in part, to their complexity and the lack of education surrounding them.  I often find myself as ignorant as anyone else on these matters, but I believe that all democrats (note the small "d") have an obligation to vote on important issues -- and that means you and me.
  • There is a proposal to allow for additional casinos within the State (Proposal 1).  The New York Times makes a compelling argument to vote NO on this proposal.  What I find fascinating is how so much of the paper's argument applied -- and still applies -- to the Atlantic Yards project, yet the Times made no such arguments when they were needed most in 2003.  But I digress.  Read the Times' analysis by clicking here.
  • Disabled veterans will be given more credit on civil service examinations (Proposal 2).  I will be voting YES on this proposal.
    • Communities would now be able to exclude the debt incurred on the construction of sewers from their constitutional debt limits until 2024 -- an extension (Proposal 3).  I will be voting YES on this proposal.
    • The town of Long Lake in the Adirondacks (Hamilton County) has some land issues that can be resolved through land swaps -- some 200 issues, to be a bit more precise (Proposal 4).  The net result is the addition of protected lands to the State's forest preserves. The Times and the NY League of Conservation Voters support this proposal.  I will be voting YES on this proposal.  Here is the link to some analysis.
    • A mining company wishes to expand operations into 200 acres of forest preserve in exchange for the donation of 1,500 acres to the public and the eventual return of the 200 acres (Proposal 5).  This proposal is receiving mixed reviews.  The New York Times and others, including the Adirondack Council and NY League of Conservation Voters, support this proposal (for LCV analysis, click here.)  I have just received information from the National Resources Defense Council regarding opposition to the proposal AND the Sierra Club also opposes it.  This is not my area of expertise!  Accordingly, I have little to share on this question other than the fact that I will probably be voting NO... (final vote to be determined tomorrow).
    • There is a proposal to raise the retirement age for state judges from 70 to 80 (Proposal 6).  This is a delicate subject, needless to say.  I lean towards voting NO on this proposal.  Why?  Because there is value to be had in allowing -- or promoting -- changes to the judiciary AND there are already ways for some judges to serve beyond the age of 70.  Retired judges may still be of service to our State -- as mentors to sitting judges and lawyers, as thought leaders free to share their views and recommendations without the constraints of active bench duty, and -- with some other legal changes -- as administrators of the judiciary.  We need the wisdom, but we need a judiciary that reflects the population it serves.  
      • First, we need to be able to end the tenure of judges who are either "not good" or "less good than they were."  This may sound harsh, but it's necessary.  
      • Second, to increase diversity on the bench in a meaningful and fair manner, the current retirement age should remain in place.  It's a tough call, but retirement ages for judges are not rare and we have a deep pool of jurists and potential jurists to draw upon.  
      • Third, I do NOT see this retirement age proposal as a way to reduce the workload and systemic backlog of cases.  Increase the number of Supreme Court judges and there will be a positive impact.  Pay judges fairly and there will be a positive impact.  Give judges the technology they need to operate more efficiently, and there will be a positive impact.  These things are worth the money needed in our budgets.  Further constraints on diversity are not worthy of my vote, however.
    For another perspective on these ballot questions, read Gerald Benjamin's piece in City & State.  We don't agree on everything, but that's the point, isn't it?

    I hope that you find this helpful.  Thank you again for your support of my family.

    Let's win!


    P.S. - To volunteer for Ken Thompson, click here or contact or call 718-622-1560.  Your help is needed, today!

    P.P.S. - Did you see our silly fun music video for "B-d-B Country"?  Click here!

    P..P.S. - If you have any problems voting on Tuesday, have the Polling Site Coordinator assist you OR make sure the Polling Site Coordinator calls the NYC Board of Elections immediately for assistance.  If you feel your civil rights were violated in any way, contact the office of NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at 1-800-771-7755.  You can also send me an email describing your problem (but please understand that I won't receive the email until AFTER the election.)

    Sunday, October 6, 2013

    Support Ken Thompson On Thursday, October 10

    Santos Crespo, President


    Local 372 - Board of Education Employees

    along with

    Hon. Frank Seddio 
    Chairman, Brooklyn Democratic Party


    Hon. Chris Owens
    Member, Democratic State Committee
    52nd Assembly District, Brooklyn

    invite you to join us for a reception in support of

    Democratic Nominee for District Attorney
    Kings County (Brooklyn), New York

    Thursday, October 10, 2013
    6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

    Local 372
    125 Barclay Street, 6th Floor
    New York, NY  10007

    Friend          $250 
    Patron          $500 
    Sponsor     $1,000
    Supporter  $2,500
    Host          $5,000
    Chair       $10,000

    To RSVP or for more information, 
    please call Mona Davids at 646-771-5981 

    Ken Thompson won the Democratic Primary on September 10th by ten percentage points over 24-year incumbent Joe Hynes.   Thompson's historic upset victory against an incumbent District Attorney put this super-qualified former Assistant U.S. Attorney in position to become the first non-white District Attorney for Brooklyn.  

