Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes is perhaps the only elected official in New York State who is willing to go on record in defense of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s interference with the Moreland Commission, which has now been widely discredited as a political farce, and for which Cuomo is under investigation by the US Attorney’s Office and the FBI.
“I think if Gov. Cuomo could start the Moreland Commission, then he should be able to disband it,” the Assemblywoman said to gasps of disbelief at last Tuesday’s debate with challengers Antoine Thompson and Veronica Nichols.
The debate was held at the Burchfield Penny Art Center and hosted by the Western New York Association of Black Journalists. It was moderated by WIVB’s Al Vaughters.
Her comments come at a time when so few elected officials have been willing to publicly defend the Governor, calling into question the Assemblywoman’s judgment.
In the following days there have been uncomfortable sentiments that have been lingering among prominent black political power brokers. Her comments just didn’t sit right, and struck a nerve.
“You have all the naysayers, but while some people are trying to figure out how they fit in, others are fitting in,” she said in a seemingly condescending and aggressive tone, to a mainly African American audience. “Whatever you’re looking for, there’s a program out there. Let’s find it.”
“We were looking for a more positive forward looking vision that Antoine seemed to have,” said one lifelong Eastside resident, age 24. “Here was this old woman telling us that if we’re poor, it’s because be can’t ‘fit in.’ It was really offensive.”
“There are no jobs, no development on the Eastside, the streets are unsafe, the schools are falling behind — she has been there for 12 years and nothing seems to change,” he said. “That’s not because we can’t ‘fit in,’ it’s because she hasn’t done her job.”
Attendees seemed to agree that former Senator Antoine Thompson decisively won the debate, and kept on a disciplined message: that we need to create high paying jobs through solid workforce training programs and that we need neighborhood oriented development that revitalizes community commercial districts.
Peoples-Stokes has been bogged by the criticism that so little of the Cuomo Administration’s “Buffalo Billion” has been invested on the Eastside, despite her apparent clout as Co-Chair of his statewide re-election campaign.
“The truth is that no one is working,” Senator Thompson said. “She wants you to think everything is great and wonderful, but the obvious truth is that no one is working.”
A Senate staffer said afterwards, about her defense of the Moreland Commission, “apparently, she’s not worried about talking to people like they’re stupid.”