Cuomo's qualm

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 5:29 p.m.

On Saturday, there was a not-so-secret secret meeting of leading Black politicos discussing what to do about gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo and his all-white ticket. Was it the equivalent of shifting deck chairs on the Titantic? Or bolting the barn door when the horse done bolted? The cliches abound, but the reality is, Black folk are asking, "What's going on with our leadership?"

The National Action Network president, the Rev. Al Sharpton, said he called the meeting in order to hash out a united front in view of Attorney General Cuomo's run for the governor's office.

"Frankly, I think this kind of situation should have already happened," said a slightly perturbed Sharpton. Noting that he is often out of town, the civil rights activist added, "I assumed local leaders were dealing with him. This should have been negotiated when we had more leverage, but now we're going to make the best out of a bad situation."

On Saturday, about 30 people met to ponder over the potential political dilemma of Cuomo heading the pack in an electoral season, which sees not one Black or Latino picked to run on a statewide slate.

"The recent Black leadership meeting regarding the all-white state Democratic slate is after the fact and too little too late!" said Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron, who decided to not attend the meeting. "Here we have a situation with a city with a majority Black and Brown population--and no one is running who represents our interests."

The Cuomo-Robert Duffy (Rochester's mayor) ticket presents a veritable political minefield, which observers say could effectively see Black folk losing recently won gains, with no elected official in place with a genuine investment or interest in progression or even the equitable distribution of resources and policies.

Saturday's meeting, according to Sharpton, was an attempt to check that downward spiral before it begins. The minister told the Amsterdam News that Cuomo called him after hearing that members of the Black community were aggravated by the "lack of diversity" on his ticket. His pick of former Rochester Police Commissioner Duffy, an upstate white man, created a mini ripple.

Sharpton told Cuomo that he was very "anxious and concerned" about what the all-white ticket means: "After having a Black state comptroller in Carl McCall, a black lieutenant governor in David Paterson and then a Black governor, now we have an all-white statewide ticket. What does that mean for the Black and Brown empowerment process in the Black and Latino community? He said well, 'I'm gonna have a diverse administration and I want to sit down and talk.'"

On Saturday, in order to discuss strategy and agenda, and trying to avoid what he called "a media circus," Sharpton called a meeting of noted Black folks at an off-the-radar location at the Mt. Vernon church of the National Action Network's chairman of the board: Rev. Frank Richardson.

In the room were politicos such as former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, (whose run against Cuomo in 2002 created much consternation for the current attorney general), Mt. Vernon's State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, the NAACP's Hazel Dukes, State Sen. Malcolm Smith, Congressman Greg Meeks, Council Member Inez Dickens, Harlem's State Sen. Bill Perkins and political operatives Bill Lynch (former deputy mayor) and Roberto Ramirez.