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Letter to Editor: There's Two Sides to Friends and Family Governance

Are familial connections good for the community or an example of small-town nepotism?

To the Editor:

Much is said about having long-time families re-appear in political and civic positions in Long Beach. “Connected” families are not unusual for Long Island communiities. However, Long Beach’s “family dynasties” are excessive.

The recurrence of families in local politics is not always bad. These families have proud attachment to their community of generations. They tend to see the big picture. Furthermore, youngsters learn early the ins and outs of politics watching their elders in action.  If not in the genes, political activism is at least an acquired skill. Simply being related should not immediately disqualify a person from leadership. Nor is it an imprimatur. 

Recurrence of “connected” families in local politics tends to weaken the gene-pool of ideas, as family successors presume “that’s the way it’s always been done.” Just because someone has “Long Beach sand in his shoes” does not mean he does not have “Long Beach rocks in his head.” Connected families spawn candidates who may not be the best available; less-connected “newcomers” of merit are passed over in favor of “the favorite son.” Connected families promote impunity and cronyism, as past foibles and character short-comings are overlooked by friends and families. 

Inside connections make for corruption and abuse. A close-knit web of connected families can create disharmony arising from family conflicts, which skewers good political judgment. Because of their power, I am concerned when police are involved. The question was legitimate during the tenure of Commissioner Thomas Sofield Sr. and Councilman Tom Sofield Jr., as it is now with Commissioner Michael Tagney and his family ties to perennial candidates for local office and school boards.

Long Beach is not a field for generational enrichment. The public should demand the best candidates available and carefully examine the question of family succession. Check the resume! Is a connected family good for the community or an example of small-town nepotism? Examine the fruits of these family trees before “taking a bite.” 

Francis McQuade
Long Beach

Karen McInnis March 19, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Unfortunately we are at the point where the good intentions of these families are so intertwined with the politics and legacies of the existing political parties that the "newcomers" affiliated with an existing party who claim to not be "political" - whatever that means after you get elected via the political process - have zero credibility once the wheels are in motion. Surfers and volleyballers...here's your call to form a new and unencumbered third party.............
Lala March 20, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Agree that we should demand excellence, regardless of one's affiliations. Unfortunately, the last two appointments (Public Works and Police Commissioners) have simply rewarded political hacks with inadequate education and, in some instances, questionable ethics. Shameful!
chris d March 21, 2012 at 04:34 PM
your right and not only is the new police commish underqualified he is also unhealthy calling in sick 22 times in 2010 and 15 times in 2011
Lala March 21, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Chris d: He was also a top OT earner on the force. Funny, isn't it? Not exactly a role model, eh? No wonder OT expenses have plummetted! He can't earn it anymore.
Karen Adamo March 22, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Tagney was a top earner? What do you cal 8yrs of overtime and a $500000 payout to former ACTING COMMISSIONER Sofield?


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