I have often written about the duplicity, the lack of sincerity and the less than mediocre job performance that councilman Dennis P. Gallagher has inflicted on his constituents in the 30th council district. In the December 2007 issue of the Juniper Berry, Kampermann's Korner highlighted many of the numerous deficiencies in Councilman Gallagher's representation of his constituents. I am not the only one who has taken notice. On October 1, 2007 the Gotham Gazette, which is published by The Citizens Union Foundation, rated members of the council based on the number of bills introduced, sent to committee, and passed. Not surprisingly, Councilman Dennis P. Gallagher was ranked 2nd from the bottom among all councilmembers who served for the entire period.
The Gazette's rating covered an 18 month period beginning in January 2006 and ending early September 2007. Gallagher was first accused of rape in July 2007, and this clearly shows that even before his legal troubles began, Gallagher was not working hard for his district. Instead, he was hardly working. Perhaps the councilman thought that attacking members of this civic and pursuing personal vendettas were better uses of his time than attacking problems in the community.
Although Gallagher's 10 count rape indictment was recently dismissed by a judge, District Attorney Richard Brown made it clear that he intends to seek another indictment. Judge Roman noted in her decision that even though she had to toss the indictment due to mistakes by the prosecutor, the evidence did in fact support the indictment. So for now, district 30 is stuck with a councilman who was already ineffective and will likely be tangled up in his own legal trouble for the foreseeable future. Yet Gallagher still gets to collect $112,000 from the taxpayers. Give it up, Dennis!
The lesson we as voters must learn from the Gallagher fiasco is to look carefully at the character of our candidates before we go to the polls. When someone asks for our vote, do they want the privilege of fighting for the community, or do they want a well paying job?
Perhaps there were warning signs of Gallagher's true character and real motivation before he was elected. Gallagher had previously served as assistant to his predecessor, Tom Ognibene. This was Gallagher's job. Getting elected to the council was a promotion. But was he ever a fighter for the community at heart? Gallagher had never been much of an activist or volunteer for any civic organization. When he did make an appearance at a protest or rally, it was always on the taxpayer's dime, supporting one of his former bosses, either Senator Maltese or Councilman Ognibene. Gallagher was simply a sideman who stepped into the council seat when the Democratic Party essentially punted and ran a totally unqualified candidate against him, and was reelected without opposition. Examining Gallagher's legislative record, as well as his acceptance of contributions from contractors, developers and real estate tycoons paints a picture of the kind of representative that is the least acceptable to a community: someone who doesn't go to bat, but instead just goes to work: Someone who sees the position not as a privilege to serve, but as a springboard to higher office.
As we go forth into the election years of 2008 and 2009 several non-activist potential candidates are circling around the 30th council district seat like vultures over a dying man in the desert.
When I use the word activist, I don't mean to imply that everyone should be out in the streets with a bullhorn. However, a true community advocate would prove themselves worth of office by taking their own time to tackle issues that affect the community. They would be standing in the rain to protest the desecration of our historic buildings. They would be fighting rogue developers who make a mockery of laws and building codes while turning neighborhoods into eyesores. They would be opposing the construction of a cell tower on top of a two story house in a residential neighborhood near a school. They would be protesting to remove portions of Grand Avenue from the approved truck route as proposed by the late Frank Principe. They would be lobbying city planning to take action on the long delayed downzoning plan that is essential for protecting our neighborhoods from continued overdevelopment. Ask yourself what our potential candidates have been doing about these issues.
I encourage every potential voter to partake in community affairs, get to know the people that take time away from their families to preserve the quality of life that every free man and woman is entitled to, and join forces with those that are opposed to the profit seekers that put personal gain before the good of our community. And, most of all beware of those who come out of the wood work at election time in a similar fashion to cockroaches that invade the kitchen when the lights are off.
**The views expressed in this column represent only those of the author and not the board or membership of the Juniper Park Civic Association.