    After the Primary Election, loser Hynes said he would not continue campaigning -- even though he had the Republican and Conservative lines -- and that Hynes would support Thompson during the transition period before January 1st.  In October, Hynes suddenly decided to be an active candidate on the Republican and Conservative lines in the November 5th General Election.  Hynes' spin as to why he is turning his back on the Democratic Party that has supported him for decades is filled with misinformation, to be diplomatic.  He has already raised more than $200,000 to campaign against Ken Thompson.  

    It's our turn to stand up with and for Ken Thompson!  Join us this Thursday, October 10th. 

    Give what you can either on-line or via check at the event or via mail.

    Monday, September 30, 2013

    131001 - Run-Off Election Today, October 1st! Plus, the week in review.

    Dear Friends,

    Our lives are so busy.  Between assisting my youngest son with the search for high schools, volunteering to help worthy candidates for public office, and my new work with the City, there is little time to spend on the internet.  So I have decided to change one of my habits and limit my posting behavior.  

    I will share my thoughts on a weekly basis.  I appreciate the great response I have had so far on my Facebook page and elsewhere, and I hope I can continue to inform and entertain as we move forward together.

    I tell my sons regularly that history is made every second.  Certainly this week has strengthened that argument:
    • Progress was made in removing chemical weapons from Syria.  I applaud the Obama Administration and the Russians (who I generally dislike for so many reasons) for their positive roles in achieving what looks like a positive outcome at this point in time.
    • A unique moment took place when President Obama spoke to the Iranian leader (which I predicted back in 2006 would happen within 10 years) and provided a spark of light for our future.  Again, I am glad that this Administration is willing to take political risks in the interest of real peace.
    • Congressional Republicans have chosen a path of insane destruction with regard to our nation's budget and economy.  So much has already been said.  I have little to add to the discussion.  But I am truly disgusted.
    • The greatest relief pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball, Mariano Rivera, ended his career -- his way.  So did a record-holding starting pitcher, Andy Pettite.  Both were true New York Yankees!  Time marches on.


    As you may know, I am supporting the candidacy of City Councilmember Letitia James for this office.  She is opposed by State Senator Daniel Squadron.  

    James represents my Prospect Heights neighbors and me in the Council; Squadron represents a chunk of my Assembly District and my non-Prospect Heights neighbors.  Neither candidate is perfect; neither candidate is terrible.  But one is a better fit for the important but overlooked position of Public Advocate.  It is my hope that you will join me in voting for Letitia James.

    My good friend and constituent, Judi Francis (Brooklyn Heights / Cobble Hill), wrote these words explaining why she and her husband are supporting Letitia James:
    As we have said in earlier emails, we know both candidates very well but only one has the experience, the understanding and the humanity to do the right thing. That is Tish. From her early start, growing up as a daughter of a janitor, putting herself through college and Howard University Law School, and later as a public defender, Tish was born to be an advocate for those who don't have the money or clout to be heard. And that includes middle class communities like ours, too.   
    Tish has served her City Council district remarkably well, fighting eminent domain for a single developer's profits against a plan that had no community input, saving her local library (first one in Brooklyn created by Andrew Carnegie on 4th Ave) and expanding her advocacy for the other libraries slated to be taken down (one right in her opponent's district but he has been totally absent on that); helping to save Long Island College Hospital and Interfaith, also not in her district. 
    Tish was one of just a handful of city council people who voted against the Bloomberg 3rd term power grab (another example of her opponent missing in action). Her record on women's health, on public parks, on housing (sponsoring winning legislation for timely repairs on rental units) has meant the difference for countless individuals and communities throughout the city. 
    Judi -- a constituent of Daniel Squadron's -- has many criticisms of Squadron, which I won't go into here.  My greatest concern is that the Squadron campaign has waged a very negative, "take no prisoners" campaign for this office.  

    I understand the desire to win.  But I also understand the need for New York City to enter a time of inclusive politics that does not revolve around the things we don't like -- but revolves around the things we need and want to see come to fruition.  

