Left: Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, center, with Massapequa school...

Left: Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, center, with Massapequa school board members. Right: Blakeman tries on the "Once a Chief Always a Chief" sweatshirt presented to him by the board Thursday. Credit: Chris Boyle

Daily Point

Driving the 'woke people' crazy

The Massapequa Board of Education had what board president Kerry Wachter called “a very special guest” at its meeting Thursday.

As she introduced Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, Wachter, calling him a “big supporter of the school,” offered him a sweatshirt sporting the logo, “Once a Chief, Always a Chief,” which Blakeman promptly put on.

The gift was a nod to the controversy regarding the state ban on Native American imagery and names. The Massapequa school board voted last month to comply with the ban, but simultaneously promised to challenge the ban in court, hoping to keep the district’s Chiefs name and logo.

Blakeman went on to further bond with this solidly GOP part of the county on the incendiary school mascot issue.

“I would like to applaud you for your stand [and] the fact that you’re going to take legal action to preserve your rights,” Blakeman told the board Thursday. “I think that this is censorship and I think that it’s wrong.”

Blakeman noted — correctly — that the word “chief” derives from the French and means “someone who is in charge, or a chef.” European settlers used the term to describe the leaders of the indigenous nations they met.

“I think that trying to sanitize history is a big mistake because where do you stop?” Blakeman added. “History is about the good, the bad and the ugly and people can decide for themselves. They shouldn’t have a censor to decide what is good or what is bad.”

“I don’t see anything derogatory in what you’re doing,” Blakeman told the board.

On Friday, he sent a further explanation to The Point, calling it a free speech issue. “I believe each school district has the right to choose their name and mascot without interference from inter-meddlers.”

During the meeting, Blakeman further dove into the culture wars, comparing the mascot issue with the fight over mask mandates during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Keep your eye on the ball,” Blakeman said. “There are people who want to take your eye off the ball and get you involved in things that have nothing to do with the education of your children. When we were really adamantly opposed to the mandates, especially for the masks, people kept talking about the science, the science, the science, and we kept saying, ‘There is no science.’ Massapequa was one of the communities that was most outspoken — and we turned out to be right.”

Blakeman pledged his support for the board in its effort to fight the mascot ban.

“I’m on your side on this one. Anything I can do to speak out I’ll be happy to do it,” Blakeman said.

But perhaps the county executive’s most telling comment came as he completed his remarks and got ready to pose for a photo with the board, sporting his new sweatshirt.

“This is going to drive the woke people crazy,” he said to laughter.

It might also drive Blakeman’s base to the polls whenever he’s next on the ballot.

— Randi F. Marshall randi.marshall@newsday.com

Pencil Point

Figures of speech

Credit: The Carlotte Observer, N.C./Kevin Siers

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

'Modifying' NY's redistricting battle

New York’s latest redistricting case, essentially a proxy war for control of the House of Representatives, was reduced this week to a fight over the definition of a single word: modify. The surprising detour is a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s final ruling of the term that killed the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program.

Both sides are using out-of-state law firms specializing in crucial redistricting cases around the nation and right now they are anxiously awaiting a ruling from the Appellate Division, Third Department in Albany. The case was filed by Democrats seeking to overturn part of a seismic Court of Appeals ruling last year which threw out the party’s gerrymandered map and cleared the way for a court-appointed special master to draw more competitive districts. The Democrats want a do-over, asking the panel to let the state's redistricting commission have a second chance at drawing new districts for the 2024 contests. The Republicans say there is no legal rationale for new maps and that the current lines should stand until the next decennial census restarts the redistricting process.

Enter the "modify" dispute. On July 3, the GOP sent a letter to the Appellate Division noting the Supreme Court student loan ruling found the Biden administration overstepped bounds in interpreting a federal statute. "Just as the term “modify” cannot support the fundamental changes at issue in Biden, neither can it reasonably be read to permit a court to restart the Independent Redistricting Commission (“IRC”)/Legislature process and replace a redistricting map that a court lawfully adopted …” wrote Misha Tseytlin, who is representing the GOP.

On Thursday, Democrats replied with their own letter, saying the court ruling has “no bearing on the issues in this case,” and on Friday, a letter making similar arguments was sent by Democrats who had already filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case, a sign of the high stakes involved. There has been no response by the court to the letters.

But could this flurry of activity caused by the GOP delay a ruling? The clock is ticking, loudly. The losing side is expected to ask the Court of Appeals, the state’s top court, for a review which could stretch out the process for a few more months. Any court must be mindful that sending the process back to the Independent Redistricting Commission means more hearings, the drawing of new lines, and if the IRC fails to agree on a new map, getting the State Legislature to approve one and then having the governor sign off. All of this should be done before the March 1 start date for candidates to begin the petitioning process.

“It’s really one step at a time in a completely unpredictable minefield as to what comes next,” said Jeff Wice, an New York Law School professor and redistricting expert.

— Rita Ciolli rita.ciolli@newsday.com

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