Taking The Lead In Southeast Queens
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
had a great time with Greg Meeks last week. I had met Greg before, but we
didn’t really have the opportunity to sit down and talk.
I found out – he knows his stuff. He lightheartedly claimed, “I take
no race for granted” when asked about an opponent for his Congressional
seat that really poses no threat. His energies seemed more invested in
backing the incumbent, Michelle Titus, in a crowded field in the 31st AD
and nurturing a team of Southeast Queens public officials working
collectively to insure that the community gets its fair share.
avoided addressing an uneven political playing field between incumbents
and challengers, but chose to embrace all who serve the Southeast Queens
asked about the area’s apparent renegade – City Councilman Allan
Jennings – Greg replied: “The arms are open for Allan. Me, personally,
I’ve had no problems with him.”
by Tamara Hartman
has no role [and wants none] on the team,” he responded to my inquiry
about the involvement of his predecessor and Southeast Queens giant, the
Reverend Floyd Flake.
it bother you that occasionally he’s not part of the group?” I asked
about Flake’s independence and occasional Republican alliances.
I don’t agree with my wife with everything,” Meeks responded,
but indicated he did occasionally seek Flake’s advice.
blames the lack of enthusiasm for his Gubernatorial candidate Carl McCall
on a “tough primary,” but expects that his campaign will generate more
excitement as decision day nears.
asked, “Do minority districts get their fair share of dollars?”
responded, “We’re working
explained that minorities started getting into politics in the 1960s, and
that power comes with seniority more than race. It is only now, he notes,
that many black politicians are in senior positions.
the next Speaker of the City Council be a man of color?” I asked,
suggesting that Southeast Queens’ Leroy Comrie – a friend of both of
us – is well positioned.
[not definitely]” he replied. “But a man of color can be speaker
does Helen Marshall mean for the minority communities?, I continued.
is happening now is that people of color, who would be looked at as only
being able to represent black people, are now seen as capable of
representing all people,” he replied.
we there yet?” I asked of the elusive quest for equality.
[Helen] Marshall, we’re getting there,” he responded.
reparations, Meeks asserted: “I’m for it,”
noting he’s a co-sponsor on Rep. John Conyers’ HR-40 bill.
“The reparations movement is trying to look at ways that individuals who
lost ground can catch up,” he explained. “The debate should be on the
table.” “Descendants of slaves were denied the right to an education
and we want to ensure,” Meeks emphasized, “that people of that class
can get help.”
think this is a dialogue that we should be having,” he said, adding:
“The government and companies should pay… we’re all responsible.
apology is important. The
dialogue is what we’re trying to get,” he hammered home.
current House leadership, explained Meeks,
“won’t allow the bill to see the light of day.” And,
therefore, he is motivated to win back the House and presented a wishful
scenario where his party might regain control.
Meeks drew a distinction between the parties in Congress, I inquired,
“What are the real differences between Republicans and Democrats?
is the way we look at education,” he responded.
there some things in the middle that Republicans and Democrats can agree
upon?,” I continued.
think Democrats need to be closer to business, especially small
business,” he explained.
on a more global level, I asked, “Will we see peace in the Middle
thoughtfully replied, “I wish we would.
I don’t see a breakthrough right now.
I’m concerned about the security of Israel.
I’m concerned about the Palestinian people who are dying and
starving. I’m concerned
about the region.”
you happy with the President’s leadership?” I inquired.
don’t know what it is. It’s
all over the place,” Meeks insisted “We’ve gotta be clear, concise,
unequivocal with our support for Israel....
where I fault Arafat: The Palestinians need to quote from Ghandi’s and
Martin Luther King’s book....
in the Middle East is our national interest,” Meeks declared.
the economy?” I threw out.
first thing we have to do now is bring trust back,” he
far away are we?”
to eight months to one year.”
so I asked, “Any advice to your constituents regarding investing?
parried, “Buy real estate.”
continued and had a lot more fun than space permits me to relate.
pointed with pride to his work on education citing “Science, Education,
Mathematics Aerospace Academy” (SEMMA) and his “Education to Work”
program. He’s not happy with the schools in his district, which has been
without a permanent superintendent for a long time.
expressed outrage that some kids can’t read and others can’t count.
has made Meeks the Congressman from the previously racially troubled area
of Howard Beach and he is looking forward to representing that area.
believes they have come a long way: “I remember when Flake announced in
Howard Beach that he’s the new Congressman; people couldn’t believe
it. Flake had to show his Congressional ID.”
Meeks spent an hour-and-a-half chatting with us and made it quite clear
with his words and knowledge that he is indeed a Congressman and he’s on
a mission for all those he represents.
get ‘em, Greg.
