Wow - I take a day off to watch my beloved BU Terriers win the Hockey East title, and it's like they started the political campaign without me. Here are a few things we need to run down:
Update: Quickly about Queens
Here comes the Greek Chorus again...someone from Queens talks about making an offer and hundreds of people jump on the bandwagon. My position on Queens has never changed: they're well within their rights to express interest in the Islanders, it's great to have options, but the Lighthouse should remain Priority 1. This is about more than hockey, and it's ridiculous to try to throw away all we've worked for for the sake of hockey. Let Queens make an offer if the worst happens.
I think I awarded the Most Confusing Kate Murray Quote prematurely on Friday, because the newest set of quotes brought the bickering and rancor to a whole new level. As I mentioned in Friday's post, Ms. Murray was testy in responding to Tom Suozzi's interview with Boomer Esiason on WFAN. In a Newsday article published yesterday, the Supervisor kicked it up a notch. She re-iterated that she would not attend Thursday's Public Information Session, saying:
"The town will hold public hearings for all taxpayers. I won't attend a developer's pep rally supporting his agenda." - Kate MurrayPardon me for being colloquial, but SAY WHAT?! I was disappointed that, yet again, the media did not press the Supervisor or remind her that this is not an excuse for refusing to show up to meetings sponsored by her own government.
Joe Ra, the Hempstead Town Attorney, also turned up the heat in a recent letter that just surfaced. He told the Lighthouse that the Town could not guarantee approval by next hockey season, and in light of this the developers should consider whether continuing the application process was worth it. He also reminded them that the environmental review is state law, and he suggested the Lighthouse take it up with the Governor if they had a problem with that.
This cuts right to the heart of the true problem. Those who are informed about the process understand the environmental review is a state-mandated process that must be followed to the letter. However, the sloppy and clumsy way the Town of Hempstead has gone about the Lighthouse process creates uncertainty among the informed and engenders outright hostility among lower-information voters (and let's not kid ourselves, there are always plenty of those). These voters only see the cryptic statements and buck-passing rationalizations for the Town of Hempstead's decisionmaking, and it's made them rightfully angry. Many read the statements from the Town and have become opponents, inferring that the Lighthouse has actually caused these problems.
I realize this is posturing, but these actions are adding unnecessary fuel to the fire. If you read the Newsday piece, you notice a hidden gem. Kate Murray began her ill-advised "pep rally" statement by saying she was deeply committed to moving the process forward. Imagine the difference if the statement had read:
I am deeply committed to moving this process forward, but that must include strict adherence to the state environmental review process. I believe speaking publicly on this issue while reviewing it is a breach of my public responsibility, and I hope you understand that. Please know I am committed to working with Nassau County and the Lighthouse Development Group to develop a mutually-agreeable solution. - What I Wish Kate Murray Had SaidSupervisor, you need to understand that your Lighthouse problems are your own making. I have tried to say this repeatedly: this is not my neighbor's new swimming pool or the new 7-11 on Sunrise Highway, this is the biggest building project since Levittown, and the rules are different. Your actions have not impeded the process, but your words are causing unneeded anxiety and, in some cases, hatred. Please understand that, as an elected leader, you have a duty to the public, and that includes communicating with voters.
Are Tom Suozzi's hands completely clean in this? I don't think so.
The tenor of the conversation has become far more nasty since Tom Suozzi, the Lighthouse, and other parties (see Bettman, Gary) began pushing a sense of urgency and calling on the Town of Hempstead to take swift action. After these calls began, the battle lines were drawn. It is possible that this Lighthouse flap is self-created by Nassau County, even though the Town of Hempstead has not done anything to impede the process through actions. Tom Suozzi has made the Lighthouse a centerpiece of his vision for suburbia, so naturally he would stand to gain greatly from such a large victory in an election year. However, on the other hand, it could be a calculation to keep pressure on the Town of Hempstead. The Town has a reputation for taking a long time to complete larger projects (see: Courtesy Hotel, Bellmore Army Base), and this could be a pre-emptive strike to ensure things continue to move forward.
To be fair, Tom Suozzi was right to invite Kate Murray to all of his meetings on this project for the sake of transparency. Other than pushing for a sense of urgency, he has not taken personal attacks against the Supervisor. He has merely pointed out her reluctance to interact with voters and attend key meeitngs related to the Lighthouse.
One thing's for sure. If this sense of urgency was a manufactured political calculation, Kate Murray has played right into Tom Suozzi's hand. Either way, it is a plus in my judgment that Tom Suozzi's commitment to this project cannot be questioned.
I do not buy into the conspiracy theories put forward by many people in regard to the Lighthouse. Occam's Razor, a principle first put forward by an English Franciscan monk in the 14th Century, states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible to avoid complications. In other words, the simplest explanation is most often the correct one. So, what is the simplest explanation? There are two candidates:
- Partisan politicking in an election year - As I alluded to in previous posts, the Lighthouse is a central part of Tom Suozzi's vision for Suburbia. The Republican Party - regardless of whether Kate Murray runs for County Executive - has an ample opportunity to make that vision and, by extension, the Lighthouse, a wedge issue in the upcoming elections. Making a philosophical cornerstone a wedge issue is usually done in the hope that it will evolve into a philosophical argument, in this case progress vs. status quo, single-family homes with white picket fences vs. "New Suburbia," instead of the merits of this specific project. On Long Island, the outcome of such an argument is never clear.
- The Town of Hempstead's Experience - This is the highest-profile issue with which most Town of Hempstead officials have ever dealt. It's possible that their inexperience is leading to the mixed signals and confusing statements that are coming out of the Town of Hempstead.
I am also very disappointed with our elected officials on all sides for politicizing this. Tom Suozzi and Kate Murray should be working together for the sake of our Island's future, not bickering over trivialities. This is just a diversion from the very real issues Long Island faces, issues the Lighthouse intends to address. Such partisan rancor does nothing to elevate the debate, it just relegates voters to the sidelines, when in a government like ours, the people are the focus and the ultimate authority.
This Thursday, we have a golden opportunity to make our voices heard and make clear to our politicians that we will not stand on the sidelines while they play tug-of-war with our future. Let's seize that opportunity. Speaking of which:
GO TO MEETING
This is just a friendly reminder to attend the Not Pep Rally sponsored by the Lighthouse this Thursday, March 26, at 7PM in the Long Island Marriott. Come and make your voice heard.
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