Rockland’s New Politics – An Opinion Piece by Jeff Gillies and Michael Hull

OpinionMinor political parties in Rockland were placed on a fast track to extinction in 2013 by the rise of the grass roots movement, Preserve Rockland. Democrats and Republicans have now combined in 2015 to replace ‘government by payoff‘ with ‘government by principle‘.

The 2015 elections in Clarkstown may prove to be the continuation of a long-term movement away from the tendency of voters to cast ballots in local elections based on the ideals of their national party affiliation. In our opinion, this would be a very good development in the fight against corruption in local government.

First and foremost, national issues such as marriage equality, abortion, national security and immigration reform are completely irrelevant on a local level. Your local town board member has as much say in those decisions as any average citizen on the street, which is to say they have next to no say in those matters. Yet, the average voter casts his or her vote based on these issues far too often in local elections.

As evidence, look no further than the number of voters on social media who say that they have to “hold their noses” to vote for a candidate of the other party. Their sentiments don’t stem from a distaste of the local candidates, but rather from their disdain for the whole or certain elements of the national party platforms. It’s time to recognize that all of us need to move past that old way of thinking.

Protecting our property values, keeping taxes reasonable, improving quality of life and maintaining the quality of our schools are not party line issues. Yet these are the kind of issues that are the primary concerns of voters in local elections. Too often, we are blinded by an unjustified allegiance to national party ideals and fail to see the folly of our actions in voting straight across the party line in which we are registered.

In Rockland County there was a major political paradigm shift that occurred in the latter half of 2013. To understand what the original paradigm was and how it was changed we must first review the political status quo in Rockland County and particularly in Clarkstown in the late summer of 2013 prior to the November elections. In an article entitled Piggin’ and Riggin it was explained how elections in Clarkstown were rigged by back-room insiders and it was explained how political cronies kept power and prevented those who might buck this comfortable situation from running on any of the political election lines.

In 2013 there were supposedly five different political parties in Clarkstown but in reality there was just one and not much had changed in 2015. The 2013 five-party entity was nicknamed the ‘RLS’ Party’ by the reformers indicating that it was a cabal controlled by:

1) ‘R’ – Rockland County Republican Party Chairman, Vinnie REDA,
2) ‘L’ – The Head of the Conservative Party and long term Clarkstown employee, Ed LETTRE, and
3) ‘S’ – County Legislator and Clarkstown’s former patronage poster-boy, Frank SPARACO.

How this cabal operated can be understood by examining the political line up for the position of Clarkstown Town Supervisor as presented to the voters in November 2013 by the ‘background boys’ from the ‘smoke-filled RLS’ rooms.

a) Democratic Line – Supervisor Gromack ran on the Democratic Party line.

Vinnie Reda

Vinnie Reda

b) Republican Line – The Republicans under Reda prevaricated that they couldn’t come up with a replacement candidate after their elderly nominee, Ralph Riverso, dropped out of the race shortly after his nomination. Republican Brian Moran offered to run on the Republican Party line in Riverso’s stead but the party leadership, in the age of cell phones, facebook, and twitter, “could not be reached” to permit Moran access to his party’s line. Since Reda was then the key member of the RLS party it was no surprise therefore that in November 2013 the Republican line was left BLANK. The Republicans’ 2013 ‘no-candidate’ candidate was a slightly more moral situation than what had happened in 2011 when Republican Ralph Sabatini was offered a patronage job in the County if he would be a ‘non-candidate’ against Gromack – an offer that Sabatini declined. Sabatini reports that he was subsequently given no support by Reda and that Sparaco “stabbed him in the back” by actively supporting Gromack in the week leading up to the election.

Ed Lettre.

Ed Lettre.

c) Conservative Line – The Conservative party was (and still is) controlled by Ed Lettre who has a $180,000+ job in the Town. His power was such that on his command alone he could order the whole of the Town Board, including the Town Attorney, to attend a meeting reportedly to organize ways in which he could remain in control of “conservatives”. Since Lettre was a member of the RLS party it was no surprise therefore that the Conservative Line was also given to Gromack.

Sparaco and Savino

Frank Sparaco

d) Independence Line – For Clarkstown’s ‘independent’ voters, who believed that the Independence Party was an “independent” party, their mistaken belief was shattered when Phil Reisman wrote an article in the Journal News declaring that the “Independence” party was nothing more than a legal racket which trades its party line for patronage jobs. In Clarkstown the Independence Party was controlled by then County Legislator Sparaco, through his high school friend, John Perrotta, both of whom had referred to their political opponents on Facebook as “punks”. Sparaco was given a 25 hour patronage job for $75,000 by the Republican Superintendent of Highways, Wayne Ballard and subsequently with his ‘membership’ in the RLS party and his patronage job secure the Independence line was also given to Gromack.

e) Working Families Line – The ultra-left Working Families Party was not going along with the RLS directives and we learned from Sparaco’s 2013 testimony in a NY State Supreme Court, that the Working Families had such a “critical deficit of leadership” that he recruited new members of his liking into the party. Thus the Working Families party ended 2013 under the magnanimous wing of the RLS party.