    Another good friend and someone I admire, political blogger David Michaelson (Park Slope), wrote these words:
    The runoff is for NYC Public Advocate. This is a position that can be as strong as the person who is elected to the position. NYC has had three Public Advocates. Mark Green was a strong one. The next two largely did nothing with the position so people forget that it can be an important position that is designed to be a balance to the power of the mayor. The Public Advocate investigates citizen complaints against government agencies, can propose legislation in the City Council (though does not vote in the council), and appoints several members of various boards and commissions that run the city. 
    The runoff is between two people I know personally: Tish James and Dan Squadron. Both are smart and good people. But they are very different people. Tish James is a strong, African-American woman who has been a strong voice in the community for decades and was initially elected to the city council on the Working Families Party line. She is now a Democrat but was for some time the ONLY person in NY State who was elected on WFP who wasn't also on the Democratic line. She comes from a middle class background and has stood with Occupy Wall Street. She has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and the National Organization of women for her tireless support of women's rights and has been endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters for her strong environmental record. She is proudly liberal and is fearless in standing up for poor and middle class New Yorkers, and this has earned her the animosity of Wall Street. 
    Her opponent, Dan Squadron is a really nice guy, but he comes from a very corporate, Wall Street background and is basically a relatively conservative (for NYC!), pro-Bloomberg Democrat. He is for mayoral control of schools and receives a great deal of campaign money from developers and hedge fund executives. He is not bad, but he is not the person I see using the Public Advocate position for what it was meant to be: a balance to the mayor and a force to help average New Yorkers fight the city when needed. 
    I urge you to join NOW, Planned Parenthood, and the League of Conservation Voters and vote for Tish James for Public Advocate tomorrow, October 1st.
    And one of our local champions, activist attorney Candace Carponter, wrote these stirring words:
    Dear Friends -- Most of you know my good friend and frequent ally, Tish (Letitia) James is in a runoff for Public Advocate, and the election is today.  Those of us who know her and stood with her are passionate about her and the rightness of her running for this office.  Tish has stood up for the little guy when no one was watching..  
    Way back when Atlantic Yards was only Ratner's dream, Tish spoke out, saying that her constituents didn't need an arena -- they needed jobs, day care centers, senior centers, and housing. But Tish wisely knew that we couldn't just say no to the project as proposed -- she organized local architects, planners and community leaders and members to come up with a meaningful alternative.  Just the other day, the Supreme Court reiterated that that alternative to Ratner's megaproject  which Tish helped create had to be studied before the remainder (phase 2 or 75% of the project) can go forward. Tish has that kind of vision, pragmatism, and courage to speak out for those whose voices are drowned out by megadevelopers and big money.  
    She has been there when the cameras weren't rolling, at Stop the Violence protests, at closing senior centers, when they first announced LICH's closing, when they threatened to sell off libraries, whenever we've called on her to have our voice heard. In other words, Tish was born to this role as Public Advocate, and I believe in my heart that she will make that office into what it has always been meant to be -- an advocate for the vast majority of the people who have been locked out of the system, and alienated from the process.  
    Voter turnout today will be low, and the race will be very close.  Therefore, every vote counts even more than in a normal election.  Please make sure that  your voice, and the voice of all your family and friends, is heard today, so that Tish can continue to make sure it is heard in this city for years to come. 

    The election of Letitia James to the position of Public Advocate would make history here in New York City -- not simply because James would be the first African American woman to hold this position, but because a homegrown resident of a borough other than Manhattan will be in this position.  The filter through which the Public Advocate sees our City is a critical asset.  I like Letitia James' filter.

    Some two decades ago, I finished four years of work for the last City Council President, Andrew Stein.  Stein had continued the aggressive work of his predecessor, Carol Bellamy, and had amassed a talented staff (if I say so myself) to tackle various issues of importance to the City.  City Council President was abolished by Charter, and the new Public Advocates, Mark Green then Betsy Gotbaum, continued the tradition -- but with more limited budgets.   The current occupant, Bill de Blasio (an immigrant to Brooklyn), has also attempted to maximize the potential of the office -- with some success.

    The Public Advocate is just that -- the person we should all be able to turn to when we have not been heard by City Government (or State or Federal, for that matter.)  A review of Letitia James' track record as a community advocate, activist attorney, and elected official will highlight the need for electing her to Public Advocate.

    Run-off elections are historically low-turnout affairs.  Your vote, therefore, will definitely matter.  Please take the time to vote and improve our City.  Elect Letitia James.  

    You will be voting at the same location you voted on September 10th.