The recent essay I wrote, “The Last Hurrah of Boss Rivera,” has received many responses. The majority have been favorable with many expressing the sentiment that the essay said what they had been thinking for so long. A small group has been critical of the essay and have reacted by taking the position that it is Taboo for a Puerto Rican to criticize a Puerto Rican elected official, especially when he is the only Boricua county leader in all of New York State.
I remember when writing for the Village Voice & Amsterdam News in the early eighties I was often criticized for writing exposes about Ramón Vélez and Congressman Robert García. Back then the critics would remind me “that it was an error to criticize one own people.” I took the opposite position: while writing critical analysis of non-Puerto Rican like Stanley Freedman and then Mayor Ed Koch I believed that I should also hold Puerto Ricans officials accountable for their actions.
As a veteran of Puerto Rican civil rights struggles I still believe that all elected officials should be held accountable. How do they improve the quality of life of the people they represent? Who do they support for important positions in the Borough? How they interact with community organizations and help empower them? How they develop and advocate legislation for their constituents? What is their attendance records and voting records?
As we hold politicians like Michael Bloomberg to these standards-so we must hold José Rivera. The response that the José Rivera official Web Site, recently posted along with a recent column by El Diario’s Gerson Borrero (entittled “Los dos sacos de El Cacique” are both critical of anyone who is trying to overthrow the “King.” In their response the Rivera media people list his accomplishments (to a certain degree exagerated) and highlight his cominment to community causes. In the Borrero article the writer implies that Puerto Ricans should not put down other Puerto Ricans-and we should be careful of losing the only Puerto Rican holding the position of Democratic County Chair.
How quickly José Rivera has wrapped himself in the Puerto Rican flag and declared himself “untouchable.” I have no doubt that José has done many good acts and even would add another accomplishment not mentioned in his response. That of appointing good qualify young minority Judges to the Bronx Supreme Court. I have no doubt José accomplished what he lists in his response, but is it enough? Should my good deeds make my errors, omissions and occasional incompetence invisible? Many of the accomplishments listed in José’s media response took place in the eighties. The voyage of José has been a long one, but what has José Rivera, the County Leader, done?
Are we to believe that he negotiated the best deal from the Yankees for the New stadium? What about all those Puerto Ricans who lost the valuable parkland taken over by the Yankees? The Stadium deal is the equivalent of the Indians selling Manhattan Island for $24.
How did José allow attorney Stanley Schlein to negotiate such an important community benefits agreement? Now José speaks bad about him-but Schelien was always a self serving-wheeler dealer. What about the Croton Hudson Filtration System? Are we to believe that the best representative for the City Council at the time of the election was José’s son, Joel Rivera. Are we to believe that the best representative for the New York State Asembly at the time of the election was José’s daughter, Noemí Rivera.
The Bronx still has the poorest Congressional District in the United States. The asthma rates continue to spiral. Finding decent, affordable housing has become impossible and health care continues to deteriorate. Are we not to judge those who represent us by improvements the quality of life of the mayority, not a small minority?
I do not write this in support of the opposition to Rivera known as the “Rainbow Rebels.” I am not naive enough to believe that any group represented by Stanley Schelein aims to bring new substantial improvement to the Bronx? I am not naive enough to believe that State Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene and State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr will bring new politics to the Bronx. The recent Bronx Democratic meeting that took place on September 28th, 2008 did nothing to resolve the issue. José Rivera has declared himself the winner. The Raibow Rebels have declared themselves winners. The court will eventually pick the Bronx County Leader and either decision will mean one thing: the Bronx will be the loser once again.