Monday, October 25, 2010

News That Matters - Monday, October 25th, 2010 - The Election Roundup Edition

News That Matters

News That Matters
Brought to you (Almost Daily) by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Monday Morning,

As usual, I'm not going to be making any friends this morning as I dive into local political races - and that with our annual fund drive kicking off next Wednesday! But really, where else are you going to get information like this laid out in such an open and honest way? Like it or not, you've got to love it.

Those who have been reading this column in its various incarnations for all these years know that I'm not one of those writers with delicate sensitivities. As (now, write-in) 19th district congressional candidate Neil DiCarlo told me a few months back, he cannot find fault with my facts but he does not like the way I lay them out. Fair enough. But I'm not in the business of selling you packets of survival seeds against the coming collapse of the nation like Glenn Beck, and I'm not in the business of building a media empire by pushing the buttons of the less-than-intelligent as Rush Limbaugh does. And I don't ignore poll results in order to push a candidate backed by the national Democrats as does And as much as I wish I could be co-opted by corporations as easily as the staff at Fox News, I'm just in the business of trying to be as objective as possible about the things and issues that affect us.

I decry the current political state of our towns, county, state and nation. For reasons best left to psychologists and sociologists, the American political system, which was once diverse and actually interesting, has become a two-sided coin with no edge side. You're either a conservative or a liberal. You're either a Democrat or a Republican. You are either a patriot or a traitor. You either win or lose and everything else, any other thought, any attempt whatsoever to engage citizens with objectivity is decried as divisive. Consider me divisive then, for there are a million shades of political opinion and those who have drunk the two-side cool-aid have placed themselves into a psychological prison they cannot escape from. Rather, they are comfortable there, neatly ensconced in an environment where everyone they know can be safely categorized into one of two camps - even if they must create it - and where alternate thought is heresy.

Many will say otherwise, that they are objective thinkers and that they recognize the broad spectrum of actual political thought but when push comes to shove they will defend 'their side' as a hedge against the 'other' thus perpetuating the status quo and the mess we're in just gets worse.

I'm not a man who votes defensively. I do not vote for one candidate to prevent another from getting elected. In fact, that kind of voting bears much of the responsibility for where we are today. Instead, I vote *for* candidates I feel best represent my positions and if there is no one on the ballot running for a particular seat I feel can meet that requirement I will write someone in instead. And, not being a member of a mainstream political party I am free to do so.

As an example, my friends of a more progressive nature give me hell for voting this way, for voting my conscience. They blame my vote for Ralph Nader in 2000 as being directly responsible for the election of George Bush. But what they fail to understand and I believe intentionally so, is that their candidate that year offered me no reason to vote *for* him and thus I and millions of others voted for another. Had their candidate had something to offer he might have received my vote. Maybe not. But it wasn't my vote that got Mr. Bush elected, it was the failure of their candidate to give me a reason to vote for him.

This year in Putnam County is no different. In fact it's a political nightmare of almost biblical proportions! Okay, there's a little hyperbole there for we will survive, somehow, regardless of the outcome next Tuesday but it's probably going to suck anyway. With that said, I could be wrong. It has happened! But not that often...

So, here goes:

NY State Senate, 40th District: Mike Kaplowitz vs Greg Ball.

I have known Mr. Kaplowitz by reputation for years. My work with environmental and land-use organizations in Westchester county has provided that and he has never failed in his unwavering support for their efforts. His tenure on the county Legislature, a county with a billion dollar plus budget, has put him in a class worthy of being sent to deal with budgets of that size in Albany. Westchester is also a rather diverse county with cities and suburbs, with the wealthiest and poorest Americans living almost side-by-side, an almost virtual copy of the state as a whole. The move for Mr. K from White Plains to Albany would be almost effortless and his successful efforts at keeping Westchester's budgets under control have been laudatory.
On the other hand I have known Greg Ball for almost as long and his failure to be of sound mind has also never failed to amuse and horrify. But it was his shifting of funds from his "Citizens United For Ethical Growth (CUEG), a faux smart-growth organization formed with the blessing of Senator Leibell (pre-feud), to his campaign for Assembly that was the most egregious act he ever could have engaged in as far as I was concerned. Way worse than his directed public insults against me in my fight for social justice as outlined in the Constitution a document he sees as only worth supporting when it supports him and his needs. I could write tens of thousands of words why Mr. Ball is unfit to represent me or anyone in any elected capacity but I'd just be repeating myself.

