This Tuesday there will be an election in Patchogue Village for four elected positions. Those positions are Village Justice, and three members of the Board of Trustees. Patricia Romeo is running for Village Justice, Trustees Bill Hilton and Joe Keyes are running for re-election. Sal Felice is running for an open spot of the Board as a trustee following a decision by current Trustee Gerry Crean not to seek re-election. All four candidates are unopposed.
Village officials are expecting a low turnout for this election and in fact polling places have been reduced from their original number.
This is a sharp difference from the campaign of 2012 where two parties vied for power and spent between them about $115,000 that drove a large numbers of voters to the polls resulting in the election of Mayor Pontieri for a third term, the defeat of his political opposition, and placing his party in almost total control of the Village Board. The expected election of the Patchogue 2014 slate will complete the process begun in 2012 by placing every elected position in the hands of one political party.
I very well may be part of a small minority but I will be voting. I am going to cast my ballot for Patricia Romeo. She seems legally qualified to be a Village Justice. She will become the first woman in 120 years to serve in that capacity and that is reason enough for me to be part of history by helping to get her there by voting for her. A hard job to come. I wish her well.
I will be voting for Trustees Hilton and Keyes as well. Both men are committed to their jobs as trustees I feel and both men strike me as decent persons who deserve re-election. How I cast my third ballot is something I will decide when I vote.
To be honest I wish I did have more of a choice and I think I am not alone in that feeling. Mayor Pontieri and his party are under no obligation to lose elections or give up power and this election proves he has no intention of doing so. But I do not find this process very progressive or democratic at all.
An election to me implies a choice and a choice is not what we the voters have in this election. A better choice would have been candidates from a different party. A better choice would have been more women on the ballot. A better choice would have been a Hispanic member of our village on the ballot. A better choice would have been someone younger to vote for too.
I say this mindful of these facts. The village is about evenly split between men and women yet men hold most of the elected positions. The Hispanic population of the village numbers about thirty percent. They hold no elected positions and will hold none after this election. Young people are notably absent from village political affairs and that is true of the make-up of the elected positions of the Board as well. Generational diversity is just as important as gender and ethnic diversity in shaping an elected board that is truly representative of the public.
Added into the lack of choice as to candidates is this fact too: one party rule continues and becomes even further entrenched. This is never good. The history of our country rejects the idea of one party control. Our history and civic culture promotes checks and balances and where there is only one party in power checks and balances become illusionary. Their absence becomes a temptation to exercise power less and less in response to public will and more in line with private ambition and even greed. The saying that all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely ought to be a warning to all that our village may be vulnerable to that truth.
This election is almost a done deal and my concerns notwithstanding I am going to hope for the best in times to come. But it certainly seems evident that alternative choices and alternative ideas too about the future of the village will not come from those now in power. They have made their own election and those excluded from ballot lines is evidence that change is not coming from within. It will have to come from outside. To get that there is no way around the fact that there is a great need for neighborhoods to unite in the form of civic organizations. A great need for civic activist groups of all kinds. There is a great need for one or more local political parties to form.
When all these actions have occurred and more too then from them will come leaders and ideas to give the village a more representative government which is after all the very promise of local control. We are small enough to fashion something that should look like all of us and not just some of us giving all of us a stake in the system that governs in the name of all the people not just a few.