No, not Biden vs. Trump. I’m referencing the big one here next Tuesday, the battle between Alex Edelman and Danny Goldstein for the privilege to serve as the mayor of the pristine Village of Lawrence.
From this vantage point, it looks very much like this local election is reflective of the national presidential election between President Trump and former VP Joe Biden. That national election, with less than two months to go, is a disgusting display of the worst kind of electioneering and personal mudslinging.
Our little election between the incumbent Alex Edelman and challenger Danny Goldstein should not have been anything even close to what we are witnessing on the national level. But at least from the perspective of the Goldstein campaign, it has been reduced to that, and people have expressed their chagrin and surprise.
As one who is friendly with both candidates outside of this knockdown drag-out election face-off, I have to say that, unfortunately, this is more a personality conflict than a debate on the issues of Village policy. Alex has been the mayor of Lawrence for four years and by law is allowed one more two-year term before term limits prevent him from running again.
Danny Goldstein has been a village trustee since being appointed to the position by Mayor Edelman in 2015. It took a relatively short time before they disagreed on some policies, but over the last year or so, the conflict of personalities burst onto the public stage.
I have met with both Alex and Danny more than a few times over the last year or so. It became apparent to me that these two men were just at odds with one another; if one said “black” the other would say “white.”
I asked Goldstein on numerous occasions what it was that Edelman may have said to him that set him off the way it did and pushed him to marshal a slate of candidates and commit tens of thousands of dollars to win a position that pays absolutely nothing.
More than once, Danny said that Alex referred to him in a disparaging fashion at open trustee meetings attended by the public. Goldstein says that it didn’t bother him at all, but judging by the number of times that he mentioned it to me, it may have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Fortunately for the 6,500 residents of the Village of Lawrence, over these last few weeks the vitriolic campaign rhetoric has cooled and the campaign has snapped back to addressing differences between the two candidates in a respectful and dignified manner.
My expressed opinion through many of these local elections has been that, as a courtesy, so long as the incumbents prefer to serve, they should be allowed to proceed unchallenged. That has been the tradition during the village’s 100 years in existence, and I believe that custom is the right one. Of course, the conventional political practice does not work that way, but this is the Village of Lawrence where most people get along well with their neighbors and where most of us lead similar lifestyles.
On the mayoral level, each of the candidates is hoping for a 5TJT endorsement. My position is that endorsement is not so important when we are dealing with a population of educated and accomplished free-thinkers who are certainly capable of figuring out on their own the best candidate to serve in Lawrence government.
If I endorse one candidate over the other, the candidate not endorsed will be disappointed with the 5TJT and probably with me personally. In other words, no matter who wins, the result will be that I will lose — and I’m not even running for anything.
So put it this way: If Alex Edelman is successful and wins on September 15, Danny Goldstein will still be a sitting trustee on the board. If that happens, it will hopefully be an opportunity for the two to set aside their differences and work together going forward for the benefit of the community.
If Danny Goldstein wins, that means that Alex will have served his years as mayor (and trustee prior to that), and he could either choose not to be involved in village government anymore or run again for an open seat on the board next year.
One thing that most people I have spoken to both inside and outside village government say is that Alex has been an outstanding mayor who has accomplished much for the residents of Lawrence. Both candidates are committed to keeping taxes down, maintaining all services and infrastructure upgrades, and so on.
The surface impression for most is that things are good in the village and we need a fiscally responsible leader like Alex Edelman to move us forward.
On the other hand, Danny Goldstein wants to be more of an activist mayor. He believes residential taxes can be lowered and that the roads and lighting should be improved even though those two important features are being worked on constantly.
Goldstein says the village needs more parks and has campaigned persistently for a bike lane running through parts of the village. All the candidates, whether for mayor or trustee, want to deliver the highest level of security for Lawrence residents, and, indeed, perhaps nothing is more important. For his part, Goldstein is calling for retaining a private security patrol for the village. Those critical of that plan say that such a move would be an affront to our local police department.
One of the main points of contention between the mayoral candidates is the disposition of the old sewer plant located at the bottom of Rock Hall Road near Route 878 at the edge of the village.
For his part, Mayor Edelman is advocating for the construction of up to eight private homes at the price of approximately $1 million per lot. Edelman wants to utilize the proceeds from the sale to build two world-class swimming pools and a community center for village residents only at the country club.
Danny Goldstein believes that this seven-acre plot of land should be turned into a state-of-the-art park and playground for children, which would serve the overall community.
Incumbent trustee Uri Kaufman, who is running for reelection next week, has been campaigning to use his expertise as a real estate developer to build Regency-style residences on the old sewage plant site. Kaufman says he has an interested buyer for the property with a $20 million agreement in place. Kaufman is running as an independent candidate amenable to some of the ideas of both mayoral candidates but opposed to others. Kaufman has served as a member of the Lawrence District School Board for nine years and has been a village trustee for four years.
Another independent candidate is the affable and personable first-time candidate Larry “Idel” Kolodny. He, too, sees great advantages of not running on a slate like the others and feels he can parlay that independence into supporting ideas that improve the quality of life here without the intense political dynamics that are often very much part of a policy position.
Among his goals is “to foster respect, collaboration, and civility within the village administration and continue our tradition of volunteerism.”
Aside from the position of mayor, the other two seats up for grabs are those of Mr. Kaufman and the seat previously occupied by Syma Diamond, who decided not to seek reelection.
The Goldstein slate includes Bruce Backman and Dr. Joel Preminger as trustees and Shraga Rokosz as village justice. Preminger is a dentist here in the Five Towns and Backman is a businessman who worked in New York State government for many years, including as an aide to former governor George Pataki. Backman and Preminger are closely aligned with Goldstein’s policy positions and their election will assure a harmonious majority.
The Edelman ticket includes Paris Popack and Eli Kutner as trustees and Gary Mandel to be reelected as Village justice. Popack and Kutner also bring important local government experience to the table. Ms. Popack says, “I have tremendous experience, ability, and relationships that I have built up through many years of civic work on behalf of Lawrence, including my years as president of the Lawrence Civic Association, and I want to continue to utilize these assets for the betterment of our community, which I hold dear.”
As far as her objectives as a trustee she adds, “I want to preserve Lawrence regarding the Woodmere Club property to make sure there is no 6th Town, and see the decommissioned water treatment plant in Lawrence stay zoned for single-family homes. We can’t be fighting development in one area of our neighborhood and then overdevelop in the other part of our neighborhood. This is a huge contradiction of the fight for quality of life for our residents.”
Kutner has served as an assistant for two congressmen when he lived in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was born and raised, before relocating to the Five Towns about 20 years ago. His priorities include business development in the Village as well as a focus on enhanced security.
I’ve met all of the candidates and they are good, well-meaning, and capable people. The big prize here is the position of mayor of Lawrence. It’s a big responsibility, and a very time-consuming as well as demanding undertaking. I have always liked the tradition of extending the courtesy to the incumbent to serve three two-year terms if so desired. In this case, Alex Edelman wishes to continue serving. Danny Goldstein, a now-experienced trustee, has an ambitious and innovative plan if elected. Regardless of the result on September 15, it looks like the future of the village will be in good and trustworthy hands.