By Stephen Witt
Rep. Ed Towns last week charged that City Councilmember Charles Barron is too divisive to sit in Congress. Barron is the only declared challenger to Towns in the upcoming 10th Congressional Democratic primary race. Assemblymember Roger Green, who was not available to comment for this story, is also strongly considering running for the seat. The district includes East New York, Canarsie, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Cypress Hills, Clinton Hill, Mill Basin, Midwood, Downtown Brooklyn, Boreum Hill, and parts of Fort Greene and Williamsburg. “I form coalitions. I get along with people. I’m not a bomb thrower who calls a press conference every 15 minutes,” said Towns of Barron. “I’ve been here 24 years and plan to return. I enjoy my work and I will be running on my record,” he added. Towns said that part of being a Congress member is horse trading that enables members to bring more money home to the district. To that effect, Towns said he has brought money to several key institutions in the district, including Brooklyn College, Kings Country Hospital and The Brooklyn Children’s Museum. “My strength is working with people,” said Towns. “The people running against me don’t have a history of that. We need somebody who can bring people together and heal wounds that exist in the community, not somebody who will throw salt on the wounds.” Barron countered that Towns is “missing in action” at the local level, rarely knowing or addressing what’s going on in the district. “He [Towns] is also a disaster in national policies,” said Barron, noting that Towns voted in favor of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). “Supporting CAFTA means unemployment at home and unions are against it,” he added. Barron also said Towns missed a key budget vote on an appropriation that cut $50 billion from Medicaid and other social programs. “He [Towns] is also bad on energy policies and predatory lending, and has been absent a lot,” said Barron. Barron also charged that Towns has shown no interest in tackling the Hurricane Katrina issue, in which the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been lacking in helping people of color affected by the natural disaster. Towns replied he is very active in the district and keeps abreast of local issues all the time. “Nobody is more involved in the district then I am,” said Towns. “We have four offices in the district. My wife still lives in Brooklyn, and my children and grandchildren are there. When you run against somebody it’s one thing to give it your spin, but I hope there’s some truth to it.” Towns said he voted for the CAFTA agreement after several constituents from his district who work at Kennedy Airport approached him and asked him to support the bill. “They indicated how important it was for the sake of their jobs, so after much discussion with my staff, I voted for it. I disagree that it does damage to our local district. Free trade is something we should look at very carefully,” said Towns. Towns and his staff members also vehemently denied they were not involved in the Hurricane Katrina issue. According to Towns’ spokesperson Ruth Morrison, she personally visited several New York City hotels and assisted victims of the disaster on behalf of Towns. In so far as missing the vote on social program cuts, Towns said he had a family emergency and rarely misses votes. Towns noted that he voted against the bill when it came up again after the Senate approved their version of the measure on their side of the Hill.