Official Preserve Ramapo endorsement:
Robert I. Rhodes, Ph.D., chairman, Preserve Ramapo
Rockland is in terrible trouble. I want to take a look at the reasons why this is so and then I want to explain why Preserve Ramapo is supporting Republican Ed Day for Rockland County executive.
Whether one looks at our current Republican county executive, or at our Democrat-controlled county Legislature we see a degree of careerism that is just awful. Few of our county leaders, regardless of their party affiliation are willing to do anything that might be politically difficult. This lack of leadership might be excused if our county had few problems, but that, of course, is not the case. This absence of leadership is encouraged by an implicit “non-aggression pact.” The rule is: Don’t criticize how we run our town and we won’t criticize how you run your town.
The problem, of course, is that many of Rockland’s problems cannot be solved without real debates over policy. Let’s look at two examples. One might just be considered a local issue while the other is a county issue. Remember the infamous proposal to build a huge chicken slaughterhouse in the Village of New Square? Leaving aside real safety issues, anyone who has been around chickens knows that the smell is just awful.
Yet when Legislator Joe Meyers tried to bring up the issue at a county legislative meeting the rules of the Legislature were ignored so that discussion could be squashed. He was promised that the issue would be discussed at a meeting of the Environmental Committee, but Legislator Ilan Shoenberger, who represents New Square, made sure that there would not be any discussion of the issue even in committee. (Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture condemned the existing small slaughterhouse in New Square because it was unbelievably filthy and that killed the deal.)
What happened here was an exercise of the power behind the Ramapo Democratic Caucus. After 25 years first as an assistant county attorney, then as the deputy county attorney, and finally as the county attorney, Democrat Ilan Schoenberger was replaced when Scott Vanderhoef, a Republican, became the county executive. As a reward for his faithful service to New Square’s Hasidic leadership, he immediately became a county legislator and chairman of the powerful Budget and Finance Committee. He demonstrated his value to this leadership by squashing Joe Meyers’ attempt to discuss the proposed slaughterhouse.
Republicans and Democrats alike went along with Ilan because of the simple principle—you scratch my back and I will scratch yours.
Because Ilan can count on close to 100 percent of the vote from New Square he cannot be defeated in a legislative election. He uses this unassailable position, his famous ability to “make a deal” and his close collaboration with County Executive Scott Vanderhoef, to make sure that nothing happens at the county level that might make life difficult for the people who have sponsored his political career.
He also seems to have made a deal with Bill Clinton. Hillary does not support the right-to-life but was supported by New Square in her bid for the Democratic nomination for New York State senator. Perhaps this support was a just a simple thank you for the clemency Bill gave to the New Square leaders who landed in federal prison after stealing millions of dollars from RCC’s fraudulent Judaic Studies program.
When Ilan met with President Clinton he was accompanied by Democratic County Chairman Paul Adler. Paul Adler later went to federal prison because he failed to pay taxes after he flipped a proposed golf course in Ramapo. Today Mr. Adler is once again a free man, Rockland’s leading commercial realtor and a major fundraiser for Democratic politicians in Rockland. *1
Now let us take a look at a county issue, United Water’s proposed desalinization plant. According to United Water the operation of this plant will cost its 70,000 customers an average of $300 to $500 dollars a year. If these numbers are realistic, we are talking about a cost in just the first decade of as much as $350 million. Yet United Water has never made a legitimate analysis of alternative sources of water. These include water conservation, the repair of the leaks that consume 15 percent of our water supply, Ambrey Pond, the more extensive use of ground water, and on and on. *2
And what has the Rockland Legislature done to investigate this incredibly expensive proposal? After several years of controversy and a huge public protest, it finally wrote a letter suggesting it opposed desalinization and called for further study. Why did it take so long? The answer is simple; legislators will never make a difficult decision if it can be dodged. And this preference for doing nothing even includes a reluctance to investigate serious problems.
Scott Vanderhoef, our county executive, is no better. From the beginning he has been an enthusiastic supporter of desalinization. As our leader he could and should have called for an independent professional examination of our water supply. Together our Republican county executive and our Democratic finance chairman share responsibility for Rockland’s enormous operating deficit.
This brings us to the upcoming election. Ilan will almost certainly win the Democratic primary for county executive. He knows he will get the support of the Hasidic leaders who march their constituents to the polls. Democratic candidate David Fried is a pure political opportunist who had the Rockland Legislature create a job for him paying over $100,000 while at the same time it was firing loyal county employees because the county was (and is) broke. And then we have Dagan LaCorte, who claims he can cure our county’s fiscal problems by reorganizing our county bureaucracy.
But listen carefully. None of them will discuss any policy that might threaten the interests of Rockland’s Hasidic leadership. None of them will discuss the erosion of our tax base by slumlords who cram poor people into firetraps and collect their rent in cash. None of them will discuss how the approval of new firetraps endangers the lives of poor families and our courageous firemen
None of them will discuss the erosion of our tax base by fictitious “religious” institutions or houses of worship that have tiny congregations and receive tax exemptions. None of them will discuss the consistent refusal of some town, planning, and zoning boards, to protect our environment. None of them will discuss the difference between blind development and greed on the one hand, and responsible and sustainable development on the other.
For years, candidates have asked for Preserve Ramapo’s “unofficial” support, but they have asked that we not support them in public—no endorsement please! They have done this because they want to be all things to all people. That is what passes for courage in Rockland politics.
Unlike the three Democratic candidates from Ramapo who want to be county executive, Ed Day has the courage to lead. He has made only one promise to us and that is the promise to confront the real problems that threaten the future of our county. And that is enough for us.
1) Editor’s note – we have not fact-checked this claim by Bob Rhodes, regarding Adler’s fundraising for Democrats. It is his claim, not RCT’s.
2) Editor’s note – United Water claims otherwise.