"The ideal form of government is Democracy tempered by assassination" - Voltaire
In a February 26, 2013 article entitled 'Democrats fire up for Rockland County Exec Race' The Journal News reported that "three Democrats who want to become Rockland’s next county executive officially began duking it out Monday during an appearance before some of their party’s faithful".
Ilan Schoenberger, David Fried, Dagan Lacorte attended an Orangetown Democratic Committee meeting to present their positions. Given that the County's fiscal situation should be the only issue, what were the solutions offered to meet a nearly $100 million deficit and a bond rating one notch above junk status?
Fried said he would "reduce the cost of the County Executive’s office by 10 percent" which should save a couple of thousands of dollars in a multi-million dollar problem. He would also "fire the outside company that handles the county’s union negotiations" which sounds great but would save nothing.
Lacorte said he would "oppose borrowing $96.4 million to pay down the deficit". Instead he "would consolidate boards and commissions and establish a planning commission of independent engineers to replace what he termed “political engineers” at the county Planning Department". He also said he would "fire the county’s independent auditors."
Sounds great! The union negotiators will be fired by Fried and the auditors will be fired by Lacorte.
Total savings? Nothing!
Schoenberger, said he will "put $96.4 million debt on the County's books to get rid of the deficit with a 'deficit-reduction bond'".
Sounds great! The union negotiators and the auditors will be fired and 'deficit spending' will become 'debt owed in the future'.
Schoenberger offered an additional treat - he will "open the County Executive’s office up so members of the public can feel comfortable about stopping by".
The Democrats are off to a great start! Might I inquire if Shoenberger will be serving tea or coffee at his office soirées and will the donuts be free or added to the County's exploding debt?
On the Republican side of the political equation we have County Legislator Ed Day as that party's candidate.
Or is he?
Since Day announced that he will run for the County Executive’s post the Rockland County Republican Chairman, Vinny Reda, has been strangely silent about his candidacy. Day is a retired New York City police detective commander who also served as chief of detectives for Baltimore and now works in the private security field. He is an independent guy who may not wish to play "puppet on a string" to the political puppet masters in the County.
Consider what happened when Frank Sparaco announced he would run for a position in Albany. Reda was first to the microphone extolling the virtues of Sparaco's 'service' in the navy leaving Sparaco to recite from an ill-prepared statement that his campaign had not been financed by members of organized crime.
Sparaco has since been parked in what surely must be a temporary patronage job as a $75,000 per year part-time telephone operator, one of many approved by the Clarkstown Town board which is under the nominal supervision of Supervisor Gromack but is suspected to be under the control of the Conservative Party leader, Ed Lettre. Given the distaste of this appointment as expressed by the Journal News it is unlikely that Sparaco sees his 'job' lasting beyond the November 2013 election when Ballard will probably be removed by the voters in favor of Democrat Dennis Malone who has vowed to fire Sparaco if elected.
One therefore must wonder at what 'job' Sparaco might next try his hand?
Hard as it is to sort through, much less verify, among the political rumors that are constantly swirling through the towns of Rockland a curious one persists. Several usually reliable sources seem to believe that Sparaco will "throw his hat into the ring” for the County Executive position. This move would put him in direct conflict with Day for the Repubican Party nomination. Further, these same insiders seem to believe that Sparaco is working to be in control of all three of the minority party lines, i.e. the Conservative, Independence, and Working Families Parties which I consider to be 'cuckoo' parties. Indeed it appears to be the talk of Clarkstown that Sparaco has been assured the Conservative Party line by Lettre and he has been actively seeking recruits for the Working Families party in what appears to be a repeat performance of the activity that landed his mother-in-law, Debra Ortutay, in prison over recruitment efforts for the Independence Party.
If these political rumors prove true then the following questions will arise ....
Why would Republicans, arguably in disarray from recent election losses under the woe-begotten leadership of Reda and finding it hard to find future candidates of high ethical standards and governing ability, allow a schism to develop from a Primary that would only benefit the Democrats?
Day has the present advantage of watching the Democrats spend campaign funds in a Primary that, by its’ nature, will have them at each other’s throats. Such an admittedly slim advantage would be negated by the entry of Sparaco into the race.
