Rock Hackshaw's blog
Earlier in the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, his people believed that New York was a write-off; they felt that Hilary Rodham-Clinton was a lock to win most if not all the convention delegates coming out of New York. To the shrewd political analyst this observation probably made a lot of sense, but sometimes politics defy common sense, and at other times common sense defies conventional political thinking. What is shaping in Brooklyn is a case in point.
As soon as Barack Obama officially announced his presidential pursuit last winter, a group of young idealists came together shortly after to form an organization called: “Brooklyn for Barack Obama”. Almost immediately they hit the street; registering voters, recruiting volunteers, staging rallies, canvassing, politicking, visibly dealing with issues, spreading the Obama message and pushing their candidate. Despite the knowledge that Obama’s national campaign was reluctant to invest in a New York challenge, these young political neophytes, have been undeterred in their objective to deliver Brooklyn’s democrats to the Obama delegate count.
Please note that this column is rated for “mature audiences only”. If one or two “choice” words offend your pristine tastes: then skip this column. And please don’t lecture me in the comments-section about my writing-style unless you are willing to join the Room Eight colony of writers/bloggers, in order to demonstrate how best to do this.
And while I am on to disclaimers, let me state that I work for no political campaign this summer (and that was by my choice). Let me also state that I have no personal dislike for Vito, Bernie or Shawndya, who are the subjects in this two-part series; the issue at hand is bigger than either one of them. Let’s hope that this time around, they (and others) catch my drift; which I don’t even think is an abstract one.
I could write scores of Marty Markowitz stories; but I won’t; at least not right now. It would be fun though; it really would be. For full disclosure, let me state upfront that for many years, I was one of quite a few in the Crown Heights/ Flatbush community, committed to taking Marty Markowitz out of his senate seat (20 SD). We failed.
Marty was in office for about 20 years or so, in a district where minorities made up about 80% of the residents-with more than half of them either born in the Caribbean, or of parents so born. Some called Marty a comedian, others snidely remarked that he was a clown; lore has it that one Easter Sunday, he even ran around the black community in a white Easter-bunny suit. Needless to say: many of the more militant-black types thought he was an embarrassment. Well; I am not sure that those comments can hold up any more folks; Marty has been and continues to be: a winner (politically speaking).
Almost six months ago, when I started this three part series on the reasons why I felt that Barack (Barry) Hussein Obama should run for the US presidency, many people didn’t feel me; those two columns didn’t generate the usual responses that my writings on New York’s political cesspool generally do. Plus, after all: this enigma (Obama), calling himself a Negro (black-man), had no chance of winning; right?
Truth be told, it appears to me that most of the people here on Room Eight (along with most of the readers), really want me to focus my writings on Brooklyn’s political gossip, spiced with a lil history of my personal involvement in some of the in-fighting. It’s what draws many of them to Room Eight (www.r8ny.com); it’s what makes me the most read (and most commented on) blogger of this particular colony of political writers. It’s what makes this blog so popular in Brooklyn especially (and in some other parts of the city too). Political gossip and credible innuendo is sexy; it’s like a catfight (for men). So; a lot of people will probably hate this particular column for various reasons; I must admit that the hate will be somewhat understandable given the true nature of this country; which despite all its great attributes: is still very racist.
Youngsters have a rhyme that they say or chant, whenever they accuse another of lying; it goes like this: “liar, liar, pants on fire” (if it’s a male being accused); or “liar, liar, panties on fire” (if it’s a female being accused of not telling the truth). So there is a story presently circulating in political Brooklyn that accuses three people of lying through their teeth; some are saying that any minute now, the noses on these three individuals will start growing inch by inch-just like Pinocchio’s did when he lied. Could this be true?
Let me introduce the three individuals involved: Vito Lopez, Bernie Catcher and Shawndya Simpson. Mr. Lopez is the Democrat’s county leader-having succeeded the disgraced Clarence Norman a year or so ago. Some say his lies start with his residency- which Brooklyn’s District Attorney (Charles Hynes) refuses to look into- since many claims that he really lives in Queens, but represents Brooklyn’s Bushwick area in the New York State Assembly. Mr. Catcher is the district leader of the 59 AD, but most insiders say that he really lives outside the district. Ms. Simpson is a civil court judge from King’s County, who insiders claim lives in South Orange, New Jersey. Since I am told that they all read my blog, I expect that they (or their minions) will respond to this column in the comment section, ensuring a nice discussion on the contents.
