Rock Hackshaw's blog
Before I go further with my political writings, I need to clear up a few things. After more than five years on these here blogs (mainly Politicker, Daily Gotham and Room Eight New York Politics); after numerous local radio and television appearances; after some of my political columns have been published in a few newspapers, and after some others have appeared in various other media outlets (particularly of the fifth estate variety); I need to openly reflect and/or retrospect.
Some wise-ass political thinker once said that “we get the government we deserve”. Another went even further when he said that “we get the exact government we voted for”. And on most elections nights you would hear commentators saying things like: “the people have spoken”; or that “the voice of the people is the voice of God”; or that “these results are the people's will”. But are these cliches correct in terms of their deeper messages?
It's 5:00am. It's the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November: so even a grade school student should know that it's all about elections today. All over the country we are going to witness what is called the early “mid-term” elections. This is when a new president is in the middle of his first term, and voters get a chance to express their views in terms of the direction the new president is taking the country. History shows that for the new president's party the congressional results are generally disappointing in mid-term elections.
I did a post-primary election column last month that drew many inane comments from some of the anonymous jackasses who love to peregrinate these NYC blogs, essentially to torment those who are strong enough to put their thoughts in writing; and brave enough to have their views/opinions published. The thread was somewhat disconcerting, given what I think is the overall objective of this site: to educate the public politically. After viewing the official results released by the Board of Elections recently, I have decided to revisit two of the races on which I commented.
Next week Tuesday (Election Day) there will be a special election held for the 28th council-manic district in Queens. The need for which came about after Council-member Tom White died recently. Originally there were fourteen candidates registered with the NYC Campaign Finance Board (CFB); namely (in alphabetical order and with latest CFB financial-filing numbers): Victor Babb -$15,500; *Albert Baldeo -$54,994; *Charles Bilal -$5,298; *Martha Butler -$0; Leroy Gadsden -$0; *Allan Jennings -$15,417; Vishnu Mahadeo -$0; Joseph Marthune -$0; Elaine Nunes -$0; Lyn Nunes -$0; *Nicole Paultre-Bell -$12,033; Hattie Powell -$0; *Harpreet Toor -$18,895; and *Ruben Wills-$25,800. The seven with an asterisk (*) in front their names, have survived the petition and court-challenge phases and are now on the ballot. Only one (Willis) has received matching funds so far. Do note that former council-member Jennings has withdrawn from the matching funds program of CFB.
Now, I am not going to get into all the political gossip and mud-slinging that has plagued this race up to this point, since it has really been distracting as far as I am concerned. Some mainstream (and even local) newspapers have had a field-day with all the gossip, attacks, lies, innuendo and aspersions cast by various candidates against other candidates. On the streets of this district all sorts of sordid things have been said, and all sorts of nasty literature have been lit-dropped: so I am excusing myself from all that. However, I will endorse RUBEN WILLS and I will tell you why.
Initially, I felt that there were four candidates in this race with decent chances of winning. In that list I included Baldeo, Jennings, Paultre-Bell and Wills. I didn't think the other three survivors (Bilal, Butler and Toor) had much chance of attaining victory. Look, I am not saying I am right or wrong; I am just giving my opinion that's all. For full disclosure let me say that I thought Lyn Nunes would have won had he made the ballot: but neither he nor his sister made it; so that's yesterday's news.
I want to believe that Ms. Nicole Paultre-Bell has now emerged as the favorite to win this race, since she picked up the endorsements of two formidable unions recently (1199 and 32BJ). On Election Day their GOTV (get-out-the-vote) operations will be quite helpful to her cause. She has also secured endorsements from Congressman Gregory Meeks, activist Al Sharptongue, Public Advocate Bill DiBlasio, Council-members Jumanee Williams, Ydannis Rodriguez, James Sanders and many others. I am told that she has been on a roll since Congressman Meeks pushed her into this race; deliberately stepping in to block Wills and his endorsement from the Queens County Democratic Party machine.
It is said that Meeks has never forgiven Wills for attempting to challenge him in a primary a few years aback. If this is true then Meeks has put revenge ahead of common sense. Let me tell you why I say so.
I have nothing personal against Ms. Paultre-Bell. I know little about this ostensibly beautiful young woman beyond what I have read in the newspapers, after her fiancee was tragically killed by over-zealous policemen, in an infamous shooting a few years aback. This was both sad and unfortunate. But as far as I have been able to ascertain, neither Ms. Bell nor her deceased fiancée (Sean) were ever involved in the politics of this district. I am told she still lives in Long Island. A news report claims that even yesterday she said that she still hasn't moved into the district as yet; but expects to be living there by Election Day: which is exactly six days away. She is surely cutting it close despite still being within the letter of the law.
