"Listening" Tours Are Nice; "Doing" Tours Are Better
As The Community Alliance reported in a previous blog, no candidate dare ignore the all-important Jewish vote. [SEE A Chicken Soup (with Matzo Balls) In Every Pot.] Apparently, Nassau County Executive, Tom Souzzi, no "goyishe kup" he, knows this better than anyone, having kicked off his pre-campaign campaign for Governor with a visit to the Orthodox community in Brooklyn's Borough Park. [SEE Newsday's, Souzzi Tour Hits The Road.]
Of course, Tom could have started his tour in the Five Towns -- Lawrence has its share of Orthodox (and they've got the bucks you need to catch up with Eliot's treasure chest). Even West Hempstead, with it's Five Towns Orthodox wannabes, would have been a nice place to visit (you just wouldn't want to live there).
Then again, there's not as much exposure -- or political mileage, for that matter -- to be gained by campaigning in your own back yard, where everybody knows your name, and, by now, you've either locked in their votes or lost 'em to Spitzer, Weld or Randy Daniels (Randy Daniels?).
"Touring" the Island, your press coverage is generally limited to News 12 and a reporter from the Herald, who made a wrong turn off the LIE. Certainly, no one in "the city" pays any attention to what happens here, and as for upstaters, gevalt -- as the sign says on the Belt Parkway, "fuhggetaboutit!"
No. You don't run for Governor of New York by schmoozing in Syosset or kibbitzing in Cedarhurst. If the late Grand Rabbi, Menachem Schneerson (may his name be a blessed memory), hasn't "come back" (yet) to Borough Park (would you?), then Tom Suozzi will.
We admire Tom's tenacity -- not to mention his willingness to undergo a ritual circumcision, to be performed by Mike Bloomberg.
Sure, Tom arrived at his breakfast in Borough Park (hold the pickled herring, please) about 45 minutes behind schedule, according to published reports. Not to worry, Tom. In the Jewish community, that's known as being "fashionably late."
Admittedly, Tom Suozzi is a good listener. If you recall, Tom spent much of his first term "listening" as he embarked on his 35 community economic development tour in his native Nassau County. We talked, Tom listened. Tom talked, we listened. There was a lot of listening going on. We got on the bus. We got off the bus. It was a good beginning. "Nischt geferlach," as we say in Gaelic.
Some of us are still listening. And we're listening very carefully. [So much so, you can hear a Breast Cancer awareness pin drop from a politician's lapel (is anyone in "favor" of breast cancer?)].
Beyond the talk, there still hasn't been much action on the economic development front, and that's disturbing. As the talk turns to curing the ills of the school property tax, our ears perk up. Again, we listen, and we wonder whether there will be any substance over form. There's talk, too, about affordable housing (yes, build 100 affordable homes elsewhere in the County for the same cost of building 30 affordable homes in Garden City. That's not racism. That's common sense!). Here, too, we listen. The sound of silence is almost deafening.
As civic advocates (and many of you reading this blog are), we often ask ourselves, "Why are we fighting the same battles, facing the same issues, getting the same assurances? Isn't anybody listening?" Of course they're listening. It's actually "doing" that seems to be the problem.
Don't get me wrong, folks. This is not a problem unique to Tom Suozzi. It is a systemic paralysis -- a political polio that renders government incapable of getting from "listening" to "doing." Maybe it has something to do with creating job security -- an annuity, of sorts. After all, if you get the job done -- lower property taxes, build affordable houses, find a cure for breast cancer -- what will be left to do? Plenty, on the community front, as we all know.
From all indications, Tom Suozzi has an uphill road to travel as he "listens" his way across the Empire State. [According to a Newsday Poll, if the Primary was held today, Spitzer would handily defeat our County Exec by a margin of 71.2% to 28.8%. That's some deficit, and a heck of a lot of ethnic food, to swallow as Tom tours New York.]
True, Tom's been up that hill before, and he's a fighter to the last. Call him the underdog here, which, as one who roots for the runner that gets a late start out of the gate, makes him this blogger's early choice. [Aside from the fact that no one else out there -- not Spitzer, Weld, Golisano, or any of the other would-be Governors -- is going to do a damn thing for Long Island. At least with a Long Islander at the helm, we've got a shot.]
Hopefully, as the Suozzi "listening" tour advances from Borough Park to Chinatown to Little Italy and beyond, we'll begin to see some results of "talking the talk" in our neck of the woods. A little work on those brownfields. A groundbreaking, or 100, on some affordable homes, a move toward a "fix," both in Albany and closer to home, of a solution (or several) to the property tax fiasco, and maybe even a few developments -- economic and otherwise -- in Nassau's new Empire Zone, a baby that Tom himself helped father.
There is bound to be much talk along the road as the Suozzi bus travels from Uniondale to Utica. Lots of latkes, strudel, and zeppolis, too. The promises will flow. The messages will be telegraphed. And here on Long Island, we'll be watching for results we can hang our hats on -- from a candidate who delivers more than stump speeches and can memorize the name of every county north of Rockland.
More than this, here on our Long Island, we'll be listening.