NYC Councilman: ‘We Expected a Lot More’ From Obama—and de Blasio

Councilman Jumaane Williams, far right, a prominent Bernie Sanders delegate, speaks on a panel about the power of the minority vote.

Councilman Jumaane Williams, far right, a prominent Bernie Sanders delegate, speaks on a panel about the power of the minority vote. Madina Toure/Observer

Councilman Jumaane Williams, one of the City Council’s most left-wing members on economic and racial issues, says he and minority communities “expected a lot more” both from President Barack Obama and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion about the power of the nonwhite vote at NABE Harlem in Central Harlem last night, Williams addressed a question about how people of color feel discouraged about the lack of progress in their communities—despite having come out in large numbers to vote for Obama, the country’s first African-American president. Williams said Obama should be credited for his accomplishments but that he did not deliver in some respects.

“This presidency is probably going to be historic when it’s reviewed compared to other presidents in the history,” Williams said. “It just will. But we expected a lot more.”

He says Obama underestimated the degree to which Republicans would obstruct his efforts.

“I think he took too long to figure out they ain’t gonna play with him,” Williams said. “They kept trying to play with him for way too long. But we can come out and vote engage in a better Congress to work with.”

He also expressed concern about the number of undocumented immigrants that have been deported under the Obama administration. (And the Supreme Court recently rejected Obama’s request for a rehearing of a case that would prevent millions from being deported.)

“He be deporting mad people, like, there’s a lot of stuff that’s going on that’s problematic,” he added. 

And though he insisted continues to back de Blasio, he argued the mayor has not made enough progress on matters like affordable housing and police reform.

“Mayor de Blasio I feel hasn’t moved on certain issues as fast as I would like him,” Williams added. “I’m still a supporter, but he hasn’t moved as fast as I would like him to.”

Williams also blasted the city’s progressive and minority elected officials for allowing stop-and-frisks to be conducted for as long as they did.

“In New York City, there’s a whole lot of crap that goes on here that should not be happening in New York City because we have way too many black, brown, progressive elected officials and so if they’re allowing this stuff to continue…switch it out,” he said. 

Williams also chimed in when one of the other panelists took Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to task for a deal she made with former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to quash a package of police reform bills known as the Right to Know Act. Under the arrangement, the NYPD will incorporate certain elements of the legislation into its Patrol Guidebook, which is not legally binding.

“I vehemently disagree with her on what she’s doing with the Right to Know Act,” Williams said. “I would not say that’s not the totality of what she has done, but she does need to be held accountable for this and she does needs to be pressured to pass this legislation.”

Williams—one of just a few New York City elected officials who endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president in the New York presidential primary—also weighed in on the upcoming presidential election in November. He blasted people he said are in positions of power who know better that are supporting Trump despite having said for “years this is not what they believe and they’re supporting him.”

He said he made a commitment to support the Democratic nominee.

“But I said, I was, I still am a big Bernie supporter, I’m the Bernie delegate,” Williams said. “I said I was going to support the Democratic nominee and so that is what I’m going to do.”

Williams said there are “some other very real issues” he has with the Clinton campaign, but that Trump is unfit for the presidency. (He says to discuss Trump, “you can’t use facts and logic, like, that’s some scary shit.”)

“This guy has no idea what it means to be president and is gonna jack everybody up,” Williams said. “Even the racists who are true to themselves with their racism and supporters, they can’t give a logical reason for why they would support Donald Trump.”

He also said that despite being a proponent of voting for a third party candidate, such a move could help Trump win.

“I think that’s the most annoying thing in the world because nobody likes to be boxed in and the Democrats will box us in,” Williams said. “That’s what’s happening. They box us into and it’s very frustrating, but it doesn’t make it any less true.”

Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.

NYC Councilman: ‘We Expected a Lot More’ From Obama—and de Blasio