Ex-Black Panther Assemblyman Draws Cuomo Into Shouting Match at State of the State

Assemblyman Charles Barron. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
Assemblyman Charles Barron. (Photo: Jemal Countess for Getty Images)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s smoothly choreographed State of the State address hit a bump today when Assemblyman Charles Barron began shouting at him over funding for city programs—forcing the governor to shout back.

As Mr. Cuomo proclaimed his accomplishments from the podium at the Empire State Convention Center in Albany, Mr. Barron began heckling him from the audience. In particular, he hit the governor over his failure to deliver the billions of dollars that the state’s highest court determined Albany owed New York City schools in the 2003 Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State case.

“You were wrong! You were wrong!” Mr. Barron yelled. “$15 billion dollars for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity!”

The freshman state legislator also claimed the governor “gutted out” the Advantage program, which provided rental assistance to people leaving homeless shelters. Mr. Barron was a member of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and early 1970s, and represented his neighborhood of East New York in the Council between 2002 and 2013.

At first, the governor took a patronizing tone.

“Okay, okay assemblyman. Let me finish, and then you’ll have your turn,” he said. “Okay, everybody sees you and everybody heard you. Have a seat, assemblyman. That’s leadership.”

But as Mr. Barron continued to shout “that is not fair” and “we’re still suffering,” Mr. Cuomo became heated in defending what he called his “fiscally responsible” policies.

“We didn’t listen to the zealots and we didn’t listen to the extremists, and we didn’t listen to the naysayers! We governed, we came together, we refused to be intimidated, we refused to be shouted down!” he yelled. “We said we are New Yorkers first, and we are going to come together, and we’re going to kick the extremists to the side, and we’re taking this state forward!”

“Just because you yell doesn’t mean you’re right! And just because you stand, doesn’t mean you’re correct,” he continued, still yelling and standing.

Mr. Barron found his voice drowned out in applause for the governor. In 2006, the Court of Appeals revisited its earlier decision and recommended the state give the city an additional $2.2 billion a year in school funding, but ruled it could not order Albany to do so.

Litigation over the CFE funds is ongoing, and other New York cities have filed their own suits seeking money from the state.

Ex-Black Panther Assemblyman Draws Cuomo Into Shouting Match at State of the State