In a heated election for the seat of third vice chairperson of Community Board 12, longtime board member Maurice Muir defeated Education Committee Chairwoman Adrienne Adams in a special run-off election held at the board’s monthly meeting on Feb. 15.
Muir defeated Adams by a vote of 16-13. There were 32 board members present and 11 absent. Of those, only 29 chose to cast ballots. At last month’s CB 12 meeting Adams and Muir both received 16 votes prompting the need for a run-off.
Each candidate gave a two-minute speech describing what made one more qualified than the other for the position. Muir, who won a coin toss, got to speak first.
He began by stating that he called many of the board members in the weeks leading up to the election and found the experience of speaking with them about community issues “very rewarding.”
Muir, of Jamaica, has been on the board for 10 years and also serves the community as senior attorney for Queens Legal Services Corp., specializing in landlord-tenant disputes, real estate litigation and foreclosure prevention.
“A lot of times people may not see me, but trust me — rest assured I am at my office working for the community,” Muir said. “I’m hoping everyone will take my application seriously. I think that I basically have a consistent knowledge of the law in this area. I am familiar with all the committees and I think I will serve this board well.”
He said part of his vision for the community is to push the board to follow-through more thoroughly on the recommendations it makes regarding various issues. For example, he suggested that if the body feels that the Board of Standards and Appeals has not made the correct decision regarding a land use application, it should take legal action to overturn the ruling. “The BSA is not the last stop,” Muir said.
Meanwhile in a rousing speech that was well received by the audience, a typically outspoken Adams slammed Muir for what she considered a poor attendance record at meetings and a lack of participation in community affairs.
According to the records provided to the Borough President’s Office, Adams attended all 10 CB 12 meetings last year and Muir was present only half of the time.
“Fellow Community Board 12 members, you deserve more than a phone call at election time,” Adams said taking a shot at Muir. “You deserve representation that is present in this room with you — year round.”
Adams, also of Jamaica, has been the chairwoman of CB 12’s Education Committee for the last two years, focusing on fighting school closures and reforming education. She was appointed to the board in April 2009.
“Since the first day of my appointment to Community Board 12, I have been present — every month, at this table, in this room with you because Community Board 12 is a priority for me,” Adams said, adding, “If I won’t come out to our meetings as a general member — how could I be trusted to come out, to be present as an officer. You deserve more than a phone call at election time.”
Adams touted her record as an education advocate for CB 12 working with parents and teachers to prevent closures and co-locations in its three school districts, helping residents as they fight against persistent flooding and what they say are unfair legislative redistricting plans, and attending various public hearings and rallies throughout Queens and the rest of the city.
But despite all that, and obviously striking a chord with attendees at the meeting who repeatedly chimed in with a “go Adrienne,” an “alright,” or “yes” while she was speaking, Adams fell short.
And it may have been her pull-no- punches demeanor at the podium that worked against her.
“I think she turned some people off with her speech,” said CB 12 Secretary Margaret Kirkland. “It was too much drama.”
And there are some other theories as to why Muir came out on top.
“I suspect some people didn’t want Adrienne to lose her position as Education Committee Chairwoman because she is really terrific,” Cardinal Sandiford, chairman of the Land Use Committee, said Monday. “But I have no doubt that she will move up the ladder at the board eventually.”
CB 12 First Vice Chairman, the Rev. Edward McKay, agreed that Adams has contributed greatly to the board as leader of the Education Committee, but he said he didn’t think the board would use her accomplishments to hold her back from a position as an elected officer, though he had heard rumors to that effect.
“They were both very qualified candidates,” McKay said, “And Adrienne has a lot of potential.”
Sandiford, who would not disclose whom he voted for, said that Muir has been a member of his committee for the last eight to 10 years and as the only attorney on the board has made some valuable contributions regarding decisions on land use. Sandiford said that Muir attends the committees most of the time, except when he is tied up at court.
Crime victims advocate Shawn Williams of LeFrak City, a friend of Muir, also defended him. She stated that when he misses meetings, it is only because he is working late at his office, helping people with their legal issues.
“He works pretty damn hard,” Williams said Friday. “He stands firm on community issues and really helps people outside the community board. It’s just that not everybody sees that.”
City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who swore in Muir after he won the election, expressed similar sentiments. “His entire work is based in helping the community with foreclosures and other actions,” the lawmaker said Monday. “He is also involved in a lot of community advocacy work.”
After the election, Adams insisted that there is no bad blood between herself and Muir. “In the end the board voted their pleasure,” she said, “and I wish him well.”