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Editorial: Kings Point Election, Afterthoughts

The incumbent and the challenger for the mayorship of the Village of Kings Point, in interviews following the vote count at village hall which overwhelmingly swept Kalnick, Kwiat and Harounian back into office, agreed on one thing. Both indicated that they were proud that village residents turned out in full force to exercise their voting rights. For both Michael Kalnick and Margie Sasson,  the turnout confirmed that residents in Kings Point do care mightily about their village and how it is run.

The Record asked Mayor Kalnick what he had learned from the campaign and the election. He said, “I learned that I need to reach out more. I always thought that residents know that if they have issues, we’re here for them. But, I need to make more of an effort to reach out...and I will. We need to get more people involved in our various boards and to help prepare them to step into leadership positions.”

Ms. Sasson said, “It’s been a huge civics lesson for our residents. Some have felt alienated and some have felt fearful...I think now they will feel more comfortable in participating in local government.”

As elections go, there were troubling aspects that were more reminiscent of national elections. The most puzzling aspect of the campaign run by the challengers was the amount of money spent, the outside groups that got involved in a village election and the anonymity of these groups in spite of the campaign’s motto of “transparency.” (The final report on campaign spending is not yet available, but we will report on it in the future.)

Months before the filing deadline for the campaign, a website, was circulated widely. It ran unsubstantiated claims about the village administration and for example, ran a short feature about corruption in a local government in another state with a banner saying, could this be happening in Kings Point?

Trustee Sheldon Kwiat said after the election that he was disappointed that while the challengers avowed that they were not running the kingspointexposed website, they also did not denounce its content. The website is now offline.

And even though the Nassau County Board of Elections did not find improprieties in the write-in campaign last year, anonymous flyers likening that election to elections in North Korea and Iran also circulated throughout the village. Granted, write-ins are confusing and not easy, but to expect that unregistered people be allowed to vote, or that first name write-ins should be acceptable, do not comply with the rules of voting. Rules are necessary.

The Record repeatedly asked the challengers’ campaign manager and Ms. Sasson who Maella LLC, 640 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY were. First, we were told they were “consultants.” When asked what kind of consultants, Ms. Sasson finally wrote back saying, “They did political consulting, helping out with reaching out to constituents and such.” Most political consulting firms advertise online, but in this case, Maella LLC turns up nothing in Internet searches. The address is however linked to David Yerushalmi of the American Freedom Law Center. He is profiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, as “deeply hostile toward liberal Jews.”  His law firm is linked to the offices of Gregory Bitterman who is a Chabad supporter.

The Chabad connection was one of funding for the campaign. We do not doubt Ms. Sasson when she says that she has no membership connection to Chabad. She also promised when questions arose about Chabad that she would not, if elected, allow them to “double their building size.” However, when the Chabad facility was finally approved by Kings Point, there was a lengthy covenant drawn up that listed many restrictions and limitations on the hours of operation, special events, catering, etc. So while the size of the building, originally envisioned at 75,000 square feet, but eventually approved for  45,000 square feet, must have been a disappointment for its sponsors, it would be logical to assume that altering the covenant would be desired by its leaders.

The Record asked Ms. Sasson if she would be willing to work on another village board in preparation for a leadership role in the future, but she said that she had not made up her mind yet. In an email she wrote, “My goal was and still is to serve the residents of Kings Point by bringing a fresh perspective to running our government.  That is the only reason I decided to throw my hat into the race and I am glad I did. I intend to continue speaking out for what I see is wrong with our Village and I will continue to hold our elected officials accountable.”

It has been our observation that up until the financial downturn of the economy, the residents of Kings Point were fairly complacent. We would attend village meetings when issues arose, expecting to see a large turnout and instead seeing either a few residents or no residents. While elections are exciting and dramatic, much of the work of running villages is hard, tedious, fairly dry and does not garner headlines.

But while the work is complicated, demanding, time is also rewarding. Especially when the village is safe, beautiful and solvent. How many governments can make that boast?

- Carol Frank