Party Loyalists Descend On Public Library ~ Many, No Doubt, For The First Time
"So THIS is what the inside of the Franklin Square Public Library looks like?"
We truly expected to hear these words out of the mouths of at least a few of the nearly 100 Machine-tooled operatives who came out, at the evident call of the Republican party leadership, to support the Franklin Square Library Board's decision to bar a public official - a member of the Democratic Party - from conducting a public forum in a public place.
The irony was apparently lost on these folks when they protested, most vocally, the sin of electioneering and politicking at a public forum by, well, electioneering and politicking at, ah, a public forum. [They couldn't well say they were against free speech, could they?] Indeed, the political ploy was as transparent as the GOP's glass house from which they readily cast stones at the outside world.
Query whether some of those in attendance - who, quite likely, never before attended a Library Board meeting - knew exactly why they had been summoned to the Franklin Square Library. The call comes in, and they march lock-step. Good soldiers all!
If the subject matter - free speech, the right to peaceably assemble, the ban of an elected public official at a publicly funded facility - wasn't so serious, the scene at the Franklin Square Library might have been comical.
Okay. It was comical. Even the members of the press rolled eyes when the usual suspects from the GOP camp rose to dapperly defend Don Clavin's (Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes and Republican candidate for Nassau County Comptroller) non-partisan dissemination of information, while demonizing the dastardly doings of Harvey Levinson (Chair of the Nassau County Board of Assessors and Democratic candidate for Town of Hempstead Supervisor), whose forums on the reassessment held at libraries around the County were summarily characterized as little more than political infomercials.
About the only thing missing from this bizzare burlesque show was an appearance by Greg Peterson, complaining that Harvey Levinson let the paint peel off the wall at the Assessor's office. Ah, but who needed Greg - or Kate, for that matter, as she would surely have "no control" over the Library Board's decision - when you have an ill-informed cadre at the ready to agitate, to instigate and to regurgitate what has become the platfrom of the Nassau County GOP -- "If we can't talk about the issues with clarity and resolve, we just won't let the opposition get a word in edge-wise!"
As humorous, in a sad-sack way, as the Machine's automitons could make of this event - and they were laughable, indeed - the most poignant moments of the evening came when members of a local Jewish Center, some who had survived the Holocaust, rose to speak. Softly, without the boisterous overtures of the planted hecklers to drown them out, they spoke not so much about Harvey Levinson's forums on the reassessment and their need to know, but rather, on the rights of all public officials, indeed, all people, to speak and to be heard. There was no mention, per se, of political suppression or the tyranny of the majority, but the message came through all the same - loud and clear.
Perhaps the best line of the evening came from Franklin Square resident Jerry Urick. Urick, the President of Franklin Square Kiwanis, a former law enforcement official, and, as he told those gathered in the packed community room, a registered Republican, scanned the crowd. Recognizing the faces as party regulars, many known to him personally, Urick stood deadpan and said, "This looks to me like roll call at Sanitary District 6!" Jeers followed. "That's not true," came an adamant shout.
All right. Sanitary 2. [Did anyone count the cars in the municipal lot across the street from the library bearing the word "Official" on their plates, or inquire why so many of these vehicles were being utilized after regular business hours? No worries here. No time sheets are kept. And we've got you covered for gas...]
Seth Bykofsky, the Co-Chair of The Community Alliance (and no stranger to Franklin Square residents), briefly addressed the Library's Board of Trustees, asking the Board to trust in the prowess of the people who attend public forums such as the one that Harvey Levinson had planned to hold. "All of us here - Democrats, Republicans, Independents - are capable of discerning information imparted to us as either for the public benefit or as political self-promotion. Give us the benefit of the doubt, and believe that we are smart enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. Let the people speak!"
We will say, the evening spent at the Franklin Square Public Library can best be summed up by the exchange between Don Clavin and Harvey Levinson as they made their way out of the building. Clavin berated Levinson for saying that one of the Library Board's members (Thomas Scanlon) IS a Republican Committeeman. Levinson retorted, "What, did he resign as a Committeeman a week ago?" Clavin shot back. "Come on, Harvey. We're both lawyers. You know if we were before a judge that would never hold up."
Ah. The hair-splitting distinction between IS today and WAS yesterday. That may indeed hold up in a court of law, Don, but in the court of public opinion, where the mere appearance of the impropriety (taking into consideration the abundant circumstancial evidence) may be much worse than the actual deed, it was, is, and hopefully will be, more than enough to sway the jury.