Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Political Genius of Kate Murray

(Blogger's Note - 30 days, almost a full month - still no apology from Joe Mondello. Any day now, Chairman)

There has been little news on the Lighthouse front since the final DGEIS was submitted to the Town of Hempstead on June 11. Both sides have, apparently, been heads-down working on the process for final approvals, and all I've asked say that this process will be released as soon as it is finished between the County, the Town, and the Lighthouse.

In this lull, I have been amazed to note the almost complete crash in traffic to this site. I know I've been busy and unable to update as much as I'd like, but it seems like many people who were gung-ho about the Lighthouse when things looked their bleakest were suddenly not commenting or emailing with their previous frequency. I started to think about this, and with the help of reader Matthew B. who sent a fabulous email, I finally had to say it:

I take back those posts calling it Amateur Hour in Hempstead - at least I would if they weren't true at the time. In this instance, Kate Murray has pulled off what can only be described as a stroke of political genius.

Recent Actions - What Changed?

Reader Matthew B - who, as I mentioned earlier, wrote me a brilliant email last week, had one more excellent point. Everybody changes positions over time; I know I have different positions on some controversial issues than I did years ago. However, you very rarely see a complete 180 done in such a short time. Remember, Kate Murray preached patience and a long process to a meeting in Garden City the day before she appeared at the Planning Council and committed to move forward with the process. In the span of 24 hours, and less than 2 weeks after Joe Mondello told pro-Lighthouse voter Joe Conte to "blow it out [his] dufflebag," the politician that people in Garden City called an ally from "all the craziness (read: improvement) surrounding us" became fully on the side of moving the Lighthouse forward.

What changed? I think I can sum it up in two words: Kristen McElroy.

I mentioned before that Kate Murray should be considered a heavy favorite for re-election in the Town of Hempstead. However, her opponent, a young, telegenic politician who gave another entrenched Republican a run for his money last year, presented a unique challenge. Ms. McElroy could galvanize the voters on one issue: the Lighthouse. The blogosphere and message boards lit up with people offering to work toward electing Kristen McElroy, even those who did not live within the Town of Hempstead. Most observers thought that an opponent who was staunchly pro-Lighthouse could create an interesting dynamic against Judge Murray, who reached for every excuse to explain her Lighthouse behavior, despite clear evidence that she was taking a position.

Now, what did this 180 do? It accomplished a twofold goal for Kate Murray - she took Kristen McElroy's main issue away without having to make that large of a concession. Remember, the Supervisor came out of her meeting with Charles Wang and Tom Suozzi promising little more than to....have another meeting! However, the political implications are enormous. For at least a few months, the Lighthouse has ceased to be a winning issue for Kristen McElroy. She cannot criticize Kate Murray for not moving the Lighthouse forward because Ms. Murray can then point to the promise of having more meetings, and if the worst happens she can blame parties other than herself for the delay (e.g. "the DGEIS wasn't ready for public comments" - remember the ambiguity in the law, or "the State is playing games and not holding up its side of the bargain"). In a political sense, the perception of support is enough, and many voters have gone home believing they've won. There are even quotes from Tom Suozzi and Charles Wang that Kate Murray can use, claiming that "all sides are in sync" and they are "turning the page."

This is a clear attempt by Kate Murray to strike a knockout blow in her re-election campaign before her opponent even has a campaign apparatus in place (speaking of which - shouldn't the McElroy camp be on that?). They have done enough action to placate many voters while not immediately taking substantive steps forward.

What Does this Mean?

Many Lighthouse opponents clearly believe that those who support the project are a fringe group. However, attendance at public meetings, polling, and the actions of some political parties lead us to believe otherwise.

I surmised previously that the Republicans in the Town of Hempstead are scared - witness a hysterical insult from the State Republican Chairman to a 24-year-old voter who stands about 5-foot-6, and the near physical confrontation some Kate Murray supporters almost instigated. However, there is larger proof: Kate Murray is not running for County Executive.

I speculated months ago that the Supervisor may have been behaving this way to prepare for a County Executive run. However, the Republican Party chose to keep Kate Murray in the Town of Hempstead for at least another election cycle and nominate Legis. Ed Mangano, who can only be described as a sacrificial lamb, barring a major misstep from Tom Suozzi.

