Democracy "Trashed" in the Town of Hempstead
Sanitary District 1 Vote Goes Forward On Sabbath, Justifiable Claim of Inadequate Notice notwithstanding; Jewish Voters Disenfranchised
From its most innocent perspective, moving forward with the vote for Commissioners in Town of Hempstead Sanitary District 1 on Friday, July 8th, given questionable notice to the public, was dubious, at best. Looking at the election in a light that shines on the darker side of Town of Hempstead politics, knowingly disenfranchising an entire block of voters, on religious and ethnic grounds, was nothing short of dastardly.
One would think, discretion being the better part of valor, that the Commissioners of Sanitary District 1, their learned Counsel, Nat Swergold (the man who told the public, in justifying tax rates, that District 1 places additional trucks in service in this heavily Jewish District during Passover to collect bread), and the "powers-that-be" in the Town of Hempstead, would have voluntarily postponed the vote, assuring both sufficient notice under the law and deference to the many in the District who observe the Sabbath. But no, stupid is what stupid does!
Residents in Sanitary District 1, which covers the Five Towns, Inwood, Green Acres and Valley Stream South, brought an action seeking injunctive relief before the Supreme Court in Nassau County, looking to postpone the July 8th election, essentially on the grounds that the District gave inadequate notice to the public of the pending election. Ancillary to this issue, residents raised the concern that the election was to be held on a Friday evening, from 6 PM to 10 PM, the start of the Jewish Sabbath, effectively disenfranchising a large segment of the electorate.
Late afternoon on Friday, July 8th, Justice LaMarca of the Supreme Court granted a temporary Injunction, staying the vote. Then, at the literal 12th hour, upon Appeal to a Justice of the court's Appellate Division (District Counsel Nat Swergold - with loaf of bread in hand, no doubt - knocked on the door to the house of Justice Thomas Adams), the injunction was lifted and the vote was allowed to proceed.
"This is the ultimate in chutzpah," said Five Towns resident, Mark Stein. "First, they don't tell you about an election. Then, they hold it on shabbos, knowing full well that Jews wouldn't be able to vote."
The sentiment ran deep and emotions strong in the Jewish communities of the South Shore, Mr. Stein expressing the opinion of a crowd of the faithful emerging from a local Lawrence synagogue. "They kept us from voting on July 8th," said Stein, angrily, "but you can be sure we'll be at the polls in force come November 8th (the General Election). We'll show them the meaning of 'local control.'"
The "ultimate in chutzpah" (nerve or gall). You've got that right. A secret election, poorly publicized, with insufficient notice to the public. An election that undermined the democratic process, precluding many - including an entire religious/ethnic group - from participating in the vote. An election fraught with patronage (politically connected Sanitation Supervisor Phil Mistero, for instance, the brother of Inwood Republican leader Jesse Mistero, is paid over $150,000 a year).
One wonders just what the Commissioners of Sanitary District 1 are hiding from the public? Apparently, with a taxpayer-funded budget of $15 million dollars, and absolutely no oversight - either from the public or, surprise, surprise, from Town Hall (the folks who say they have "no control" over these Special Districts) - they've got plenty to hide.
One would expect to hear from the Town Supervisor, Kate Murray, condemning the unorthodox (pun intended) - if not unlawful - methods of a Sanitary District that operates under the banner and auspices of the TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD. Certainly, one would expect the Supervisor to publicly express outrage over the disparate and discriminatory practice of holding a public election on the Sabbath. True to form, we hear silence from Town Hall, and nothing from Kate Murray.
Complain about Kate Murray's job performance, and she'll call you a mysoginist (woman-hater). Disenfranchise the Jewish voters of the Town of Hempstead, and you hear nary a word from the Town Supervisor. Something truly smells rotten at Town Hall in Hempstead, and its not just the garbage. To be sure, the voters won't get trashed again in November!
AROUND THE SANITARY DISTRICTS
In TOH Sanitary District 2, community activist Laura Mallay continues to mount an admirable campaign against the sitting "machine-tooled" Commissioners. Looking to dissolve the District by Petition (putting herself out of a job if elected), Mallay would be a watchful eye over a taxpayer-funded pot that, for too long, has avoided public scrutiny. The election in Sanitary District 2 is Thursday, July 28th.
In TOH Sanitary District 6, The Community Alliance has learned that elections for Commissioners are scheduled to take place on Monday, August 15th. Who knew? Certainly, not the voting public. Yet another "secret vote" in a sham election.
Are we "enjoying" our "local control" yet?