There have been some disturbing rumors regarding the Town of Hempstead's thinking toward the Lighthouse. I have not wanted to write about it until I got more evidence that it was a potential issue. That time has finally come.
Long Island's Changing Political Scene
Barack Obama's election as President was seen by many as a signal of a changing political scene in the United States. Many areas, including Indiana, which went for George W. Bush by a margin of 20 percentage points in 2004, suddenly flipped to the Democratic side. Long Island is seeing similar trends, and it could be affecting the Lighthouse Project.
Long Island's recent blue tint is reflected in the increasingly Democratic Town Supervisors. Frank Petrone, Huntington Town Supervisor, switched to the Democratic Party in 2002 and has governed as a Democrat ever since (source). Democrat Steve Bellone leads the Town of Babylon. The Town of North Hempstead is run by Jon Kaiman, a multi-term Democrat. Democrat Phil Cardinale won election in the Town of Riverhead by just 49 votes in 2004, but he has since been re-elected twice. Democrat James Dougherty runs the tiny Town of Shelter Island, and Democrat William McGintee runs the Town of East Hampton. The Town of Islip elected Phil Nolan, a Democrat, during the Democratic sweep into power in 2007. Most recently, on March 31 of this year, Democrat Mark Lesko broke the Republican stronghold on the Town of Brookhaven in a special election. This was seen as a litmus test, since Mr. Lesko was running against a lifelong resident of Brookhaven who was seen as connected to the local Republican apparatus.
The Towns of Hempstead (Kate Murray), Southampton (Linda Kabot), Southold (Scott Russell) and Oyster Bay (John Venditto) are the only Civil Townships on Long Island governed by Republicans. If the recent trends continue, these seats could be seen as vulnerable in the coming years.
Meet Democrats at the Lighthouse?
Sources connected to the approval process have been telling me for months about the strange requests the Town of Hempstead has made about the Lighthouse. We've discussed previously that only 19 of the Town's requests for change in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement were valid, and over 150 were simple spelling mistakes.
However, there was also a more sinister allegation:
"The Town of Hempstead has been asking the Lighthouse Development Group about the expected political affiliation of anybody who would live at the development. They are concerned it will add Democrats [to the Town's voter rolls]." - Source Close to NegotiationsI have not written about this because I do not like to push potential storylines without confirmation. I recently received this confirmation in a note from another friend and source. This person, who is deeply connected with the Republican Party in Nassau County, told me that sources within the Town of Hempstead do not want to build the Lighthouse because it would bring too many "New York City Democrats" into the Town of Hempstead (or keep some traditional Democratic voters, like younger people, from leaving). Some sources have even blamed gated and mixed-use communities for the rise of the Democratic Party in other townships.
If true, this is a very serious charge. I have discussed many times that I see no cogent reasons to oppose the project, and while organized citizen opposition has not emerged, political opposition could be rearing its ugly head. In addition, I would hope our elected officials would want to get re-elected because of their outstanding service, not because they prevented people of the opposite party from living in their jurisdiction.
I have said before that I do not want to make this a partisan political issue when it does not have to be, but that could be exactly what is happening. Maybe, at the end of the day, this whole complicated issue has a simple Democrat vs. Republican core.
Call me naive, call it wishful thinking, call it whatever you want, but I hope with all my heart that these rumors are not true. I hope that elected officials will consider the best interests of the public and not just their party when evaluating decisions as important as the Lighthouse.
However, while I have a streak of naivete, I am also a very realistic person. This is a serious allegation, and one that merits a response from both the Town of Hempstead and the Republican Party.
Prove you put the people before your party. Prove you are serving your office with the best interests of our Island at heart, and don't you dare treat our future like a game.
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