FYI - Due to some glitch in our system (our internet at Town is the pits--working on that!), the Dispatch did not get my letter last week. It was an update on the Tolls, the Boulevard and how we are working together with the School District. You can see it online at Nate's Notes: Making Things Happen - Update .
Last week I invited State Senator Chris Jacobs (Republican), State Assemblyman (Anthony Morinello), and former long-term state Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, Regional President of the Empire State Development Corporation, which is part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration. So, we had two newly-elected (but long-established Republicans) and one of the most influential Democrats in New York State—oh and lil' old me, a Democrat—sitting together talking about Grand Island.
I’ve met Senator Jacobs on a few occasions, and he comes across as extremely genuine and kind. I did not know the Judge, but I’m happy he’s interested in working with me to help Grand Island. And Mr. Hoyt, well, I like him. He’s the type of person who is a blast to sit down with for a cup of coffee—fun and engaging. He’s let me have it on a few occasions, but I’ve always felt it was well intentioned, even when I did not agree (with zest). And I know that he cares of about Grand Island and Western New York. Thank you, Sam.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
What did we talk about? Tolls, Dunlop, Grand Island Boulevard, the Welcome Center, Greenway projects, and several other things we’ve been working on. And the great thing was, we got along, we worked out ideas, we overcame some common misconceptions, and we made plans to find solutions to the challenges we face.
I left the meeting with a big smile on my face because there was no name calling, no accusations, no bad blood. None of these men have been left unscathed by the crucible of modern politics. But our recent discussions were less about character assassination and mudslinging than political cooperation and bipartisanship. I think they like my ideas and can see I have the will to push things forward. And I’m hopeful they can help me do it and that the positive energy on display last week will last.
I care about progress.
It was not all rainbows and butterflies however. There was a moment when I winced. A gentleman there with Assemblyman’s Morinello entourage (and an Islander who is active in politics and opposed me in the past) expressed that some of these ideas were things he had been advocating for years. But the problem is this fellow, not so long ago, told me that these very ideas—cashless tolls, a better Boulevard, money kept here, and lights on the bridges—were “insane” (quote) and that I was “nuts” (also a quote). And so, I grinned sarcastically and bit my tongue when he suddenly spoke glowingly of my vision as his own. It took every inch of restraint for me to not leap across the table and say, “Are you kidding?!”
Maybe it's wrong of me to bring it up here, but I hope this story may help some of this man's fellow naysayers right here on the Island to say, “Look, some of this guy’s ideas aren’t all that bad if we give them a chance”, instead of just resisting until we're all exhausted and the way forward becomes less of a courageous stand than a crawl to an inevitable reality. I hope we can work together now more often and stop wasting time. I don’t mind sharing credit. And I want to cooperate.
On his desk in the Oval Office, President Reagan kept a small plaque with the words: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.” It’s a popular aphorism, and one I stand by because I can’t push this community forward alone. From farming, to improving the Boulevard, to getting the Dunlop building open, to getting new trails built, to improving the performance of Town Hall, to getting a Community Center built, to-protecting GI from over-development (sprawl), to keeping GI green, and keeping GI fiscally strong; I need help—bipartisan help.
I hope GI can move away from negative “us” vs. “them” politics
We are a small town. We can disagree, but often the level of hyperbole and anger is unwarranted. We're not talking about life or death issues here. I want Grand Island to be more about ideas rather than partisan divide. It’s something I’m going to work on, and it’s going to be as big a challenge as any we face. But thank you to the three good men who paid me a visit last week and reminded me that working together across party lines in a respectful manner is not only possible, but a necessity.
And while I’m on this topic, I’d be remiss if I did not thank Republican Ray Billica (someone who I have made the mistake of treating poorly in the past when we have disagreed). Don’t get me wrong. Ray can drive me nuts. But, usually, at least you know where you stand with Ray. And in his own way, he’s working to make GI better (more on this soon) instead of just pointing out my shortcomings. And I’ll support his efforts, just like I’m thankful when he supports me from time to time, and says, “That’s interesting Nate, let’s work on it!”
With highest regards,
p.s. I want to express my regret that the Citizen of the Year celebration will not be held on Grand Island this year. It was not my decision. I have no intention of hurting anyone’s feelings, but if the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce doesn’t host these types of events here, why would anyone else bring business here? I hope next year we can all work together to bring it back to Grand Island.