Tag Archive: Occupy Wall Street

Nov 14 2011

Steve Behar, Leader of Progressive Politics

Steve is motivated by his heart, and a passion for good government. This is what sets him apart from the other guys.

Sometimes the good guy doesn’t win.

For those of you who don’t know, Steve Behar ran in the democratic primary for Assembly District 26. He didn’t win, but now Steve is having a more positive and influential effect on national and state policy making than many sitting incumbents.

What’s he been up to since an unsuccessful bid for State Assembly? Plenty, and he’s worth keeping your eye on.

Steve has been very active with the 99% movement at Zucotti park. He’s a member of The Alternative Banking Working Group, a committee that is part of Occupy Wall Street.

The ABWG is a voluntary organization. Its members are a very impressive group of Ivy League finance professors, attorneys, former investment bankers, and members from the financial press, even diplomats.

Steve and I agree that traditional media has a tendency to portray the 99% demonstrators as pot-smoking hippies.  This is not accurate. It’s a stereotype and you’ll sound like a fool for proliferating it.

The group, which meets every week, is exploring options  like encouraging people to transfer their money to other institutions whether mutually owned or for profit community banks and credit unions.

“We are creating new alternative financial institutions that better serve the community, and we are currently working on a regulatory regime that will be more stable to avoid future financial crisis,” said Behar.

Out of all of these candidates for Assembly, Steve Behar is the only one who was extremely knowledgable about public policy making. His former opponents have also admitted this to me, ex post facto of course.

I campaigned against Steve in the Democratic Primary for AD 26. We called him the one-man army. Little did I know that Steve is extremely knowledgeable and well spoken about public policy.

After getting to know him in the past few months (we went down to Occupy together a number of times and I’ve interviewed him for a few different outlets) I have come to realize in hindsight that Steve knew more about the issues than any other candidate.  He is an expert policy professional and I regret that he is not representing us in the Assembly right now.

Behar is well qualified to advocate for increased transparency in government. He has earned a Bachelors degree in Economics and Political Science from Albany University, an MBA in Finance and Management from Tulane University, a J.D from Tulane and an LLM in Securities and Financial regulation from Georgetown University.

Steve has traveled the country with the New York Democratic Lawyers Council making sure that everyone gets a chance to vote and that there are no irregularities at the polls. Steve was the lead election protection lawyer for Hillary Clinton in northern New Hampshire, as well as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s run for Congress in Dutchess County. Steve was also influential in the Howard Dean campaign of 2004.

During the 2011 election, Steve was an aide to Queens-born Nassau County Legislator Carrie Solages who ousted a 16-year incumbent. His expertise in ballot security operations came in handy when the Republican party handed lists of voters to poll workers at every poll site that were meant to be challenged.

“Republicans said that they sent mail to those names on the lists because that they didn’t  believe they lived in the district anymore,” said Behar.

Was it coincidence that every voter on the list was a person of color?  No one knows for sure.

I asked him, “That’s not normal procedure, is it Steve?” and he replied, “In Nassau County it is!”

For more information see GOP Thug Uses Nasty Intimidation Tactics In Nassau County Race.

Steve is not planning to run for office anytime soon. While his advocacy for good government is well known throughout national politics, Steve is a local voice with strong community roots in Bayside where he is also a member of Community Board 11, the place he calls home.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/11/steve-behar/

Oct 17 2011

On The Front Line Of Occupy Wall Street…A Lawyer Named Yetta.

Yetta Kurland, a civl rights litigator and an activist says her primary concern is the use of excessive force by the NYPD against Occupy demonstrators. "It's a HUGE curtailment of our first amendment rights," said Yetta. Picture from FB.

QP Exclusive: The Wall Street Movement is not going away, says Yetta Kurland a civil rights activist and former city council candidate from Manhattan’s West side. Yetta is a lawyer, no not a blood sucking corporate lawyer, she’s the people’s rep, a civil right’s litigator and she’s been working pro bono for the demonstrators arrested down at Wall Street.

Yetta really knows her issues and the law. In the interest of bringing QP readers a front line perspective, we decided to interview her.

QP Interviews Yetta Kurland:

 Yetta, what’s the scene like at Wall Street?

Yetta begins by saying it’s been more calm but, “You know what’s amazing? The visuals of the Times Square and Washington Square. The movement has grown so massive and very tense, riot gear and horses were out with significant arrests nearly 100 arrests but not mass arrests that folks were concerned with”.

You just can’t arrest that many people,” according to Yetta.

I understand you’ve been down at the courthouse volunteering your legal services as an attorney on behalf of demonstrators. Can you tell me more about that?

“I have been volunteering, it includes arraignment at the court house, and visiting precincts.” It’s easy to get lost in the system, said Yetta who has split her time between visiting precincts and at the courthouse at 100 Centre Street for more than 100 arrestees. “It can be extremely time consuming  — keeping track of those arrested,” she said. It’s a lot of work [and] it’s unfortunate and frankly unnecessary. 

“My primary concern is excessive force.”

“On one of my cases, Ari Douglass was horribly injured by police who basically ran into him knocked him over and left him pinned under a motorcycle, and in response rather than giving him care, they gave him a number of criminal charges including criminal mischief, and resisting arrest.”

“If you look at the video, he’s clearly not.”

So, what are the demonstrations being charged with?

“Disorderly Conduct, Resisting Arrests, Obstruction of Government administration– different charges routinely used. Ari was charged with criminal mischief. Criminal mischief depending on the degree s a felony charge.”

When Occupy Wall Street began, did you predict an end – that is for the demonstration to fizzle out?

“I don’t think this is going to fizzle out. I don’t think weve seen the full momentum of the movement.”

