Ignorance & Complacency - 96,146; Hope & Reason - 65,485
If ignorance is bliss, then in Hempstead Town, where voting by crayon and staying within the lines is a way of life, there must be euphoria.
Forget the corruption and excessive costs of the Sanitary Districts. Vote to keep 'em. Never mind the patronage and cronyism at Town Hall. Its all in the family. Who cares if half a million tax dollars are spent on campaign mailings? Apparently, not the voters of Hempstead Town.
Illegal accessory apartments. Skyrocketing property taxes. Unaffordable housing. A quality of life that only a sewer rat could love. Welcome to the Town of Hempstead. Kate Murray, Supervisor.
There may be joy in Mudville -- where the uninformed, misinformed, and blatantly lied to voted with a single, albeit unintelligible voice (sounded kinda like Jabba The Hutt), while the party of a thousand voices (that which sounds something like democracy), failed to vote in numbers sufficient to stem the tide and change the course -- but the elation belies a reality that is as close at hand as your next tax bill.
For those who saw the light, only to have it dim when all the votes were counted, take heart. Machines, even the best of them, will, at some point, break down. And while you can seldom defeat ignorance -- either by argument or at the ballot box -- there is solace in knowing that, ultimately, ignorance will defeat itself. Let's hope most of us are still around when that day comes!
Meanwhile, as both consolation and reminder, DON'T BLAME ME, I VOTED FOR LEVINSON bumper stickers will be available in the Gift Shop.
Looking ahead two years to the next election for Town of Hempstead Supervisor, a prediction. No, a guarantee. It will not be Kate Murray. No sir. Kate will be plucked from her perch at Town Hall for the political plumb she's been craving for - a judgeship. The Nassau County GOP will delight once again in anointing our next Supervisor (Tony "You Ain't Paid For Nothin' Yet" Santino, perhaps?). And a new face will chair the County Republican Party -- Katuria D'Amato? Who said you can't go back to the "bad old days?" Geez, we've never left!
As for The Community Alliance, we're moving forward to tomorrow. Property taxes (remember them?) remain top on our list. The battle against the Special Districts did not end on Election Day. It has just begun. Consolidate. Eliminate. And, Madam District Attorney, after you take that oath of office in January, convene that Grand Jury and pursue justice for the residents of Hempstead Town. The tyranny of those invisible taxing jurisdictions -- and of those who refuse or neglect to take responsibility for or control over them -- must be brought to an end.
School Districts, accounting for some 60% of our property tax burden, must be held accountable to the residents they serve, as our State Legislature and Governor must be held accountable to both School Districts and constituents. If you mandate it, fund it. If you provide State Aid to a School District situated in a suburb of Buffalo to the tune of 75%, you give that same 75% to School Districts in Elmont, Baldwin and Wantagh. No more 100% funding of upstate School Districts, while Long Island's schools garner but 16%. An income tax to replace the school property tax? We already have one! Long Islanders want to see their tax dollars at work on Long Island. The Campaign for Fiscal Parity begins today!
Affordable housing and downtown revitalization. Buzz words bantered about with an almost unrelenting drone. No more talk. Our downtowns and "Main Streets" are Twilight Zones, not Development Zones. Our children cannot afford to buy into the American Dream. Our parents -- and, in many instances, we ourselves -- can no longer afford to live in our own homes.
We've dumbed down "Smart Growth" on our Long Island for far too long. Today we begin to take back our "downtowns," with a reasonable mix of retail, recreational and affordable residential development. Today we begin to dispel the myth that suburbia has to be either horizontal sprawl or a vertical tower touching the sky. Applying vision and plan, we can provide safe, affordable housing for our seniors and workforce, in an environment where we not only know our neighbors, but can once again walk with them for the morning paper, a loaf of bread, or for a stroll in the park. Let's begin today to reshape our communities, bringing life to the very ideal of the suburbs envisioned by those who brought many of us here in the first place.
Our problems and concerns -- whether property taxes, the education of our children, or the costs of energy and a roof over our heads -- did not magically disappear when the polls closed on Tuesday. They are still with us -- real, ominous, and waiting for those of vision and action to step to the fore.
The Community Alliance will continue to lead as we travel down that road to take back our town, to rebuild our downtown, and to restore pride and livability to our hometown. We will continue to ask for your ideas, your suggestions, your courage and your support.
Standing still does not serve the best interests of community. It never did. We cannot -- and dare not -- go back. We never will. That leaves but a single option -- to move forward. Today, we take that next step toward tomorrow. The train to the future is leaving the station. We welcome you to either get on board, or, with all due respect, to get the hell out of the way!
Several years ago, we who now form the core of The Community Alliance, posited the question, "Why do we need to work together to improve our community?" We were taken aback for a moment by the response. We assumed, after all, that it would be intuitive. "Strength in numbers. Speak with one, unified voice. Our problems are your problems." Of course, we soon realized that it wasn't quite that simple.
