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.”