I got an interesting email from New York Community Council Director and Williamsburg-based activist Phil DePaolo. Check it out.
Reyna’s Math to Extend Term Limits Doesn’t Add Up
Last October, before her controversial vote to extend term limits, Brooklyn Councilwoman Diana Reyna explained her decision to vote ‘yes’ vote by reciting what she called “certain figures that get lost in the translation of the argument of term limits.” The only problem with her “figures” is that they were all wrong.
In an embarrassing 9-minute YouTube video posted by Gotham Gazette that Reyna probably wishes weren’t online,
Reyna argues that it is justifiable for the City Council to overturn the two voter referenda establishing term limits, because not enough people voted for the referenda when they were put on the ballot in 1993 and 1996. After admitting that she was one of the primary beneficiaries of term limits because they opened the Council seat Reyna won in 2001, she dismisses the referenda votes as unfair.
In the video, Reyna argues that the 560,000 voters who supported term limits in the 1996 referendum was not good enough to judge what the people of New York think. She does not mention the fact that the percentage of voters in her own Council district who showed up to vote for her in the 2005 Democratic Party came out to a measly 10.4% - a significantly smaller percentage of the voters who came out to uphold the term limits referenda in 1996.
Reyna seems to have a lot of trouble with numbers. In the video, she says that in 1996 there were “13 million registered voters in Kings County alone – 13 million – and we’re deciding who’s going to be mayor of the City of New York , because 1.9 million people come out to vote – 1.9 million.”
Reyna’s numbers are indeed startling. To start with, any New York City elementary student could tell you that since there are roughly 8.2 million people in the entire five boroughs that to claim that there are 13 million people in Brooklyn , let alone 13 million registered voters, is way off.
The mistake was not missed by Reyna’s fellow panel members at the Baruch College event. The panel member to Reyna’s right is seen on the YouTube video interrupting the Councilwoman and pointing out the error in her notes. After a quip from the event’s moderator about Reyna’s numbers, Reyna apologizes multiple times and then tries to correct herself, saying that there are “1.3 million people in the borough of Brooklyn ”. In actuality, according to the U.S. Government’s 2007 Census Bureau estimate, a little more than 2.5 million people live in Brooklyn , making it the most populous borough. There are roughly 1.3 million registered voters from Kings County .
But the Councilwoman’s gaffes don’t stop there. Moments later, Reyna continues, “In 1993, there were 12 registered voters in the Kings County so that I raise these…”
This time laughter from the crowd interrupts Reyna. “I did it again. I apologize,” says Reyna. “Let me just put this dot here. I was writing very quickly and trying to prepare for this, because I didn’t want you to be disenfranchised by the figures as well, because that serves toward this discussion as to where do we really have a problem.” It is not clear exactly how Reyna believes voters can be “disenfranchised” by “figures.”
Reyna prefaces her remarks by saying that she can’t really comment on the 1993 term limits referendum, because she was in college at the time and “disconnected from politics.” Glossing over the fact that it is deeply troubling that a Councilmember would feel unqualified to discuss any political event prior to her graduation from college, Reyna explains that she can weigh in on the 1996 term limits debate, because by then Reyna “came back to my neighborhood and had the pleasure of serving for an Assemblyman, Assemblyman Vito Lopez.”
It is revealing that Reyna uses the term “pleasure” in describing both her job as Vito Lopez’s longtime chief of staff and her 2001 run for City Council, because the two are inseparably connected. Lopez, the boss of Brooklyn ’s Democratic Party, handpicked Reyna for her Council seat.
Reyna returned the favor by doing Lopez’s bidding in the Council, essentially continuing her former job as Vito’s right hand operative. She rubberstamped all but one of Lopez’s judicial nominees, even though Lopez’s picks were widely criticized as kowtowing cronies selected through a sham, anti-democratic process. Reyna even went so far as to oppose Judge Margarita Lopez Torres for a seat on the surrogate court in favor of Lopez’s candidate, despite the fact that Lopes Torres was running to be the first Latina elected to borough-wide office in Kings County and that Lopez Torres had been universally embraced by Brooklyn’s reform movement.
More importantly, Reyna used her power in the Council till this year to funnel millions to Lopez’s massive political machine, the centerpiece of which is Lopez’s multi-million dollar patronage mill, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council.
Over the course of their relationship there have been a couple of times that Reyna and Lopez have had arguments for unknown reasons. Most of these disagreements ended quickly with Reyna continuing to fund the Lopez’s non-profit political machine. At the end of last year, Reyna and Lopez were at each other again for mysterious reasons neither of them has publicly disclosed. Though Reyna has tried to cast their separation as a principled stand on her part against Lopez, her near 100% pro-Vito voting record in the Council doesn’t back up this claim. If anything, her record backs up the speculation that their split was personal.
Even in this time apart, Reyna and Lopez have stayed in sync on many key issues. Last October, around the same time that Lopez was telling the Times he wanted to extend term limits because “I don’t believe in a referendum form of government”, Reyna was trying to sell a similar, but more confusing, explanation, unwittingly in front of a worldwide audience on YouTube.
Reyna’s hoping the voters of her district will forgive and forget her support for Bloomberg in 2005, voting and accepting a self serving pay raise and third term.
She has no choice. This time, she won’t be able to count on Vito to get her elected.