The Right Thing All The Time Is Tough
is not easy.
week two politicians took courageous stands and I’m about to criticize
both of them.
is a wonderful thing. It’s wonderful in life; it’s wonderful in
business; and it’s wonderful in public service.
we often have to compromise that independence to “get along” and
negotiate meaningful solutions.
there are certain principles which should never be compromised or
negotiated. There are certain stands that should never be up for sale.
I’m not certain that my criticism of these two elected officials crosses
that line. I do know, that in both cases, I would have acted differently.
simple one: Assemblyman Michael Cohen, a two-term Democrat from Forest
Hills, endorsed Republican George Pataki for Governor.
broke from his party, his County leader, his political allies and I
believe most of the Democrats in his district. That took courage. Bravo,
Mike — for courage.
I don’t know who I’m endorsing for Governor. I don’t even know who
I’m voting for in the Democratic Primary. I gotta make up my mind
whether to choose Carl McCall or Andy Cuomo, both respectable choices, to
lose to George Pataki. Then I have to decide to endorse the Dem who is
going to lose or go with the victorious Pataki who has not done a bad job.
friend Democratic Assemblyman Mike Cohen didn’t wait. He endorsed the
Republican Guv before the Dems got to choose. I hope he got a promise of
some major money into his district from the Guv — that’s often how
these thing work, I’m told.
didn’t call Tom Manton or other Dems to see what they thought. But
generally, the party is very disapproving of moves like this — can’t
often than not, this type of jumping party occurs to support a clear
winner because when it’s over, your new friends are often worth more
than the several old friends you alienate. And when your old friends and
your party aren’t too excited about the election — as seems to be the
case with this one — they forgive pretty easily.
Mike Cohen’s courageous move wasn’t all that courageous and might be
why am I going to criticize Mike?
simple. Mike Cohen has demonstrated he is willing to stand up and go
against party leaders. Bravo again – it’s great if Mike thinks it’s
the best thing. He should not be encumbered by some party boss’ orders.
three years ago when Sheldon Silver told a freshman Assemblyman Mike Cohen
to vote to repeal the commuter tax and give up $500,000,000 in revenue
every year for the City, obedient Mike Cohen followed suit.
was part of a stupid, horrendous political deal that failed and Sheldon
Silver and Mike Cohen and every other City Democratic member of the
Assembly that went along should be ashamed of themselves. I know Mike
like Mike. I applaud his service to his district.
before this political journalist will let Mike Cohen reap the benefit of
standing up and being independent, he expects a clear mea culpa
over the commuter tax sell out. I told Mike back then and I’ll keep
reminding the voters every chance I get that elected officials can break
with party leaders and survive.
when it really mattered, Mike Cohen didn’t.
Pataki move, on the other hand, shows some style.
love you, Mike.
there’s the other Mike.
just dissed the Speaker of the Council . . .and he was right — 100
percent plus right.
Mike Bloomberg just vetoed Giff Miller’s term limit repeal shenanigans.
Now my friend Giff is very much invested in this move to extend his own
term (and that of seven other members).
has spun it brilliantly — Giff is a master — and had gotten it through
with me being just about the lone voice of dissent in this City. He duped
them all, and I told him and them so. I insisted that the Council had no
moral or ethical right to reverse the will of the people as voted on in
referendum. If you remember, I broke the horrendous story that the side
effect of Giff’s effort was to prevent former Council members from
challenging the new members (even though the people’s referendum
permitted them to do so) and Giff had the new members voting on it. But
Giff managed the news like a master and only Schenkler yelled.
finally gave up.
now another voice… another Mike has spoken.
that’s all that Mike Bloomberg is doing. Although the Mayor has the
political capital to have his veto upheld, it seems he’s not even
trying. If 18 out of the 51 City Council members refused to override the
Mayor’s veto, the Council’s questionable term limit tinker would die.
The votes are there; they’ve always been there. The new members are just
afraid to stand up to the Speaker by themselves.
with a call from the Mayor, there would be a lot more than 18. You see,
I’ve talked to many Council members who were prepared to be the
eighteenth vote, but they were all afraid to be the first vote.
Bloomberg can count to 18 a lot quicker than anyone else. All he has to do
while we applaud Mayor Mike’s stand of conscience in vetoing the term
limit tinker, we sadly shake our head and wonder if he were a true man of
principle, why not work to have your veto upheld. Principle, Mr. Mayor, is
worth fighting for.
Mike, we can’t respect a Mayor allowing Giff and Company to make a
mockery of the people’s will.
veto, on the other hand, shows some style.
Mike, we still love you.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@queenspress.com