Odd Politics in SEQ
Recently, there were two major events in Southeast Queens politics: the mistrial declared in the trial of NY State Senator Malcolm Smith and the Op-Ed by political reporter Errol Louis slamming Southeast Queens politicians.
Senator Smith’s trial was declared a mistrial due to the need to translate the several hours of audio tapes placed into evidence. Guilt or innocence has not been declared. The trial is set to restart in the New Year, after the election for his seat has been decided. Up until now, the trial has produced no bombshells but it was interesting to receive validation for one way in which some elected officials exchange favors, through donations to election campaigns. Senator Smith was heard saying on tapes that in return for a favor he wanted to raise cash to donate to the election campaigns of others.
Senator Smith will face former councilman Leroy Comrie for his seat with candidate Clyde Vanel being a wildcard likely to split (or even win), the vote. Comrie is considered a favorite. However, with the state of SEQ politicians under scrutiny, the climate for incumbents harsh due numerous scandals and Comrie’s fundraising outside of the district, voters are likely to demand more of all the candidates vying for office.
On the heels of the mistrial verdict, was Errol Louis’ Op-Ed. Louis took aim at Councilman Ruben wills for his involvement in the misappropriation of fund from a nonprofit organization he founded. Councilman Wills pleaded his innocence in an interview with Ruschell Boone on June 19th Wills was the former chief of staff to former NYS Senator Shirley Huntley who recently returned from serving 10 months of a 366 day prison sentence. Huntley was welcomed home by the Clergy United for Community Empowerment, a group of SEQ clergy, with no politicians in attendance.
Errol also called into question Assembly Member Viviann Cook, who although not being charged with any crime and has fiercely denied any wrongdoing, admits to steering funds into Huntley’s nonprofit organization. He points to a statement from former Senator Huntley that “funds would be directed to PIN…and together we used PINs funds for personal shopping” which seems to implicate Assembly Member Cook.
Assemblyman William Scarborough and Representative Gregory Meeks both get some ink from the reporter as well. Scarborough for the recently uncovered improper expense reporting and Meeks for an ancient real estate deal that went unreported and whose probe was subsequently dropped by the House Ethnics Committee.
Most importantly, Errol goes a step further by challenging voters to be wiser in their choices. A particularly pointed and provocative statement in an election year when all NYS Legislature seats are up for grabs. He also discourages falling into the old pattern of naming the group cited as part of a conspiracy against Black officials. Errol saw similar efforts against their political White counterparts with no hint of a conspiracy.
What does it mean for voters? It seems to mean little or nothing because they seem to vote the same way and allow current leaders that do little for the community to continue to hold power. In some communities this failure of leadership would equal a boom for new blood. It would excite groups seeking to take control and make significant changes to the ways things are usually done. As district lines have been redrawn, don’t be surprised if some new fringe group begins to covet what others are leaving behind.§