Thursday, February 19, 2009

Editorial: Voters' Choice Tossed - No Place for TKO at Polticial Ringside

In the 32nd City Council district which covers parts of Richmond Hill, Ozone and South Ozone Parks, Woodhaven, Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel and parts of the Rockaway peninsula, a special election for the city council seat will take place next Tuesday, February 24.

Although for our readers in the West, the election is not directly connected to their district, we wanted to share this editorial with them because what has happened in the 32nd could easily occur in any district, leaving constituents vulnerable and at the hands of those seeking elected office for all the wrong reasons.

In many past elections, this newspaper has endorsed candidates for various elections. This time our endorsement is somewhat unconventional. It goes to a candidate who is not in the race. His name is Frank Gulluscio and the reason Frank will not win this special election in because he was removed from the ballot due to a ruling by a judge in reference to the manner in which subpoenas for his petitions were served.

The purpose of gathering signatures for nominating petitions is for candidates to demonstrate that they have enough support from their potential constituents. We agree that there should be challenges to such volumes where flaws and defects exist concerning those who actually witnessed the signatures or in meeting requisite numbers of signatures, providing, of course, they were collected with no fraud involved.

But Geraldine Chapey has succeeded in making a mockery of the petition process, hiring a top-dollar election lawyer to get her opponents off the ballot not on the merit or quality of their signatures but technicalities that do not reflect the desire of the voters. To us that would strongly suggest that the voice of the people can be overruled by an error in paperwork or procedure. This we find inexcusable and void of ethic.

Last week we commented on the Wave’s debate in Rockaway where questions regarding Chapey’s city and state taxpayer funded Trinity Services were left unanswered in the minds of many. Chapey’s contemptuous attitude when a similar question arose from an audience member re-introduced the subject at this Thursday’s debate. It infuriated the crowd. At one point Chapey directed a comment to the audience. “If you don’t want to listen then please go outside.”

Chapey’s Trinity Services has been the recipient of well over a million dollars to provide youth and senior services. It is not an unfair question to ask who is employed by the program and how much of the money is spent on staffing. It’s not unreasonable to ask any other question regarding the disbursement of those public funds by a not-for-profit agency subject to public disclosure rules.

Another question that did not get asked but in our view requires an answer has been floating around regarding Trinity. People all across this country have been questioning and expressing dissatisfaction with the role lobbyists have been playing. Many believe, that a lot of our tax dollars have been wasted because lobbyists have influenced far too much in government to “feed” their clients from the public coffers.

A roam around another of our favorite sources of public information, the city’s lobbyist and client database, reveals some factoids. Between April 1, 2005 and December 31, 2008 Trinity Services, Inc. was the client of some well-known lobbyists to the tune of more than $60,000. Whose pockets did that money come out of as it moved into the pockets of the lobbyists is a fair question. Is that what the proceeds of the annual Trinity Luncheon were spent on? Is that what the “donations” to ride the van were spent on? Who knows? But, there are voters who want to know.

As if all this were not enough, the whole “pay to play” issue took another twist this week as the Daily News reported on an odd contribution to Chapey’s campaign coffers from the Bishop of Brooklyn. Bishops don’t usually mix themselves up publicly in “big” political races, much less the most local of local races. It doesn’t take much to agree that the “smell test” has turned in a pretty big failure in this case. Seems Candidate Chapey’s mother, the other Geraldine is a member of the State Education Department’s Board of Regents. The regents have a big say so when it comes to approving charter schools.

Now we’re not opposed to charter schools, but if a scheme is afoot to create them as political “rewards” rather than as a viable public education option for our children then something smells - please excuse the pun - to high heaven. Glenn DiResto got it right when he said in the News article, "It creates a suspicion of impropriety. This is politics as usual.”

Chapey was successful in narrowing the field of candidates. Her success was the voters’ loss. As candidates, both Frank Gulluscio and Eric Ulrich stood head and shoulders above Simon, Chapey, and Ricatto in all respects. Democracy lost in this round. Frank’s out, Eric’s in. The choice for the time being is clear as a bell. In November, we can all tune in for the race that should have been now.

The Forumnewsgroup/photo by JULIE COURT

No comments: