Even before my son became a legislative intern for Tish James I had a bias toward this rare politician. It makes me unusually sad that term limits will deprive the 35th Council District of her services.
There will no shortage of candidates vying to replace her, now that they will not have to run against her.
One candidate is Ede Fox. This week she met with some residents of 295 and 315 St. John's Place in Prospect Heights. Her agenda was to introduce herself and to raise funds. I attended the meeting at 295 which was a smaller gathering.
Ms. Fox has a political background. She ran the campaign of Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito for whom she served as Legislative and Budget Director. Subsequently she served as Chief of Staff for Councilman Jummane Williams. In addition to serving as Chairperson of the Environmental/Sanitation Committee of Community Board 8 she is a member of the Dean Street Block Association and the Brooklyn Neighborhood Congress; President of Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform, and a Committee member of the New Kings Democrats.
When asked about the principal issues that she said she would focus upon she indicated land use, sanitation (waste recycling) and education. The first two seem to evolve from her work with the Councilmembers and Community Board 8. She would like to develop manufacturing for small business near Dean Street and provide additional affordable housing. She thought the MacDonald's restaurant at Vanderbilt and Atlantic might be a good site for the latter, as it could incorporate a MacDonalds as retail space.
At this meeting education was on the mind of one resident whose child goes to PS 9. She was concerned about expanded usaged of space by the co-located middle school expands. She raised the lack of parental voice as the Mayor's representatives dictated the agenda regardless of parental or community views. Ms. Fox indicated she would follow up with this resident, but had no immediate answers. Her website at edefox.com indicates she wants to retain public school resources challenged by co-located charter schools.
Issues such as stop and frisk did not come up with this group, which this night only had white and asian participants. As the District is increasingly gentrifying Ms. Fox indicated she wanted to maintain the ethnic, cultural and economic diversity of the District. Her father was one of the founding members of SNCC and like Councilperson Mark-Verito, she worked at SEIU. She has long liberal-labor roots.
A key for any councilperson, especially a new one, will be the connections that they have with the next Speaker. It is too early to tell who will become Ms. Quinn's successor.
When Ms. Fox was asked what two illogical city rules or agendas she would get rid of if she could, she cited a ban on flavored tobacco and the Mayor's large soft drink proposal. With respect to the former, she admitted that she was a former smoker. She did not think the City should be involved in personal issues such as these although she recognized the obesity concern and asthma problems.
Although fundraising was noticeably on the candidate's mind in making this appearance it also served to hone her skills and to better understand the concerns of this District's diverse constituency. With increasing low turnout at elections a committed group of supporters can defeat more established and well financed candidates. Even with limited fundraising participatory democracy can be a win-win. I hope that as the field develops others will follow Ms. Fox's lead.