Howard Dean endorses Josh Skaller for N.Y. City Council

BROOKLYN, N.Y.— Howard Dean, founder of Democracy for America and Democratic National Committee Chair Emeritus, gave an enthusiastic endorsement to City Council candidate Josh Skaller, saying that “we need people who are going to be on the streets all the time listening to ordinary people.”

At the same time, Dean announced the support of the DFA, which grew out of his 2004 presidential campaign.

Dean had agreed to support Skaller’s main opponent, Brad Lander, early on. He hasn’t taken that endorsement back, and has technically endorsed both, but clearly leans towards Skaller.

He noted that DFA was endorsing “Josh and Josh only,” but that his personal endorsement of Lander came “before I knew that this was the district and Josh was the guy.” Dean went on to compliment the civility between both of the campaigns, saying that each campaign had essentially said the same thing: “The other guy’s a good guy, progressive, but here’s why we think our guy is better.”

“Had I been a little more research oriented and done my homework together,” Dean said, “we wouldn’t have gotten into this position.”

Skaller has distinguished himself as being the only candidate to have always been fully against Atlantic Yards, a project to be funded with billions of public dollars, though it is a for-profit project by private mega-developer Forest City Ratner. Forest City would build luxury condos and a sports arena, and would seize private homes and businesses through eminent domain. Since the area’s median income is $29,000, the plan to replace exiting housing with expensive condos has been termed “instant gentrification.”

According to independent analysis, $2 billion of the $4 billion project would be paid for with taxpayer money.

Atlantic Yards has been held up since its announcement in 2003 due to heavy community protests and lawsuits.

Lander differs in that he agreed to negotiate with Forest City Ratner, the project’s creator, saying it was not possible to stop Atlantic Yards. Instead, Lander argued that the project was inevitable, and therefore it would be better to negotiate and gain some concessions, however small.

“Real reformers can’t be afraid to take a stand, even if their views are at the time unpopular,” Skaller said after being endorsed by Dean.

Skaller, who has been the field director of Democracy for New York City as well as president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, said he was proud that his campaign, out of six in the district, had the highest number of donations. He also said that he was glad he didn’t have the highest average donation, since that fact reflects that he, unlike other candidates, has not accepted any money from corporate interests.

Explaining why he thought people should vote for him instead of the other five, Skaller said, “I fought the Atlantic Yards project while others were silent or made compromises. I was an early supporter of Barack Obama before it was politically convenient. I was among the first of the community leaders to call for a comprehensive and federalized cleanup of the Gowanus canal.”

“He really is somebody who’s knocking on doors, just as all of you are,” Dean said. “He’s somebody who’s really interested in the community and I think he’ll be a great fresh voice in the city council.”

As chair of the DNC, Dean developed the “50 State Strategy,” where Democrats were to fight in all fifty states, not just the traditionally “blue” ones. Barack Obama continued with this method of organizing, a major factor in his 2008 election victory. Consequently, his endorsement, as well as that of DFA, represents to many a “grassroots” seal of approval.