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Politics

No Debate: Golden-McMahon Stand-Off Comes to Fore at Ridge Forum

Two hundred and eighteen days after she first began asking, Bay Ridge resident Mallory McMahon finally got her face-to-face with state Sen. Marty Golden — sort of.

McMahon – a lifelong Ridgeite and active member of Fight Back Bay Ridge, a grassroots politico group which just weeks ago registered as an independent expenditure committee but denies being aligned with any one political official – initially asked to meet with the senator after phoning his office in February, as first reported by this paper, to ask about a flyer being circulated by the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE).

The literature, which FBBR helped distribute, blasted the longtime pol for “blocking funding” owed to New York City public schools as a result of the 12-year-old Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) settlement and urged constituents to call Golden and “demand that he prioritize our children’s education.”

McMahon, a teacher hoping for answers, picked up the phone. She was promptly referred to the pol’s Albany office, at which point, McMahon told this paper in February – and again nearly seven months later, she was given the runaround.

That back-and-forth continued for more than 200 days – McMahon claiming to have given Golden’s office a constant flow of flexible dates when she could meet with Golden, and his office repeatedly promising to get back to her.

However, McMahon said, she could never confirm the dodging – until a Weds., Oct. 3 debate, sponsored by the Bay Ridge Inter-Agency Council on Aging and held at the Fort Hamilton Senior Citizens Center, 9941 Fort Hamilton Parkway.

“Mallory, I’m too busy for you,” Golden told McMahon at the forum. He also called McMahon a “Democratic operative,” a title that, she claims, only creates the political divide the senator is pointing to.

“I went to the debate because I wanted to hear everybody – I wasn’t just there for Marty,” McMahon told this paper, noting also that she expected a panel format, and was surprised to see the debates divided into one-on-ones. “When I submitted my question, it was for all candidates, but since I noted that I wanted to hear from Marty specifically, it was funneled to the Senate debate.”

She wanted to know the candidates’ commitments regarding meeting with constituents.

“I expected that he would blow some hot air and continue to tell me what they’ve been telling me for two thirds of a year now – to call his scheduler,” said McMahon. “I also half expected him to say he didn’t know about my efforts, that he would say something to the effect of, ‘I’m sorry, I’m on the campaign trail’ and that he’d delay me through November.

“Instead, he acknowledged that his office has given me the runaround,” McMahon said. “He thinks I’ve been trying to destroy his campaign when, in reality, I asked for this meeting in February before there even was a campaign.”

Fight Back Bay Ridge has butted heads with Golden and his office before. The group distributed stop-sign shaped fans and yellow tote bags filled with literature detailing Golden’s voting and driving record at this year’s Third Avenue Summer Strolls, while the pol’s staff handed out nearly the same color yellow balloons with his name on them.

The square-off prompted the pol’s re-election rep to pen a letter urging the New York State Board of Elections to investigate the grassroots group, which, Golden’s campaign claimed, had, at that time, failed to register as an independent expenditure committee despite raising funds to unseat the longtime pol.

Fight Back Bay Ridge fought back in return, its attorney, Bay Ridge resident Eugene Strupinsky, that same week sending the pol’s office a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Golden’s staffers stop “discouraging and criminalizing” the group’s First Amendment rights to free speech.

Still, McMahon – a Bay Ridge native who took Irish step dancing lessons from Golden’s brother as a child, participated in many a Ragamuffin Parade and has lived in the ‘hood for all but one year of her life – noted that Golden is the only pol on both sides of the aisle that she hasn’t been able to meet with.

“I’ve met with [Councilmember] Justin Brannan two times, once when his campaign was starting up and a second time after he won his primary because I had some concerns with the way he was going about some things,” she said, stressing that Brannan “probably wasn’t too excited to meet with me, but he met with me.”

The same can be said for Congressmember Dan Donovan – with whom, McMahon admits, she may never agree with politically, but who ultimately treated her “like a human being” during a meeting in D.C.

“To Donovan’s credit, I don’t agree with him on much, but he met my now-husband and me, he was polite and we even had a couple of minutes where we all laughed,” she said. “We didn’t come out of that meeting agreeing with each other, but I left feeling heard.”

In the sit-down she hoped to have with Golden, “I just wanted to talk about educational funding,” McMahon said, noting also that it was one of Golden’s staffers who suggested she meet with the senator, as they couldn’t help her. “Golden could’ve met with me and we probably would’ve continued to disagree on discretionary funding but I would have felt heard, and no one would be calling me from the press right now.”

As recently as August, McMahon said, she was still being told to stay tuned by Golden’s staff. “I have spent two thirds of a year reaching out to person after person, all of whom have told me yes,” she said, “and Golden himself on Wednesday, in front of a room of 70 people, finally told me no.

“It’s not just about the fact that he refuses to meet with me anymore,” she contended. “It’s about the fact that he didn’t have the nerve to say to my face in February, ‘Mallory, I’m not going to meet with you; we’re never going to agree on anything.’”

Golden alluded Wednesday to it coming down to McMahon’s political position. “He keeps saying he doesn’t have time for my partisan issues, when educational funding is probably the least partisan thing we could’ve talked about,” she told this paper. “I wasn’t coming to him about Trump, I wasn’t coming to him about Cuomo or the IDC or any of the millions of other things that I could’ve been requesting a meeting about.

“I specifically wanted to talk about the numbers,” she said.

The CFE lawsuit in question alleged that the state had failed to provide New York City public school students with “a sound basic education” guaranteed in the state Constitution. In 2006, the state’s Court of Appeals agreed, but payment of $1.9 billion in foundation aid, including $40 million to local District 20 schools, has languished.

“I admit that this is something I’m no expert in, but I am passionate about it,” McMahon said. “That’s the reason I asked for this meeting.”

Still, Golden maintained at the Wednesday debate that McMahon’s “agenda” was what was standing in the way of their meeting.

“If you don’t represent one of your constituents, you don’t represent any of them,” she maintained, adding that she still hopes to meet with the senator one day, though she believes an apology would first be in order.

“I reached out with an olive branch and he lit the olive branch on fire,” McMahon said. “My question is now, is he burning down his office along with it?”

Golden’s campaign contends, however, that McMahon is overtly partisan and her efforts to speak with Golden were a part of that.

“Since being forced to file with the Board of Elections as a Political Action Committee, Ms. McMahon and the group she founded, Fight Back Bay Ridge, had to make formal what was long obvious: they are a campaign effort against Senator Golden,” said Golden Campaign Spokesperson Michael Tobman. “This is not a political party issue and not even about candidates.

“Marty recently met with a community resident who hosted a fundraiser for Mr. Gounardes, and of course regularly works with organizations that have policy and political priorities different than his,” he went on. “This is about how Ms. McMahon and her group hid their campaign activities behind the label of a community group, and are now trying to rewrite their history.”

McMahon, however, told this paper that Fight Back Bay Ridge registered as an IEC as soon as it found out what one was, and that the group, because of its activities, qualified as one. She said that the group — which had never heard of an IEC till the complaint was made — began registration within 48 hours thereafter.

Golden will face Democratic challenger Andrew Gounardes this November. McMahon asked that both contenders commit to hosting quarterly town halls, if victorious.

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