Thursday, May 20, 2010


It's great to see that the NY Post-arguably the most conservative voice in local media-is jumping in with both feet in favor of the Basil Smikle challenge to Senator Bill Perkins: "Political consultant Basil Smikle officially launches his campaign today to try to unseat state Sen. Bill Perkins in the Democratic primary -- slamming the Harlem incumbent as a weak leader and an opponent of charter schools. "We've been suffering for a long time from a lack of leadership from Senator Perkins, who has pitted parents and families against each other to serve his own interests," Smikle said. "We need constructive leadership in Albany. Harlem deserves a better advocate."

Perkins couldn't ask for a better foil for his own re-election bid than the Post; and the challenger, for his part, is making charter schools his signature issue (only issue?): "He said school choice will be a major campaign issue.”I'm for improving achievement across the board for all children -- charters and traditional public schools," Smikle said."

But there are other issues, as the Post is forced to concede: "Housing and development could be another hot-button issue between the two. Perkins has opposed condemnation proceedings to allow for Columbia University's expansion. Smikle -- who initially was hired by Columbia as a community consultant -- supports the project."

Are we starting to get the feeling that Smikle might really be a stalking horse for other interests? The Post explains: "Smikle, 38, is a former aide to both Hillary and Bill Clinton and has ties to Mayor Bloomberg. Perkins has long been a City Hall antagonist who last year opposed the law renewing mayoral control of the city school system."

How is Basil Smikle tied to Mike Bloomberg? The Post doesn't say-but between being aligned with the mayor and Columbia, we can't quite see how Smikle generates real grass roots support. And the Post seems to agree: "Harlem politicos said Perkins -- a former city councilman who has deep ties to community activists and political clubs and is a visible presence in the district -- is the clear favorite. The teachers union and labor leaders are expected to rally around him."

So, in our view-and we support more school choices for parents and kids-Smikle lacks genuine grass roots connections beyond the one issue of charters; and his advocacy for small business really hits are funny bone: "Smikle also vowed to promote the interests of small businesses and develop programs to educate and train the unemployed for jobs."

Well, a message for the challenger: the Columbia expansion-along with the use of eminent domain-is not a sure sign of good tidings for small businesses; that generally get crushed when the bulldozers come out. So the Smikle candidacy gets its impetus from forces that emanate from outside the district; and the charter issue, which is a genuine one, is still a too thin reed to topple the one state senator who has crusaded for the little guys in his effort to reform the state's anachronistic eminent domain laws.