Of the seven candidates running, she is most likely the least politically-active here. Whatever she has done in regard to politics and community-activism, seems to have come about after the tragic shooting. This endorsement from Meeks and company is a slap in the face of many others in this race who have been involved in politics and community development for eons. There were others in this race more deserving of these high-profile backers. I wish these endorsers would explain their justification to some of these candidates: I am sure that many of them are now very anxious to know the reasoning behind this groundswell of support for Ms. Bell. Is she up to date on community issues? How well does she understand the history of this community and its development? Can she articulate the needs of the city and of the district in particular? Where does she stand on contemporary political issues in general? Does she understand policy-formation or the inner-workings of the city council? Has she ever studied the city charter? And so on and so on!
In communities of color we need more people to become active in the local politics. We need more people involved in their churches, schools and civic organizations. We need more activity on community boards and their attendant committees. We need more involvement in block associations and tenant groups. We need more crime-watchers and civilian patrols. We need more input by ordinary citizens into issues facing us on a daily basis. When elected officials bypass those who have paid dues in various communities of color, in order to support neophytes for public office, simply because of personal vendettas (or because other higher-ups control them and push candidates on them), what they actually do is further discourage others from contributing and becoming more involved in the community. Many potential candidates, their relatives, friends and supporters look at these things and feel unappreciated and undervalued. They often spread a bitter disgruntlement across the hood, contaminating others and discouraging many. It may sound trite, but it is true.
Look; from where I come in politics, “paying dues” counts. Ruben Wills has paid a lot of dues. He has been active in community-service since he was a youngster. He is about forty years old and has been involved in youth-development, economic-development, Christian-church outreach, sports, education, business, community-development, political activism, et al. When hospitals were closing all over the city Ruben Wills could be seen (and heard from) openly protesting against these closings in various communities (not just in communities of color). He was an early Obama supporter, who has worked with unions for worker's rights and for better working-conditions for all. He has marched for human and civil rights, and also for issues and causes that were local, state, national and international in scope. He is a bona- fide political activist.
It is notable that Wills has the support of various electeds in the area, including state senators Shirley Huntley and Malcolm Smith; assembly members Vivian Cook and William Scarborough; councilman Leroy Comrie; and an assorted number of male and female district leaders all over south-east Queens. He also has union-backing, including police officers from the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) and the formidable DC 37 city workers. He should do well next Tuesday, but his chances of winning have surely diminished since Ms. Bell's ascendancy. Still, I wish him all the luck in the world: he is probably going to need some.
Stay tuned-in folks.
When the subject of Carl Paladino came up on the Brian Vines television program (BCAT) a couple months ago, I distinctly remember -as a guest panelist- getting a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach: after all (as a voter) I would eventually have to make a choice and vote for someone in the lackluster gubernatorial field. I left the studio pledging to myself that in the general election, I would keep an open mind on every single candidate running. The reason for my angst was the difficult time I was having in closing the deal for Andrew Cuomo, given my registration as a democrat all my voting life. You see, I hate candidates who for years stay quiet on certain significant contemporary issues, and then suddenly find their 'voice' just around election time. I don't “feel” that kind of political temerity. I really don't. And I don't think it should be rewarded either: but Andrew Cuomo will win this race -and it won't even be close. You can bet the too damn high rent on this.
A NOTE TO NEW YORK DEMOCRATS: WE HAVE TO GO OUT AND VOTE NEXT MONTH LIKE BOTH SENATES DEPENDED ON IT.
I am sure you have heard all the recent predictions from so-called political experts: of gloom and doom for democrats in next month's nationwide elections. They have been saying that polling results are showing a large enthusiasm gap between democrats and republicans in near every state, which would translate into gains for republicans in both federal and state legislatures. They say more republicans will turn out to vote than democrats, and that this has been fueled by the Tea Party movement. I caution people to consider this: polls are just snapshots in time, and as such they are subject to overnight change. I also caution people that the same movement (Tea Party) ostensibly driving republican turnout, could likewise motivate Dem turnout. Perceptions that President Obama is being disrespected by certain elements within the Republican party, will surely spur turnout in this midterm election, and as such I expect that there will be a slightly higher nationwide voter-turnout than what historically occurs in mid-term elections. I predict that election-night results will show democrats in surprisingly good shape compared to the predictions: there will be some hemorrhaging as expected, but it wouldn't be a bloodbath as the pundits predict. I expect Democrats to retain both houses of Congress.
As a political-commentator, it is never advisable to make predictions that can be seen as “out on a limb”, but many of us do it anyway. The fact is that even a supposedly safe prediction can backfire and undermine one's credibility in just a single special-election, far more a whole national election-cycle. It's probably always better to couch your predictions a bit: a lesson I learned again recently.
You see, a few months ago I appeared on a BCAT cable-television program in Brooklyn, with Tom Robbins (staff writer/ The New York Village Voice) and Tom Tracey (The Brooklyn Paper). We were discussing the then upcoming primary elections. I am sure one can “Google” and find the show on the Internet. In that discussion I told the viewing audience that Carl Paladino was going nowhere fast. I essentially felt back then -and still do now- that he is totally unfit to be the governor of New York State. I thought Rick Lazio was going to clean his clock in the Republican primary: boy, was I wrong!
