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In 18th District, Citizens Union prefers Pollard over Montgomery, who's reticent about addressing some reforms; challenger tries to thread AY needle

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery can point to some real achievements, as noted in a campaign mailer (right; click to enlarge), such as reforming the juvenile justice system and the Rockefeller drug laws.

But her reluctance to sign onto a full suite of Albany reforms means the 26-year incumbent, who has the support of veteran Brooklyn pols like Council Member Al Vann, may be sweating just a bit.

The Citizens Union last week announced it supported the reelection of only six incumbents, issued a "no preference" in several races, and endorsed several challengers, including Montgomery rival Mark Pollard.

(Pollard hasn't yet noted this on his web site. Montgomery doesn't have a current campaign web site--the one from the previous election has not been updated. Neither are particularly nimble in cyberspace; are they convinced that getting out the vote for the September 14 primary represents retail politics? Update: a commenter notes that Montgomery has a new web site, though I'll point out it was not listed on her campaign material.)

While the CU did not elaborate on the Montgomery race (and some others), Executive Director Dick Dadey said the CU's preference "provide a clear signal to voters which incumbents have made an effort to bring change to Albany and which ones have stood in the way of reform and need to be replaced."

The CU doesn't hold the power it once had--its endorsement, for example, of Evan Thies in the 33rd Council District last year meant little--but it does aim to set benchmarks for good government practices.

(Eric McClure of NLG reminds us: Neither does the CU have the reputation for integrity it once had, since it refused to take a strong stance against Atlantic Yards, despite the project's lengthy list of vices.

Indeed, I've pointed out the group's resistance to challenging AY and Mayor Bloomberg.)

The reforms at issue

Montgomery, in her CU questionnaire, avoided several questions, failing to answer "Support" or "Oppose" nor elaborating on the reason for her stance. For example, she took no position on:
  • maintaining the current redistricting process
  • banning contributions from corporations (while allowing them to form separate political action committees)
  • limiting transfers from party committees to candidates
  • requiring that two campaign finance reports be filed during the legislative session
  • stricter requirements on the use of campaign contributions for non-campaign related activity
Pollard, in his questionnaire, opposed the current redistricting process and supported the other measures. So did state Senator Bill Perkins, a legislator who's worked with Montgomery on Atlantic Yards and other issues, in his questionnaire.

Track record

Montgomery--or her campaign--also missed an opportunity in filling out the CU questionnaire, failing to list her previous campaign promises and results.

By contrast, in her questionnaire for the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID), Montgomery elaborated on her accomplishments:
As chair of the Senate Committee of Children and Family Services I introduced a bill, now enacted into law that allows local districts to delay petitioning for termination of parental rights for parents who are incarcerated or in residential drug treatment programs.

I introduced a bill, now law, that would allow foster children who are in foster care to be reunited with their parents if they have not been adopted by the age of 14.

Juvenile Justice reform is my main focus. One of the bills I introduced is on the finance committee agenda next week. It would redirect public funds to prevention rather than incarceration.
CBID endorsed Montgomery. It doesn't look like Pollard filled out a questionnaire, but his campaign likely didn't begin until after such questionnaires were due.

Montgomery's campaign goals

Montgomery's top campaign promises or goals, to the CU:
  • support and expand school-based health/mental care
  • reform the juvenile justice system
  • work toward more affordable housing
  • school-based health/mental health clinics
  • fight transportation cuts
The first and fourth seem redundant.

Pollard's campaign goals

Pollard's top five campaign promises or goals, to the CU:
  • expanding support for small businesses and health care
  • expanding availability of mental health care
  • calendar transparency and full disclosure of outside income
  • keeping a sharp eye on Atlantic Yards
  • a second-chance (expungement of record) for nonviolent offenders
That seems rather disingenuous, given that most of Pollard's contributions come from Manhattan-based charter school supporters. Pollard's web site lists "supporting education" as one of his top issues, but the focus is on SUNY and CUNY, with no mention of charter schools. (Ditto for his palm card.)

Also, Pollard's answer to the CU on mental health care is not part of his list of issues on the web.

