Readers Write: Lazafan should resign as Nassau legislator

The Island Now

Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan should be ashamed of himself.  One year ago, he cited Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis in Selma, Ala., as one of his inspirations.

He also claimed to be inspired by Michael Schwerner, who was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan while performing civil-rights work in Mississippi in 1964.

Looking back at the video of Lafazan making those pronouncements (which is currently available on the Long Island Advocates for Police Accountability Facebook page), it is profane to hear their names coming from his mouth.

For those unaware, back in June Lafazan introduced an unconstitutional bill that would essentially make hurting a police officer’s feelings a civil infraction (offenders could be sued for up to $50,000) and grant police additional rights as a “protected class” (a designation normally reserved for immutable traits, such as but not limited to race and ethnicity).

On Aug. 2, after listening to hours of local activists, civil rights leaders and other concerned members of the public demand the bill be voted down, Lafazan, an Independent, and Democratic co-sponsor Delia DeRiggi-Whitton voted for it anyway, claiming it was necessary for police to do their jobs safely.

With the help of the Republican majority, the bill passed.

Clearly, at the height of last year’s racial justice protests precipitated by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Lafazan thought it was politically beneficial to express solidarity with Nassau’s Black community and portray himself as a principled ally.

Now, three months before the general election, Lafazan clearly believes the paradigm has shifted and the way to win is to pander to white-supremacist voters who were unmoved by last year’s protests and want the government to take every action (legal or illegal) to discourage more like them.

If I may address Lafazan directly for a moment, your political career is over.

For the rest of your life, no matter what you do, no matter where you go, you will be known as the legislator who championed this bill and stood on the wrong side of history.

You will be booed and heckled on the street like the villain you are.  There is no Hollywood-style redemption story in your future.  Do everyone a favor and resign now.

If I may address County Executive Laura Curran directly for a moment, if you do not veto this bill, your political career will also be over.

During your first term, I have seen you make cowardly choice after cowardly choice, so afraid of what either the GOP or the local police unions might say about you that you betrayed every ally and burned every bridge behind you.

I have always firmly believed that voting for the lesser of two evils is better than not voting or throwing one’s vote away on a long-shot third-party or write-in candidate.  However, if you sign this bill into law, you will prove definitively that there is no daylight between you and your Republican challenger, Bruce Blakeman, and I will not be able to vote for you again in good conscience.

If you think I’m the only one who will take your decision on this issue that seriously, Executive Curran, you are profoundly wrong, and if you think signing this bill will gain you more votes than you stand to lose, you are equally wrong.

Republicans and right-wing independents have no reason to vote for you over Blakeman, regardless of what you say or do.  Do the right thing and give the thousands of Nassau County voters waiting on your veto a reason to fill in that bubble next to your name.

Finally, if I may address the entire Democratic legislative caucus and all other county Democratic leaders directly, it is your duty to expel Lafazan and DeRiggi-Whitton from the caucus and strip them of their committee assignments.

You temporarily took these same actions against Legislator Ellen Birnbaum in 2014, when she was overheard making a racially biased remark.  Some of you even called for her resignation (although she ignored those calls).

While Lafazan’s bill may not include any explicitly racist language, it is inarguably a racist bill that stands to disproportionately impact the Black community.

If you believed sanctioning Birnbaum was necessary, then you must hold that sanctioning Lafazan and DeRiggi-Whitton is also necessary unless your moral compasses are just as broken as theirs.

Matthew Zeidman

New Hyde Park

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