Our non-partisan Mayor
There is no question that Mayor Hameeduddin's star is rising. Local and national media have shined the spotlight on him and on Teaneck since his selection as mayor at the reorganization meeting in early July. It is, however, as yet unclear whether the Mayor's high profile will prove to be an asset for Teaneck or a harmful distraction.
Those who suspect the latter seem to have a bit more support for their conclusion after the bizarre scene that played out on PBS NewsHour with Gwen Ifill. What was intended to be a debate between New York gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio and Mayor Hameeduddin about President Obama's comments regarding the controversy surrounding the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan degenerated into a shouting match with Mayor Hameeduddin, who was introduced as a Democrat early in the segment, playing the role of Democratic attack dog and putting former Congressman Lazio on the defensive on a host of issues both related and unrelated to the topic at hand.
Ifill and her producers must have been surprised as most Teaneck residents will be at the nasty turn, as Mayor Hameeduddin has, quite rightfully, never played up his party affiliation and would seem to have no connection to an election campaign for statewide office in New York.
There are a number of possible reasons for why Hameeduddin behaved the way he did. The most likely explanation would be that he perceives that Lazio, who has been trailing in the polls, has exploited the Islamic center issue to boost his popular appeal at the expense of the region's Muslim community. While his indignation may be justified, Hameeduddin at the very least showed a lack of poise in lashing out at Lazio's past record on unrelated issues and perhaps even a lack of understanding of what he ought and ought not comment on when appearing on television as the Mayor of Teaneck.
Another possibility is that the Mayor's political ambitions have grown to keep up with his growing name-recognition. What better way to get noticed as a potential candidate for higher office than to demonstrate one's loyalty to the partisan cause on national television? This would be an unwelcome development. While Hameeduddin is entitled to his personal opinions and has every right to take advantage of his notoriety to realize his dreams, today's Teaneck requires strong, independent leadership with the willingness to tackle the very unglamorous problems that face the town. An individual whose focus is on burnishing his partisan credentials is less likely to fulfill those requirements.