This article, which focuses on NYS Senate candidate Leslie Banks Burke (Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates & part of Tompkins Counties) was submitted by Lee Marcus, friend of the New NY 23rd. Lee is a writer who lives in Arkport.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Leslie Danks Burke for the past few years. Now she’s running for the NYS Senate seat currently held by Senator Tom O’Mara. Here’s what I know about Leslie:
As a mother, she wants the community to offer her daughters resources that only a community can. So she became a Girl Scout leader. As the daughter of farmers, Leslie wants farmers (natural custodians of land, water, and neighborliness) to make their own decisions about what to grow, and how to grow it. So she serves on the Agriculture Working Group of the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council.
As a parent, she wants her children’s teachers empowered to do their best teaching, and for public schools to be as good as private ones. So she joined the PTA, and also the board of the Tompkins-Cortland Community College Foundation. Leslie understands the vital role that public libraries play in maintaining an informed citizenry, without which democracy would be impossible. So she serves on the Tompkins County Public Library Foundation.
As a woman, she wants health care that is based in science and leaves life-altering decisions to the patient. So she serves on the board of Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes. Leslie was twice honored by the New York Legal Aid Society for her outstanding pro bono work in representing public housing residents and state prison inmates alleging sexual assault. She’s gone a long way to establish her bona fides, not as a politician, but as a good person.
For me, Leslie’s strongest qualification to be our senator is her deep sense of place and a profound understanding of her own and her family’s need for and obligation to community. She seems driven by a passion to continue discovering those connections and to serve them with her time, energy, and talent. I can’t think how we could do better. When asked, last Saturday in a candidate debate, why she wants to be our senator, Leslie said that she loves the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier region.
She wants to live out her life here. But she also wants her children to grow up and be able to live here, work here, thrive here as well (if only so they can take care of her in her old age, she quips). For that to happen, she believes, change is necessary. Leslie sees the high property taxes we all pay and wants to know why so little of that money is coming back to our region to support schools, business start-ups, transportation.
She watched the roll-out of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in our schools and of the New York SAFE Act and feels that both were carried out with little regard for the judgment or concerns of the people who would be directly affected by them.
She sees decades of corruption in Albany, and points out that much of it isn’t even illegal. She wants to change the rules. Leslie worries that the people who have been elected to represent our region have stronger ties to downstate politicians and to multinational corporations than to us.
Her opponent, Senator Tom O’Mara, is a partner in a law firm that lobbies the NYS senate on conservation issues, even as he chairs the Environmental Conservation committee in the senate! I think she’s right to worry. That’s a conflict of interest if ever there was one.
Leslie, an attorney herself, has put her law career on hold to work full-time as our senator; so her clients will be you and me, and the teachers and farmers, the small business owners, hunters and nature lovers, library patrons, property owners, and most of all, parents, children, extended families—the citizens who elect her.
I’m voting for this candidate, because our region deserves the commitment, the talent, and the authenticity of Leslie Danks Burke.