By: Marlon McRae
The race for city council in District 41 has intensified. Incumbent Tracy Boyland and challenger David R. Miller seem like promising choices, but choosing one candidate might be as tricky as playing a game of three-card monte.
On Aug. 13, citizens of the East New York and Brownsville sections of Brooklyn had a “Candidates Night Out” at The Salvation Army (Brownsville Corps). The forum was created by residents to give the city council candidates for Districts 41 a chance to address issues of concern: crime, education, housing and employment.
Miller was present, but Boyland was absent. At the end of the program Miller let it be known that he is a strong advocate of better education, improved police response and adequate health care. However, Miller also spent most of the night attacking Boyland instead of addressing the issues. He accused Boyland of absenteeism and labeled her a beneficiary of nepotism.
When reached for a comment exactly two weeks later, Boyland claimed that she didn’t know about the event.
“I was not invited to the candidates night,” said Boyland. “The sponsors or whoever sponsored it did not contact my office to even inform me that they were having a candidates night. Therefore, I was not there.” When reached for a comment later that evening, Miller dismissed
Boyland’s accusations as false. “Tracy Boyland knew about the meeting,” said Miller. “She had a newspaper [Our Time Press] with the schedule circled a month before. Tracy Boyland chose to go to a social function. She went to a party instead of showing up for her people.”
“She was notified,” said Javonn Johnson, who helped to organize the event. “I took a letter there personally and delivered it to the people at her office. If she wants we can do it again. The primary is on Sept. 9; we can do it again on Sept. 8.”
Whether or not Boyland knew about the “Candidates Night Out” in Brownsville is debatable, but she willingly shared her stance on crime, education, employment and housing.
Boyland was excited about the decrease of crime in District 41, which encompasses sections of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill-Brownsville and East Flatbush.
“Crime in the 41st is lower than it has ever been in history,” said Boyland. This statement did nothing to change Miller’s opinion about the job that Boyland has done.
“Crime is the lowest that it has been in New York City. District 41 is part of New York City. What is she saying?” said Miller. “Crime is down nationally, but it has nothing to do with a city council person or anyone else. It is a trend. She can’t take the credit for it without telling anyone else what she did to lower crime.”
Miller would not give Boyland credit for the decrease in crime, but he did take credit for improving the educational system in District 16, where he had been a Community School Board member for 20 years and the reigning president for the past decade. “We have the most improved district in education in New York City,” said Miller. “I’m taking credit for it because when I came we had the worst district. Over the last four years with all these procedures of measuring districts, my district has gone up, at the same time all the other districts have not gone up, so I’m taking credit for it.”
The fact that Miller takes sole credit for this is interesting, considering that there were countless students, administrators and teachers involved in the turnaround. Boyland, a former teacher in District 23, also seems to have a genuine passion for education. “I firmly believe that education, educating our children is extremely important,” she said. “While in office, I have had the opportunity to construct and get computer and science labs in every school in our district.” The city council member also seemed to be very proud of her efforts to improve housing. “I’m a staunch advocate of affordable housing,” said Boyland. “Within my tenure as council member, I have had the opportunity to build over 1,000 new houses. I have given black people an opportunity to own, not rent, but own their own property. So I’m very proud of what we have done, what my office has done.”
In regard to employment, Boyland believes that she began to tackle that problem when she commenced to tackle housing issues. “As I began to do the houses, I began to educate those that were in the houses and within the community,” said Boyland. “[Educating them] on how to be a plumber, how to be an electrician.”
“I think we’re blessed on that half, that housing has been that shot in the arm that we need in order to improve our economic employment issues. We’re also working very closely with divisions such as HRA to do adult-help education programs that not only prepare people in terms of computer technology, but gears them for the workforce.”
Miller dismissed Boyland’s claims of contributing to the development of housing and helping to create jobs as hogwash. “There is housing being built that Tracy Boyland takes credit for but these are plans carried out by investors who made these deals years ago,” said Miller. “She doesn’t take the blame for these places not hiring black people. We need to continue the housing plans but we need to couple that with employment for black folks.”
Finally, Miller pointed to the fact that Boyland voted for a sales tax increase as a sign of disloyalty to the people she represents. “She has the highest absentee rating,” said Miller. “She also voted for Bloomberg’s tax increase on poor people at 18.5 percent. She’s raised the sales tax when every economist will tell you – whether they are on the left or the right-that if you raise the sales tax the people that you kill are poor working-class people. That’s the most oppressive tax in the world.”
So just whom should the voters trust? It seems that it is time to get the candidates together for a debate to allow them to put all their cards on the table.