It's rare there's a candidate on the ballot I actually want to vote for and this year Mr. Kaplowitz is it.

The County Executive's Race

In this particular race, the one for Putnam County Executive, we're faced with two balloted candidates with neither one inspiring confidence in the electorate. On the one hand we have retiring State Senator Vincent Leibell who uses his power like a sledge hammer, punishing anyone who doesn't follow in lock-step with his dictates and too many have felt those hammer blows whether they come with the force of overwhelming might or more subtly, but you know they come. Just ask outgoing party chair Anthony Scannapieco or county legislator Tony Fusco. Municipalities have seen state funds simply disappear when they step out of line and reappear when they beg forgiveness and persistent rumors of past State Police harassment of individuals will simply not go away.
On the other hand we have county legislator Maryellen Odell who insists she is an independent voice yet refuses to kill the pernicious public belief that she is aligned with Greg Ball. And though Ms. Odell tells me I'm the only one who reports this connection, and thus have created a connection where it does not exist, I only report what I hear and am told, not what I may suspect without such evidence.

But it was Maryellen herself who addressed the crowd at Ball's 'bagger rally on July 24th in Patterson along with Bill Gouldman, Steve Katz and Anthony Mele and that's a connection that cannot be said to be fictional. Mainstream Republicans were not in attendance at that rally, Senator Leibell was not there and that was not due to a 'scheduling conflict'. In fact, the rally focused not on immigration or Obama or taxes, but on the mainstream Republican Party and its failure to adequately represent that segment of voters. (It is interesting to note however that the mood of that group has softened quite substantially over the months as the 'baggers now support Nan Hayworth for Congress, a candidate for whom they had little nice to say about on that hot summer day and who was in favor of woman's rights before the primary but has now softened on that issue in order to secure the 'bagger vote away from the anti-rights candidate, Neil DiCarlo.)

Many words have been written in support of one candidate or the other. Attorney Victor Grossman writes persuasively in support of Vinnie Leibell. Jerry and Judy Ravnitsky write just as movingly in support of Maryellen Odell. But though the writers are registered Democrats neither candidate has seen fit to reach outside their own party factions to drum up votes. Both candidates have refused to engage Blanks and Democrats as if those voters simply do not count and in their world they do not. Why? They cannot be controlled by one faction or another and neither candidate holds power enough to 'get them in line'.

I once explained to Ms. Odell that she could easily win this race by reaching out to Democrats and progressive Republicans and win them over with three simple programs that would not alienate her 'bagger core but she said her strategists insisted there were enough Republicans dissatisfied with the Senator for her to win. If she should win, will she find support among the voters she has disenfranchised through thinking them not important enough to engage in the process? The Senator is just as guilty by the way, and bares equal responsibility for ignoring the vast majority of Putnam's voters as being unimportant.

In other words, the majority of voters in Putnam County are not important enough for either candidate as they wage an intense internecine battle for the hearts and minds of the minority.

If you are a Democrat or a blank or any other registrant aside from Republican this race has nothing to do with you and both candidates have made that abundantly clear. You do not count.

So, what to do? How to vote?

Some say that the Senator has the connections and experience to run the county. I see his tenure in Albany as a disaster evidenced by, well, Albany! While he insists he's only one voice and did what he could to change the system up there the evidence speaks otherwise. He has taken full advantage of his party's lead position in the Senate by enjoying the benefits of a huge multi-room office suite that ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs each year and then bemoaned how unfairly he was being treated when he was relegated to a smaller, two-room suite when his party lost control of the Senate. This is the system. This is how it works up there and had he been interested in changing the way things work in Albany this could have been one small battle to fight - to remove the perks of party control over one house or the other. A small battle perhaps, but one that would have fundamentally changed the way Albany works for the better.

And then there's that $300,000 taxpayer funded bridge to nowhere and the hundreds of thousands more that went to his two non-profits here in the county. And yes, the Senator, whom years back I nicknamed "Uncle Vinnie" for every time you saw him he gave you money just like your favorite uncle, has brought home the bacon but the noise I'm hearing now from Republicans and 'baggers alike is to follow the model set by Assembly member Galef, to not accept earmarks.

