A greater emphasis on character

(Letter: The Journal News June 20, 2006)
 Judah Lerer  Monsey

In a recent editorial addressing the resignation of Assemblyman Ryan Karben and connecting it to past political resignations, The Journal News correctly stated that "this county did not need another slap in the face." As many of his constituents, I was well served by Assemblyman Karben. He took direct personal interest in the needs of those who reached out to him, and he was effective. While no one questioned his ability as a legislator, there were certainly questions raised about his aggressive political character long before his run for the New York state Assembly. These questions were raised by none other than this very newspaper, although The Journal News still saw fit to endorse him in his campaigns for the Assembly. The question that must be raised at this point is what compelled this newspaper to endorse a candidate whose political character they questioned? What is the responsibility of this and other newspapers both to their readers and to the public at large? This question must certainly be raised in particular with regard to government and politics in the Town of Ramapo, to which Karben was very closely connected. The Journal News has apparently not publicly followed up on Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence's non-existent Harvard degree and his claim that Harvard's denial of said degree was a mistake. This calls into question the character of yet another elected official. This supervisor has, in effect, generated millions of dollars of profit for one specific real estate developer by allowing downzoning for the Butterman and Patrick Farm projects. While such political arrangements are not illegal, they again call into question the character of a supervisor whose initiatives benefit a select few constituents. The lack of press coverage this has received is at the very least puzzling. The Journal News should be complimented for its increased in-depth coverage of local issues over the past years. At the same time, the editorial staff must place greater emphasis on personal character when endorsing future candidates. Hoping that a future assemblyman will mature when getting to Albany has proven to be as unrealistic as hoping the Ramapo supervisor will listen equally to the voice of all of his constituents.