Some of you may recall the 2006 Election for U.S. Senate in Virginia. Former popular governor George Allen, a Republican, was considered the heavy favorite for much of the race. Then, at a little attended campaign event, he saw an African-American staffer of his opponent and referred to him as "macaca" which is a racial slur.
Now, no one believed Allen to be an old school racist, but throwing this term around called into question his judgment, his sensitivity to others and quite frankly his intelligence. Allen lost the race.
Fast forward to North Tonawanda in 2008 and Mayor Larry Soos. Now we've been critical on this page of Soos for his handling of the concert series and other missteps. But this is well beyond any discussion of policy.
From what we understand and have confirmed, a harassment seminar was held last week at North Tonawanda City Hall for city employees. The seminar was to cover all forms of harassment.
During the seminar, the woman who was running it was looking for "jurors" for a fun mock trial exercise, which is pretty typical for these kinds of events. The facilitator had the list of employees involved in the seminar, including long-time City Accountant David R. Jakubaszek.
For those of us who grew up in WNY, perhaps there is nothing more frightening than realizing you have to call out one of those long ethnic surnames with which you have no idea how to pronounce.
So too was the case with this facilitator as she attempted to call forward Mr. Jakubaszek to participate in this mock jury.
Leave it to Mayor Larry Soos to ride to the rescue. As the facilitator struggled to properly pronounce the name, Soos shouted out "Don't worry, he's just a Polack".
Now regardless of the intent of Soos' words, which we doubt were meant intentinonally to offend, is this what we can expect from an elected leader? And lest anyone jump to Soos' defense too fast, just think if this were an African American or Latino surname...would it be OK for Soos to insert an ethnic slur in that case?
Much like the Allen comment, this raises a whole bunch of questions about Soos' intelligence, judgment and really whether he's fit to be mayor of the Lumberjack City.
We've already heard some grumblings from the Polish Community, and I wouldn't be surprised to see this whole thing blow up in short order. These types of comments have a way of simmering for a bit before they explode.
As for Soos, it's time he learn that he is Mayor and as such it expected to exude a certain amount of decorum....he's not just the local barkeep making off-color comments to his buddies any more.