Brooklyn city councilman Charles Barron launched a long-shot campaign for City Council Speaker this afternoon and it was a one-man, one-vote affair: 48 votes for incumbent speaker Christine Quinn; one vote – Barron’s own – for Barron.
Still, the Nehru-suited Barron pulled no punches. He was running, he said, “because it is our turn.” In a city where Blacks, Latinos and Asians now constitute a 62 percent majority, he said it is “unspeakable” that blacks and Latinos do not hold any of the citywide positions of power.
“Many of you may not want to deal with race,” he told his colleagues, “but watch what happens when it’s budget time….It is time for one of us to be Speaker. “
As he spoke, some council members grimaced, some looked down at their desks. Joel Rivera, the majority leader from the Bronx who was chairing the session, made a couple feeble efforts to gavel Barron to stop after he passed his allotted time but the pol from East New York was on a roll.
He was making his run, he said, in the name of the late Harlem power broker and civil rights lawyer Percy Sutton, who died last week at 89 and was being mourned at an overflow funeral at Riverside Church as he spoke. “Percy supported me,” Barron said. “He said, ‘Charles, I’m supporting you because we need a radical voice in this town.”
Actually, several of the council’s black members who had attended the funeral filed in late and took their seats as the vote was still underway. All voted for Quinn.
It was a crowded day at the council as the chamber filled with family and friends of a dozen new members who were also sworn in this afternoon, as well as several rows of former council officials, including two ex-speakers, Peter Vallone Sr. and Gifford Miller.
As the roll was called on the vote for speaker, a throng of supporters for Barron issued cat calls from the balcony. “Uncle Tom!” someone yelled from abovewhen Queens councilman Leroy Comrie, who is expected to be named the new chairman of the powerful Land Use committee, cast his vote for Quinn.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Comrie said after the vote. “He is like Don Quixote, always tilting at windmills.”