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An opportunist shows his stripes

HAZEL DUKES | 4/12/2011, 4:46 p.m.

They say the true character of a person comes out in a crisis. Our community is now facing a triple crisis of economic hardship, service cutbacks and a resurgence of reactionary conservatism on the state and national level.

In the face of these threats, State Sen. Jeff Klein has shown himself to be an opportunist rather than a true ally. He has chosen to put his own political interests before the greater good by splitting the ranks of Democrats at precisely the time we need a united front more than ever.

Klein is abandoning his family and our community, and leading a group of four Democratic senators to form an "independent" caucus. Appointing himself leader of this new faction, Klein has grabbed the attention of Albany reporters. But the real beneficiary of his self-serving act is the Republican Senate majority, a group that has infamously and without fail worked against the interests of all communities of color.

Senate Republicans have historically shortchanged our districts for resources and denied us equal representation in Albany. They doggedly fought against tenant protections. They defended the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws that disproportionately sent our people to upstate prisons. Adding insult to injury, they used prison gerrymandering (counting non-voting inmates as upstate residents) to inflate the number of conservative upstate representatives in the legislature. These representatives could be reliably counted on to vote against equal rights as well as equal health, housing and education resources for us.

In the two years that Democrats held the majority in the state Senate, and under the leadership of Brooklyn State Sen. John Sampson, who Klein now denounces, they scrapped the Rockefeller Drug Laws and increased resources for drug treatment. They increased opportunities for minority-owned businesses, which have been historically denied their share of state contracts. They achieved a more equitable distribution of state resources for New York City and our community. And they barred forever the despicable practice of prison gerrymandering. This is the record that Klein has chosen to betray and badmouth in the press.

Klein let Republican leaders know of the treachery he planned even as he hid it from his fellow Democrats. We shall see if he was able to extract 30 pieces of silver from his new allies or if his double-dealing will be repaid in kind. But one thing is certain: We will reward those who stood up and fought for us, and we will remember who ran away when the going got tough.