I am told that one has to officially get in a pardon request before October 1st, 2010; so let me write this column as a formal request to our present governor David Paterson. I want to go on record as another who joined the chorus: PARDON JOHN O'HARA; PLEASE.
By now most readers to these blogs know the story of John O'Hara, but let me do a synopsis for the edification of those who don't know too much about him. John is an attorney and a political activist. There was a time when he was a perennial challenger to the Brooklyn political establishment and status quo: back then he ran hard and often. Some detractors thought he ran too much. Sometimes he ran others as challengers; near all the time he would be challenging some lackluster incumbent representing the powers that be. As a democrat (and insurgent) he stepped on many toes; sometimes he “mashed corns” without apologizing. He even supported challengers for offices as high as Brooklyn District Attorney -despite warnings from some concerned folks, that vendettas and reprisals are likely. What happened to him smells of a reprisal, or a vendetta, or just plain old-fashioned human revenge for something or the other.
Brooklyn's minority voters have a history of puzzling votes: no doubt. You can go back to the days of Shirley Chisholm, Vander Beatty and Waldaba Stewart, to find some strange results recorded: yes indeed.. There were times when you could only scratch your head and wonder what the motivations were, when voters elected certain folks (some repeatedly). And as time went by one hoped that minority voters in Brooklyn would evolve into rational-actor voter-models: demonstrating a higher level of critical-scrutiny for wannabee electeds. One hoped that the vetting process would be rigorous and extensive, and that the standards would be set real high for office-applicants. One hoped that qualified, educated, competent, capable, intelligent candidates would emerge to lead some of these districts sorely in need of dynamic leadership. Leaders who could articulate their way out of a phone booth; who could think creatively while they chew gum and walk straight. People of integrity. People with impeccable character traits and with very little or no “personal baggage”. People that can be examples for our hungry minority youth: too many of whom are grappling with the “missing-father syndrome”. People who could go to high places and make the case for better government-action more beneficial to the needy. People who could build coalitions and minimize isolation and alienation. People who could aspire, inspire and perspire, not disappoint and corruptly conspire. Alas, it seems as though one can only dream for the day when minority voters in Brooklyn would make better choices and be consistent in their reasoning: but we dream on; nonetheless.
POST-PRIMARY MUSINGS: The fingerprints of Vito Lopez; Evans v. Barron; plus some other interesting tidbits.
Whenever I endorse a candidate on either the Room Eight New York Politics, or on the Daily Gotham blog-sites, what I am saying is simply that if I had a vote in that race, this is how my vote will go. At no point am I predicting that the person I am endorsing is going to win the race -unless I so specify. In actuality, there are many times I feel strongly that my endorsed candidate will lose the race. I even said so in one of my recent endorsement columns (see comments-section also) regarding one candidate (Nelson Denis).
Thus, it was a bit frustrating (after I did my last two endorsement columns) for me to field a bunch of
Let me preface this column by saying that I have always been committed to getting term- limits legislation enacted for ALL legislators (federal, state and city/local). I go back many years fighting on this issue. I have written and spoken extensively on this issue: in media, in academia, in public and in private; on radio, on television, in newspapers, magazines, newsletters and on blogs.
Since Mayor Bloomberg’s hijacking of the expressed will of New York City’s voters in 2008, I have now arrived at the position that a 12-year limit should be uniform. Why should he get twelve years, when other mayors cannot?
If you had asked me about four months ago, what were Michele Adolphe’s chances of defeating 32-year incumbent Rhoda Jacobs in the upcoming primary, I would have told you she had two chances: very slim and none. In fact, I had spoken to Mr. Very Slim quite early in this contest, and he told me that he was going on vacation: so go figure.
Of course this was based on a very objective analysis of previous races between these two candidates. Ms. Adolphe has faced the voters twice, and was soundly defeated by Ms. Jacobs both times. In one race there was a third candidate on the ballot (Zacary Lareche), and Michele ran dead last. Then there was at least one other time when she was knocked of the ballot, after her signatures (petitions) were challenged in court. So Michele’s record is spotty at best.
I am doing these columns now, in order to set the record straight and clear up some misconceptions out there. I want to believe that most of those who are seriously involved in NYC politics, know that I am an insurgent to the core. I hardly ever endorse electeds. There have been one or two exceptions over the years, but for the most part I feel strongly that most incumbents (especially the black ones) are incompetent, inept, unimaginative, trifling and corrupt. Thus I have written extensively about the need to replace most of them. Nothing has been done over the last decade to make me change this point of view.
On January 15th earlier this year, I wrote a column inspired by a press conference which was held a day earlier, at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall. You see, an avalanche of elected officials had converged on us here in Brooklyn, in response to the natural cataclysm in Haiti: the devastating earthquake of 12th January, 2010.
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke had convened the event, and anyone who was anyone in politics was there. They all made grand speeches pledging to help the suffering Haitians. From Senator Kirsten Gellibrand; to congressmen Meeks, Towns and a few others of that ilk; to state senators; state assembly members; city council members; and various district leaders; they were all in unison with their pledges of aid and support.