If the present rumors circulating in Republican circles are to be believed, they lead one to ask some interesting questions:
• Why would Reda sanction a candidacy that can only fracture the Republican party in an already difficult race? Some Republicans believe that Reda may wish to support and mentor Sparaco and may not feel warmly towards Day but surely ethical behavior would place the Republican Party's overall interests above those of a single individual?
• Why would Sparaco, who is also relatively under-funded and just managed to win his run for Legislator by a very small margin, want to challenge and drain resources from a fellow Republican in a far more difficult race? Is Sparaco a Republican; is he a Conservative: is he an Independencer, or is he just a 'poor working boy' trying to build the liberal leaning Working Families party into a national institution? Is it his goal to weaken Day financially so that Day will lose to the more heavily funded and bloc-supported Democrat, Shoenberger? Is Reda tacitly supporting Democrat Schoenberger over Day as, according to Ralph Sabatini, he tacitly supported Democrat Gromack over Sabatini in the 2011 Clarkstown's Supervisor's race? With past cross-endorsements maybe Reda has forgotten to which party he supposedly belongs?
• Is this race for County Executive just all about the money, as is so often the case in local politics? Sparaco has no apparent source of income other than from politics. His position as Legislator only pays $32+ thousand, hardly a living wage, and is being supplemented by a $75,000 patronage position in the Clarkstown Highway Department approved by Clarkstown Supervisor, Democrat Alex Gromack at the expense of the Clarkstown taxpayers and Highway Superintendent Ballard's future employability prospects.
• Has Sparaco been promised the Conservative Line by Clarkstown Town employee, Ed Lettre, which would be denied to Ed Day? Sparaco was an attendee at the House of Horrors meeting called by Lettre to keep Lettre in charge of the Conservative party. Lettre was successfully anointed at the infamous Yom Kippur convention.
One wonders if Day is too independent of mind to be acceptable to the shadow masters behind the scenes and if he did manage to hold on to the Republican Party nomination over a Sparaco challenge might he receive only the same luke-warm support Ralph Sabatini obtained from Reda in the 2011 race for supervisor of the Town of Clarkstown?
Sparaco may be the best candidate from the narrow perspective of the County's entrenched interests, namely the Republican 'voice elected' Chairman of the Republican Party, Vinnie Reda, the Bronx Republican Party Chairman and patronage appointee in the Gromack administration, Jay Savino, and Ed Lettre, Leader of the Conservative Party, and a town employee who can call meetings of his nominal bosses on the Clarkstown Town Board at a moment's notice.
But what, apart from this triumvirate's support, does Sparaco offer to the overtaxed voters of Rockland County? Sparaco can point to his business experience in having run a tanning salon and a vending machine business where he has had to deal with some small 'profits' and larger 'losses'. He has sat in the front row of the legislature for the past couple of years listening to Day's ideas for tackling the County's deficit while voting 'No' repeatedly. Not surprisingly, he has recently made a big push to establish himself as the spokesperson for the 'guns' if not the 'butter' issues in the County and has been able to attract Chairman Reda to be photographed by his side.
One thing candidates will need is the ability to throw a good political punch. Sparaco's references to Democrat Carlucci as the 'boy sent to Albany to do a man's job' and the 'egghead in Albany' reveal that his 'thrust and parry' skills as revealed by these expressions of petty jealousy may come up short against the debating skills of Candidate Day in a Primary contest for the Republican nomination. If those skills do indeed fail him, as most expect that they will, it is to be hoped that Reda's 'golden boy' will not fall back to organizing a mailing campaign against Day's candidacy as he did against fellow Republican, Sabatini, in the last election for Town Supervisor of Clarkstown. One knows the cuckoo bird by its song.
At the end of the day where will the taxpayer be when all of this political intrigue by the 'puppet masters' of the minor 'cuckoo' parties is over?
One thing certain is that if the voters fail to see which candidate will work for their interests, and not for the interests of a particular bloc or for the interests of the party 'puppet masters', then each of us who pay property taxes will shortly be handing over the keys to our homes as payment for Rockland County's bankruptcy.
The puppeteers may then be laughing all the way to the bank.
This article was written by Michael N. Hull and Ralph Sabatini.
Hull is a retired senior citizen who writes about local politics and philosophy. Sabatini is a Repubican Committee member and was the Republican candidate for Supervisor of Clarkstown in 2011.