I can be an almost ruthlessly logical person. I like it because it allows me to see things very clearly and to identify patterns that are not evident to many others. However, it also has more than its fair share of drawbacks. As a result of this, I sometimes get stuck on certain things, people, or behaviors. I will admit; the Town of Hempstead has now become a sticking point for me. I have never seen a government body that seems to act completely without logic. Worse, I can't shake the feeling that they actually identify the logical thing to do and consciously decide to do the opposite.
Kate Murray has repeatedly made questionable decisions in relation to the Lighthouse because, according to her, she needs to stay objective. However, her behavior suggests otherwise, and to suggest she is being objective is both illogical and insulting.
Kate Murray has repeatedly stressed ethical requirements in dealing with the Lighthouse. According to this theory, she cannot engage with the Lighthouse or its proponents because she will eventually have to stand in judgment of the project (at a re-zoning hearing).
These are lofty goals, but they completely fall apart when you actually examine the Town of Hempstead's behavior. According to Kate Murray, the following actions are prohibited:
- Attending public meetings on the Lighthouse - including those sponsored by her own government.
- Engaging Tom Suozzi and the Lighthouse group on the approval process (as we pointed out, she blew off a scheduled meeting just yesterday).
- Talking to voters.
- Discussing what parts of the project should be approved.
- Sending (taxpayer-funded) mailers filled with misinformation about the Lighthouse.
- Starting a (taxpayer-funded) web site supporting a phony petition drive
- Continuing to push the (false) theory that stimulus money is available for a Coliseum renovation
- Sending condescending letters blaming all problems on Nassau County to any voter who calls about the Lighthouse
The Lighthouse has finally triggered some investigative reporting about the way Kate Murray runs the Town of Hempstead. So far, we have the following:
- Kate Murray's 83-year-old father, who earns a $40,000 pension from the Town, makes $45 an hour in a clerical job, three times the average rate for that sort of job.
- Kate Murray's two brothers are employed by the Hempstead Parks Department
- The Town of Hempstead has hired Frederick P. Clark Associates, an environmental consulting firm based in Westchester, to perform hundreds of thousands of dollars in work for the Lighthouse, but Kate Murray has refused to return all of the thousands in political donations. This raises the troubling but very real specter of pay-for-play.
As per BD Gallof of Islanders Independent - insiders at the Town of Hempstead are criticizing the Lighthouse group's conduct in the process. They point to the Avalon Bay development at Mitchell Field (more on this later) as an example of a developer who played the game properly. What did Avalon Bay do? They agreed to cede 22 acres back to Nassau County and donate $1 million to the Uniondale School District as a "quid-pro-quo" (their words) in exchange for re-zoning of the property.
Pay for play is the proper conduct?
By the way - Kate Murray recused herself from debate on this project because her sister works for the law firm representing Avalon Bay. Does it ever end?
The Harsh Light of Day
I have wondered before whether the Town of Hempstead is in over its head with the Lighthouse. This project is far more visible and the stakes are much higher than anybody in the Town is used to. Despite this, they continue to employ the same cloak-and-dagger tactics that they have used time and again. The pattern emerged through debacles like the Bellmore Army Base and the Courtesy Hotel - deal is made quickly, Town of Hempstead congratulates itself for going so fast, then it begins to play games and snarl development for years on end. It might work for something like the Bellmore Army Base, that only affects about 50 homes in the Bellmore area, but something like the Lighthouse Project is too big to be swept under any rug.
I think one of our greatest Presidents said it best:
"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." - Abraham LincolnThe Town of Hempstead, through its ridiculous, buck-passing letters, insistence on blaming everyone else, and spreading of false information through (taxpayer-funded) mailers and the media, is clearly trying to fool all the people all the time. The problem is citizens like us - the heavy glare of truth will expose a lot of these long-standing practices and serve to wake up others to the mismanagement under which we are suffering. Many illusions will melt under this white-hot glare, and it is possible more than one political career could as well.
(Blogger's Note: Check out today's excellent piece from BD Gallof on a similar subject)
The Town of Hempstead can make noises and congratulate itself on its speed until the goats have eaten all the grass in Nassau County. One fact remains: until Kate Murray's actions match with her rhetoric, she is standing in the way.
There is a standard pattern emerging here, and you can boil it down to one simple idea: Kate Murray does not fear reprisal from voters. BD Gallof's insider at the Town of Hempstead clearly said that, assuming nobody will rise up in defense due to the empty seats at Nassau Coliseum.
This is Kate Murray's problem, since the point of public office is to serve the people. However, it's our problem as well. We, as voters and residents, need to make sure that we get our voices out there and make it clear that our votes hinge on ultimate approval of this project. If we do not call, if we do not show up to public hearings, then we allow them to continue operating under this delusion that 2,000 Islanders fans support the Lighthouse and nobody else.
As I Tweeted earlier today, this needs to become a movement, and I am more than ready to help lead it. Let us stand together and continue to shine the bright light of truth onto the machine politics that seem to be snarling a new way forward for our Island.
Also, I want to issue a challenge to the Town of Hempstead. I have repeatedly called and written to the Town of Hempstead asking for comments. I have been either dismissed, stonewalled, or insulted (through the ridiculous Lighthouse form letter). If anybody from the Town of Hempstead is reading this and wants to share the Town's side of the story, I will gladly oblige you and post it here, unedited. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ball's in your court.
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