Another Brooklyn political story: the sad parts of "the only game in town"
Many of my faithful readers know that I often refer to politics as “the only game in town”. By now, some will deduce my reasoning behind this statement, while others will probably remain guessing. Using figurative language is one thing, using metaphors and analogies is another; but the reality still is that political involvement means dealing with real people and tangible challenges: and that should automatically be the good parts to politics. And yet -too often in my regard- political involvement can lead to some really sad outcomes. You see, the indispensible truth is that political people tend to regularly disappoint; and Black and Hispanic electeds are not much different to their white counterparts in this regard. Too many succumb to temptations and weaknesses. Too many are just plain greedy.
With some luck and a little skill, political involvement can be mentally and spiritually rewarding. With some gall and a lack of character, the rewards can increase and even be measured in significant amounts of money and/or materials. And that’s another one of the many sad parts to this game: not too many people received the memo that political involvement should come from a desire to go good things. One should be motivated by idealism; not greed and materialism. When I write about the Brooklyn political scene, I am often castigated by folks who think I am too tough on Black and Hispanic elected officials; and that’s fine. As a New York Senator (Patrick Moynihan) once said: “everyone is entitled to his or her opinion; but not to his or her own facts”. To me -after 40 years of political involvement in New York City at large- the objective facts lead to only one conclusion: over this period, Black and Hispanic elected officials haven’t done a good job representing their needy constituents.
If you want to dispute what I just wrote here, then go analyze areas within this city where Blacks and Hispanics are in the majority; and then get back to me on this.
Look at the poverty rates. Look at education scores. Look at homelessness, joblessness, unemployment and underemployment. Look at crime stats for murders, rapes, robberies and the like. Look at drug usage. Look at alcohol abuse, domestic violence and the alarmingly high single-parent household numbers. Look at the high incarceration rates from the “hoods”. Look at the housing situation; people can hardly pay their rents anymore. Look at the number of kids growing up without one of their biological parents. Look at the number of kids going hungry every day. Look at the good-health indicators when you view the relevant stats. Look at the many diseases afflicting the “hoods”. Assess the health-care facilities and tell me you are satisfied with what apologizes for decent coverage and preventative-care. Assess the mental health situation. Look at what fakes its way through as economic development.
Look; I can go on and on, and on and on, like the friggin Energizer Bunny. One can intellectually break things down into umpteen other categories, and in the end you will hardly find satisfaction in any.
An objective analysis leaves you wanting for better representation; a sharper emphasis on economic planning; more civic involvement from residents; a stronger commitment to dealing with education needs; a real dedication to true community development; and a serious confrontation with the scourges of racism. And that’s not all.
Look; at the end of the day and the night, representation isn’t only about attending community events, shaking hands, kissing babies, posing for selfies, and eating rice and peas Caribbean-American style. It’s about ideas. It’s about public policy. It’s about intelligence, passion, education, idealism, desire, creative-thinking and compassion. I could list hundreds of other things representation is all about; but I know at least two things it should never be about: greed and corruption.
Last week another black elected official bit the dust. Are we still keeping score?
Assemblyman William “Junior” Boyland was convicted of at least 21 counts of extortion, mail fraud, soliciting and accepting bribes, etcetera, and etcetera. After the jury came in with their verdict, he was taken straight to jail. He didn’t pass GO, and he surely didn’t a chance to collect his two hundred dollars of monopoly money. They tell me he is facing about thirty years in prison.
Don’t forget that this is the same guy who guy at the last moment, turned down an afore-agreed-to plea deal which would have gotten him nine years or less. The district he has represented for about a dozen years now has hardly changed over its various redistricting reincarnations. It has included most of Brownsville and Ocean Hill, parts of Bushwick, parts of Crown Heights, sections of East Flatbush, parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, and even a piece of East New York. In some segments of this district, the economic indicators suggest that too many of the residents are struggling “big time”. There are pockets of poverty here that are comparable to the worst such areas in the city.
Junior wasn’t good at lining up residents to make constructive attempts at confronting the myriad social ills of the district; but he sure was good at lining his own pockets.