Recently, the New York State Assembly passed legislation favoring same-sex marriages, despite the fact that a federal statute (Defense of Marriage Act) legally defines marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. Proponents of this measure have argued that it’s about equality, civil-rights, justice and human-rights for all; but is it really? To me, the same-sex marriage debate is ostensibly an attempt by advocates to redefine traditional marriage, which for eons in civil society, has been in essence: quasi-religious ceremonial arrangements/agreements between men and women; which society, culture, religion and government, sanctioned, blessed, approved, encouraged, formalized, legalized and such; for myriad positive and sensible reasons.
To the many peeps who have contacted or tried to contact me, enquiring as to why I haven't written a column here for the past seven weeks: I'll be back real soon.<.......> I had to take a lil hiatus in order to clear my head a bit. I also had to consider a couple runs for public office. I went to Trinidad for a brief visit (as a pre-requisite to possibly participating in the election campaign down there later this year) and for a little R&R. <....> Today, I decided not to run for Congress in 2008 (it's too late to start this/ especially as it relates to fundraising), but I am considering a run for the City Council in 2009; I will finalize that decision next year. There are talks afoot to do a wide ranging challenge of various district-leaderships (Dems.) in many boroughs during next year's presidential excitement; so far these ideas are inchoate. There are many people who are rather disenchanted with the leadership of New's York's democrats and want to mix it up a bit. If those conversations mature then who knows what I'll do next year; but I am definitely not running for Congress (11th) then, unless I hit the LOTTO soon/ lol. <....>
Some impatient people are betting that New York governor Eliot Spitzer will disappoint his many fans, who were so optimistic for his political agenda, after his landslide victory last fall. They are saying that given Spitzer’s rocky start as governor, it is imperative that the democrats control the Senate in two years. They are saying that Joe Bruno and Sheldon Silver may batter Spitzer into submission unless he pulls this off. They are also saying that the powers behind the leaders of the Senate and Assembly are so entrenched that Eliot has bitten off more than he could chew. They are suggesting that he change his approach since most of the members of the two legislative bodies are spineless. I hope like hell that he continues the good fight for political reform and the like. I hope like hell that he stands strong, stands his ground and stays the course.
Kendall Stewart, Kevin Parker and Nick Perry are all elected officials in Brooklyn. They are all black democrats. NYC council member Kendall Stewart (45th district) was born on a tiny Caribbean island called Union. I am told that he grew up in both St. Vincent and Trinidad; he is a podiatrist by profession. As far as I know, state senator Kevin Parker was born in the district he represents (21st Senatorial) in East Flatbush/Midwood; he is a college lecturer by profession. State assembly member Nick Perry was born in Jamaica, West Indies; prior to getting elected he worked for the state in some type of civil service capacity (if memory serves me right). I believe that he is a graduate of Brooklyn College (B.A.); he is the eldest of these three electeds. They are all political animals. At different times they have been allied politically; next year they will be fighting like cats and dogs.
A few months aback, when I first wrote about the vacancy in the 40th city council district, I had never in my wildest imaginations expected so much drama to a simple special election; but drama we had, and maybe the best is yet to come. No sense rehashing all the funky stuff of the past few months, but let me bring some of you up to date as to where we are, with just three days to the election (part two).
About 48 hours ago, a federal judge put candidate Wellington Sharpe back on the ballot, after he was removed by the NYC Board of Elections, which had upheld a challenge on Sharpe’s petitions from the Mathieu Eugene camp. Then yesterday, an appellate court held that despite the fact that Eugene had created the present vacancy in this district- by failing to take up his duly elected post- he should be still placed on the ballot, since his deceptive behavior didn’t reach the level of a felony. They arrived at this position despite the fact that the law is clear: once you create a vacancy, you cannot run for said office. The law is also clear that failing to swear in to office meant that “you” created the vacancy. So on Tuesday (4-24-07), there will be a special election in Brooklyn again, with Mathieu Eugene, Wellington Sharpe and Harry Schiffman as the candidates. So much for the law, its variations and violations; and on we go, and on we go, and we go on.........
