Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Profile in Courage: Bill Perkins

There's a wonderful profile of State Senator Bill Perkins in the latest Spectator. The article in question focuses on the fact that Perkins is the only local elected official that has taken a public position in favor of the community's opposition to the Columbia expansion plan. As one CB9 board member, Michael Palma, told the paper: “He is really the only politician to be sticking out his neck and taking a clear position on the issue.”

But why is this so? Where are the elected officials who truly represent the voice of the people? Even if you believe that the university should expand, there's plenty of opportunity for a city councilmember or a state assemblymember to insert herself into the fray and fight for greater communiity equities.

Instead we have gotten an epidemic of weak knees and lockjaw. It certainly puzzles us, and we're inclined to believe Palma's further observation in this matter: "Though not as polarizing, politicians who have been unclear about their views have also drawn fire from CB9 members who feel that time is running out and political support is necessary. Palma said that he thinks Jackson and others are “sitting on the fence” and taking the “wait and see” approach, so they detract attention. “I think quietly they support the plan but do not want to take a position on it because of the community position,” he said."

It looks as if Palma is right about this, but if so, it means that the community is lacking the strong leadership it needs to gain a measure of community benefits that won't be available if Columbia doesn't see any compelling need to be proactive on the community's behalf. After all, if the elcted leaders won't stand up, why should the university?

It remains to be seen how this will all effect the future political ambitions of Council Member Jackson, someone who's rumored to be interested in Denny Farrell's assembly seat. What's clear from our perspective, however, is that Bill Perkins is a warrior. and between him and the push of labor for affordable housing there's a nice opening for a deal that will garner more community benefits that the efforts of the West Harlem LDC are likely to bring forth.