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 Dear Editor:

Voters in the western half of Rockaway and the rest of District 32 have some soul searching to do before casting their ballots for city council on November 2. Chair of the Queens Republican Party, Joann Ariola, is running as the successor to her ‘good friend’ Councilman Eric Ulrich. Although the banners and signs you’ve likely seen all over the peninsula do not list her party, she has proclaimed herself the “commonsense candidate” and it is with the utmost sense of urgency that we refute that hyperbolic claim.

According to the front page of the NY Daily News, Ariola has chosen to keep insurrectionist Philip Grillo in a position of power within her party (see Daily News front page article “Riot Guy Deleted” 9/24/21).

According to a recent expose in NY1, she is implicated in the corruption scandal at the Board of Elections (NY1’s “Ballot Blunders: Looking at Patronage and Nepotism at NYC Board of Elections).

Ariola also endorsed Donald Trump’s reelection in 2020, after four agonizing years of political scandal, embarrassment on the world stage, two impeachments, countless racist policies, and a botched response to the COVID pandemic.

And to get extremely local, there is nothing “commonsense” about wanting more of the same representation we have had over the last 12 years. Even before the pandemic, Councilman Ulrich did not prioritize the people of this community. He showed up to work only 67% of the time, ranking 46 out of 50 for worst attendance among his colleagues. He is also the only elected official of note to have endorsed Joann Ariola. This is not good enough.

The participatory budgeting process is another metric for how our community has lost out. The councilperson has chosen to opt out of this process in recent years. From 2018 onwards, the 1-2 million dollars available for projects proposed by members of the public was left on the table. Neighboring district 31 prioritized the participatory budgeting process and was able to fund a myriad of school infrastructure projects.

Contrast this with the actions of Democratic nominee Felicia Singh. She recently held a town hall where she explained the city budget process to a crowd of Rockaway residents, what the role of city council members is (and what they should be held accountable for), and how the participatory budgeting system works. Participants left with knowledge that can be turned into real power- what kind of money is available to communities like ours, how regular people can propose projects and gather support so they have a good chance of being funded through participatory budgeting. 

Knowledge is power, and Ms. Singh, a teacher, is acutely aware of this. It speaks volumes about her character that, instead of obscuring this information like others before her, she is actively sharing it with community members so we can take action and hold her accountable when she is elected.

We have been governed with a scarcity mindset, by people who do not want an informed or active electorate.  We deserve someone who will show up 100 percent of the time to fight like hell for us. We deserve someone who will pull back the curtain and show us how government works, so we can be involved and hold them accountable. 

Kate Walls

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