When I did an article a few months ago about the possibility of a black borough president in Brooklyn’s near future, it was because I had observed a trend in Brooklyn’s politics over the past five years, whereby blacks and Hispanics were winning borough-wide races for civil and supreme courts, on a regular basis. It started in 2002, when both Delores Thomas and Margarita Lopez-Torres won county-wide races in the same year; something unfathomable to many an old-timer in Brooklyn. Then Chandrya Simpson did it the following year, and it was repeated subsequently in 2004, 2005 and 2006, with blacks and Hispanics making it look mundane, if not simple.
In two years time, Marty Markowitz, the current Brooklyn Borough President will be term-limited out of office; this throws up a vacancy, and it also offers a historic opportunity for a female, or a black, or a Hispanic-or a person other than someone male and Caucasian-to ascend to this office. So, in this the year of Barack Obama (2007), no black candidate has officially declared for the race as yet, but some have made very public statements of their intentions. This group includes the cerebral Chris Owens, Jamaican-born Assemblyman Nick Perry and the controversial NYC councilman Charles Barron. It has also been brought to my attention that over the years State Senator Velmanette Montgomery has openly admitted an interest in this race. Some folks are saying that she is definitely running this time around. Other blacks whose names have been bandied around for this race from time to time, include State Senator John Sampson, Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, NYC council-woman Tish James and Assemblyman Darryl Towns, however, for various reasons, all four seem not inclined to pursue this particular race at present- albeit that could change over the next year or so.
Won’t it be ironic if there is no special election on April 24th in the 40th city council district? After all, many have accused Mathieu Eugene of wasting government money, with his refusal to be confirmed in a seat that he had won-given all his shenanigans after the election. Well, based on the buzz in the trenches, all the candidates that filed for the re-run were weak in their signatures. The speculation is rife that Eugene is in the driver’s seat and that he may well knock every opponent off the ballot. Won’t that be something?
When petitions were submitted, five candidates filed. They were namely; Mathieu Eugene (black/Haitian-American male), Wellington Sharpe (black Jamaican born male), Harry Schiffman (white/Jewish/male), Marie Gina Faustin (black Haitian-American female) and Darly Brutus (black Haitian-American male). Three of these ran first time around (Eugene/actual winner then, Sharpe and Schiffman); so it was a bit surprising to many, that the runner up in the last race (Jennifer James) didn’t show up in the re-run, given that Sharpe (3rd) and Schiffman (4th) did. Sensibly, the nine other also-rans stayed away from this race; thank God.
As I sit here in limbo pondering my future on the blogs (including Room8/ given that the editors are yet to issue a policy missive), I decided to tackle some issues left outstanding. For example, to the “Draft Rock for the 40th Council seat campaign”, I have to say: thanks, but no thanks. I am not a candidate for this race; neither now (April), nor in September and/or November (primary/general election). I am honored and humbled that some people could think that highly of me to submit my name for a “draft”; but at the present time it would be rather difficult to attempt to undertake a race with this short advance notice. So I will pass.
I must admit though, that something did come out of this “draft” campaign, and that is: I have decided to consider a run for Congress in either 2008 or 2010. I am moved to attempt a true grassroots campaign demonstrating people power; a campaign that will rely more heavily on human involvement than on obscene amounts of cash infusions. Maybe I am naïve, but I still think that this type of effort can be successfully replicated and resurrected. We will see.
The special election to find a replacement for Congresswoman Yvette Clarke in the NYC council, took place three weeks ago (2-20-07), with candidate Mathieu Eugene the indisputable winner. Now we are being told by the winner, that he will not submit documentation proving that he resided in the district by the day of the election, as the law states/requires, as interpreted by the Attorney General. But is Cuomo correct in this interpretation? We are in virgin territory folks.
In my 34 years in NYC politics, I have never seen or heard of the council requiring someone to prove their residency before swearing them into office. I am being told that it has never happened before in the four hundred and fifty-four year history of the council. So why do this now? Well, I will get to that in a minute.
In 1973, when I migrated to New York City from the island of Trinidad, I was lucky enough to have caught the tail end of the civil-rights activism era. Ostensibly, back then, political activism/community involvement in most black areas of the city was something of a norm; ordinary people were much more civic-minded than they are today; parents were much more involved in their PTAs, school boards and police precinct councils. Back then, block associations and tenant associations flourished; there were vibrant members perpetually trying to hold things together within their communities/organizations. That was a time when people routinely attended community planning board meetings and also worked in local political campaigns for no money.