Sunday, June 21, 2009
Posted by Nick at Sunday, June 21, 2009
(Blogger's Note - 30 days, almost a full month - still no apology from Joe Mondello. Any day now, Chairman)
There has been little news on the Lighthouse front since the final DGEIS was submitted to the Town of Hempstead on June 11. Both sides have, apparently, been heads-down working on the process for final approvals, and all I've asked say that this process will be released as soon as it is finished between the County, the Town, and the Lighthouse.
In this lull, I have been amazed to note the almost complete crash in traffic to this site. I know I've been busy and unable to update as much as I'd like, but it seems like many people who were gung-ho about the Lighthouse when things looked their bleakest were suddenly not commenting or emailing with their previous frequency. I started to think about this, and with the help of reader Matthew B. who sent a fabulous email, I finally had to say it:
I take back those posts calling it Amateur Hour in Hempstead - at least I would if they weren't true at the time. In this instance, Kate Murray has pulled off what can only be described as a stroke of political genius.
Recent Actions - What Changed?
Reader Matthew B - who, as I mentioned earlier, wrote me a brilliant email last week, had one more excellent point. Everybody changes positions over time; I know I have different positions on some controversial issues than I did years ago. However, you very rarely see a complete 180 done in such a short time. Remember, Kate Murray preached patience and a long process to a meeting in Garden City the day before she appeared at the Planning Council and committed to move forward with the process. In the span of 24 hours, and less than 2 weeks after Joe Mondello told pro-Lighthouse voter Joe Conte to "blow it out [his] dufflebag," the politician that people in Garden City called an ally from "all the craziness (read: improvement) surrounding us" became fully on the side of moving the Lighthouse forward.
What changed? I think I can sum it up in two words: Kristen McElroy.
I mentioned before that Kate Murray should be considered a heavy favorite for re-election in the Town of Hempstead. However, her opponent, a young, telegenic politician who gave another entrenched Republican a run for his money last year, presented a unique challenge. Ms. McElroy could galvanize the voters on one issue: the Lighthouse. The blogosphere and message boards lit up with people offering to work toward electing Kristen McElroy, even those who did not live within the Town of Hempstead. Most observers thought that an opponent who was staunchly pro-Lighthouse could create an interesting dynamic against Judge Murray, who reached for every excuse to explain her Lighthouse behavior, despite clear evidence that she was taking a position.
Now, what did this 180 do? It accomplished a twofold goal for Kate Murray - she took Kristen McElroy's main issue away without having to make that large of a concession. Remember, the Supervisor came out of her meeting with Charles Wang and Tom Suozzi promising little more than to....have another meeting! However, the political implications are enormous. For at least a few months, the Lighthouse has ceased to be a winning issue for Kristen McElroy. She cannot criticize Kate Murray for not moving the Lighthouse forward because Ms. Murray can then point to the promise of having more meetings, and if the worst happens she can blame parties other than herself for the delay (e.g. "the DGEIS wasn't ready for public comments" - remember the ambiguity in the law, or "the State is playing games and not holding up its side of the bargain"). In a political sense, the perception of support is enough, and many voters have gone home believing they've won. There are even quotes from Tom Suozzi and Charles Wang that Kate Murray can use, claiming that "all sides are in sync" and they are "turning the page."
This is a clear attempt by Kate Murray to strike a knockout blow in her re-election campaign before her opponent even has a campaign apparatus in place (speaking of which - shouldn't the McElroy camp be on that?). They have done enough action to placate many voters while not immediately taking substantive steps forward.
What Does this Mean?
Many Lighthouse opponents clearly believe that those who support the project are a fringe group. However, attendance at public meetings, polling, and the actions of some political parties lead us to believe otherwise.
I surmised previously that the Republicans in the Town of Hempstead are scared - witness a hysterical insult from the State Republican Chairman to a 24-year-old voter who stands about 5-foot-6, and the near physical confrontation some Kate Murray supporters almost instigated. However, there is larger proof: Kate Murray is not running for County Executive.
I speculated months ago that the Supervisor may have been behaving this way to prepare for a County Executive run. However, the Republican Party chose to keep Kate Murray in the Town of Hempstead for at least another election cycle and nominate Legis. Ed Mangano, who can only be described as a sacrificial lamb, barring a major misstep from Tom Suozzi.
So, think about it: Kate Murray is not running for higher office, even though most speculated she would. She is taking steps to placate pro-Lighthouse voters despite a rather small and nascent movement. They are scared - and they seem to think that being on the wrong side of the Lighthouse issue is a political loser for them. It will be interesting to see how this moves forward.
I want to believe Kate Murray. I desperately want to believe that the corner has been turned and we are all pulling toward the common goal of making the Lighthouse become reality. However, I hope you will forgive me for being skeptical.
I will once again thank the Supervisor for agreeing to attend meetings and to work on the process for moving the Lighthouse forward expeditiously. However, as I've been saying, this should be taken with a grain of salt given previous statements and the obstruction that typified her response for over 6 months before this latest period of openness.
The completeness hearing dates should be announced soon, and this is where we will begin to see the true nature of this sudden change. Given the nature of Lighthouse supporters, I think it is almost a given that the Town of Hempstead will move the Lighthouse into public comments, but we must remain on the lookout.
What should we do, as voters who support the Lighthouse? We should keep supporting it, as forcefully and respectfully as we have done in the past.
Our movement cannot afford to let up now - remember, our work is not over until shovels are in the ground. Do not let these politicians think so little of you - the appearance of action should not replace real, substantive action. Continue holding Kate Murray (and all other officials) accountable until we see real movement forward for this essential project.
Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Email Me. Follow me on Twitter.
Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there. Miss you, Dad.