“971 cities across the world, Rome Los Angelas, London, Chicago. 175 arrests. Folks are willing to put themselves on the line.

Yetta continues, “When we see brutality you see more people coming out in solidarity. I don’t see any thing fizzling out.  There is obviously a question about the cities want to shutdown the efforts and weather or not the folks will be able to continue there. Last week was a great victory they were supposed to shutdown the park – and they didn’t. We are moving forward and everyday is a victory… I think that these occupiers are reclaiming public space — public spaces for the public good, I mean the public interest.”

Its really resonating not just with New Yorkers. It is true the whole world is watching this…. I don’t see this coming to an end anytime soon I see this as transformative.:”

What do you think will be the outcome on a national level?

“I hope that the outcome on the national level  is that we reinvest the public sector. I hope that we find ways to prioritize the collective public interest of our country and to seperate government from private interest — that we have check and balances to ensure a free democratic society.”

Are you advocating electoral reform?

“I think it has to happen on every level, electoral, corporate, financial reform in the way we do business reform in the way the NYPD tactics to deal with protesters in public space.

 This is a referendum on police tactics post 9\11. Riot gear, massive arrests… It is a huge curtailment of our first amendment rights.

What’s your next step to support the movement?

“My only role is to act as an attorney to represent the folks down there.”

At the time of this interview, Yetta was traveling to the courthouse at 100 Centre Street.  “There’s additional activities and well keep monitoring and helping to deal with people that have been arrested. We have to go back to work perhaps go to trial. It’s a lot of expense.”

Yetta points out that the police presence is costing an exorbitant amount of tax dollars:

“Every time a huge group of police officers there’s a lot of costs involved in that we complain about financial difficulties we shouldn’t waste tax payer dollars for that.”

What do yo think about Mayor Bloomberg extolling the virtues of free speech, but denouncing the demonstration on Bloomberg radio?

“Confusing—“I’m not sure what he means by that… and free speech is exactly that: It’s not always with something you agree, or even with the medium. He’s lost in his position.

Curious, are you thinking of running for public office  again?

Oh I don’t know— it’s years away, but if I do, I’ll let you know.”

See Politicker NY article.

What’s your message to all the naysayers out there? You know – armchair politicians?

“Come down to Liberty Park and talk to the people. Remember that its easy to step back and not want to be involved or engaged. Bob Dylan said the times they are changing and if you have to wrap your head around that,” said Yetta.

“It’s undeniable. It’s not for us to naysay it’s much bigger… it’s a social movement.”

“History is being made by brave minded making a stand and standing up to simply ask for integrity in our system and that we have a balancing of our powers a truly democratic society,” according to Yetta.

Keep up the good work – QP. If you need to contact Yetta, email yetta@yettakurland.com.

A photo of Yetta during her bid for City Council (3rd district) against Council Speaker Christie Quinn.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/10/on-the-front-line-of-occupy-wall-street-a-lawyer-named-yetta/

Oct 07 2011

Lancman Examines Occupy Wall Street Protest

Legislator feels empathy. Offers insight in an Op-ed to the HuffPo.

In an Op-ed column to the Huffington Post, State Assembly Member Rory Lancman (D-25) takes a look beyond the occupation of Zuccatti Square.

Rory Lancman was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He’s a very down to earth guy and he likes to update his Twitter and FB, unlike many pols who leave it dry and lacking character. I always know what he’s up to. Lancman received his B.A at Queens College and has always lived in the neighborhood. So, he’s really in touch with what’s going on. He’s also a regular visitor to my Democratic Club.

Everyone is talking about the Occupation, so you can mention the Corporate Political Activity Accountability To Shareholders Act  to your friends and sound like  a genius.

QP breaks the letter down in bulleted format for ease of reference.

 

There is a lack of specific demands by the protestors.

Reoccurring themes are considered the source of the problem:

  1. Accountability on Wall Street for the financial crisis.
  2. A political system controlled by people, not corporations.
Results:
  • Wall Street protest reflects frustration across America.
  • Middle-class homeowners are being hurt the most.
  • i.e Warren Buffet pays less tax than most of us.

According to the Op-ed letter,

There are “shovel-ready” solutions in the form of existing bills currently before the New York State legislature.

Legislation and case law have weakened the protections of people who got a bad deal from investors.

The solution: Cut Red Tape, Increase Transparency
  1. Empower  New York’s famous Martin Act, which keeps financial fraud accountability simple.  To do this they must pass the Institutional Investor Recovery Act, which would unleash the power of the Martin Act by allowing public and union pension funds to bring their own lawsuit without waiting for the Attorney General.
  2. Legislation pending in both chambers would extend this surcharge for families making over a million dollars a year — which means most affected families would still see a tax cut.
  • New York can stop the lobbyists and predatory corporations by heeding the Supreme Court’s challenge to improve shareholder control and corporate disclosure of political expenditures.
  • The “Corporate Political Activity Accountability To Shareholders Act” requires corporations to tell shareholders what they hope to buy with their money.

We should urge our legislators to support this.

What are the results of the demonstration?  T.B.A

The question now is where that frustration leads us.  Here in New York, and in state legislatures around the country, we have a unique opportunity to crack down on abuses of the financial system, level the economic playing field, and empower people rather than corporations in the political process. But it will require focus on concrete measures. The three discussed above are a good start.

- This is a break down of an Op-ed for skeleton facts. I believe in state solutions and I believe Lancman’s suggestions are worth further examination. Discussion?

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UPDATE:

Today, 4\7  NY1 reports that the message has reached the White House and the President has responded.

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/10/lancmanwallst/


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