Then we have Ms. Odell, a county legislator who was looking to run for the State Assembly but decided not to face off against Steve Katz when he refused to back down. And sure, Greg Ball was looking for someone to challenge the Senator with whom there is a public feud that rivals the Hatfield's and McCoy's save that this one isn't over a stolen pig, and Ms Odell fit his bill.

I have to hand Ms Odell the 2010 "Award for Incredible Bravery" for taking on this race for if she loses her political career is over for daring to challenge Putnam County's most powerful politician. She broke from the Senator's camp when she was treasurer of one of his non-profits taking leave (or being forced out depending on the story you hear) over concerns of how it was being run and I do not see reconciliation in my crystal ball though one never knows what's going on in those backrooms where Putnam Politics are done, especially when the Senator is involved.

But being in the Legislature and close to home she clearly has a better idea of what's going on here than does the Senator and on the surface seems a better fit for the County Executive's job.

So, what to do? I don't have a f*cking clue. Honest. As of this writing my inclination is to vote for myself. A friend who supports Ms. Odell tells me that a vote for myself is a vote for the Senator but then we come back to my belief in not voting for someone in order to vote against someone else.

Personally, I think I'd rock as county executive and unless one of the two reaches out in some tangible way, that's how I'll be voting and encourage you all to do the same. If you simply cannot make up your mind and you feel the county is screwed regardless of who wins in the end, write me in. Write yourself in. Apparently, to the balloted candidates you don't count anyway unless you are a registered Republican, so why vote for either one of them? And if you are a registered Republican and if your faction loses, what will happen then? Consider the penalties before you vote.

If you intend to vote for Mr. Leibell out of fear for your job or position, don't. Don't be bullied for you only make the bully stronger. If you're voting for Ms. Odell only to stop the bullying from the other faction, don't. I need you to vote FOR candidates, not against others and if you cannot find a really good reason to vote for someone, write me in. Write your dog in. Regardless, vote in any case. A large number of write-ins will let either winner know they are in the minority.


At the Congressional level we have John Hall, a moderate Republican in Democrat clothing who reactionaries have inexplicably branded as a socialist! (I wish he was a socialist!) Yet his work on veteran's affairs has been so exemplary it should have earned him the nod from affected groups if they were of independent thought and mind and not working for the national Republican committee. He's running against right-wing Republican, Nan Hayworth, who has no original thought and parrots the NRCC message of the day and has proven through this campaign that she will do exactly what she accuses her opponent of doing: voting in strict lock-step with her party. That would be bad for each and every one of us - especially veterans - unless you happen to own stock in a health insurance company for which she is unabashedly shilling.
But we do have to make a choice here and this, for me, is almost as difficult as the Odell/Leibell race. Not that I'd ever vote for Ms. Hayworth, it's finding reasons to vote for Mr. Hall that I have trouble with.

When a coalition of disaffected progressives came together back in 2006 to run a candidate for Congress we backed John and saw him through a crowded primary field to victory. National Democrats had no interest in backing John as he was perceived as being too liberal and no one thought he had any chance whatsoever of beating banking and insurance industry favorite Sue Kelly. But he did win and that's because we were able to organize voters who supported his three-pronged efforts to end the wars, provide decent health care at a national level and set the nation on a course for a fossil fuel free future.

But I clearly remember the week before the election when the national party finally swooped in and took him away from those who worked for him, not even thanking us for our efforts. Chuck Schumer made sure John would be mainstreamed, his chief of staff was dictated by the Senator, and John fell further away from us, his progressive issues and positions lost in the belly of national party beast.

My friends who are die-hard Hall supporters keep insisting that he will one day come back to the fold but I'm not holding hope of that and I think even they know they are wrong.

But has he been a decent Congressman? As hard as it is for me to say so, yes. He's been pretty good as those things go. While he has been a complete disappointment to progressives he has done a fair job of running a decent office, providing constituent services and yes, fighting Republicans for every penny needed to treat existing veterans and those coming home from the wars. These are the "Support The Troops!" Republicans who vote for budget-busting dollars for wars but deny returning Vets even basic services. And imagine, it takes a Democrat to get these services.

Now, I hope all my progressive friends are sitting down for this: Sitting? Okay. I will be voting for John next Tuesday if only to reward him for the herculean task of pulling from Republicans that which they talk about freely giving and yet refuse at the same time.

