Begins run for mayor with call for diversity
Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron kicked off his mayoral bid on Martin Luther King Day with calls for a more racially diverse city government, free City University tuition and reparations to descendants of slaves.
The firebrand East New York Democrat and former Black Panther has been one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s most vocal critics, arguing that the administration’s crime crackdown, school system overhaul and welfare policies discriminate against predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods.
“We’re calling for a racially balanced, gender-balanced administration in New York City,” Barron told a crowd of enthusiastic supporters on the steps of City Hall. “Too few white men have too much power.”
Bloomberg spokesman Ed Skyler said, “Anyone who thinks they can beat his [Bloomberg’s] record is welcome to try.”
If elected in November 2005, Barron would be the city’s second black mayor. David Dinkins, whose served from 1990 to 1994, was the first. Barron didn’t say whether he plans to quit his council seat to run for mayor.
Other possible Democratic hopefuls include former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, former Public Advocate Mark Green, who narrowly lost to Bloomberg in 2001, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, City Comptroller William Thompson and Brooklyn Congressman Anthony Weiner.
Barron defended his call for reparations, suggesting they should be paid to inner-city residents in the form of free land in their neighborhoods.
“When we call for reparations, it is a just cause,” he said. “We’re talking about owning land. We built this land for you. There’s plenty of land in East New York. That’s how you can pay us reparations.”
Brooklyn Assemb. Dov Hikind, a Democrat who represents the heavily Jewish Borough Park neighborhood, said Barron’s decision to host Zimbabwe authoritarian President Robert Mugabe at City Hall in 2002 makes him unfit to hold higher office.
“Martin Luther King Jr. would never have held hands with a dictator,” Hikind said.