Malcolm Smith takes heat over GOP deal

Malcolm Smith takes heat over GOP deal
Photos by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

With more than a little prodding from Bishop Charles Norris, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) last week said he would provide the community with an explanation for his recent decision to caucus with the four members of the Independent Democratic Conference, the group of rogue legislators who reached an agreement last month depriving the Democrats of control in the Senate.

“My question is will he make himself available to this community to explain his position in the state Senate and when?” Norris asked at the Community Board 12 meeting Dec. 12, where Smith gave a talk about the state’s plans for the $60 billion in Superstorm Sandy relief that President Barack Obama had requested from Congress.

“The answer is yes, Rev. Norris. The answer is yes,” Smith said, adding he would schedule a meeting within a week, but could not give a specific date because he did not have his calendar with him.

Smith’s office did not respond when asked if the senator had scheduled a meeting.

It was the second time in just over a week the two had a “discussion” about Smith’s decision. Norris held the senator’s feet to the fire at a town hall meeting Dec. 8.

Earlier this month Smith announced he would join the members of the IDC in a power-sharing agreement with the GOP that would lock Democrats out of the controlling spot in the upper house when the Legislature reconvenes in January. The Democrats had a slim majority in the Senate following the November elections, but two undecided races left the ultimate balance of power in question.

Smith’s short stint as Senate majority leader ended in 2009 when the so-called “Four Amigos” broke from the Democratic Party to try to make their own deals with Republicans. More recently, it was revealed in August that he was seeking support from the city’s five Republican Party chairmen in a bid to run on a fusion ticket in the 2013 mayoral race.

Smith, a member of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force on Hurricane Sandy Recovery, had little to say to Norris.

The bishop delivered a tirade before Smith arrived in which he compared the senator to Revolutionary War defector Benedict Arnold.

“What did he get for making the trade for going into and working with the Republicans on this thing?” Norris asked. “Now what in the name of God are those Republicans going to do for us Democrats here in Queens County? Absolutely nothing!”

Smith is the lone legislator of color among the 35 GOP and IDC senators, and the deal has drawn sharp criticism as one that locks out minority communities.

“In my estimation we should either recall Malcolm Smith, impeach Malcolm Smith or fire Malcolm Smith or ask Malcolm Smith to resign,” he added.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.