By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
This past week after the celebrations and holiday observances, two moments in politics stand out. One for its civic dedication and the other for its audacity.
The Second Avenue Subway line for Manhattan’s Upper East Side opened after a century (yes, 100 years) of starts and stops. Governor Andrew Cuomo made sure the world knew that this was his success.
But truth be told, were it not for the tenacity of our own Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, this project would likely still be part of our imagination instead of the reality that it became this past Sunday.
Carolyn Maloney pushed for federal funding for this project throughout good times and bad, Republican Presidents and Democratic Presidents. She was America’s chief cheerleader for this mass transportation improvement that so many would have given up on. And there were many more in Congress who wanted to steal the money needed for the Second Avenue line and divert that funding to their pet projects.
So lost in the ongoing feuding between Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio over credit or blame for almost everything that occurs in New York City, the steady and insistent leadership of Carolyn Maloney, with little fanfare, is what was pivotal to this success.
So when you are traveling on the Lexington Avenue subway train and notice a little less congestion on the platforms and a little more elbow room in the trains and maybe even a seat during rush hour you might want to give a silent nod to a public official who would not give up or give in nor try to hog all the credit for herself. In my book, that is the essence of real leadership and public service.
And then there is the flip side of that coin.
A man with no regard for civic leadership or political morality. I am speaking about the former 2010 Republican candidate for governor in New York and the recent statewide chairman of the Trump campaign, Carl Paladino.
This man who also holds a public office on the Buffalo City School Board sunk to the lowest of lows with his remarks about President Obama as well as the First Lady. Paladino took political obnoxious remarks spoken all too often by candidate Trump to unchartered depths when he said that he hoped Barack Obama would die of Mad Cow disease and that Michelle Obama should move to a cave in Africa and mate with a gorilla. Yes, this man, Paladino who wants to make education policy for the children of Buffalo is responsible for uttering some of the most vile and racist remarks ever heard in New York politics.
Sadly Mr. Trump made insults, mockery and false statements a staple of his Twitter messages and campaign rallies. The result has been a spike in similar hateful rhetoric. This type of political speak and actions has been made “normal” by the insensitive and coarse campaign run by Trump. Even our own state senator, Brad Hoylman, became a target of anti-gay and anti-Semitic attacks in the days following the elections. But for sheer ugliness, it will be difficult to stoop beneath Carl Paladino.
Is it too much to hope that our president will try to instill an ethic of public service exemplified by Carolyn Maloney over the ignorant bombast of the Carl Paladinos of the world? When the genie of hate and bigotry is loosed from the bottle it is awfully hard to put it back inside.
If Donald Trump does not recognize that the standard of political discourse that he set during his campaign for president has had a debilitating impact on the fabric of society whose citizens look to the president as a national exemplar, then the next four years will be tough ones indeed.