Saturday, September 10, 2005

Black & White & Gray All Over

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!

Denise

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Regettably, we agree with your cynical assessment of POLITICS AS USUAL in Riverhead.

The Sad Realty is that the current UNHOLY Alliance in Town Hall has made foolish decisions that have harmed our Town for years:

Cardinale and Kent orchestrated that last $17,000 an acre FIRE SALE at EPCAL;

Blass wrote the Master PLAN (?) that brought us a thoroughfare filled with used car lots and fast food joints, plus a CEMENT PLANT at Calverton;

DOUBLE-DIPPING Rose collects two fat PAY CHECKS signed by JOHN Q. TAXPAYER

H E L P !!!!

Nicole Fanelli-Burke said...

Wow, I'm wondering if the last writer actually read Denise's most recent entry. I'm guessing it might have been too long...

Anyway, I agree with you Denise. It does take a little discipline to appreciate what we have. I too have piles of laundry, grocery shopping and three wonderful children to take care of. It's important to keep things in perspecitve.

For that matter, we cannot forget what happened on September 11, 2001 and what has just recently happened in the "care free" city of New Orleans. As much as I've begun to see this all as a slow-approaching Armageddon, I also realize that maybe the lesson God is trying to teach us is to appreciate what we have. It may be cliche, but life is short - for some shorter than others.

That doesn't mean that it is not our priviledge, our responsibility, to question our government leaders about the way these disasters are addressed. I don't agree with the opinion that we need to "back our leaders" just because they are our leaders. That's a dictatorship, not a democracy. We can and should criticize our president (and our local officials) when it is appropriate. Just to blindly trust and follow is simply naive.

But this is only an opinion.

Please don't forget to stop and take a moment to reflect tomorrow. We cannot forget 9/11.

Anonymous said...

A FORMER Cardinale Supporter says:

The Supervisor may want to look the other way from his staff's brazen associations, but the CITIZENS know what's going on.

With his secret meetings, the stop work order on his cottage and his SON-in LAW's televised appearances before Town officials, we think Cardinale has made a mockery of the Code of Ethics

Thanks to the CONCERNED CITIZENS that have exposed these little secrets

rich said...

denise:

If we do he math on he WILPON deal that is being literally pushed and forced on the people of Riverhead, it does no add up.

Wilpon buys the land for $66,000,000 million dollars...spends another (estimated) $150,000,000 dollars to build a hotel,golf course and 108 1/2 million dollar condos!!...it just does not add up!!!

I think...there is something more brewing here. Mr Cardinale is either not asking the right questions or is ignorant to the fact that WILPON...will do what ever he wants once he gets the land...more time should be spent investigating this deal....it appears...the supervisor is pushing this for the elecion....this must not be a poliical football....wait to after the election.....study the effects this will have on the town.What is the difference if we wait a couple of months...If WILPON says he won't wait!! then that is to bad...

Anonymous said...

Ms Civiletti

I wonder if the towns people are aware that there is a new cement plant being built at EPCAL.This has been blessed by the Cardinale administration...rushed through and passed.....4-1....

Holy cow!!!!! this means that tracter trailers will be pouring out of EPCAL all day and night loaded with cement bags...

Is it surprising that the board did not think about the effects this plant will have on the area...I ask people to check it out...cement plants are the 7th worst polutters of the enviorement...this plant will operate 6,000 hours a year...that is equal to 5 days a week 24 hours a day...

The roads will not be able o handle heavy tractor trailers...pollution in the form of acidic ash will be in the air... and this is acceptable by NYDEC!!!!

There will be jobs!!!...$8 an hours ones all you want...

Nice going Town Board....

Anonymous said...

As a working guy struggling to make it, I'm offended when I see supposed Civil Servants with $750,000 homes and new cars and boats...

Sorry....I don't want an $8.00 job as a BELL HOP in Wilpon World

At least, they now know someone is WATCHING ==00==

Anonymous said...

if there is a cement plant, is it

connected to the sand mine, excuse me the man made lake?

