WILL AN OLD WARRIOR EVER CHECK THE DON QUIXOTE WITHIN?
The English Encarta Dictionary (North America) defines a “Don Quixote” type as “an impractical idealist who loves to champion hopeless causes”; I thought of this when I watched Charles Barron last Wednesday, as he tried to make his case for becoming Speaker on the New York City Council. It was the first stated meeting of the newly elected city council. Barron was pleading his case before this semi-august body, which will be 357 years old on February 2nd, 2010.
Late last year, when I first came upon the news item that NYC Councilmember Charles Barron (#42) was challenging Speaker Christine Quinn’s re-election, I thought to myself that this was a tremendous opportunity for Barron to publicly lay out his arguments for reform within this legislative body. I even went to some length to convey this to him in person.
Barron has been an official council member since Jan.1st, 2002. From that month till now, Barron has chaired the Higher Education Committee. Last week, rumor had it that his Higher Ed chair was being shopped around as punishment for his challenge to Ms. Quinn. It was also said that some of the many enemies he had accumulated over his eight years in the council were pushing hard for him to lose the chair. As of this writing I hear there were no takers from either the returnee or rookie classes.
Over the last eight years Barron has feigned running for NYC mayor, public advocate, Brooklyn boro prez, state senate, state assembly and democratic district leader (#40). In 2006 he ran for Congress against incumbent Ed Towns. After losing the primary, he did a quixotic write in campaign in the general election. I was stunned when one of his sycophants argued with me that he held winning chances in this write- in campaign. This is one of the damages you cause when you become a political Don Quixote. You delude followers when you should know better. After a while you lose followers and credibility. And the question that begs itself is this: does Barron really think these things through?
It’s almost five years exact since Barron used City Hall’s steps to announce his mayoral run that year (2005). Over three hundred people showed up. He was at the zenith of his popularity. Two years ago he announced his run for the Brooklyn Borough presidency and about one hundred people showed up; at both events there were few (if any) elected officials willing to stand up with him and support his effort. Maybe they were there but I can’t recall a single endorsement for either run from a fellow elected.
Last Wednesday at the stated meeting Charles Barron couldn’t get a single colleague to second his nomination for speaker. There are fifty one members in the council. Point being this: reforms are needed in the city council as badly as they are needed in Albany. So Barron is totally correct to call for reforms in the way the council conducts its business. I refuse to believe that the majority of council members there are unaware of this; so the next question that must be asked is this: was it the messenger?
It was painful for me to watch “Chucky Bee” make a spectacle of himself on the chamber floor. It was. And for him to be intellectually unprepared for the spotlight - as he clearly was- surely disappointed many who were silently rooting for him to raise the level of discourse around the issue of reform. Sure there were a handful of Barron fanatics making noise in the upper-gallery. So what’s new? It’s almost as if these types find some sort of comfort in being disruptive. Their almost predictable unruly outbursts hardly ever bring victory, but they do it time and time and again.
And while all the grandstanding takes place, the black community continues to metastasize. And leaders like Barron –one of the more knowledgeable and articulate amongst NYC blacks- perpetually fail to recruit allies from different races, nationalities, ethnicities, classes and creeds, too help in immediately addressing the myriad unique problems facing the black community in particular. And while Barron spent about 15 minutes speaking to the hundreds gathered, and the thousands listening or viewing, and the eventual hundreds of thousands who will see or hear him in those moments, he failed to make his case. He failed to impress one member as to the need to support his speaker candidacy. He failed to articulate the pressing needs of communities of color; whilst repeating the same ole same old tired race-laced rhetoric that alienates more than enjoins.
Charles Barron was probably correct when he said that after three and a half centuries we have never had a black person head up the Land Use or Finance Committees. And he is within his constitutional rights to ask the question: why?
And sure enough we have never had a black Council- Speaker in a city where over two million people are of the Negro race (it is even more if you include black Hispanics); but at no time did he make a profound enough point to get even a lengthy (far less standing) ovation; but he did draw some laughter at various points during his tirade: especially when he said that (he knows) the final vote will be fifty to one against him. Talk about Don Quixote!