Not too long ago, he miraculously escaped jail time, when his lawyers skillfully persuaded a jury to find him not guilty of accepting a no-show job in exchange for influence peddling. Even now there are those who shake their heads in disbelief that he wiggled out of that one; especially when he couldn’t present time sheets or work-products to justify his uninterrupted paycheck.
This is at least the fourth Boyland to represent this area in the city council, state assembly, district-leadership, school board or community planning board. Between sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins and in-laws, this clan has dominated the politics of this area for decades.
There is a street in the district named after a former state assembly member (Thomas Boyland) which criss-crosses a chunk of the area. This family built a political dynasty here that has lasted almost half a century. In this particular legal matter, I am told that another one of Junior’s kinfolk is an unindicted co-conspirator. If this is true then that would be more shameful indeed.
Despite lucking out in his first trial, Junior Boyland stupidly continued his nefarious ways. First off, he continued a sexual relationship with his female chief of staff, even before his divorce was finalized. Then apart from this, he recruited her into the bribery, extortion and influence-peddling schemes. Then his obese ego led him to go chasing near every skirt that moved in the district; and soon he enough he had developed a reputation as a “dick”. And you can interpret the usage of the word “dick” in this context anyway you want to.
Anyway -as is the case with too many males- Junior started calculating things with the wrong head on his overweight body. And once a former lover becomes a woman scorned and spurned, then it is easy to see why this female chief of staff, would wear a wire for the authorities; and further, would even go on the witness stand to truly deflate the already flaccid dick.
With her testimony, she drove the last set of nails into Junior’s political coffin; while taking down a dynasty at the same time: so a noted political legacy is now tarnished forever. Quelle dommage!
Almost six years ago I wrote a column in which I hinted at corruption in this district. I can’t begin to tell you about the many leads I get (as a journalist/community activist) relative to political corruption all over this city. I write less five per cent of them. I generally hint at these things in my “Vines” columns, since libel laws are no joke. I have been writing these blogs for almost a decade now and I am yet to be sued/lol.
In 2003, Frank Boyland -the one who conveniently took an early retirement package from the assembly- literally handed over this said seat to Junior, within weeks of winning re-election for the umpteenth time. He single-handedly and unnecessarily cost taxpayers a cool million dollars for the staging of a special election that spring, since he could have gotten out before the November election.
After my article was published, Frank Boyland accosted me at a televised public debate during the 2009 city council elections. He was physically and verbally threatening. He promised to sue me for what I wrote, and was looking to escalate things right there and then. Tracey Boyland (the former council-member) stepped in between us and prevented what could have been a “catastrophe” (in the words of Gaspard and Lisa).
Needless to say: if Frank had laid a finger on me that day, he would have gotten an ass-whipping to remember. I wasn’t in the best frame of mind during that debate. I was running for the city council, in a race in which I suspected that my candidacy was going nowhere: real fast.
One of my opponents in the race had pinned the “carpetbagger” label on me; even though he knew full well that my political involvement in the community had run for decades. I had once even headed up a non-profit community development corporation in the district; but I later moved my residency for a while, and had to move back in to qualify.
The realization that this smear was having a profound effect on my efforts to woo voters had me quite peeved that day. Plus I was having major problems with my campaign staffers. I even had to replace my campaign manger plus a few of the E.D. co-coordinators.
I wasn’t in the mood for taking anyone’s crap that day; far less crap from a retired politician of dubious character; one whose integrity had been questioned by perennial challengers. Some of these challengers were folks I had openly and publicly endorsed; others I had visibly worked with in the day to day rigors of political campaigning. Folks like Reggie Bowman, Stanley Kinard, his wife Tulani Kinard, Tony Hurbert, David Miller, and others.
Tracey Boyland saved Frank’s ass that day, but my column was only a precursor of things to come. By then, the clan was already beyond redemption. Poor Tracey now has to face the shame brought on by the misdeeds of other family members. I suspect that she doesn’t deserve this; but at least she can start using her married name.
It is really sad when political involvement leads to this kind of mess. I am sure that somewhere along the way there were Boylands who made sacrifices for the community; and yet, from now on, the Boyland name will be linked to political corruption in the hood. Damn!
Stay tuned-in folks.