I have always had a strange memory: my brain-cells tune in (or hone in) on silly lil stuff at some remarkable times. Then they file them for future reference. Then they pull them out at some of the weirdest moments.
I recently read a newspaper story about Karim Camara (43rd AD/Brooklyn) lately, and such a phenomenon reoccurred: something seemingly insignificant jumped out at me from a boat-ride taken almost twenty years ago.
Look; I am not going to jump all over Albany’s electeds in this column, since that’s boring now. Collectively speaking: they suck. We all know it; at least those of us with any common sense relative to politics. In fact, we have known it for too many years now; whether the fault lay with the assembly members, or the senators, or the governor: no one person or group has been held responsible. Yet, we the people of New York State have been subjected to too many years of torture, inaction, indecision (or poor decision-making), procrastination, hardships, exorbitant tolls, fees and taxes, from those we elected to lead us.
It’s a shame; and yet we voters have accepted this for years. It’s time to turn this around. Next election cycle, let’s impose a twelve year-term limit on any one who has been in office for that time or more. Let’s vote them all out. Let’s start anew. Let’s start from scratch so to speak. They have failed us (collectively-speaking). Let’s impose term-limits on the state legislature since they won’t impose it on themselves via legislation.
I suspect that our present imperial highness Prince/Governor/Andrew Cuomo, will probably disappoint us as much as -or even more so than- his father Mario, who was both a former governor and lieutenant governor of New York. And yet I am hopeful that Mario-Lite (Andrew) may prove me wrong. He has shown some good signs; but he has also shown at times that he could be another political-whore, whose eyes are fixed on both the re-election clock and his future political/professional ambitions. At some point his true colors will shine through. Some are saying that he will one day be president of these 50 dis-united states. Some are predicting that could be as early as the year 2016. We shall see.
I am calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to initiate legislation seeking a twelve-year term limit on members of the New York state legislature. I hope to get a respond to this column ASAP. If Andrew is the real deal, he will respond in a timely manner. Albany is dysfunctional. He must know this by now.
Making fancy speeches is nothing new in politics (or religion). Good speechmakers are a dime a dozen; they proliferate political corners just as much as the phony preachers do in the communities of color. They break more hearts than they cure social-ills. After a while -in my case thirty eight years in NYC- you are inured by the disappointments. You see, sometimes there are simple practical solutions to problems that seem intractable.
Albany spends too much. It’s simple as that. And then again, so too does Washington DC. To go farther: City Hall in Manhattan is no different to either two. The problem is in accountability. Do we taxpayers get a real bang for our bucks? The answer is no. Thus you would think that elected officials would eventually design systems for ensuring our dollars are well spent; but they hardly ever do that.
Whenever a pressing need for new spending arises, electeds do what they do best: the tax middle class folks, raise fees for goods and services the government provides for all, while simultaneously cutting social programs important to the poor and needy. Seldom do they burden the rich folk with a specific tax increase on their ever-bulging purses. They hardly ever seem to tackle the feasibility of increasing funding-streams/sources to the public coffers. In this regard they seem bankrupt for ideas.
Back when I first ran for office in 1998, I remember raising this issue of ‘new funding streams/sources’ during an interview with the New York Times. They endorsed one of my two opponents. I never once heard that opponent speak or write about this during his campaign or even after. The incumbent – against whom we both ran- had been seated in Albany since 1978 (20 years then/ 33 years now). I have never heard her speak or write about it. However, she routinely votes ‘aye’ on every annual budget passed.
Two years ago I ran for a seat in the New York City Council. In my comprehensive platform (parts of which can be still viewed in my archives here), I again mentioned the need for new funding streams/sources to the government’s coffers. During public debates with two opponents (one an incumbent) I even mentioned developing the waterfronts as a possibility. I didn’t get a single union endorsement. I got two newspapers though (I guess I moved on up a bit/lol). Neither of my opponents dealt with the issue. Even today, this incumbent appears to hide from tackling serious city issues.
It’s more than 25 years now since I first went on local radio and wider television programs, talking about politics in New York: this started before I attended graduate school (1985-1987). I remember talking about developing Coney Island as a site for casino gambling. For a hot minute it was a sexy political issue in the city. Some church people pushed back on the idea. They were successful in blocking any real movement in a positive direction. They had an ally in Mister Donald Trump.
