We certainly join our colleagues and so many others who bid Kenneth LaValle the best of luck as he moves into retirement after 44 years in the State Senate.
To be approved by voters, over and over, clearly indicates a politician who paid attention to his constituency. But with repeated reelections comes stagnation; a willingness to play the game goes hand-in-hand with longevity.
Those who champion term limitations do so to prevent this very thing: a politician becoming engrained in the system to the point he is insulated from some of its shortcomings.
Ken LaValle was a politician. He worked hard, and he worked the press hard as well — when it suited him. When it didn’t, he could just as easily freeze out a reporter in search of the truth.
LaValle, for years, voted for legislation that shielded pedophile priests — and others who preyed on children sexually — from prosecution and civil litigation. He managed to avoid the matter, even when pressed directly, but clearly sided with the Catholic Church hierarchy and others. Their flimsy argument: prosecuting the perverts would be a tax on our legal system, as if the system was more important than the victims whose lives were ruined.
Calling a politician’s work “public service” is a misnomer. LaValle wasn’t a missionary. He didn’t devote his life to helping the unfortunate. He amassed a lot of power and wielded it wisely but not always evenly, and he did quite nicely during the Joe Bruno/Sheldon Silver years by yes, playing ball.
He worked hard but reaped the power and prestige that comes with the job, and deservedly so.
When Bridget Fleming ran against him, he ran a dismissive campaign instead of taking her on with fact-based debates. He minimized her because she was a woman, and it was done very carefully, just under the surface, just a whisper below where the ever-fawning press chose to hear it.
To this day he allows the naming rights to the Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook University to be in his name, when the school could sell it to a sponsor for millions of dollars.
Yes, Ken LaValle was good for the environment, and good to the East End, and he deserves recognition, but not idol-worshipping.