January 26, 2007
Former diplomat appeals for votes

by Nelson A. King 26.JAN.07
in New York

Former St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ United Nations Ambassador Joel Toney is appealing to his compatriots in New York to support his candidacy and vote for him in next month’s Special Election for a New York City Council seat in Brooklyn.

Toney, a Calliaqua native, is among 13 candidates who have filed petitions to contest the predominantly Caribbean 40th Councilmanic District seat in Brooklyn.

The seat has become vacant since former City Councilwoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, was elected to the United States House of Representatives in last November’s general elections.{{more}}

Clarke replaced retired veteran African American Congressman Major Owens as representative for the sprawling 11th Congressional District in Brooklyn – the largest district of Caribbean immigrants in the United States.

“I am looking for the support in the district of every ethnic group, including Vincentians,” Toney told Searchlight, “and I am hoping to be the next City Council person.”

Toney, who had campaigned feverishly for Clarke and her mother, Una Clarke, also an erstwhile New York City Councilwoman, failed to garner the endorsement of their Democratic Club, Progressive Democratic Political Association (PDPA), in Brooklyn.

The club instead chose Dr. Mathieu Eugene, a Haitian physician, stating that he is the “best candidate” interviewed by the club to replace Yvette Clarke.

But Toney said he is not embittered over the club’s decision. Una Clarke is president and founder of PDPA, and Yvette Clarke is a top executive.

“Lots of people thought Una (Clarke) and Yvette (Clarke) were going to endorse me,” he said, “but their rejection of me is not fatal.

“I am disappointed but not angry, because I believe, with the support of the community and my record of accomplishments, people will vote for me on the Special Election Day.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced February 20 for the Special Election.

Toney – who served first as Charge d’Affairs to the UN and then as ambassador in the Labour Party administration of deceased, former Prime Minister Milton Cato – said in the wake of the PDPA’s rejection, he has been receiving robust support from other area politicians and community leaders.

“A lot of people who felt that I should have received the endorsement are totally amazed,” he said.

“We’re organizing the campaign is such a way to broaden our base,” he added, and we have as good a chance as any to win this race.”

Toney urged voters to focus on his plans for the district and on his professional and community accomplishments.

“I have been a leader in this community; I am from the district and have been working for the people of this community on Community Board 14 for 15 years; I live here in the district; I know every neighborhood in the district and understand their issues; I have a record of achievements as a community leader,” he said.

“The totality of my record demonstrates that I am uniquely positioned and qualified to hold this office,” he added.

Toney said, if elected, he will “consolidate” Clarke’s work at City Hall and form partnerships within the Council to find solutions for the “pressing issues” of education, healthcare, immigration, affordable housing, crime and public safety, business ownership and economic development, and job creation.

In addition, he said he will address problems affecting the youth, seniors, women and children.

Bridget Blucher, the Vincentian-born award-winning diva of Caribbean Gospel Music, will headline a fundraising gospel concert on February 4, at 3:00 p.m., for Toney.

Tobagonian Wendy Mitchell, Erlene Willams-King, and musical arranger extraordinaire Frankie McIntosh, among others, are carded to perform at the event.

It takes place at Friends of Crown Heights Educational Centre, 671 Prospect Place, between Bedford and Franklin Avenues in Brooklyn.