March 9, 2012

When Bedford’s Democrats were lonely

We’re not so young that we don’t remember when the number of Democrats on the Bedford Democratic Committee could be counted on two hands. The number of Democratic candidates could be counted on a couple of fingers, if that. In the late ’90s and early part of the 2000s, we chastised Bedford Dems for failing to mount campaigns for local and state elections. Democrats, outnumbered by more than 1,000 Republicans, were hard-pressed to even find a spokesperson willing to go on the record in Bedford. Even the Republicans were seeking a revival of the two-party system in Bedford as a way to provide interest and involvement in local issues. A string of Republican supervisors held sway: Robert D. Hazard, Lawrence E. Dwyer, Joseph M. Del Sindaco, John Dinin and Lee Roberts. Sue Kelly occupied the 19th District congressional seat for more than a decade, from 1994 to 2006.

Despite those lean years, there were always a handful of dedicated and organized stalwarts, none more than Bedford Democratic Party chairman George Delaney. As the years moved ahead, he was to witness Bedford’s Democratic Party grow in size and influence. Today, there are more registered Democrats in Bedford than registered Republicans. As Judge Kevin Quaranta’s campaign manager in 2003, Mr. Delaney helped usher in a time when Democrats like Mr. Quaranta, Peter Harckham, David Gabrielson, Chris Burdick and others would take office in our community.

Mr. Quaranta’s campaign was “old school,” and Mr. Delaney was proud of it. “When Kevin Quaranta ran for Bedford town justice in 2003, he went door to door to over 2,000 homes in Bedford,” he said. “He didn’t rely on campaign literature. It takes a committed person to run for public office — you have to give up your life, and if you have a family and a job, it’s very difficult.”

Today there are 3,965 registered Democrats in Bedford and 3,425 registered Republicans, a change from those days past. No one was more pleased to see this shift than George Delaney, who maintained involvement in his party to the end, attending local functions, fundraisers, and supporting local candidates any way he could.

At his funeral mass on Monday morning, Mr. Quaranta credited his friend, colleague and mentor with playing a major role in changing the face of politics in Bedford in the past decade. “George was fiercely loyal to Democratic principles, fairness and justice, and was fortunate enough in his time, particularly over the last 10 years, to see a real change here in Bedford, to see a real shift from what had basically been a one-party rule for a long time, and he helped bring about greater access to town government for all people,” Mr. Quaranta said.

“For that, we all owe George a debt of gratitude,” Mr. Quaranta told the crowd of mourners at St. Patrick’s Church. “I know I certainly do.”

New push to stop drunk driving

We know they’re out there on New Year’s Eve and random Friday and Saturday nights, DUI checkpoints manned by our local police. We know the drill. We slow down, wait patiently and quietly in the dark — No one honks— until it’s our turn at the head of the line. Then the patrol asks us a few questions, we respond, and soon enough, and sober, we’re on our way. We’ve learned not to get behind the wheel of a car when we’ve been drinking. O brave new world! And this time for the better.

The delay and minor inconvenience of a roadblock never would have been tolerated 20 or 30 years ago, when drunk driving was technically illegal but fairly commonplace.. Those drunk drivers who got arrested were very drunk; tipsy and buzzed drivers probably got a free ride home or were told to walk the rest of the way and sleep it off.

Back then, there weren’t any designated drivers. No one even thought about calling a taxi to get home from a bar or a particularly rowdy party. No one thought driving drunk was so terrible — or dangerous to others. We just hoped we’d be lucky enough to get home in one piece.

But we’ve seen a sea change of opinion. Advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have educated, and alarmed, the public about the horrors of drunk driving and the urgent need for its prevention. High school students and young drivers are routinely warned of its danger and consequences. We watch public service announcements on TV. The legal drinking age has been raised to 21. And new legislation set the offending blood alcohol concentration at .08 percent, nationwide.

And with the change in public perception has come a marked change in law enforcement. Checkpoints are commonplace. Patrols are trained how to administer field sobriety tests. They’re taught exactly how to testify in court.

Drunk driving deaths have fallen from 21,113 in 1982 to 10,839 in 2009, according to an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analysis. New York State had 836 drunken-driving deaths in 1982 compared with 320 in 2009. And there’s been about a 62 percent decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities among 16-20-year-olds since 1987.

Statewide, drunk driving fatalities have remained at or near 30 percent of all motor-vehicle-related deaths annually for about the past five years, despite the various initiatives and laws to further reduce the numbers. We suspect that many of the drivers are repeat offenders; according to MADD, people who have previous drunk driving convictions make up approximately one-third of drunk drivers.

At a press conference at the new public safety building, Congresswoman Nita Lowey and the widow and daughters of Burton H. Greene, a New Rochelle man killed by a repeat offender drunk driver in 1997 on Post Road, rallied support for new legislation that requires ignition interlock devices in the cars of convicted drunk drivers. It was a profoundly affecting conference: Fifteen years later, one of Greene’s daughters spoke of her regret that her father didn’t walk her down the aisle at her wedding or know her children.

We urge our lawmakers to pass the bill. It’s an important tool in the arsenal preventing drunk driving injuries and deaths and a minor inconvenience with a major potential. Keep drunk drivers off the road!

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

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  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    

Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Perks – 197 Katonah Avenue    

  4. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  5. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  6. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

  2. Connie’s at Northern Westchester Hospital
    400 E. Main Street    

South Salem/Vista

  1. JNR Pharmacy – 222 Oakridge Commons;
    Route 123   

Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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