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|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 Moveon.org. 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.
The County Executive's RaceIn 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.
Congress: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.
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.
Governor: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.The complete list of candidates on the ballot next Tuesday is here. (PDF)
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