Reimagining Politics in Sunset Park’s Assembly District 51
In the cozy back room of Freddy’s Bar in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a diverse group of community members gathered to share their vision for the future of the local Democratic Party. After an introduction from the three Vision Project facilitators, participants filled out questionnaires and began a group discussion of their answers.
Discussing values that should guide elected officials, integrity and accountability were mentioned most. Participants mentioned Barack Obama and local officials Richie Torres, Carlos Menchaca, and Felix Ortiz as leaders with admirable qualities.
The workshop then focused on citizenship, in the broad civic participation sense, not the narrow sense of who has the right papers. Participants pointed to several aspects that make a good citizen: participation in community activities, civic education, empathy and tolerance, and taking responsibility. For the question of how elected officials should collaborate with those they represent, participants mentioned reaching across district borders to address shared challenges, giving people agency, and using digital channels to solicit ideas and engagement.
Vision workshops always conclude with a discussion of what participants hope to see if all their hopes are realized in the next ten years. This group mentioned a broad list of aspirations, including: service-driven leadership, meetings that are open and accessible, leaders that encourage dialogue and debate, and a way to provide resources to those who need it that is more equitable and transparent than the old patronage system.
Every Vision workshop yields different insights into the needs and desires of Brooklyn residents. It will be exciting and challenging to distill these into a Vision Statement for the Democratic Party. The Vision Project will tackle this in early 2019 at our Vision Summit, but until then workshops will continue in neighborhoods across Brooklyn.