On May 3 this year, my heart swelled with pride as I was privileged to watch an outburst of democracy, a veritable up-rising of community-spirited people power. The occasion was a Yorktown Town Board meeting. There was a public hearing on the issue of repealing of Yorktown’s Affordable Housing Act.
Without prompting, an endless chain of Yorktowners rose up to speak against this unnecessary statement-cum-repeal, and in favor of equality and fairness instead. As co-chair of the the Yorktown Democrats, it was remarkable to observe the astonishingly non-partisan nature of the outcry.
Before it was time to go home to bed, about 15 speakers were heard. Only two were recognizably active in local Democratic circles. All the rest were random citizens whose partisanship is unknown to me. All were uniformly against the repeal. While I was present, not a single speaker rose in defense of the repeal.
The statute in question, by admission of all sides, has apparently never been actually applied to any housing development actually built in Yorktown in the short years of its existence. It’s apparently something of a dead letter.
If it’s so unused why does the statute exist, and why is Supervisor Grace and his newly won Republican super-majority so bent on its repeal even in the face of popular opposition? Because the statute is as much statement as it is law, and so is its repeal.
The statute is a declaration that our town looks forward and stands squarely with the forces of equality and fairness. And Supervisor Grace’s pro-repeal Republican super-majority seek to make exactly the opposite statement. The repeal of this unused statute is important to them precisely because they wish to state and declare their unity with Tea Party, anti-progress, devil-take-the-hindmost, I-am-not-my-brother’s-keeper, right wing radicalism.
And that statement is directly connected to the extreme partisanship exhibited by the radical Republican super-majority in its recent town volunteer advisory board appointments. No one but active Republicans need apply.
The four most recent new appointments to the Conservation Board are Republican district leaders. The two most recent new appointments to the Planning Board are Republican district leaders. A new member of the Ethics Board is also a Republican district leader. The one recent Democratic appointee was to the Ethics Board, whose own rules require a minimum level of partisan balance.
Mr. Grace and his Republican super-majority were elected fair and square, albeit not by landslides (council wins in November of 8 votes for one seat and 249 for the other). A majority of advisory board positions are fairly theirs. But not all. That’s not right. Nor was that the practice of the Democrats when they held majority control from 2001-9.
Nothing is forever. The political pendulum always swings back. The precedent of right-wing, radical partisanship being set by this Board is not just anti-Democratic. It is anti-democracy, anti-equality and anti-progress. It is also unforgettable.