I can’t remember when politics was unimportant.
1. My father kicked one of my mother’s uncles out of the house during a dispute about FDR. That family legend that was probably true.
2. My grandmother (my mother’s mother) moved in with us after my grandfather died. My father could not fathom her voting for Eisenhower instead of Adlai Stevenson.
Active politics? We didn’t do that. We had conversations. We rooted.
When I became a school superintendent, I thought my job was to oversee the schools. Work with teachers and their curriculum. Work with principals.
I was wrong.
When I became a school superintendent, my job was to work effectively with my school boards (That’s plural. I was in a rural northern New England district. Each little town had its own school and its own school board.) I was there for twenty-five years. If I had not learned something about small-town politics, I would have been Superintendent for fewer years.
When I became a school superintendent, my job was to work effectively with some people who were out of town. The state Board of Education. The people I actually dealt with and had to work effectively with were mid-level staff at the State Department of Education.
What do you intend by that regulation? What grants are coming up? Which are competitive? Would you like to know something about how our district is doing with this state program? Let’s work together. I can help you have an advisory council that actually works. Can we get legislative support for that proposal?
When I became a school superintendent, I discovered the state legislature. My district had five tiny towns at the outskirts of legislative districts. There was a time when the five towns had three state Representatives and two state Senators. I had a delegation. I told them how the Governor’s budget proposal would affect each school’s budget. I told them how we were doing with the new special education law. I told them how tax limitation laws, how new state assessments would affect us.
Not that I knew right away about the legislature’s importance. During the summer after my first year, one of the state senators paid an unannounced visit to my office. I knew nothing. I had no idea that every year he was vice-chair of the committee that reconciled the House and State budget that was sent to the Governor. I learned.
National politics were far away. I paid attention. I paid more attention after I retired. We gave money to Obama. In 2016, we gave money to Hillary. We went on the women’s march.
Marching was not satisfying. I started to write to friends. I urged them to provide financial support to candidates – on the state level, on the federal level. Those notes became a regular newsletter and now a Website – Lenspoliticalnotes.com.
And the East River Democratic Club and the club I belonged to before that? When we moved to New York City, we looked for ways to make communities out of the City. ERDC fits just fine as one of the communities to which I belong. We have similar political goals.
Len Lubinsky is an elected member East River Democratic Club's Executive Committee.