OPINION: In support of County Committee reformers in Queens

Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by  Soomness/Flickr .

Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by Soomness/Flickr.

New Kings Democrats

Jessica Thurston, Communications Director

To the “faction of reform-minded County Committee members” in Queens: Solidarity.

And Party Chair Meeks? We, New Kings Democrats, disagree with your approach to leading County Committee. We share the reformers’ goal of increasing transparency into how you and Executive Director Reich manage the Party’s business and, ultimately, decentralizing power in the borough.

Two leaders should not be unilaterally determining the function of the County Committee and, therefore, the local Democratic Party. That power should belong to the County Committee members.

The political club ecosystem that Chair Meeks endorses as a stand-in for the Queens Democratic Party is the same system that has inculcated an unhealthy consolidation of power without an apparent benefit to the people of Queens. It’s the same one that has generated a Democratic Party obsessed with satisfying the plurality while simultaneously leaving the majority disappointed, fueling resistance against the Party structure.

Since New Kings Democrats started a decade ago, Brooklyn Democrats dissatisfied with the track record of Democrats nationally and the local Party have agitated for more openness, engagement, and willingness to change. Change has been slow-going but promising. We continue to get the same pushback as the reformers in Queens -- we’re told to go back to existing political clubs, to not ruffle any feathers.

This is not to say that there is no role for neighborhood clubs -- in fact, as a borough-wide club ourselves, we think the opposite. Neighborhood clubs can be areas where politicians freely consolidate power and relatively difficult to access. But at their best, they can be open spaces that facilitate conversations about why politics matter and create important voting blocks that endorse candidates who will stand up for people traditionally marginalized from the political process -- our friends at Women of Color for Progress and QueerAmisu are great examples of their importance.

But County Committee and its role as a formal structure within the Democratic Party serve a different purpose than neighborhood clubs. Chair Meeks disregarded County Committee as a meaningless requirement of New York State election law, but we believe County Committee can and should go beyond just compliance.

In Brooklyn and now in Queens, we’ve seen Party leadership refuse to welcome County Committee members who are engaging with the Party on behalf of their communities. In a city almost totally dominated by the Democratic Party, County Committee is an important avenue by which everyday residents can see how the Party is operating and whether its priorities are aligned with theirs. For some, it’s also a gateway to further engagement, like running for higher office. We believe this engagement should be welcomed, not feared and resented. 

So we applaud our neighbors in Queens County doing this work. Keep pressing the Party bosses to be more transparent and inclusive. Lead with your values and be clear in your goals. We’ll be rooting you on.

Jessica Thurston is the spokesperson for the New Kings Democrats, a progressive group of Brooklyn Democrats committed to fostering transparency, accountability and inclusion in the Kings County Democratic Party.