Southern Brooklyn

Op-Ed: Pull The Plug On The Political Machine


The following was submitted by Ed Jaworski, president of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association and director of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance. Looking to get involved? E-mail Jaworski.

There was the fictional town of Mayberry in the popular 1960’s TV series, “The Andy Griffith Show.”  Who decided that Mayor Stoner would run to succeed Mayor Pike? Were Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife elected or appointed by some never-seen political boss?

Since Mayberry was a small, one traffic sign town, picture ordinary people, rather than a “political machine,” making these decisions.  Perhaps conversations first took place among neighbors at the barber shop or general store, and then solidified at a town hall gathering.  Certainly such citizen participation is what was intended by this country’s founding fathers when town meetings took place in colonial–era churches

The U.S. Constitution begins with “We the people.”  It doesn’t refer to party leaders, or political clubhouses, or backroom deals, or following party rules. It probably envisioned neighbors openly getting together so that they might decide on representatives.

So, where do “We the people” fit into the process of selecting candidates for vacant elected posts – especially Anthony Weiner’s seat in Congress?

Probably about where our Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods were last winter in the snow removal debacle: Buried under excuses, wondering who to trust.

The Declaration of Independence states: “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive…it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.” At ballgames, the equivalent statement is: “Throw the bum out.”

The 17th Century British philosopher John Locke wrote about “social contracts” between individuals, and that the legislative “has a trust to fulfill.” Locke surely would see political bosses as equivalent to tyrannical monarchs. What with his caving in to party bosses to fill the assembly and congressional vacancies, I now question how much trust to place in Governor Cuomo’s pronouncements about needing to restore trust, and calls for ethics reform in New York’s elected bodies.

I have been asking: Who in New York City’s government can we trust? Who isn’t a bum, manipulative weasel, or self-styled monarch?  That question starts at the city’s highest elected post, filters down to the first step of so-called democratic participation, the Community Boards, and long has led up to dysfunctional Albany.

In addition to the bucket of disappointment thrown at us by Anthony Weiner, and handling of last winter’s snows, Southern Brooklyn has endured other recent messes you’d never find in Mayberry. State Senator Carl Kruger is up for indictment on bribery charges, which surprised us more in how long it took to catch up with him. I am outraged that his party pals continually renominated him. Why should we trust them with giving us honest, viable candidates this time? (Candidly, I know little about congressional nominees David Weprin and Bob Turner).

It’s time to pull the plug on the political machine, which often takes the easy road by simply recirculating good old, loyal boys, much like baseball managers. Let’s find new blood – interested, knowledgeable, involved neighbors who aren’t being “paid-back” for loyalty or dancing like puppets – both for the elected posts and for highly politicized community board seats.

Here’s a suggestion to “alter or abolish” the current system: Give legitimate civic associations a role in the selection of local candidates.  If the powers that be won’t agree, now the new ballot format offers an easy, doable scenario: Find and agree upon a candidate for a massive write-in vote.  In fact, I’m looking for a start-up alliance of Brooklyn civic groups to do just this.

Let’s show that citizens can stop party bosses from hijacking the democratic process. We need our own Mayberry-like town hall gathering. Time to chase the foxes away from the chicken coop.

Comment policy


  1. Good Stuff. I agree with everything that is written here. All we need is enough people, money, weapons and we can try to make a difference in force.
    “Every generation needs a new revolution”

  2. Our government, the federal government specifically, has evolved into such a tangled and dysfunctional system that the only way to fix it is to start talking about  changes in very broad strokes.  At this point I don’t think small legislative changes would make any difference because there is so much haggling between sides that it’s really impossible to pass anything of significance. 

    I see two ways out of the situation.  One is that we have a revolution similar to those we have seen in the Arab countries or perhaps something similar to the the Soviet Union breakup .  It could happen very fast.  For example, a budge is not passed, or the country defaults on it’s debt.  Inflation explodes, the military stops getting paid and then who knows, things can change we quickly.

    The second resolution would be if the country had a powerful and charismatic leader whom everyone can get behind and for whom people on both the left and the right would not mind making a sacrifice.  Such figures appear in history from time to time, and one should hope that he/she doesn’t turn into a dictator or mass murderer.  If neither of these things come to pass I would be very pessimistic.  As someone who left the Soviet Union two years before the collapse I am very much aware that big  political and economic changes can happen in a matter of days. 

  3. While the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Council is an example of the finest minds trying to do something to help our community, and many other such groups exist that so much the same thing, these organizations would run the risk over time of resembling their political party counterparts. Those who seek power run to where power lies.

    But even for that,it is an idea worth consideration.

  4. Ed, political bosses evolve from people who take government
    seriously. They tend to form “parties” of like minded individuals. What is the
    percentage of people in any community that take any interest in community
    meetings, local board meetings, civic associations, blogs etc? You hear many
    complaints from people, especially when a situation affects them directly, but
    are mute if it only affects others. So in other words we complain about politics
    and expect those “bosses” to read our minds. Meanwhile MONEY starts to flow and
    decisions start to be made based on that MONEY by people who take government
    seriously. Since we all pray at the monetary cathedral and fully subscribe to
    the belief (with a religious like conviction) that MONEY is our salvation, there
    is no mystery that MONEY, not politicians, not political bosses, not a new
    revolution, is the corrupting element. So please take government seriously but
    address the corrosion that MONEY inflicts on us all.

  5. Revolutions always seem to end in some mad dictator taking charge: Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Oba…  Just kidding guys, at least spell my name right when the contract goes out on me.

  6. I was thinking about that as well. We need change but whos going to step in instead?  We need leaders that want change and have the wherewithal to try and make it happen. Im not a history major but i think this country was built on the people having power and not a government that has control and oversight on everything we do.

  7. Voter turnout in primary elections hovers around 10% in New York. Corrupt politicians have nothing to fear if so few people vote, and even fewer are familiar with the candidates. People who don’t vote in primaries help insure that the worst candidates get elected.

    Increasing participation is difficult, especially since even educated voters have trouble figuring out who is a decent candidate. So I agree wholeheartedly with Ed Jaworski – stronger civic associations are essential to better governance in Brooklyn.


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