Pols: Kings County debate needed more Kings County

Pols: Kings County debate needed more Kings County
Photo by Louise Wateridge

It was the Brooklyn debate that barely mentioned Brooklyn!

Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (I–Vermont) were let off easy during Tuesday night’s debate in the Navy Yard after moderators posed few questions specific to the nation’s most important voters — Brooklynites — according to one local pol at the event.

“I was very disappointed to see that issues affecting Brooklynites weren’t brought up,” said Councilman Rafael Espinal (D–Bushwick), who is the only Council member endorsing Sanders, echoing similar complaints by many viewers on social media.

Both candidates had been very specific about wanting to hold the event on Kings County turf — where Sanders grew up, and Clinton has her campaign headquarters — but the borough was barely mentioned in the two-hour discussion.

Indeed, the word “Brooklyn” was only uttered twice in the whole debate — once when Clinton complimented the boisterous audience, the other when Sanders was talking about his humble roots in the borough.

Espinal said he wished the moderators — which included New York 1 anchor and Crown Heights resident Errol Louis — had asked questions about immigration policy and homelessness, both issues that are prevalent in the Borough of Kings.

“We have a large homeless population and they’re not talking about how we’re going to adjust, and we also have a large immigration population and there was no question on immigration policy,” he said.

Instead, the questions focussed mainly on national and international talking points — such as Wall Street, war, gun control, and the environment.

Another local pol argued the televised event had to be geared towards a broad audience, but conceded the candidates should have talked more about housing, which is one of the borough’s biggest issues.

“The housing issues that we confront here in Brooklyn are of particular importance and there wasn’t discussion on that,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D–Bedford Stuyvesant), who has been stumping for Clinton.

New York’s recent minimum-wage hike did get a look in, as did the issue of criminal justice and the mass incarceration of black men under Bill Clinton’s presidency, which Borough President Adams noted had deep resonance in his native Brownsville, where he organized a debate-watch party.

“Criminal justice failings and mass incarceration have set the Brownsville(s) of America back decades,” the Beep tweeted.

And Espinal acknowledged that hosting the debate in the Kings County was still a big win for the borough, even if the location and many of its most pressing issues didn’t get much air time.

“It was a huge deal,” he said. “Brooklyn has been at the center of this country for the past few years and to have the candidates come here and recognize Brooklyn is very exciting for the borough and the people who live here.”