Friday, 29 January 2010 00:00
I write as a 16-year community member of Port Washington, although I must disclose that I have been on the school board for eight years, including three as a past president.
Our town is facing a crisis. Our residents are staring at the gloomy reality of the worst economic times of the past 75 years. This crisis has forced us to a crossroads. Only we can decide which road we will take. One path is the road to cynicism, in-fighting, distrust, darkness, selfishness, apathy, division and giving into fear. The other path is filled with hope, light, cooperation, creative thinking, commonality and courage. This crossroads was not something we asked for. Certainly we are not alone in this predicament. It is being faced by most towns across America right now. Certainly there is a strong temptation, as history has shown, to choose the road of fear and cynicism. The hardship of financial stresses -loss of a job, less vacation and doing with less; the tendency during hard times to see each other’s differences as opposed to similarities. These factors weigh heavily on everyone and may get the better of us. We see from some in our town that they have already chosen this road. Those who would write letters to the editor here castigating women who volunteer in the schools or run for school board. The same cynics who would emit incessant barrages of negativity and promote fear mongering in emails and at public forums have demonstrated the path they have chosen.
But for the vast majority of our community members, the road is still to be chosen. Our community is an archetype of America in many ways. We see our fellow community members, school parents and staff, kids and seniors coming together to donate clothes, medical vans, money and much more to those in need. We see Port Washington children sending candy to troops fighting for our freedom in faraway lands. We see residents constantly helping others and they represent the best of our town and road that we should choose to travel. People like Barbara and Tom Faticone, Debbie Greco, Elaine Ajello, Sgt. Chalker, Regina Farinacio, Mary and Bobby Gennusa, Amy Bass, Ed and Dot Slade, Mario Martinez, Blanca Fabian, Jim Kerr, Leo and Kay Ullman and all the countless volunteers who remain nameless and who bring hope and joy to our community residents.
Certainly these difficult financial times require our community and elected leaders to work together to find solutions that help bring our tax burden down and alleviate some of the stress on our taxpayers. This includes the school district. The union contract negotiations are a very vital part of this discussion. Teachers need to be paid fairly but few would disagree that in this time of crisis we must all work together as a community to create agreements that respect the taxpayers and the professionals and this will require hard and painful decisions and all of us coming together to get through these hard times. The same goes for the school district budget as well as other budgets and taxing districts. Our leaders, including our new county executive, state senator, school board and schools superintendent seem to be taking a measured and innovative approach to these issues so far and we should all have optimism from these efforts. So, in the end, I have confidence that the people of Port will choose to take the road of hope and courage, as we have in the past. I believe these trying times will bring out our best, not our worst and that we will walk together along the bright road of hope and cooperation and stomp over the cynics and fear mongers who seek to divide our town, and that we will be able to follow this road to solutions that lead to a brighter future for us all.
Robert W. Seiden