Developing Coney Island was an idea that needed little or no vetting. It could have been developed many many moons ago. It could have been developed for casinos and for tourism (theme-parks etc). It could have brought in trillions (by now) to the city’s coffers.
These church people were full of crap. And I say this with the utmost respect but with no reservation. Some of the same church folks who dressed to kill on Sundays (before kneeling at the pews), were the ones riding buses on Mondays thru Saturdays, trying to make a killing at the slot machines and the poker tables of Atlantic City in New Jersey.
When the Pequot Indians (along with Connecticut’s government officials) wised-up and opened a casino in the Ledyard reservation, these same church people (and other willing New Yorkers too) drove their dollars up the Connecticut turnpike. It benefitted the nutmeg state while hurting our city and state.
But it wasn’t only church folks and their lobbyists at fault. A lot of the blame has to be placed squarely on the shoulders of Mister Donald “Walking Eagle” Trump. Now I have already written about Mister Donald and his nickname “Walking Eagle”. Walking Eagle is the name Indians give to birds so full of shit that they can’t fly anymore. This man has cost the city mucho mucho bucks over the years in more ways than one. He is a vulture. He is a leech.
Now back to the newspaper article about Assemblyman Karim Camara. He chairs the Black, Hispanic and Asian Caucus of the legislature. Camara sensibly promised his organization’s support for a bill allowing full-scale casino gambling at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, New York City. Present legislation allows for a racino (mini-casino) at the racetrack. This limits patrons to computerized games of chance, and not table-games (with human operators) like poker, craps, roulette, blackjack, baccarat and such.
Camara is an ordained minister: a man of the cloth so to speak. He is a person who takes a commonsensical approach to politics and problem-solving. He must have seen that since the racino opened a few weeks ago, the operators have been raking in money hands over fists. He knows that this is a goldmine that we have been idly sitting on for years and years now. He went public while many others still sit back and wait. This was a courageous move on his part. It isn’t the first time he has displayed political courage. He has openly called for reforms in the ways we do our business in Albany.
So let me tell you what jumped out at me from nearly 20 years ago. If recollection serves me right, I was enjoying a boat ride given by a Haitian-American political activist named Ernest Emmanuel, one Sunday afternoon in the summer of ’93 or ’94. Noah Nicholas “Nick” Perry -along with his lovely wife (Joyce Perry) – was on board. Nick was a rookie assembly member from Brooklyn’s 58th district. It was a newly- created East-Flatbush/Carnarsie seat emerging from the 1992 round of re-districting.
A few of us (Caribbean-American political activists) were standing in a circle talking politics, when Nick casually turned to his wife (at his side) and softly said that there was something he had forgotten to mention to her. I was right next to them so I overheard. I still can’t be sure if he said it for the consumption of all who were in that small circle or if it was meant for her pristine ears alone.
Nick Perry said that Donald Trump issued an invitation to various members of the assembly, for both dinner and a small cruise up the Hudson – on his yacht (Trump’s) – a few weekends earlier. Nick had forgotten to mention it to his wife since their social/political calendar was already set that weekend. He also wasn’t certain she would have wanted to go. She intoned that she might have been interested in going, if she has been told about it. The exchange lasted about a minute or two; or less.
I recalled that conversation as I read about Camara’s support for a full-fledge casino at Aqueduct racetrack. Trump has been blocking legislation facilitating casinos in New York City since Adam was a boy. Over time the roadblocks have eroded. Now it looks as though they are finally going to be totally dismantled. I am told that Speaker Sheldon Silver has signed on to the casino initiative.
Trump is a master of wining, dining and schmoozing electeds. He does this as well as any registered lobbyist within this flawed political system. He epitomizes many of the things wrong with both the contemporary political and economic systems here. One day, the Donald Trumps of this world will be
asked some very hard questions (a la Rene Castillo) by the proletariat folks. It is some ways off but it will happen one day.
Anyway; it looks as though Albany is finally coming around to meet and greet common-sense; if only the voters would now come around to making better choices: then we could really begin to clean up the political mess we find ourselves in today. I am hopeful that both the governor and the voters will do the right thing soon enough. I am not too optimistic: but I am hopeful. Hope springs eternal with me.
Stay tuned-in folks.