After eight years of boat-rocking incumbency as councilman for Brooklyn’s 42nd District (East New York, Brownsville), Barron is the only Democratic member without a committee chairmanship or a lucrative annual “lulu” stipend.
That took some doing, given the Council now consists of 45 Democrats and five Republicans. (A vacancy in the Borough Park district will be filled in a March 23 special election.)
Barron, 59, was bounced as chairman of the Higher Education Committee last month and stripped of his $10,000 lulu in a 47-to-1 vote engineered by Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan). His was the only “no” vote.
Barron was not named chairman of any other committee, though all 11 Democratic newcomers were. The only other members without a committee or lulu are three of the Republicans.
As Council slapdowns go, it was a stinging one. But Quinn and his colleagues can cite a litany of offenses for Barron’s penalty-box punishment, including:
Organizing a City Hall reception in 2002 for Zimbabwean despot Robert Mugabe; a failed attempt to give the same honor to vilified Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez in 2008, and saying at a 2002 rally in Washington that he was so angry at resistance to reparations he wanted to slap “the closest white person.”
There are more, his critics say: fueling a raucous Council session in 2007 by championing a failed push to co-name a Brooklyn street after the late Sonny Carson, a self-professed “anti-white” black activist; accusing Quinn of “a form of ethnic cleansing” for firing his chief of staff, Viola Plummer, in the aftermath of the Carson street-naming clash, and accusing Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at a 2007 hearing of allowing “terrorism of the Police Department to take place in our community.”
More recently, Barron engaged in an angry public confrontation with CUNY trustee Jeffrey Weisenfeld, who denounced him as “a disgrace.” Barron called Weisenfeld a “sickening racist.”
Punishment or not, Barron has no intention of being a silent minority of one.
“I have a right to dissent,” he said. “I have a right to be black, to be bold, to be radical, to speak my mind, to be a revolutionary, to be socialist – whatever I call myself, I have a right to be that. …I have a right to be all that and speak my mind in a body without being punished. That is my First Amendment right.”