So, think about it: Kate Murray is not running for higher office, even though most speculated she would. She is taking steps to placate pro-Lighthouse voters despite a rather small and nascent movement. They are scared - and they seem to think that being on the wrong side of the Lighthouse issue is a political loser for them. It will be interesting to see how this moves forward.

Bottom Line

I want to believe Kate Murray. I desperately want to believe that the corner has been turned and we are all pulling toward the common goal of making the Lighthouse become reality. However, I hope you will forgive me for being skeptical.

I will once again thank the Supervisor for agreeing to attend meetings and to work on the process for moving the Lighthouse forward expeditiously. However, as I've been saying, this should be taken with a grain of salt given previous statements and the obstruction that typified her response for over 6 months before this latest period of openness.

The completeness hearing dates should be announced soon, and this is where we will begin to see the true nature of this sudden change. Given the nature of Lighthouse supporters, I think it is almost a given that the Town of Hempstead will move the Lighthouse into public comments, but we must remain on the lookout.

What should we do, as voters who support the Lighthouse? We should keep supporting it, as forcefully and respectfully as we have done in the past.

Our movement cannot afford to let up now - remember, our work is not over until shovels are in the ground. Do not let these politicians think so little of you - the appearance of action should not replace real, substantive action. Continue holding Kate Murray (and all other officials) accountable until we see real movement forward for this essential project.

Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Email Me. Follow me on Twitter.

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there. Miss you, Dad.


  1. You said it... Murray's good at political "scheming"...We need will just have to keep our eye's on things and make sure Murray follows thru on her rhetoric...Keep them accountable...I think we need to give her the benefit of the doubt until after the July 11th meeting and make sure the next step is made into public comments...

    If she only puts it off for another date, we pounce!!!

    We demand accountability...

  2. She isnt a political genius...its the oldest trick in the book. Public perception. But-I dnt mean to be rude to a well written article.

    Youre are right about one thing-her opponent, McElroy needs to react and react soon.

    I dnt beleive a word Murray is saying.

  3. Yes Kristen McElroy will eventually have to react but that time is not now. The true draa in a political campaign plays out in Sept. and Oct. and reaches a climax in Nov. No-one is going to remember anything that is said now come those important months lying down the road. The real question that you missed Nick is how are the people in GC going to react to what they may perceive as a stab in the back as a result of KMs 24 hour 180. Do they decide to support the hometown girl over the politician (yes I am using the word as a perjorative) that played them for suckers? We will know when the time for airing commercials begin and the mudslinging is loosed because the number of 'buys' is based on the size of the candidates warchest and GC has a lot of dough to give. oon the next shoe will drop ...

  4. Oliver - good catch. You're right that the Garden City problem has not gone away and that it deserves more coverage. I plan to cover that in a separate piece this week since, as your smart comment shows, it is a lengthy topic. It fits in with the larger question of whether the Lighthouse will be a major issue in the campaign.

  5. Spot on with this post. Despite the fact that we're trying to distinguish the Lighthouse from the Islanders, I'd venture a guess that the majority of your readers are Islanders fans. You know as well as I do that 99% of fans focus is on the draft (I literally mean 99%, at the expense of jobs, family...haha). That, coupled with the positive direction the TOH "appears" to be taking, results in less attention to LH issues. After Friday hopefully people will re-focus on the LH and stay diligent.


  6. I have to admit I have not checked in here as often as when this issue was hot, so you are right.
    I agree that we need to keep maximum pressure on Ms. Murray. I would like to make a campaign contribution to Kristen McElroy (even though I no longer live in the TOH). But I can't figure out how to do it! Google her name - the first site that comes up is her State Senate campaign web site. Also on the first page are links to Chris Botta's blog, as well as a link to....this blog!
    I want to help her - she needs to help us. Nick, do you know where she is accepting contributions?

  7. Currently Kristen McElroy does not have a live site for her Hempstead Supervisor campaign. I don't understand it either, but I will report when something changes.

    Funny thing - funnier than your experience - if you Google SEQR Steps this blog is the first thing back, ahead of the state Dept of Environmental Conservation.