They need sand and plenty of it to make cement...

what say you? (DR.) PHIL

Anonymous said...

How could.. BLASS say she is for the enviorement, when she voted for the sand mine at EPCAL and now she wants to build MILLION AIR VILLAS on 400 acres of land and knock down thousands of tree....!!!!OF COURSE........ ROSE SAUNDERS WILL VOTE THE SAME WAY!!!

SORRY I CANNOT COME TO TO THE NEXT TOWN MEETING,BECAUSE I CAN'T AFFORD THE GAS...

Anonymous said...

Cement Plants in Calverton, a Garbage Train through the Pine Barrens, Grandmothers killed in the Library

Do we deserve this?

Thanks Phil, Barbara and Rose

Anonymous said...

25 Years of Barbara Blass' Planning:

**A Boarded Up Down Town****
+++Used Car Lots and Hamburger Stands all over Rt. 58
***Malls that don't pay real taxes***
--CEMENT PLANTS
and...a PSYCHIATRIC Hotel on Main Street

WE'VE HAD ENOUGH

Anonymous said...

where is AMPER!!!!!

cement plant
sand mine
millionaire condos
thousands of trees destroyed

###rumor has it if you give amper enough money he will leave you alone###

Anonymous said...

In all fairness to Blass, I think she was only on planning for 19 years. Which, thinking back and looking back at pictures, 19 or 25 years was basically rural open space. Actually it was almost that way before Home Depot, Tanger and all the "major development"

She does brag about her tenure on the Planning Baord, which if you look at the 19 years of Route 58, seems contrary to her "environmental" position now.

Where was her environmental wisom 19 years ago? Driving down Route 58 now, which most of us don't do, was an early sell out of the town in my mind.

And according to Barbara, she and Rose have different interests or focuses, Rose's is recreation. We have an unused skate park that cost this town a million dollars and the recreation group is looking for a 60 acres park at Grumman that will cost multi -millions. I have never heard whether we can justify the expense with use or maintenance. And then there is the talk of making the old dump into another 70 acre park in the same hamlet. Do we need 170 +/- parks in Calverton? What will it cost and can we afford it?

Will the Willpon money go to these projects that won't decrease our taxes?

Thank you Barbara and Rose, I am not sure for what yet, as I travel around this town and look at the past development of Route 58 and the proposals for parks. What have the both of you really done for the taxpayers today?

We are not a wealthy town.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Riverhead Resident said...

I don't agree with everything the current administration has done or plans to do, but the people who are commenting here seem to forget that stupid decisions about EPCAL pre-date this administration by a long shot! First the town sold the heart of the industrial complex to an out of town developer for a song. Thank you Vinny & Phil & Chris. Then Koz & company lie to the townsepeople and say they will get us out of that stupid contract, which they knew they couldn't do. THEN Koz & company -- the alliance of Bob, Ed & Jim, who routinely cut Barbara & Rose out of the decision making process in the days of boys against girls at Town Hall -- are ready to GIVE AWAY the runways at Grumman to another out of towner, Mark Hourraney, without so much as a public hearing never mind a public bid! And he was planning to operate his own airport there, if you looked at his website at the time: the gateway to the Hamptons & NYC...avoid the congestion of NYC airports...fly into Calverton! Then the town paid thousands of dollars to some "consultant" to download boilerplate airport regulations off the internet and slap our name on them--airport regulations that were written for a commercial passenger & freight airport no less! How about the Field Day debacle? Or the air show debacle? Do you think the local hospital would've seen a plug nickel out of that mess if the local newspaper didn't get all over their case and expose what was going on? And the town let the air show guy have Grumman FOR FREE so he could walk off with the gate! Meanwhile they haven't even bothered to sue him to get the money he owes the town for police protection--really just a fractionof what the town spent on the event. That's the kind of stuff EDDIE has tried to pull on us. It's a shame that these are our choices in November and all we can do is pick the lesser of two evils!

Anonymous said...

Nicely summarized, too bad our choices have been further reduced.

A Very Concerned Riverhead Resident