Is Bill Perkins Fit For Office?

A long-overdue article in The City highlights the mental deterioration of Bill Perkins. For years now residents and political insiders have known that Perkins is a shell of his former self. The magazine City & State noted that Perkins was New York City’s least responsive and least active of all 51 Council members. The incompetence of Perkins office was well known, but many refused to speak publicly regarding how his staff worked to continue the illusion that Perkins was able to work and serve.

Perkins’ City Council colleagues noted that:

Among his colleagues, Perkins’ health challenges are “the worst kept secret in the New York City Council,” said one Council member who serves with him on a committee.

In the article, https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/3/4/22314486/bill-perkins-harlem-nyc-council-race-health-concerns, one community member noted that:

“Sometimes he recognizes me. Sometimes he does not,” she said. “I’ve known him for decades now.”

The tragedy for Harlem is we’ve essentially not had representation at City Council for 4 years now. Bill Perkins has, according to the article, been shuffled by his staff from Zoom to Zoom, not really knowing what’s going on.

Three Council members who spoke with THE CITY on condition of anonymity said Perkins would often wander into closed-door meetings, or show up to the wrong committee hearing, or at the wrong time.

“There’s no question he isn’t all there,” said another Council member.

Keith Lilly, Bill Perkins’ long time aide, seems intent to prop Perkins up, despite the damage an apparently mentally disoriented Council Member has done these last 4 years, and the future damage he might do if elected.

HNBA members who discussed this article and Keith Lilly’s role, have speculated that “he just wants to keep his job” and “it has nothing to do with what’s right for Harlem, it’s what keeps Keith on the payroll.”

Keith Lilly is quoted as saying:

“I’ve got him. I’m carrying him. He’s on the petition, so I don’t have no problem with him at all. Most people don’t,” he said before quickly ending the call.

Keith Taylor for City Council – 9

As we all know, Bill Perkins, particularly during this last session, has been unable to forcefully represent our community due to undisclosed issues. While he’s been propped up by his staff, crucial time and representation has been lost and Harlem has suffered unnecessarily.

2021 is an election year, and a number of candidates have jumped into the race for Perkins’ seat. Today, Keith Taylor, a neighbor and person I’ve worked with over the years, reached out to The Harlem Neighborhood Block Association to announce his candidacy for city council. We’ll try to schedule Keith Taylor to join us at an early 2021 HNBA meeting, so you can learn more, and decide if he’s your candidate for City Council – District 9.

Keith notes that he has spent almost 30 years in public service, starting as a social worker at Harlem Dowling and retiring as a commissioner fighting to reform Rikers Island. You can learn more about Keith here: Keith Taylor | John Jay College of Criminal Justice (cuny.edu). Given his role as an adjunct professor at John Jay and amazing professional experience, I confess I wanted to sign up for any number of his classes

  • Race, Class and Gender in a Correctional Context
  • The Law and Institutional Treatment
  • Policing in a Multiracial and Multicultural City
  • Sex Offenders in the Criminal Justice System
  • Comparative Corrections Systems

The Machine: Running for Bill Perkins’ Seat

The debacle of voting in NYC (note how the still haven’t finished the count and don’t expect to complete it until Thanksgiving) rests partly on the shoulders of Bill Perkins’ wife – Pamela Perkins – who was given a patronage job on the NYC Board of Elections. https://www.vote.nyc/page/commissioners-management.

Council Member Bill Perkins contemplating look at City Hall

Perkins himself is not expected to run for City Council (given his health concerns and one of the worst attendance records of a City Council Member). An article last month in New York County Politics notes a number of Harlem Machine members who are hoping, again, to play musical chairs and take Perkins empty seat.

City Councilmember Bill Perkins (D-Central Harlem, Morningside Heights, Upper West Side, East Harlem) will not seek reelection next year. A consultant fielding multiple polls throughout the city presented New York County Politics with data offering insights over who may succeed the veteran elected.

Manhattan Dem Leader Keith Wright (Photo Credit: US Department of Labor)
Manhattan Dem Leader Keith Wright

Former Assemblymember and Manhattan Democrats Leader Keith Wright won the poll, with 24 percent of respondents favoring him. Assemblymember Inez Dickens (D-El Barrio, Hamilton Heights, Harlem, Morningside Heights, Upper West Side, Washington Heights,) was the runner-up, with 17 percent support.

Assembly Member Inez Dickens (Photo Credit: NYS Assembly)
Assembly Member Inez Dickens

Trailing the two were local activists Cordell Cleare (D) with 4 percent, and William Allen (D) with 3 percent, followed by Northern Manhattan Office Director to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (D) Athena Moore (D) with 2 percent. Harlem District Leader Keith Lilly (D) and writer, teaching artist, and activist Kristin Richardson Jordan (D) were tied for last place with 1 percent.

In terms of favorability, Wright and Dickens’ are similar to that of the district’s congressional representative, Congressman Adriano Espaillat (D-Harlem, Inwood, Bronx): in the 43-49 percent range. However, Dickens has an unfavorability rating of 14%, nearly three times that of Wright’s 5 percent rating.

On experience, voters overwhelmingly preferred a government veteran to a fresh-faced outsider, 54 percent to 29 percent.

Republicans v. Democrats and COVID Rates

If you recall, I posted this map soon after the election to illustrate where New Yorkers voted for Democrats, and where they voted for Republicans:

It’s interesting to compare that map with today’s NYC Department of Health 7-Day COVID rate map: