Saturday, October 30, 2010


Published by Tom Weiss UP FRONT NEWS October 26, 2010
"The paper that can't be bought and can't be sold."
Tea Party siren Sarah Palin, who has been known to belittle community organizers, should be grateful that she hasn't had to face or debate Charles Barron, the New York City councilmember running for governor of New York State as the candidate of the Freedom Party.
It was late in the last millenium (I do not recall the exact year) that I had the opportunity to work with Mr. Barron to whom I had first been introduced by the Rev. Timothy P. Mitchell, the now retired pastor of the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Queens and a close associate and friend of Dr. King. Mr. Barron led a community effort to battle then Governor George Pataki who had cut a deal with a politically connected company to place a potentially pollution-spewing recycling plant in East New York, Brooklyn, a neighborhood with alarmingly high asthma statistics. And what at the outset appeared to be a done deal and a case of clear environmental racism was stopped!
In his pre-City Council years Mr. Barron, who graduated from Hunter College (major in sociology, which he put to good use; minor in elemtary education) was a member of the Black Panthers and served as the Chief of Staff to Rev. Herbert Daughtry, founder of the National Black United Front. Mr. Barron has been one of the leaders in the struggle to rid his community of drug trafficking.
He was elected to the City Council in 2001 (re-elected in 2005) and became the Chairman of the Committee on Higher Education, during which time he was successful in restoring $10 million that had been cut from the budget of the City University of New York. It is his view that that there should be no tuition fees at CUNY. (Indeed tuition at the City colleges was free until the state and city governments imposed a policy of "planned shrinkage", i.e. balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, to deal with the "fiscal crisis", which generated the famous Daily News headline [President Gerald] "Ford to New York: 'Drop Dead'.")
Under the Michael Bloomberg-Christine Quinn regime, Councilman Barron has sometimes been the sole voice of protest against Council actions which use public money (taxes) for private profit. A classic example of this kind of distorted priorities was the Council's overwhelming vote (with Mr. Barron opposed) for the new Yankee Stadium, which had one component that the original iconic Stadium (which should probably have been landmarked) lacked: luxury boxes for the corporate and political elite.
Mr. Barron, often with his ally, former City Councilmember Tony Avella of Queens, has been a forceful advocate for affordable housing, a key issue in a city in which most of the housing that is built is of the luxury variety (the real estate section of the Sunday New York Times is an eye-opener) while the homeless shelters are full.
Considering the political and economic climate, it is undestandable that some people may opt not to vote at all, one way of ignoring the major parties. Some will opt to vote for a "minor" party candidate. Presumably many people, "progressives", will consider Mr. Barron or the Green Party candidate, Howie Hawkins. Although there are similarities in their platforms, Mr. Barron is the better choice. While Mr. Barron is deeply dissatisfied with the makeup of the Democratic ticket (especially as Andrew Cuomo tilts to the right), he remains open to working with Democrats who demonstrate their readiness to do what is necessary to end the huge gap between the haves and have-nots. The Greens, whom I have found to be less than small "d" democratic at times, reject that approach, a principle that helped give us eight years of George W. Bush.
Mr. Barron and the Freedom Party of New York give me hope.
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