We won White House, but challenges remain at home


By Keen Berger


We did it! We elected Barack Obama our 44th president. We voted for immigration reform, healthcare for everyone and the end of the Iraq War — none of which is accomplished yet, but at least we chose the president who might do it. Thirty-six thousand of us in the 66th Assembly District, Part A — from about Second Ave. to the Hudson River, between about W. Fourth and 16th Sts. — voted for president on Nov. 4, 2008. Most, 89.8 percent, voted for Obama-Biden, and Brad Hoylman and I — the 66A Democratic district leaders — celebrated.

We also won Pennsylvania. Every Saturday for months several buses of canvassers — City Council Speaker Quinn among them — left at dawn from Union Square to West Chester and Bethlehem. We did our part in other states, too. Hundreds of us worked in Nevada, Florida, Virginia, Ohio and elsewhere, and for other candidates in the U.S. Senate and New York State Senate — more victories.

The “we” in that paragraph above includes thousands in our community, some who worked through local political clubs — like Village Independent Democrats, Village Reform Democrats, Stonewall Democrats, Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats and several others — and many who did not. Brad and I did our part; so did almost all of you. 

District leaders, who are elected but not paid, appoint poll workers and select some judges. For this past election, we not only celebrated but were reminded of the many problems with New York City elections. We are working to reform judicial elections, voting machines, poll site hours and much more. 

Our major work this past, as well as coming, year concerns schools and marriages. In both areas, our many successes met major frustrations. Brad and I have organized, planned and lobbied for more public schools in our area and for same-sex marriages, but no victories yet.

Everyone knows that our schools are overcrowded and becoming more so. Village couples, gay and straight, are devoted parents of thousands of young children, some still in diapers, others in puberty, many needing more room to learn and grow. Local nursery schools and private schools are overcrowded and expensive; public schools have far more kindergartners than fifth graders; ninety percent of our fifth graders leave our community to attend middle and high school. No one doubts that we need a new middle school and early childhood center. Why don’t we have them yet?

This past year we helped raise the schools issue. Not only Brad and I, but also every local political leader — Deborah Glick, Tom Duane, Chris Quinn, Rosie Mendez, Alan Gerson, Jerrold Nadler and Scott Stringer — is now committed to new schools. But in 2008, the Department of Education let 75 Morton St. slip, and put the Foundling School, on W. 16th St., on the slow track, now scheduled for 2013. The Pier 40 Partnership planned three new schools on Pier 40 at W. Houston St. and got zilch.

We still haven’t won same-sex marriage either. Hundreds of Village couples have traveled to Massachusetts, California and Canada to be wed, and one small victory is that New York State finally recognizes such marriages. But again, success is elusive. We are saddened by Proposition 8 in California, and by the New York State Senate.

Thus our progress report for 2008 has major election joys and two big frustrations. We succeeded with our nation, but not with our city or state.

Can we have new schools and same-sex marriages in the Village in 2009? We got Obama elected — no one expected that a year ago. With your help, yes we can.


Berger is female Democratic district leader for the

66th Assembly District, Part A