Sparks flew as candidates in the 40th Council District came face to face during a debate held at this newspaper’s office.
The debate, sponsored by this paper’s publisher, Community Newspaper Group, brought together incumbent Councilmember Mathieu Eugene and his two challengers, community activists Rock Hackshaw and Leithland “Rickie” Tulloch.
While the three candidates did not often disagree in terms of issues, they very definitely disagreed as to who was best suited to represent the district, and who could bring home the bacon, in terms of funding, to an area that, they agreed, was in need of it.
The early part of the debate had Tulloch and Eugene facing off. Eugene contended that he had been effective in bringing health care to central Brooklyn when he was asked about how he had tackled the AIDS/HIV crisis in central Brooklyn.
“I’ve given funding to many organizations, to give free screenings and provide services for people with AIDS,” Eugene contended. In addition, he said, “I have continued to do medical symposiums.” In particular, he said, he had worked to provide health services to people who are uninsured.
However, Tulloch said that Eugene had not done what he had said. “We have yet to see where the current councilperson has done anything.”,Tulloch complained. In particular, he said that Eugene was “dead last” among the 51 city councilmembers in terms of allocations of discretionary funding, and pointed to Eugene’s reference to getting funding for Maimonides Medical Center, in Boro Park, noting, “My first priority is to make sure we can get enough funding to provide resources” to local medical centers such as Downstate and Kings County.
But, rejoined Eugene, he had brought funding to those facilities, $1.7 million to Kings County, and $1.5 million to Downstate, and, he added, “I didn’t wait until I became a councilmember to help people.”
Tulloch and Eugene traded fire again on the issue of the rezoning of East Flatbush. Eugene, citing the recently completed rezoning ofVictorian Flatbush and surrounding areas, said he had been “at the forefront of protecting the character of our neighborhood,” and said, with respect to East Flatbush, “We know there is a need. We would have to sit down and go through that.”
But, said Tulloch, Eugene had not gotten involved in helping to push through the long-awaited rezoning of East Flatbush, which has been under siege, in recent years, because of the development of multifamily buildings on the sites of one-family homes. The area’s rezoning had been promoted by Tulloch during his tenure as land use chair of Community Board 17, but has languished since leadership at the board has changed, in part, Eugene contended, because Tulloch couldn’t work well with his colleagues there.
“You’ve said you want to study this issue, but I don’t know how much studying to do,” charged Tulloch. “It’s time for change.”
Indeed, when the issue of the number of homeless shelters and other social service facilities in the area was mooted about, Tulloch charged that Eugene was “weak,” one of the reasons that the area is “inundated with these facilities. No other area is inundated.”
“This is misinformation,” Eugene replied. “You say I’m weak. I’m a strong leader. I’m not afraid to stand tall for the people, even when it is difficult for me.”
Both Hackshaw and Eugene charged that Tulloch was spreading misinformation about them. In particular, Hackshaw said he was troubled that Tulloch claimed that he had just moved back into the district, as well as by Tulloch’s having “denigrated” Eugene’s “public service.”
“In a democracy, you can challenge the incumbent,” Hackshaw noted, adding, “We don’t go around spreading lies and cutting people down.”
As for his own presence in the neighborhood, Hackshaw told Tulloch, “I have always been in this district. I have a residence in this district. My record goes back to 1973, and you know it.”
Not that he was gentle with Eugene. He said he had been drafted to run by community residents dissatisfied with Eugene’s accomplishments in office. “Nice guys are for the YMCA,” he noted. “We need a fighter in the city council.”
What is Eugene’s proudest accomplishment, and what would Hackshaw and Tulloch like to achieve, should they be elected?
For Eugene, that accomplishment was saving the life of a local resident, who was able to access free health care to treat his colon cancer, thanks to a seminar that Eugene had held on the subject. He was, he said, “running on my record.”
Hackshaw said that, should he be elected, the first legislation he would introduce would be to prevent elected leaders from overturning voter referendums (as the mayor and City Council did with respect to term limits). He also said he would push for free tuition for students at CUNY.
As for Tulloch, he said he would first focus on a “multipurpose center” to provide community residents with “after school programs, job training, recreation and programs for seniors.” In addition, he said, he would try to jump-start the redevelopment of the Loew’s Kings theater, to create Brooklyn’s version of Harlem’s Apollo Theater.
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