If the nation insists on sending our children overseas to fight and die to keep Exxon rich and the war profiteers providing campaign funds we should at least have the decency of providing for these children when they come home. For children they are. Twenty-Two year old's should never see war and we owe them deeply for fucking up their lives. If you want to support the troops, why punish them and ignore them and shun them when they've done your bidding? And if it takes a relapsed progressive do to it, why the hell not.

If you are a Support The Troops kind of person and you are not voting for John Hall I would prefer you to stay home for your duplicity is simply stunning.

Other Local Races:

Other local races are more clearly defined and actually have candidates I would (or will) be happy to vote for.
There are three county Legislative races up this year. In the 5th District I see no reason why voters should not cast their votes for Jerry Furey over Carl Albano and that means you Republicans too. Jerry's a cool dude, has run a few times before and would be a  pretty effective and thoughtful Legislator. An educator, coming out of Lake Carmel he has been a stalwart defender of the lake against unnecessary development and knows the community and the district well.

The 9th legislative district in Mahopac presents Carmel town board member Anthony DiCarlo up against sitting legislator Tony Fusco. Tony has shown he's got the mettle to disturb the complacent nature of the Legislature while Mr. DiCarlo has not shown any desire to upset any apple-carts and seems quite happy with business as usual in that town, a municipality that could use a little political upsetting if not an outright revolution. The race is another one of these Leibell races where he has personally chosen and backed Mr. DiCarlo for he knows that if he should win the CE race and Mr. Fusco returns to the Legislature that questions will be asked and that would just ruin the Senator's day. Every day. As it should. The County Legislature needs independent voices - especially if Leibell wins and Mr. Fusco is one of those voices.

In the 99th Assembly district, Yorktown's Brendan Tully has proven himself a talented and successful community activist and would serve that district well in Albany.

In the 90th, Sandy Galef, now that she's changed her vote on marriage equality and who has proven over her career that she can work with anyone (yes, even me,) should be sent back to Albany. And, for you Republicans and 'baggers out there: she does not accept earmarks which I understand is a stated platform for your votes. Let's see if you are true to your words.


Howie Hawkins is the Green party candidate for governor. He's not a racist. He's not the son of a former governor who feels entitled to the office. He's just a common dude working for the best that the Empire State can provide its citizens and its citizens to each other.
If elected, Mr. Hawkins would end the rebating of the stock transfer tax which would generate $16 billion in state income. He would enact a more progressive state income tax as opposed to the flat tax we have now that punishes the working classes for, well, working. That alone would bring in an additional $7.7 billion while reducing the income taxes for most New Yorkers.

For the record, the transfer tax was first enacted in 1907 and until 1981 the state kept those dollars. In an effort to keep Wall Street from moving to New Jersey the state decided to refund the tax each year to the companies that paid it. In essence, borrowing from Wall Street for the price of the interest income earned with the state losing altogether but the likes of Goldman Saks, making billions.

In an effort to reform Albany Mr. Hawkins parrots my oft-written need for a true multi-party system based on a proportional system that would generate consensus as opposed to compromise. Compromise in politics means everyone loses except the rich and powerful. Consensus would require everyone to agree.

Mr. Hawkins also proposes altering the rules of the state Legislature so that party control did not come with billions in perks and handouts.

Anyway, there's more and I encourage all of you to consider Mr. Hawkins for your vote come election day. I know he'll be getting mine and he should be getting yours too. I don't hear either one of the major candidates talking about anything other than each other. Mr. Hawkins is talking about you and our future and deserves your consideration and support.
The complete list of candidates on the ballot next Tuesday is here. (PDF)
Subscribe to the News That Matters RSS Feed and stay up-to-date.

FBNews That Matters
on Facebook

Support Our Sponsors

Interior/Exterior House Painting by someone you can trust. (845) 225-2104 House

Joe Greico's
Out On A Limb

All types of tree work, all aspects of lawn maintenance, snow plowing and more!

82 Hortontown Rd.
Kent Cliffs, NY 10512
T- (914)224-3049
F- (845)231-0815

Town of Kent Conservation
Advisory Committee

Mt. Nimham Fire Tower

Explore the outdoors in the Town of Kent, New York

Chuckie Goodnight Foundation
To educate children on how to be good stewards of the earth.

Chris Casaburi

(845) 531-2358

Brown Ink
Commercial Printing

600 Horsepound Road,
Kent Lakes, NY 10512
(845) 225-0177
Greg Brown

One Click ButterCutter
A Putnam County Owned Business Enterprise

Copyright © 2010 News That Matters