Election 2016

On the road: A 2016 political diary


Editor’s note: Merokean David Stonehill served as a Hillary Clinton campaign volunteer during the primary season and is now volunteering for Clinton’s effort to defeat Donald Trump. Below is a diary of his experiences on the road.

Nov. 30: Meeting of Progressive Organizations, Merrick Road Park Golf Course, Merrick
When Republicans lose an election, they simply continue in attack mode. When Democrats lose an election, we are supposed to do soul-searching. To me, this angst is yet another political double standard.
Tonight, I attend a meeting sponsored by the Bellmore-Merrick Democratic Club which will spotlight the usual election post-mortem and look towards the future. How do you win a presidential election? You start with the basics. So here I am, listening to our local talent and observing.

In a real sense, the road to the White House begins in Mineola. Next year presents Democrats with an opportunity to regain control of the Nassau County Executive position and the county Legislature.
We should concentrate in 2017 on local races around the state: city, town and county. We need to win a lot of local races to provide us with momentum for the state and federal races in 2018, then find that winning presidential candidate and go for the gold in 2020.
The theme of the meeting tonight is “Stronger Together,” meaning strength in numbers and diversity. There are a number of speakers from the political and environmental world.
Nassau Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs discusses the disappointing results of the election as well as some bright spots, such as the apparent election of John Brooks to the State Senate in our local district over the Republican incumbent.
His pragmatic advice to Democrats is to work with the Trump Administration when it is warranted but to fight outrageous policies when they are proposed. Obstruction is not enough for Democrats.
Lisa Tyson, Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, notes, “It has never been this bad before. We have a lot of work to do.” She advocates dialogue with one’s neighbors to better understand their concerns, which can be hopefully addressed in future elections.
Dolores Sedacca, President of the Nassau Women’s Democratic Caucus, stresses the importance of local elections, often overlooked by Democratic activists. Special districts, as well as other local town and county positions are important in themselves as well as a way to provide experience to Democratic politicians.
With that important thought, I grab another coffee and go into the rainy night to return home.

Dec. 1: Leadership Conference Open Letter to the U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
The Leadership Conference is a coalition of local and national organizations and advocacy groups involved with civil and voting rights issues. The Conference members oppose the selection of Sen. Jeff Sessions by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next U.S. Attorney General. The Conference has drafted an open letter to be submitted to the Senate leadership.
Essentially, Sessions is seen as a reactionary force with a long public record showing racial intolerance, an anti-immigrant bias and contempt for notions of civil and voting rights.
I approve the letter as drafted and check to see that my own organization is listed as a signer. The letter will be hand delivered within a few days. Will it be effective? Who knows, but you have to try.

Dec. 2: Vision Long Island Smart Growth Summit, Crest Hollow Country Club, Woodbury
Vision Long Island promotes “smart growth” regarding economic development and the environment. They hold an annual conference to recognize smart growth revitalization projects.
This event is decidedly non-political. However, both Democratic and Republican politicians are well represented. I observe, for example, that three of the four Democrats interested in running for Nassau County Executive in 2017 are present.
The morning begins with a plenary session featuring a number of town and city leaders, moderated by Newsday columnist Joye Brown. The discussion is an overview of smart growth activity around Long Island.
I attend a workshop entitled, “Downtown Showcase – Nassau.” A panel of experts describes how economic development in downtown areas drives the economies of their communities. One of the panelists, Leg. Laura Curran, stresses that Nassau County is a patchwork of communities with various layers of government. This presents a challenge to development programs but is not a fatal problem. “You start with a small change and go from there as people trust the process,” she explains. Other takeaways are that downtowns can provide identity to communities and that walkability is vital to viable downtowns.
My second workshop is a discussion of major development projects within Nassau County. Communities such as Westbury, Farmingdale, East Rockaway, Hempstead and Valley Stream have received national recognition for new and innovative smart growth revitalization. In short, not every attempt at suburban redevelopment has to end in failure!
After lunch, I attend a third workshop; the theme here is Regional Partnerships. The complex nature of governments on Long Island makes inter-governmental and public-private partnerships crucial. Achieving a viable relationship is not easy, however. The panel also includes two experts from New York City who add their distinct viewpoints to a Long Island oriented discussion. Giving perspective as well were Larry Levy, Executive Dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, and Eric Alexander, Director of Vision Long Island as the Moderator.
Perhaps Long Island has too much government and too much zoning to live up to its potential. This is not just a governmental or academic exercise; it is really a political question. More things to mull over, I realize, as I leave the conference for home.