This local election season in Niskayuna has taught me a lot about people in my community and those who work or are active in the town. Many of them over these last few years have been driven by fear. Sounds pretty strange for your basic upper to average middle class community. But it is true.
Last weekend one of the Democratic candidates for town board brought her family to meet me. She wanted me to know what a great family she has and that she is a good person. It was really strange to the people who were with me and who asked me what it was all about. What she does not realize is that I know she is a good person, I know she does lots of good things for our community but none the less she has been complicit in ignoring or allowing the Town Supervisor to do some pretty questionable things. And if she really did not know then why did she not know? Not just her but the other Board members as well. I know at least two of the other members and they are good people. I like them but either they were blind or this guy really had them under this thumb.
I realized the other day that much of the complicity of the folks who might have been able to put a stop to this was fear. “Will I lose the backing of the party if I want to run again?” “Will my wife lose her job that I just got her or my son or my husband if I speak up?” “Will there be retribution against me if I speak up after being forced out of my job?” (Mailboxes being ploughed over, a sudden rise in just my taxes, picky fines etc)
Fear is a terrible thing. The newspaper has spoken to many of the people who lost their jobs and they give info but don’t want to be personally interviewed, because they are afraid. Current employees also have talked privately about what is going on in Town Hall. But you will never get them to speak on the record. They are afraid.
As for me, yes I suppose there is anxiety and fear at some level. I know a lot of people and I get a lot of messages and emails from folks sharing more about what they hear about. All I have done is ask questions and encourage them to speak out.
I want to know why the wives of two town board members were hired to work at the Senior Center? Why were the staff who were professionals harrassed into leaving? Where was their supervision if they were not doing what was expected of them? Why was a clerk over the period of a brief couple of years turned into a Deputy Town Supervisor? What is her relationship with the Town Supervisor? Why in God’s name would the Town Supervisor not put a light up for the Court Staff and instead lock the door so they could not go out their door and had to walk by the folks they had just sentenced in court? Sounds like one angry guy to me.
People have asked me why I am speaking out. Well, if you want to know it is because if one of those running for office had called me the first time I asked I would have had my answers. But no instead they tried to quiet me. Sorry, my genetics does not allow for that to happen. There is something very wrong in our town and there needs to be change. I was talking to my neighbor yesterday and he laughed at the signs for Ms. Syed on my front lawn. I laughed to since I have never in my life put up political signs and since I absolutely dislike the current national administration it seems counter intuitive for me to be voting Republican. But there needs to be change in this town and many people I talk to see the need for that change.
But if we do get change the first thing that needs to happen is some healing for the Town Employees and some sense of respect and honor to replace the fearful atmosphere.