Friday, May 22, 2009
Posted by Nick at Friday, May 22, 2009
(UPDATED With more pictures - also check out the 7th Woman, who has some full quotes and can give you a better idea of the speeches at the rally)
On a sun-splashed Friday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Park in Levittown, Kate Murray formally kicked off her re-election campaign as a heavy favorite in the Town of Hempstead. Let There Be Light(house) was there to share some key take-aways from the event.
You can also check my fun post at Islanders Independent running down the event. This was my first attempt to write two largely different posts about the same thing - and rest assured it will be my last.
The Nastiness Will Increase
It was not all sunshine and kittens for Kate Murray, as the 60-or-so supporters were joined by 10-15 vocal pro-Lighthouse voters who demanded answers from their Town government. One voter in particular, Joe Conte (a dear friend of this site), became loud at times, demanding a voice on the Lighthouse process. Joe Mondello, Chairman of the Hempstead, Nassau County, and NY State GOP, told Conte to "Blow it out [his] dufflebag!" Mondello also accused every pro-Lighthouse voter of being a paid plant for Charles Wang (a very good tactic when dealing with voters), and Hempstead officials directed Kate Murray supporters to use their signs to cover up Joe's pro-Lighthouse sign. This later escalated into a near-physical confrontation that I (and Newsday) captured on camera.
What did Joe's sign say? "Build our Future." What a sad thing to want to suppress, and kudos to the Murray volunteer who told his cohorts to not infringe upon Joe's free speech.
Disconnect From Reality
Kate Murray is basing her re-election campaign on taxes and economic development. She touted the Town of Hempstead's fiscal accomplishments, including a high credit rating and a recent freeze on taxes. Some of my other favorites included:
"We will not mortgage our children's future." (That's exactly what decades of misguided policy have wrought)
Murray chastised people who would "rather point fingers than lead" (So what's THIS?)
She also constantly pushed government projects and other initiatives to create jobs and stimulate the economy (isn't that the whole point of the Lighthouse?)
There was one very ominous line that could foreshadow the Town of Hempstead's tactics as the Lighthouse discussion gets more heated: "We will not be bullied."
Kate Murray also made sure to declare herself an Islanders fan - though it was said as more of an after the fact "Oh, by the way...." statement. I don't know if you could put any stock in it, and frankly that has little to do with the overall benefit to the community the Lighthouse will provide.
I was struck by the rhetoric's complete and utter disconnect from many of the realities facing Long Island today. It is true that taxes are choking and a temporary freeze will help many middle-aged homeowners, and I applaud the Town for sticking to its guns on that. However, in the future, there will not be any middle-aged homeowners if the Town and other communities continue to push policies that force renters and younger Long Islanders to leave in search of greener pastures.
It is also terrifying that Kate Murray and her cohorts continue to see Islanders fans as the enemy. The Supervisor's actions have created most of her negative press about the Lighthouse, and to fail to see this is dangerously out of touch.
A Changing Tune?
As overheated as things have become, the Town of Hempstead is showing signs of modifying its behavior. Donald Clavin, Hempstead's Receiver of Taxes (who wore a Town of Hempstead polo monogrammed with his title - thanks for making it so easy to identify you!) and Joe Ra, Town Attorney, both took time to speak to pro-Lighthouse bloggers and citizens, and you could sense a shift in tone.
Clavin directly addressed many of my personal concerns, including the need for Town officials to show respect to voters who clearly want the Lighthouse to be built. He assured me that the Town was responding to concerns and was trying to work with the best interests of citizens in mind. Clavin cited the reaction to the "Islanders Fans First" fiasco, and Joe Ra went as far as to apologize for the whole debacle and call it a "mistake."
Joe Ra also told Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank that no official in the Town of Hempstead is planning a vacation this summer in order to pursue a good-faith effort to get things done. I hope for the sake of Long Island that he is correct.
Mr. Clavin also stressed the need to hear all sides of the issue when we move into the public comments period. I have long advocated this, and I hope the Town and its environmental consultants can follow through on this commitment to moving the process forward in a timely manner.
This is all well and good, and I applaud these signals from the Town of Hempstead. However, I urge them to keep going. Saying the right thing does not carry as much weight when, in the minds of many Lighthouse proponents, the Town has not been doing the right thing. It is hard to match the rhetoric with actions such as Kate Murray's inability to attend a meeting and the stimulus funds fiasco, and it is even harder to match this rhetoric with the Town's insistence on blaming every other entity for the current pace and tenor of Lighthouse negotiations. Regardless, I hope things will improve as the process progresses.
Don Clavin himself said it best when he told me the entire Lighthouse Project is bogged down in political nonsense. At this point, it does not matter who started politicizing the project (you can make a compelling case for either side), but in an election year this will not suddenly go away.
I hope both sides can come together, but the nasty tenor of today's rally does not bode well. Chairman Mondello's disgusting and offensive assertion that a voter who showed up to exercise his right to free speech must be a paid plant is just the tip of the iceberg (and this space calls on Mondello to immediately apologize for the remarks - though something tells me he won't).
Either way, the climb will be uphill - the Town of Hempstead needs to show it is serious about moving this process forward, and Kate Murray enters the election season as a heavy favorite to win her 4th term as Hempstead Supervisor. It was a bit discouraging that all the "new ideas" talked about today were just the old Republican ideas - lower taxes, liberals want to tax-and-spend, and lip service to the plight of younger people and renters. We need to have greater emphasis on the truly important issues.
In the end, I and other Lighthouse proponents want two simple things: good-faith negotiations and an assurance that our voices are being heard. The dismissive attitude up until now has not been a good start, and let's see if this improves as things progress.
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Some pictures from the event:
(Kate Murray at the podium)
(Joe Mondello - who is, remember, chairman of the New York State Republican Party - at the podium. Note he is surprisingly not yelling at a voter in this picture)
(The closest I got to Kate Murray - she and Mondello huddled in a corner after this)
Kate Murray campaign sign
(Joe's sign being blocked by Murray advocates)
(From the front)
(Don Clavin, left, and 2 pro-Lighthouse voters)