Just as all politics is local, most issues confronted on the "community" level - whether related to code enforcement, business district revitalization, or the clean up of a pond or an abandoned lot - are perceived as local, the province of this or that civic group. "You want to come here and help us? Why?" Suspicious thoughts as "outsiders" are looked upon as unwelcome interlopers.
"You stay in Elmont and concern yourself with those deadly basement apartments. We're not West Hempstead, with that loathsome Courtesy Hotel. We'll handle our own problems, thank you very much."
Community is, indeed, sacrosanct. It was not all that long ago, when a Tri-Community Summit (Elmont, Franklin Square & West Hempstead) was first proposed, that a local civic leader said that he thought such a conclave would be a great idea, but "don't expect too much. They (the civic and business leaders) are like warlords. Very territorial. They are quite protective of their own turf." For a moment many of us felt as if we had left the security of our respective communities for the uncertainty of the Afghan frontier. Have we not learned, in this enlightened society, that such divisiveness breeds only destruction? Have we not come to see, after years of life under the fiefdoms, the "clubs," and the Special Districts, that the real and beneficial changes come - if at all - only when the entirety stands as one? "Yes," we thought. "The whole must be greater than the sum of all of its parts." Ah, we were young and naive.
As we pore over the papers indigenous to each locale, even today, we sense a common appeal. "Join your civic association. Band together to fight the evils of community. Together, we can make a difference." No less vivid is the call to action, echoed by each group with mounting fervor. "Fight the illegal rentals. Demand greater code enforcement. Bring business back to 'Main Street.'"
And yet, this seemingly single mindset, placing us, definitively, on the right track, is often drowned out by the chorus of civic voices. Nowhere is this more evident than in the pages of our community periodicals, where the many voices of community come together, if but on paper alone, only to fade into the background without significant impact.
The message of community is often lost in the din. What need be a common voice of the people, a concert in harmony, is, more often than not, singular sound bites from one group or another. The noise, while appropriate and necessary, is but chatter lost in the cosmos. Sure, as "local" organizations, we hold our own. We manage, after long and protracted battle, to close down the after-hours clubs on the Turnpike. We muster the energy to fight the mega gas stations and the car washes. We are most proficient in the piecemeal salvation of the trees, even as much of the forest is forever taken from us.
In the more "global" arena, however, in attempting to address the issues that touch all of us, we make few inroads, and see little appreciable progress. Yes, we are on the right track. We must acknowledge, nevertheless, that even those on the right track are going to get hit by that train if they just stand still!
That quality of life which we value, that which we speak of longingly, is what our civic and business organizations most want to preserve and enhance. Even so, it is that very quality of life, that vision of suburbia, which, despite our best efforts and noble intentions, continues to slip away. Illegal accessory apartments proliferate. The condition of our "downtowns" deteriorates. Property taxes rise and aggravate. Elected officials promise to ameliorate. The suburban landscape so cherished, but for the occasional tree we are able to save, erodes before our eyes.
We live, and yesterday's election results makes this abundantly clear, in a dual society. Call it the two Americas, the two Counties, or, for that matter, the two Townships. One is of the privileged; those who seem to get everything they want, often without ever having to ask. The other - and we fear we on the south shore of Long Island, in general, and in the unincorporated areas of the Town, in particular, fall squarely in this category - is of the forgotten.
The forgotten are asked to bear the burdens and endure the hardships, to accept substandard services delivered at exorbitant expense, to witness the intrusion of urban ills, to be content with sprawl and decay, and, above all, to be patient.
The forgotten are asked to wait for their roads to be paved, their parks to be maintained, their streets to be cleaned. The forgotten are told "It won't happen overnight. The wheels turn slowly. We're on your side."
The years go by. The names and faces change - and sometimes they don't - and here we stand, amidst the decline of the Turnpike, the Avenue and the Road - forgotten.
The question asked is no longer, "Should we work together?" but rather, "How can we work together effectively to bring about positive change in our collective community?"
It is no longer a matter of "talk and walk" with our elected officials, but instead, a call to engage in a true partnership, with all levels of government, to cooperatively and decisively tackle the problems that we share.
The privileged have the time to wait, though they rarely have to. The forgotten, on the other hand, have little time before their voices are silenced, before they are overwhelmed by the insurmountable. The privileged have their special interest groups, their highly paid lobbyists, their monied Political Action Committees. And the forgotten? Well, we have The Community Alliance to make certain that we're all working together, that our collective voice is heard, that, ultimately, we are successful in getting the job done!
Hope and reason may have lost the election for Town of Hempstead Supervisor on November 8th, but hope, if not reason, springs eternal. In the long run, ignorance will be defeated by reason, and hope shall triumph over complacency.
In the name of hope and reason, let's get moving!