Ed Lettre golfing with Alex Gromack

Ed Lettre golfing with Alex Gromack

The “free and fair election” for supervisor then offered the following options on the 5 party lines: Gromack, Blank, Gromack, Gromack and Gromack.

That was the situation in 2013 until Preserve Rockland entered the scene collecting signatures on a Clarkstown grass-roots line to offer Clarkstown voters a clear choice in County and Town elections and to prevent the behaviors being witnessed in Clarkstown from being directed against Ed Day in his run for County Executive. The citizens of Rockland and particularly those in Ramapo and Clarkstown had had enough. And so a paradigm shift began to occur – nearly 3,000 signatures were collected – a new grass-roots political movement emerged which in a single stroke demonstrated that the wine being offered from the silver chalices of the cabalists was contaminated.

Michael Bongiorno

Michael Bongiorno

Michael Bongiorno writing in the January 1, 2014 issue of the weekly newspaper Our Town described the demise of the minor political parties in Rockland County in 2013 that followed the rise of Preserve Rockland which carried Ed Day to victory in a watershed election. Preserve Rockland originated with the Preserve Ramapo group and is now established in both Clarkstown and Ramapo under the overall Preserve Rockland and Reform banners. Bongiorno recognized that the changes occurring in 2013 were a classic paradigm shift. From his past experience he was acutely aware of the political rigging that went on with the cross-endorsement system where one party takes a member of another party, usually one of the two main parties, to be their candidate usually in exchange for some patronage appointment or other consideration. Bongiorno had worked for 30 years as a prosecutor, serving 14 years as a trial attorney and supervisor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, 12 years as the elected District Attorney for Rockland County and 4 years as a senior counsel with the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force.

Bongiorno wrote: “The 2013 election of Ed Day as Rockland’s new county executive ran counter to conventional political wisdom. You see, the established political parties and powers believed it was virtually impossible for a Republican to win a countywide election without the support of either the Conservative or Independence parties (or both). One can visualize all the Democratic and perhaps some apostate Republican political hacks huddling behind closed doors to divvy up all those anticipated county job openings!”

Actually one does not need to visualize the political hacks scheming behind closed doors. They were doing just that as they tried every trick in the book to prevent the signatures collected from nearly 3,000 voters being validated to set up the Preserve Rockland lines. One ploy raised by the “apostate hacks” was a technicality that the petition pages were not properly numbered. One of the “political hacks” went so far as to joke on Facebook about how Preserve Rockland supporters “couldn’t count” proving the old adage that a political hack shouldn’t “count his chickens” before they hatch.

On September 11, 2013, New York State Supreme Court Justice Gerald E. Loehr rendered a decision that validated both the Preserve Rockland – Clarkstown independent line as well as the Preserve Rockland – Ed Day independent line. This was the day on which a major paradigm shift occurred in Rockland County’s moribund politics. Day prevailed, riding a crest of public frustration over Rockland County’s dire financial situation, government incompetence, declining quality of life and all-too-common corruption. Best of all, he did it with little traditional political support, making him an independent county executive who owes nothing to established politicos. That means his obligation is to work in the public interest.

To this time Day remains beholden to no one. Former senior leaders of his own party made deals with other candidates in the expectation that Day could not win and they could feather their personal nests with a victory by one of his opponents. The minority party leaders horse-traded their lines in an attempt to undercut him as Sabatini had been undercut in his run for Clarkstown Town Supervisor in 2011. But the politics of cronyism coming from unprincipled occupants of the proverbial “smoke-filled rooms” failed. As many of them looked on during Day’s inauguration on New Year’s Day, the man who was elected free of all of their encumbrances gave a speech that spoke not to them but simply, clearly, and directly to the grass-roots citizens of Rockland County.

Bongiorno continued: “The watershed 2013 election has ushered in a new era in Rockland politics where old political distinctions – Republican versus Democrat or Conservative versus Liberal – have become increasingly irrelevant. The prevailing split now is the old politics of patronage, nepotism, cronyism, excessive taxing and wasteful spending versus the reform movement to reduce taxes and run an effective, fair government that preserves Rockland’s quality of life”.

The influence of the sham minority parties was once again completely destroyed in 2015 by the grass roots reformers following a rerun of the 2013 political line up. The Republicans put up a genuine candidate to run against Gromack and the reformers, Republicans and Democrats, provided the necessary votes to carry him home.

And so as we go forward to the 2016 elections we invite you to follow Clarkstown: What They Don’t Want You To Know and the ‘Preserve Rockland’ facebook pages along with Rockland Voice where we will keep you informed of the issues that are on the front burner each month in both the County and the Town governments and how each legislator and each councilperson is acting to support or oppose your need for change. In the absence of anything which can be called an ‘investigatory press’ in Rockland County, elected officials must know that their behavior is being publicly scrutinized by the social media and that past behaviors which have resulted in Rockland County becoming bloated with over 100 patronage appointments and millions of dollars in bonded debt and deficit spending must stop.

James Madison wrote in 1822: “A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to tragedy. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

That was our opinion in 2013 and it remains our opinion in 2015. 

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