I knew going into this (the blog thing) that it could/would be a free-for-all. The internet provides people with complete anonymity and anonymity doesn't necessarily bring out the best in people. When you don't have to be held accountable for what you write, it's easy to be reckless about it.
I certainly don't want to play censor here. I agree with the person who commented on my last post that it's too bad that some one or some people want to turn every single subject into another opportunity to bash one of the local politicians.
It should be obvious to anyone with half a brain that all of the town's many complicated and difficult issues aren't the fault of one man or one woman or even one administration. Throwing this or that bum out or getting rid of all of them will still leave us with the same problems tomorrow, none of which has an easy solution.
We're wrestling right now with problems that are a result of past inaction, lack of vision, lack of courage on the part of town, county, state and federal governments alike -- not to mention The Way Things Work to favor those private interests that grease the wheels of government and political parties with donations and outright bribes, as well as with more subtle influences such as dinner and drinks, baskets of cheer at Christmas time, tickets to a Knicks game, or even something as small as a few dozen Krispy Kreme donuts strategically delivered to Town Hall offices.
Politicians want to get reelected. They need money to fund their campaigns and votes in the polling booths. To get both of those, they have to make friends with people who have money to contribute -- enter the developers and their representatives -- and they have to avoid pissing off too many people in the community. This combination doesn't lend itself to maintaining strong principles and achieving high ideals.
In 1987, at the age of 29, I got myself elected to the Riverhead Town Board quite by accident. Not that I didn't want to get elected, and not that I didn't run a serious -- or good -- race. I got elected -- a young, unknown, new-to-town Democrat in a town where Republicans outnumbered Democrats two to one -- mostly because Vic Prusinowski, the incumbent seeking reelection, pissed too many people off. He didn't get the Conservative committee's designation, then he ran a primary for the Conservative nomination. The primary ended in a tie--yes, a tie! If Vic had made some calls and gotten just one more person out to vote... But he thought he was a lock. Election Law allowed the Conservative committee to make the choice, and they were allowed to pick anyone. They picked me.
I was a Democratic nominee that year mostly because they had no one else silly enough to waste their time taking on Vic Prusinowski, a homegrown Republican with a Polish surname. It was considered a lost cause. I remember the Saturday morning when Bob Tomlinson, our Democratic committee chairman, called and excitedly informed me that I had the Conservative endorsement. Being young and naive and-- as Supervisor Joe Janoski would tell me many times over the course of the next four years -- "too damned idealistic," I told Bob I couldn't possibly accept the Conservative line, I didn't agree with any part of their platform, from abortion to land use regulation. Bob raced from his house in Wading River to my house in Riverhead in about five minutes and sat me down in my kitchen and told me flat-out I couldn't refuse this endorsement, it could mean the election, they wouldn't ask me about my views on abortion and they wouldn't make me promise them anything about land use regulation. "Don't be stupid," he told me. In the end, the couple hundred votes I got on Row "C" put me over the top and I became the first woman in the history of the town to be elected to a full four-year term as "Councilman." (Bob's wife, Jessie, had been elected to finish out the term of someone who had vacated his Town Board seat previous to that, becoming this town's first-ever elected councilwoman.)
Being a local elected official, and being so deeply involved in local politics was a real eye-opening experience.
One big lesson I learned was that, on the outside looking in, everything seems quite black and white. When you're sitting there, charged with making a collaborative decision with four other people, that will affect people's lives and livelihoods in town, everything becomes a shade of gray. There are no easy choices, no easy answers, from the smallest site plan question, like where's the best spot for a dumpster in the municipal parking lot, to the really big questions, like what to do with all the garbage and sewage produced by the town's residents.
I loved working in government. But I hated politics. And I STUNK at politics. I'm bad with names and I'm too transparent. And I find it all very ugly. The deeply partisan people, no matter what their political stripes, are really passionate and can get extremely nasty, on a very personal level. They have one goal and one goal only: to get their "team" elected. And many of them don't care what they say or do or how much they hurt people in the process, even when they're totally making stuff up about people. And they will bite into something, dig their teeth in and hang onto it no matter what.
Which brings us back to this blog. That's why I think we can continue to expect some people to post snipes at Phil or Ed or Rose or Barbara or John or Darren or Robert or Vince or Bill (hope I covered all bases here) as comments on completely unrelated subjects.
Yes, I know, as they say, in the end, everything is politics. But sometimes I want to watch my daughters looking at themselves in the mirror and just be in that moment. Sure I worry about where they're going to work and where they're going to live. And I realize it's probably not going to be around here. That's more than sad, considering this town has been home to my husband's family for generations. But it's naive to think that one Town Board or one supervisor could change all that at this stage of the game. Look around. It's no different anywhere on Long Island.
That being said, I'm going grocery shopping. Then there are mountains of laundry to do and garden chores to tackle. A typical Saturday. But I'm grateful we can put food on the table, keep a roof over our family's head and have a garden to pull weeds out of. Sometimes it takes discipline to remember to be grateful and not take anything for granted. Sometimes all it takes is flipping on the news.
Have a blessed day!