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Transformation for Community Bd. 17 - Three new members take up posts as former members move on

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There’s been a slight but perhaps telling shift in membership on Community Board 17.

Three new members – Trisha Ocona, Mark DeSouza and Mechelle Brunson – were appointed to the board.

“We want to welcome you most heartily,” noted Lloyd Mills, the board’s chair, during CB 17’s June meeting, which was held in the auditorium at Downstate Medical Center, 395 Lenox Road. “We are looking forward to your contributions and your participation.”

Brunson, who was appointed by City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, filled a vacancy that had previously existed on the board.

DeSouza was appointed by City Councilmember Darlene Mealy, in place of Selvin Bushay.

Ocona – who had previously been a community member of the board’s Housing Committee — was appointed by City Councilmember Kendall Stewart in place of Michael Russell, who had served as the board’s chair during an increasingly stormy tenure that ended in 2006, when he decided not to run for re-election.

Since giving up his seat on the executive board, Russell – along with former Treasurer Leithland “Rickie” Tulloch – had often raised questions about procedure and decisions made by the new executive board whose initial election in 2006 had been trumpeted by then-opposition board members as an opportunity for the often-embattled board to have a fresh start.

Russell had reapplied to be a board member, but his application was not accepted by Stewart, something, he said, which had not surprised him.

Russell had come up against Stewart on multiple occasions, most prominently when he and Tulloch had promoted the idea of co-naming Church Avenue Bob Marley Boulevard – an idea that had found favor with many residents and businesspeople but which Stewart had fought, on the grounds that it had not gone through the proper channels.

“I kind of expected it,” noted Russell of his removal from the board. “I knew for years that Kendall wanted to remove me. He had his chance, but it’s his option. There are no hard feelings. I hope the new members bring progressive ideas and keep the community at heart.

“My focus is elsewhere,” continued Russell, who, after leaving the position of CB 17 chair, had been one of the founders of WIAPAC, the West Indian American Progressive Action Council. “I think it’s time. I was on the board for 15 years. Now, I want to focus on a bigger area of the community. Life goes on. I’ll still be looking out for my community.”

Stewart, for his part, said that “there was a series of problems with the leadership within CB 17. That’s the reason why he was not re-appointed. It was nothing personal.”

Stewart recalled that he had re-appointed Russell two years ago but, he said, this time, Russell had not replied to a letter that Stewart sent to all those who submitted applications confirming that they wanted to serve on the board.

“He’s not an island by himself,” noted Stewart. Board members, he added, “have to work together with me.”

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