Pollard's AY stance

From his questionnaire:
Keeping a Sharp Eye On Atlantic Yards Development: from expanding and enforcing community benefit agreements to mitigating disruption to local traffic and commercial strips during construction, and from leading muscular apprenticeships in the building trades to protecting commitments made to affordable housing, I will have staff in Brooklyn and in Albany dedicated to the Atlantic Yards Development.
That sounds like a Hakeem Jeffries-esque attempt to thread the needle, to ensure the vaguely-defined benefits while mitigating unwelcome effects.

No legislator has proven particularly successful at such a balance, perhaps because no legislator has been able to exercise significant oversight. Even firm opponents like Montgomery and Perkins, at the one state legislative oversight hearing last year, were relatively gentle (and not well-prepared) when confronting state officials.

It's a reasonable bet that Pollard, who's had help from several Atlantic Yards supporters (though not developer Forest City Ratner), would lean in the community benefits direction, especially since he's said he seeks support (as per City Hall News) of "trade unions alienated by Montgomery’s opposition to the Atlantic Yards development."

A footnote from 2006

By the way, the campaign of Montgomery challenger Tracy Boyland paid $2250 in fines--30 times $75--for posting violations in 2006.


  1. One thing Pollard is not doing well is identifying what neighborhoods he is running to represent. On his website he states he is running to represent Bedford Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill/Brownsville, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Red Hook, Downtown Brooklyn, Park Slope and a part of Sunset Park.

    He is also running to represent a part of Prospect Heights.

  2. Sorry, this will be long.

    Dick Dadey endorsed Atlantic Yards. Let's remember that.

    Citizens Union just tried to do away with political primaries which would result in a system where only billionaires would run for office. They cited studies and claimed that it would result in increased voter participation; the head of the CUNY political science department said they had totally misinterpreted all the cited studies and that the result would be LESS voter participation. CU ignored the fact that political primaries have empowered minorities to participate in the process and resulted in the largest minority representation in elected office in the history of this city. Inconvenient truth. If CU is losing its influence, they're earning it with these agendas.

    Former Mayor Koch's "reform" pledge (which is hysterical coming from him, for those of us who remember the Koch administration!) is meaningless and flawed with calls for unconstitutional and otherwise illegal assurances. He has been gently informed of this by long time reformers such as Senator Montgomery, Jim Brennan, and Dick Gottfried, all of whom have refused to sign on until it's modified, so he's labeled these long time reformers "Enemies of Reform." Less principled legislators, recognizing that it's meaningless, have signed on. Take a look at the list and you'll scratch your head to see some of these applauded "reformers."

    Mark Pollards scant "Issues" statements read like watered down versions of Senator Montgomery's platform! 90% of his funding is from outside the District, provided by people who don't like Senator Montgomery's principled stands. Pollard claims he doesn't know who is printing his stuff, that it's "gifts" (which should go over well with the campaign finance board) and that he's going to run a "clean, respectful" campaign. He also leaves out that as a freshman Senator he would be asking the District to have years of patience until he was able to do anything meaningful. But he winks and implies he's a politically connected dealmaker, like we need another one of THOSE!

    Senator Montgomery's current campaign website is The URL for the old site is not transferring over for some reason.

    And yes, I'm a part time employee of Senator Montgomery. But I'm a full time Brooklyn activist and it angers me to see someone admitting to being a willing puppet for vested interests attacking Senator Montgomery for protecting this District against their abuses.

  3. Pollard will be, he says, "Keeping a Sharp Eye On Atlantic Yards Development."

    I guess seven years into it it's not too late to start? Or something.

    the point is what was Pollard's position on AY when it was going through its battles and "process"?

    Anybody know?

  4. Re Senator Montgomery's "reluctance to sign onto a full suite of Albany reforms" as Citizens Union defines it. Senator Montgomery is in favor of non partisan redistricting - clearly circled on the questionnaire. She also supports and will fight for, districts that have an equal number of residents - also circled on the questionnaire.
    Remember, the last time redistricting took place, Republicans were in the majority and they packed their districts by counting prisoners in jails in their districts. They then created an extra Senatorial district upstate while enlarging NYC districts with up to 20,000 more residents than upstate districts.
    Being in the majority they steered more dollars upstate while NYC had to do with less.
    Senator Montgomery is for a fair and equitable redistricting process.


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