I climbed up the steep hill to my mailbox the other day. As I sorted through the mail, walking back down the driveway, I noticed a flashy 8x10 card with a huge and relatively unappealing picture of Ali Boak; she’s the Democratic candidate running to represent the 40th District in the New York State Senate, which encompasses parts of Dutchess, Putnam, and Westchester Counties. I’d recently met and interviewed Ms. Boak and found her to be an engaging, attractive, and unusually competent woman. So, as I stopped to more closely examine the card and where it came from, I thought, “This must be a hatchet job from her Republican rival, Terrance Murphy.”
The card, clearly meant to discredit Boak, was unsigned. It made vague allegations about unpaid taxes on her husband’s Florida property. Aha! Murphy, who has had embarrassing tax troubles dating back to 2010, is attempting to deflect the condemnations coming his way that refer to him as a tax cheat. So, I did some quick research to see if the Boak family had any irregularities regarding their payment of taxes, including the ones on their Florida rental home, and found none. They pay their taxes, and in a timely fashion.
I’d heard Ali Boak speak on a couple of occasions, and was quite impressed by her background, her range of experience, and her commitment to kids. This motivated me to track her down and find out more. What makes her tick? Why, as a mother of four, is she willingly entering into an arena where she will undoubtedly face a continuous stream of criticism and character assassination?
What I found was a true human being, a mensch, a real class act. To me, “a class act” is someone whose behavior others admire and try to be like, someone who attracts good people to her sphere of influence. A person who possesses the qualities you seek in a close friend or trusted colleague: genuine decency, firmness of purpose, and true compassion.
After interviewing Boak for about an hour, and closely scrutinizing her background information, I found her to be a woman of significant accomplishments, with an extremely positive attitude and a worldly perspective; an honest woman, willing to take full responsibility for her actions. And, most importantly, I saw a politician able to appreciate the troubles of others, one who demonstrates a true willingness to be of service.
Here is some of what Ali Boak had to say:
“I learned at a young age the importance of honesty, integrity, and hard work. I juggled as many as three jobs while earning my degree at SUNY-Albany and was the first in my family to graduate from college. I’ve spent almost my entire professional life advocating for children and building diverse coalitions that deliver real results on behalf of our most vulnerable populations.
I was a Peace Corps volunteer and Fulbright Scholar in the Baltic States, setting up health centers and working with vulnerable youth. After I received my Master’s Degree in Public Health from Columbia University, I co-founded the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA), an international nonprofit dedicated to the elimination of human trafficking and exploitation of adolescents.
Over the years, I’ve become an internationally recognized expert on human trafficking and a longtime advocate for adolescent health. I’ve worked closely with the U.S. Department of Justice, and developed training programs for law enforcement - including Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. I’m also the co-founder of the Westchester Anti-Trafficking Task Force.
My work in combating the exploitation of children and youth has been recognized by Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Representative Nita Lowey, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and the Westchester Board of Legislators. And, currently, I’m the Leader in Residence at the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at The City College of New York, and the Executive Director of IOFA.
During my ‘free” time,’ I’ve been a Girl Scouts troop leader; helped to found the Pound Ridge Community Partnership; and served on the Budget Advisory Committee of the Bedford Central School District.”
Ms. Boak then spoke to me about her strong beliefs and goals:
“I deeply believe that New Yorkers deserve a transparent state government and elected officials that are open, honest, and accountable. If elected, I will work diligently to strip pensions from all politicians convicted of corruption; limit outside income and conflicts of interests for legislators; fight to limit the influence of big-moneyed special interests; and make all discretionary spending by legislators fully transparent.
As a member of the United Nations Working Group on Girls, I’ve been a strong vocal advocate for the rights of women and girls in New York and around the world. In the State Senate, I will continue the fight to safeguard our reproductive rights; I will work to ensure that survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking have the resources and support they need to seek justice and rebuild their lives; and aggressively support equal pay for equal work.
The New York League of Conservation Voters describes me as a ‘true environmental champion’ with an ‘impressive record of accomplishment and vision for an even greener, healthier future.’ We can no longer ignore the causes or effects of climate change. In Albany, I’ll work to reduce carbon emissions, protect our natural resources and open spaces, and ensure that our air, water, and land are safe for future generations. I will also support the closing of Indian Point and stopping the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Pipeline Project. Indian Point sits near two fault lines, is vulnerable to terrorism, plagued with safety problems, and lacks a workable evacuation plan. Expanding gas transmission systems increases our reliance on climate-changing fossil fuels and creates serious safety risks for our communities. As State Senator, I will work to promote energy conservation and expand renewable energy sources.
I know firsthand that strong public schools and colleges are the key to giving our kids the high quality education that prepares them for a 21st-century workforce. In the State Senate, my education priorities will include ending Common Core and the over-reliance on one-size-fits-all standardized tests; ensuring that our school funds are not diverted to charter schools; keeping our state university system strong and affordable; and incentivizing new teachers to work in underserved communities.
Lastly, I fully understand that we are being overburdened by taxes, and that local governments have been saddled with unfunded mandates. As Senator, I will do my best to cut property taxes by requiring the state to fund mandated Medicaid services; increase state support for infrastructure improvements; reduce spending through smart consolidation of local governments and special taxing districts; and invest in job creators, especially small businesses.”
Ali Boak’s got my vote!