First Rule: Appeal To Low Information Voters
Four years ago, after literally decades of incompetent management, Glen Cove voters had an awakening. Tired of double digit tax increases, declining values of their homes, a continually deteriorating downtown, loss of local businesses and a general view that Glen Cove was on its way to going out of business, the electorate had what seemed to be the wisdom of putting a man in the mayor’s office who possessed the necessary skills and abilities to turn things around.
Whether by accident or design, somehow a political light bulb turned on and the voters, sick and tired of ineptitude and ineffectiveness in their public officials, elected Reginald Spinello, a retired, successful former business executive to captain their ship before it turned into the Titanic of small cities.
In fewer than four short years, Mr. Spinello demonstrated how local government can be effectively run without having to make political appointments to stay in office, without having to do favors for owners of illegal housing, without having to stick homeowners with incessant tax increases to cover huge financial mistakes and without having to engage in . . . well . . . without having to engage in all the usual and customary political tricks and game playing that tend to keep unsuccessful people in office because voters are just too lazy or uninformed to demand a change for the better.
Studies estimate that at least 20 percent of the American public believes that the sun revolves around the earth. Heaven knows how many people out there still think the earth is flat. The bottom line is that most people are frighteningly uninformed about almost everything that requires them to pay attention. And that brings us to the recent election in Glen Cove. The people who have benefited from a city government that has finally turned the corner on incompetence evidently stopped paying attention. There are myriad stories of voters so satisfied with the Spinello government that they couldn’t conceive of his losing a third term in office to finish what he started, and they stayed home because it was raining on Election Day. Mr. Spinello lost by three votes.
Now, the taxpayers and voters of Glen Cove can look forward to a city government being headed up by an insurance company lawyer whose resume boasts not a single thing that qualifies him to handle a $70 million budget. During most of his six terms as a city councilman, Mr. Tenke supported nearly every losing initiative that Mr. Spinello had to spend four years turning around.
No doubt about it, Mr. Tenke’s victory proves the premise of Politics 101. All you need to do is appeal to enough people who are uninformed about just why things got better over the last four years and then just hope it rains on Election Day. It may be a long time before another Reggie Spinello comes along and is willing to fix the mess again.
—Michael A. Levy