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TEXT: Pierson Campaign Launch Speech

TEXT: Pierson Campaign Launch Speech

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Published by Jake Korn
Pierson is running in the 33rd Council district to challenge incumbent Steve Levin in the Democratic primaries.
Pierson is running in the 33rd Council district to challenge incumbent Steve Levin in the Democratic primaries.

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Jake Korn on Apr 22, 2013
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04/22/2013

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SPEECH BY STEPHEN PIERSON – LAUNCH OF CITY COUNCIL CAMPAIGN – SUNDAY, APRIL 21, 2013 – PAGE 1
Good afternoon, and thanks so much to all of you for coming. My name is Stephen Pierson and I amrunning for City Council in New York's 33rd district.I am not a politician, as my wife keeps reminding me, and I have never especially wanted to be one. But Iam here today because I feel compelled to challenge the incumbent Council member, Steve Levin, andbecause I know I can do a better job representing everyone in this 33
rd
Council District.Steve Levin does not represent the values of this district. The 33rd is one of the most progressive districtsin this progressive city.How, then, did we end up with Steve Levin – a politician who is completely, brazenly, andembarrassingly deferential to the most vile man in Brooklyn politics, Vito Lopez?How did we end up with a Councilman who has wasted millions of our tax dollars, sending them out of our district to Vito's corrupt so-called charity? How did we end up with a Councilman who stood silentwhen his mentor, Vito Lopez, repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted his young interns?I am not generally an angry person or a cynical person. I have run a non-profit for the last seven years. Iwork with incredibly inspiring artists and writers and middle school students. I have an amazing wife andI have an awesomely active two year-old daughter. These things fill my life with joy and optimism.But I cannot stand idly by while Steve Levin demeans this district with his 19th century politics,continually putting his own political aspirations ahead of the needs of this community.Let’s be more specific:Steve Levin was Vito Lopez's chief of staff. Vito got him elected to the City Council. That isindisputable. Since then, Levin has made it his life's mission to pay back his debts to Vito.Vito runs a thoroughly corrupt charity, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. RidgewoodBushwick has been the target of multiple federal investigations. Vito has stacked its executive leadershipwith his friends who all make massive salaries. The Executive Director made $782,000 in one recentyear. Even Vito's girlfriend serves as one of its directors. She made $343,000 in the same year that shesimultaneously earned a full-time salary as a City Planning Commissioner—appointed, of course, byVito.Steve Levin has made it his personal mission to direct as many Council funds as possible to this sham of anon-profit. During Levin's first three years in office, his efforts directly resulted in more than 2 milliontaxpayer dollars being sent to Ridgewood Bushwick.
This so-called non-profit doesn't even serve residents of our district.
 To add insult to injury, Steve Levin has also wasted his discretionary spending money on this sham. Eachyear, every Council member has a small amount of money they can give out to their district's non-profitcommunity. I run a non-profit -- I know exactly how vital this money is for the non-profit community of this district. So I find it especially despicable that Steve Levin has repeatedly chosen to send our district'sdiscretionary money -- an average of $50,000 per year -- to Ridgewood Bushwick. During one year,$12,000 of that discretionary money was used to pay for a single lunch.Now lunch happens to be my favorite meal, so I can empathize up to a point. But not entirely.
 
SPEECH BY STEPHEN PIERSON – LAUNCH OF CITY COUNCIL CAMPAIGN – SUNDAY, APRIL 21, 2013 – PAGE 2
Steve Levin needs to be reminded that this is not his money—it is our money.Oddly enough, the recent downfall of Vito Lopez was not due to Ridgewood Bushwick shenanigans, butbecause he repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted multiple young female interns -- one as young as14 years-old. It seems completely implausible that none of this occurred under Steve Levin’s watch,when Levin was Vito’s chief of staff. So was Steve Levin simply completely oblivious to thisbehavior? If so, it seems unwise to elect a Councilman whose most redeeming feature in this sordid storyis obliviousness. The other option, of course, is much worse: that Steve Levin was indeed aware of thesituation and chose to remain silent for his own political gain.In either case, when these years of sexual harassment and assault finally came to light, Steve Levin wasour only local official who did not speak out against Vito. He did not say a single public word.As the father of a two year-old daughter, I find this especially revolting. Cold, crass, political self-interestonce again trumps ethical behavior for Mr. Levin.Steve Levin is not dumb. Trying to cover up his cronyism, he has recently tacked hard to the left. SteveLevin has joined the Progressive Caucus in the Council; he has cast some genuinely good votes, and evenstarted showing up to lots of community meetings – particularly during this last year before the election.I’m a basketball fan, so please forgive a quick basketball analogy. This is like if former New York Knicks player Eddy Curry—famously talented and famously lazy—suddenly got into tremendous shapeand played great defense during a contract negotiation year. Probably not wise to reward him with along-term deal based on that.Having an elected representative who votes the right ways for the wrong reasons will always come back to hurt us in the end.Sadly, this sort of behavior is all too common in Brooklyn politics.So how do we solve this problem? I mean, beyond simply giving Steve Levin the boot, how do we createa different structure that proactively prevents behavior like Levin’s?Part of the reason why Steve Levin has been able to get away with this behavior is that he does notinvolve the community in his decision making. He is communicative, but in the wrong ways. He sendsout tweets and mailings and a whole lot of press releases, all describing how very great he is.I propose a different way of doing things. I have been living in this great borough of Brooklyn for 14years, and I am continually amazed by how much I learn, every day, just by listening to people. My non-profit is built around the idea that everyone has a compelling story to tell—that we can all learnsomething by listening. So let’s listen.Let us listen to artists, to writers, to middle to school students, and seniors. Let’s listen to our teachersand plumbers and even to our bankers. Let’s listen to our district’s entire Hasidic community, which Mr.Levin might be surprised to learn, includes thousands of Aaronites, whose many needs Levin has ignoredat every turn -- refusing to meet with them or return their phone calls -- because they didn’t support himin the last election. Let’s listen.Occasionally, even my two year-old daughter has an odd burst of insight. So I propose that we shouldhave a City Councilman who prioritizes listening over hyping himself.

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