2009-03-13 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Ulrich Won Due To A Lack Of Viable Alternatives
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Many Rockaway voters were caught in a real bind when they went to the polls on February 24.

They wanted a person who lives on the peninsula to represent them, but the two locals who were on the ballot were problematic.

Actually, I have heard that from many people and have to say for the sake of full disclosure that I was in the same bind that they were.

Had Glenn DiResto remained on the ballot, although he is a political neophyte, at least he would have been a viable alternative to Geraldine Chapey and Lew Simon.

Surrogates Harold Cornell and Noreen Ellis, acting at the behest of Chapey, worked to get DiResto (as well as Democratic front-runner Frank Gulluscio) off the ballot on minor technicalities.

That left voters with four alternatives:

Eric Ulrich: The ultimate winner is a nice young kid with very little in the way of practical experience and a wealth of Conservative Republican baggage.

You didn't see a very special Ulrich ad in The Wave, but it was handed out at area churches on the Sunday prior to the election.

The flyer showed Ulrich shaking hands with the late Pope, in what was obviously photoshopped to make to look like he actually met the Pope. On that page, it said, "Catholics are united behind one candidate for City Council …. Eric Ulrich." Somehow, I really don't think the Pope endorsed a candidate.

On the other side, it pointed out that Ulrich would be a strong voice for Catholics should he win. The flyer says that Ulrich is "pro-life, conservative Catholic; a supporter of school choice and vouchers for Catholic school parents. In fact, he said that he would make school vouchers his priority in the council.

Funny, but he never mentioned those things in his discussion with Wave staff.

While Ulrich is the antithesis of everything I want in a legislator, I'm not too worried. He won't be around long. He is like a top baseball player who is playing out his option year and will become a free agent at the end of the season and who is traded to another team to help that team in the pennant race. He is rented for the remainder of the season.

He won only because the other three alternatives were so bad.

Geraldine Chapey: Chapey thought she had it won until she refused to answer questions about where the money allocated by the city for her nonprofit van service goes. The question was asked in several ways in several different venues, and in each, she refused to say. I believe that is because she and others draw serious salaries from the $100,000 plus that she has received from the city each year over the past dozen years or so. Even her supporters began to lose interest in her when she told one questioner to "sit down or leave" when he asked the question.

Chapey was reportedly demonic after the election, particularly over the fact that Lew Simon, her hated alter-ego as Democratic District Leader, beat her by more than 1,500 votes.

Hopefully, that will be the last we see of Chapey in the political arena, and that she will soon be investigated by the Department of Investigations to find out just how she spends the taxpayer money she receives.

Lew Simon: Simon came in second to Ulrich. Lots of people like Simon and he had done some good for locals who need a traffic light fixed or a pothole filled.

Can you imagine him standing up at a City Council meeting and telling the other members of the body that he was now there "with his pit bull teeth" to set them all straight on how the city should be run.

Simon has already become a laughingstock among those city officials who have to address Rockaway problems. He probably believes that his intransigence is the right way to do business, but in the real world, particularly in a deliberative body, consensus and compromise are the keys.

Simon is perfect right were he is. He is already one or two steps above his competency level, and it would be bad for Rockaway should he wind up representing us off the peninsula.

We laugh at his antics and his lies and say, "Oh, that's only Lew." That would not happen in the City Council.

Mike Ricatto: Ricatto apparently believed that he could buy the election by spending lots of money and making a couple of local appearances.

Despite the fact that he spent more on the election than all the other candidates combined, he could only muster a little more than 600 votes.

In terms of Rockaway, he was a total bust, with little idea of what Rockaway is or what it needs.

I hope we have seen the last of him and his conservative ideas.

So, there are the four candidates: Ulrich, Chapey, Simon and Ricotta.

What was a Rockaway resident who wanted a local person to win the office to do?

Many voted for Ulrich as a default position, not understanding just how conservative he is, because he covered up that side of his agenda well at local forums.

A number of locals have told me that they took the time to write Glenn DiResto's name in the little box provided in the voting booth, but the city tells us that only a few people did that. We will not know for sure until the vote is certified in a week or so.

Others just stayed away from the polls.

As one political savvy insider told me on Friday, "I'll wait [to vote] for the real vote in November, when the Democratic Party throws its weight into the election."

"This is still a Democratic town," he said. "If the party can keep the loonies out of the race, it will not even be close in November."

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That's a pretty serious acusation you've thrown Eric Ulrich's way. Has this been checked? If so and it's true he needs to be called on it. If not he, and your readers, may be owed an apology.


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