East End Matters...
Welcome to a new column for The Wave. As the title suggests it will center on east end issues important to the folks living in Far Rockaway, Bayswater, Edgemere and Arverne. So, let's get to it. On Tuesday, the Democratic nominee for the City Council seat for the 31st District will be decided. While many may believe they can wait until the November election to take to the polls, the primary in this contest could be more important than the general election. Yes, it is true that the winner of the primary will face a Republican challenger in November. With all due respect to the Republican candidate, the district is overwhelming Democratic and it is more than likely that the winner of the primary next week will be sitting in the City Council in January. Because of this, those who live in the 31st District - the Rockaway portion of which includes Far Rockaway, Bayswater, Arverne and Edgemere - must come out and vote on Tuesday.
For years people on the east end have complained that their voices are not heard. Many in the district have voiced their dissatisfaction with the incumbent, James Sanders Jr., who has held the office for eight years. Yet, Sanders has raised more money, collected more petition signatures and has more endorsements than the other candidates. What does it all mean?
Well, actually nothing. Because what really counts, is what citizens have to say on Election Day. I'm not going to endorse any of the candidates. That does not necessarily mean I endorse the same person as The Wave. As someone who lives on the east end I, like you, have to take into account several different factors. So, I am going to offer some advice. If you have not yet done so, use this weekend to Google each man to find his campaign website and read articles from the various media - including The Wave. If you have attended a candidate forum, you are even further ahead. Then put it all together to decide who has the experience, views and the commitment to the people living on the east end of the peninsula.
During the campaign, Sanders has made the argument that his competitors do not understand the issues and his experience puts him steps ahead of them. His challengers believe the incumbent has not done enough, and it is time for change. Now it is your turn. It is time to decide whom you trust with your future and that of your family. Will it be the former NYPD detective, Marquez Claxton; the former chief of staff for Councilman Sanders, Michael Duncan; activist and lawyer Jacques Leandre; community activist Lou Grays; public servant Fred Lewis or the current man in the job, Sanders.
Each man has his own qualities.
Let's say you live in the Redfern area. That means that for years you tried to get cameras installed in Redfern Houses so that you will feel safe in your own home without a visit from an uninvited guest - a stray bullet through your window. The same is true for those living in Hammel Houses. Those prayers were answered when Sanders allocated funds to make the installation of cameras possible in both places. Yet, his opponents feel that cameras won't solve the problem.
They're right, it won't. But, it is a beginning. But, if you live in Redfern Houses you will remember when Claxton came to the complex in June 2008 after Brandon Bethea, 15, was shot the previous month. He rallied scared residents out of their apartments to take back their development. Unlike the other candidates who throw out the usual list of issues that need to be tackled, Claxton is the only candidate who has an actual platform addressing the issues on his campaign website.
Lewis, following the verdict acquitting the police officers in the shooting of Far Rockaway resident Sean Bell, joined other community members as they supported Bell's fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell, at a gathering at a church in Arverne. The Lewis Plan, on the candidate's website, lists his goals and experience. It is impressive, but is short of actual plans for the peninsula.
Duncan, Leandre and Grays are better known on the mainland. Their websites center more on their past experience than their future plans.
Leandre has worked with several community organizations and programs, including many that have to do with young people. He is the president of the Jets Rosedale Football Association. He has been dogged by stories of involvement with the Nation of Islam after defending them in a court case. He also enraged residents in Rosedale at the end of last month after a family picnic he helped sponsor at Brookville Park distributed alcohol and, reportedly, got out of control.
Duncan served as PTA president at three different schools and works with young people through the Rosedale soccer program.
Lou Grays is a community activist and a retired teacher who has had his fill of violence, not enough affordable housing and the destruction of our communities.
Like I said earlier, Google each candidate for his website and articles about him - then decide for yourself. Remember also that the 31st Councilmanic District includes Rosedale, Laurelton and Springfield Gardens. Voters there will vote for the man they believe will best represent them, not Rockaway. Frank Gulluscio, who is running for the 32nd Councilmanic seat, which encompasses Rockaway's west end, as well as a large area on the mainland, had this to say about the importance of getting out to vote. He said that candidates can check to see from where their votes came and he added, "the money [they allocate] goes where the votes [came] from."
So no matter whom you support, make it more than just talk. On Tuesday make your voice heard. If things go wrong, only after taking part in the system will you really have a right to complain. Voting is not only a right, it is a privilege - use it.