LOS ANGELES—We have all experienced hurricanes, COVID-19, and racial injustice from our own perspective. However, I wanted to dive deep into these things from a mayor’s perspective—someone whose job is dedicated to preventing and keeping us protected from these types of things.
At 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 23 my phone started ringing; it was my aunt, Mayor Edidin. The conversation naturally flowed the second we started speaking. You think of leaders who do good things for their communities as being well-liked. She told me that she received a lot of criticism during her time as mayor and that it was hard to deal with it. “I’m still not used to people criticizing me or disliking me, but that’s just a part of life. You’re going to have people who disagree with you, but you have to keep pushing and doing what you think is right.”
“If everybody likes you, then you’re doing something wrong.” – Mayor Edidin
When Yvette Edidin and her family moved from Manhattan back to her hometown of Roslyn Harbor on Long Island, she was looking to help it bounce back from Hurricane Katrina, and learn to better prepare themselves for upcoming hurricanes. She said, “It wasn’t what it was like when I was growing up. I wanted to turn it back into the town it used to be.” So despite her dual degrees in engineering and economics from the University of Pennsylvania and her job history in finance, she shifted into politics and, at just 31, she successfully ran for mayor.
Edidin’s main focus during her time as mayor was to create a safer environment during hurricanes. Mayor Edidin went through two hurricanes during her tenure as mayor. The first was Hurricane Irene and the second was Sandy. She explains, “You need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best when you prepare for a hurricane.” When she was elected as mayor, she had to get trained in emergency management and was alerted weekly about the weather patterns. Hurricane Irene did a lot of damage to her town because the heavy winds caused trees to fall on the power lines. “We increased our resiliency from Irene to Sandy by cutting down 70 percent of the trees around power lines. This helped make our community safer by reducing the chance of power outages,” she shared.
Nonetheless, people criticized Mayor Edidin during the second hurricane crisis because she was in California when it hit. She explained that she found it very effective to be out of town, because she didn’t have to worry about her family being safe and she knew she had electricity. That way she could focus more on the town’s safety instead of her own family’s. However, many people complained because they wanted to see her take action in person.
Mayor Edidin has learned a ton about crisis management from her experiences and she is happy to share three things you can do for protection during a hurricane. “First,” she starts, “is making sure you have a large food supply in case a hurricane cuts off your access to grocery stores. You should also have flashlights placed all around your house in case the power goes out and you should make sure that you keep the trees on your property well-trimmed so nothing falls on you.” Thanks to Mayor Edidin’s great work with creating a safe environment during hurricanes, there were no casualties in Roslyn during them.
Mayor Edidin says that hurricanes and COVID-19 are similar in some sense. “For both COVID-19 and hurricanes, a mayor needs to put on an emergency management hat. A community leader can’t do what they think is best for their own family. A mayor has to think about the most vulnerable people first. So during both situations, you have to think about how the elderly and people with medical conditions are doing. You need to learn how to help keep these people safe.”
The former mayor says, “COVID-19 seems unprecedentedly dangerous because we can’t seem to figure out how to stop it or how to interact with others without having serious life risks.” Mayor Edidin says that if she was still mayor during these hard times, she would negotiate discounts on masks and hand sanitizer to make them more affordable for residents. She believes that masks and social distancing are essential to help stop COVID-19.
“If everybody wore masks and socially distanced then COVID-19 would die down much quicker,” she said. Mayor Edidin believes people should be fined for not wearing a mask. “If I saw someone without a mask I would politely ask them to put one on first and then if they wouldn’t put one on or if they don’t have one on them, then I would proceed to fine them.” She believes in treating residents living in your town nicely and that you should always give people the benefit of the doubt.
Wearing masks isn’t the only thing that Mayor Edidin believes we need to speak up about. She also believes that we need to speak up about racial injustice. “I have witnessed racial injustice many times. I’m white but my best friend is African American. One time our kids were having a water gun fight and she pulled her kids aside and said, ‘What have we talked about. You are never allowed to pick up a plastic gun.’ And it was because she had to worry about someone shooting her kid, thinking that he was holding a real gun. I don’t have to think about that as a white person. Sadly, in our country, my Black best friend has to worry about this and warn her children and that’s a scary thing to think about. It’s extremely unfair to her and to the Black community.”
The former mayor believes there is a more effective way of raising awareness and stopping racial injustice than rioting. “Community policing is more effective than rioting. Community policing is if a community has a mix of Asians, whites and African Americans, then the police force should be the same mix of races because the idea is that they know their population best and can speak to them in a way they respect. If you have white people policing Black neighborhoods then that is a recipe for disaster. Community policing is really what we should be investing in. We shouldn’t be reducing police budgets. We should be increasing them, but for community policing efforts.” Mayor Edidin says that we need to speak up about racial injustice and the perfect time to do that is now.
The former mayor believes that we all need to become educated on COVID-19 and racial injustice so that we can help our communities fight against them. By the end of her time as mayor in 2012, she’d helped the community grow and become a better place by adding recycling, a playground, a private security force and reducing taxes. She also helped keep many people safe during hurricanes Irene and Sandy.
Her out-of-the-box thinking and amazing work with hurricanes and other issues makes her an extremely well regarded former mayor of Roslyn. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to interview such an influential person and am excited to speak with her about important issues in the future.