Monday, July 25, 2011

As Hempstead Goes, So Goes The County

Town GOP Key To August 1 Referendum

Whether the Referendum to build a new home for the Islanders and a minor league ballpark at the Hub floats or sinks next Monday doesn't depend as much upon the YES votes of Islanders fans as it does the appearance of the GOP faithful of Hempstead Town at the polls.

Fact: In Hempstead Town, regardless of registration numbers, Republicans turn out to vote. This is particularly so for non-Election Day polling, where the turnout is traditionally low.

Face it. For better or worse, little if anything happens in America's largest township -- the Town of Hempstead -- without the blessing and consent of the local GOP.

Be it planning (what little there is of it), zoning (whatever the rhyme or convoluted reason), or filling elective office (from Sanitary Commissioners to Town Supervisor), the GOP is calling the shots. When it comes to shaping the vote, nobody but nobody does it better.

Call an election for special district commissioners, for instance. Be it the dead of winter or the Dog Days of summer, with nary a registered voter aware that an election is even in the offing, and GOP voters show up at the local polling places to cast votes for the party's designated (wink, wink) victor.

No surprise in a town where almost everyone has a relative who is somehow connected or beholden to the local GOP, if not actually on payroll. The patronage web is huge, and while the reward for the individual voter may be miniscule -- or nonexistent -- one dare not take the chance.

The party says "jump!" The party faithful asks, "How high?"

Suffice it to say that, in Hempstead Town, one party rule is still the norm, and upsetting the Republican apple cart the most rare of exceptions.

So, what does this have to do with the Coliseum/Hub plan?


Lest we forget, the memory of LIers being shorter than the lifespan of the cicata, it was the Town of Hempstead GOP that dimmed the lights on the Lighthouse project, reducing same, in perfunctory fashion, first to Lighthouse Lite, and then, unceremoniously, snuffing out the candle entirely under guise of zoning change.

Sure, Town officials cloaked themselves under the "We Are All Islanders" banner, but the road signs, from constant delay and deferral to overly burdensome demands upon the developers, all pointed to a dead end.

Then came the Mangano Plan, di minimus in comparison to even Lighthouse lite, sparce in detail, and to be financed not by private enterprise but rather, by you and I as taxpayers.

The reception at Hempstead Town Hall? Lukewarm, at best. No hoisting of County Exec Ed Mangano -- a fellow Republican -- upon the broad shoulders of Town Supervisor Kate Murray. A tacit nod of approval, if that, more akin to sitting on the fence, awaiting the outcome of the August 1 Referendum, than it is to getting aboard the Coliseum Express, selling the plan, lock, stock, and ballpark.

Not necessarily a bad move on the part of Town officials and the local GOP, given the ambivalence of residents ("Sure we need a new Coliseum, but why the heck should Nassau County taxpayers foot the bill?"), and the hesitation to add even a dollar to the property tax in a year when most Town officials must seek re-election. Wait and see seems to be the order of the day, and, quite possibly, the death knell for Ed Mangano's plan.

A thumbs down to the Referendum puts the future of the Hub back into the Town's court, after all. A town which is loathe to cede control on any matter, whether trivial, or, here, of major significance.

Not that the Town of Hempstead didn't have a fair shot at redeveloping the Hub many times over during the past decade. Maybe they just didn't want to. The timing wasn't right. The plan wasn't entirely theirs. The piper had yet to be paid to play.

In a Town where mailings and TV spots urging residents to do even the mundane (along the lines of checking to make sure the light goes off in the fridge once the door is closed) are commonplace, the deafening silence from Hempstead Town Hall on next Monday's vote gives one pause to consider whether there will come an 11th hour call to muster the troops, summon them to the polls, urging them to vote YES.

Without that bugle call from Town Hall, not even the YES votes of every stalwart Islander fan is likely to alter the outcome. Turnout will be low. NO voters always managing to find their way to the polls, come hell or high water. The urge to Vote YES not quite as strong as the inclination to stay home.

With defeat, the Town can say, "We told you so," leaving a hapless Ed Mangano with yet another black mark in the loss column, and the Town again holding all the chips. And should the Referendum pass? Well, then Kate Murray and Kompany can hold their heads high and proclaim, "We were with you all the time!"

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