Standing Up To Bullying

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I have been a resident of Munsey Park for over 31 years. During that time I have written one letter to the editor of a local paper and run for office twice. Today, I’m evening the score: this is my second letter.

The first time I ran for office was in 1991 and my opponent was the then-incumbent mayor of Munsey Park. The issue that motivated me to run was a proposal approved by the Village Board to allow a high-density shopping center to be built where Whole Foods and Benihana exist today. It would have entailed opening the end of Park Avenue into the shopping center. I thought the proposal was unwise and detrimental to the welfare of the residents of Munsey Park and violative of its protective code. I ran for office because I believed that if you were willing to criticize another person’s decision, you should be prepared to step “into his shoes.” I lost the election, but as you can see, the shopping center was never built and Park Avenue remains closed. I mention this by way of background because during the campaign for office I saw a side of Munsey Park politics that I wished I had not seen, and one which, until today, only my wife knows occurred: I received hate mail to my home (presumably from village residents too cowardly to sign their names) and visits from a prior officeholder who tried to persuade me that Munsey Park wasn’t ready for an Italian mayor; this individual said things to me like: “you cannot pave your front yard to put up a statue of the Madonna,” and, stranger still, “you cannot have blue roofs in Munsey Park.” I still don’t know what he meant, but it didn’t sound good. It was a total smear campaign against me based not on my ideas but, effectively, on who I was and, perhaps, what I represented.
It disgusted me, and for the next 25 years, I stayed away from village hall and village politics. To me, life was too short to deal with such small-mindedness and hatred.

Last year, I ran for an open trustee seat and won. I was excited about the change that the current board was bringing to Munsey Park; a new beginning, if you will. Now surfaces again some of the same faces that opposed me 25 years ago and the content of their message has not changed one iota. Rather than challenge ideas, they attack character. Rather than offer solutions, they hint at corruption and back-room-deals. There is no place in Munsey Park for the coarseness we see in politics on a national level.

I call upon Brian Dunning and Nathy Yakaitis to debate ideas and to back away from the character assassins that they seemed to have aligned themselves with. There is no place in Munsey Park for such behavior.

—Lawrence A. Ceriello
Trustee, Village of Munsey Park

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