Friday, October 03, 2008

All Politics Is Local - - No, Really

Putting Community First

If the time-honored adage is true, and “all politics is local,” the races in New York’s 9th Senatorial District and 21st Assembly District are, to paraphrase News12, as local as local politics gets.

Indeed, the incumbents, Majority Leader Dean Skelos in the Senate’s 9th, and Tom Alfano in the Assembly’s 21st, face-off on November 4th against two relative unknowns, both of whom hail from the same hometown, West Hempstead.

Roy D. Simon, Jr., a professor of ethics at Hofstra Law School, is vying to unseat the widely popular, and increasingly more powerful, State Senator Dean Skelos. Alan Smilowitz, an attorney in private practice, is challenging the soft-spoken but hard-hitting Tom Alfano, for his seat in the Assembly chamber.

To say that the odds against both Simon and Smilowitz are long, given the power of incumbency and the popularity of two public servants who serve their constituencies with distinction, is an understatement.

Add to the mix the relative obscurity (okay, complete obscurity) of the challengers – who, even among their neighbors, are hardly household names – and the attempt on the part of these Democratic contenders, obviously offered up at the altar of sacrifice on behalf of their Party, to climb the proverbial Everest, falters and fails at the base camp.

And what of the West Hempstead connection? Is there an anti-Skelos sentiment or an oust-Alfano mindset afoot in this typically conservative and traditionally Republican stronghold? Hardly.

Both Skelos and Alfano enjoy almost universal support among those they represent – with West Hempsteaders being no exception.

On the issues, from record aid to education to an affordable prescription drug program, fighting for property tax relief to providing community grants to revitalize localities and grow the economy of our towns and hamlets, Dean Skelos and Tom Alfano have stood in the forefront of the local scene, not only talking the talk on State Street, but walking the walk on Main Street – call it Hempstead Turnpike, or otherwise.

The record of both men, often working as a dynamic team, is replete with accomplishments that shine brighter with each successive legislative session. Skelos’ rise to the ultimate seat of power in the Senate – a heartbeat away from the Governor’s office – was occasioned as much by intellect and the ability to get the job done – both in Albany and here at home – as it was on his political acumen. And Tom Alfano’s easy-going manner and endearing charm, winning over the hearts of his constituency, by no means diminishes his capacity as a tough street fighter who mans the barricades of community.

But it is those local issues that have been and remain the mainstay of the focus of Dean Skelos and Tom Alfano, and the backbone of enduring support as voters reaffirm their confidence in these two forceful leaders.

In West Hempstead, Skelos and Alfano have been outspoken opponents of the Town’s mishandling of the Courtesy Hotel, ardent supporters of the revitalization of Hempstead Avenue, and, year after year, advocates for our children, in word and deed, lessening the tax burden of homeowners by providing our public schools with the money they need to provide a top-notch education.

This is not to say that Messrs. Simon and Smilowitz lack the character or qualifications to serve the good people of SD 9 and AD 21, respectively. We are sure both gentlemen measure up, and are, to borrow the phrase, “likeable enough.” Indeed, their willingness, if not desire to serve the public good is to be applauded.

Unfortunately for Simon and Smilowitz, their obscurity is eclipsed only by their conspicuous absence from the community stage.

Those who, for what seems like eons, have pledged time and talent to West Hempstead’s civic associations, chamber of commerce, PTA groups, and the other organizations that must be considered as the root of community activism, are hard-pressed to say they’ve so much as heard of Roy Simon or Alan Smilowitz, let alone to attest to the activism or advocacy of these gentlemen on the causes near and dear to the West Hempstead community.

Where Skelos and Alfano have taken a stand, Simon and Smilowitz have yet to stand up. And that, at least for those of us who, as a matter of course, put community first – and expect our elected officials to do likewise – is more that a little disconcerting.

That New York is likely to go Democratic in a big way on November 4th, with the head of the ticket raking in the votes and, perhaps, carrying wide-sweeping coattails, the vote down-ticket matters.

“Change” may be the buzzword in this election, but experience counts and results matter. And being present and accountable locally, as advocates and activists, trumps all.

Here on Long Island, the vote down-ticket is crucial, and keeping the likes of Dean Skelos and Tom Alfano as our representatives in the State capital should be paramount in the minds of the electorate.

The Community Alliance endorses Senator Dean G. Skelos in the 9th SD and Assemblyman Thomas W. Alfano in the 21st AD.
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