Letters to the Editor: 07.12.18
Point of Light
July 9, 2018
To the Editor:
We would like to comment on Marge Winski’s “Exit the Lightkeeper” in The East Hampton Star, July 5.
Marge Winski has been an extraordinary “Point of Light” in Montauk for the early years of her, hopefully, very long life. That light will now glow brightly in Tenants Harbor, Me., and grow evermore brilliant as she realizes her dreams.
Dreams that even those who cherish her friendship can only barely imagine.
From her admiring friends at Montauk Manor,
Was a Legend
July 3, 2018
Jack Ecker was a legend in East Hampton for good reason, leaving a rich legacy of accomplishments across business, public service, and politics. He embodied the type of sustained community involvement that built our town, and must be its future. From his involvement with the Lions Club, to politics and governance, to charity and grace, Jack did it all, and he did it right.
On behalf of the East Hampton Republican Party, where Jack’s example and leadership still shine strong, we send our deepest condolences to the entire Ecker family: his widow, Mollie, his children, and grandchildren.
We Miss You
July 3, 2018
Dear Mr. Rattray,
I write this letter to express my condolences to Molly Ecker and the rest of the Ecker family, and to Montauk and the Town of East Hampton on the passing of Jack Ecker.
I became close with Jack through our charitable service in the East Hampton Lions Club. Jack was a true Lion, dedicated to serving the community in any manner he could. His vast knowledge of our community, and its people, places, and events, was invaluable.
The entire community mourns when we lose someone like Jack Ecker. It’s hard to imagine the Lions Club, or East Hampton, without him. Jack, we miss you already. You were a friend, a Lion, and a mentor. May you rest in peace.
Yours very truly,
July 15, 2018
I would like to take this time to thank the East Hampton Village Fire, Police, and Emergency Service Departments. On Saturday, July 7, the East Hampton Little League All Stars won the District 36 championship against the North Shore Little League.
The men and women of these departments gave these Little Leaguers a good ol’ Bonac escort back into town, on a traffic-filled Saturday in July. These boys will never forget this day, and neither will their family and friends. Bonac community: Nothing stronger!
The Promised Land
May 12, 2018
I was the last person hired at the Smith Meal Company of Promised Land. Prof. Hall was a very much liked biology and chemistry teacher at East Hampton High School back in the ’50s and ’60s. He was also employed in summers at Smith Meal to do quality and yield analysis of the fish oil and meal. In 1965, I was hired by John Meeker to teach chemistry and earth science at East Hampton. Prof. Hall quickly saw an opportunity to unload his summer job onto me. He wished to travel and see some of the national parks. Mr. David Clark hired me to do their lab work.
The company had a beautiful, well-equipped laboratory. The problem was that I did not have much work. Due to overfishing there were not many catches made in ’65, ’66, or ’67. They closed down in 1968. Bunker’s proper name is menhaden from the Native American “munnawhatteaug,” which means “he who enriches the land” or fertilizes. For centuries the menhaden, an oily, bony, unappetizing fish, played a major role in the development of East Hampton and Amagansett.
The Native Americans not only taught the early settlers here how to catch whales from the beach but more important how to use bunkers for fertilizer. By the mid-1880s whale oil became scarce and menhaden oil replaced it. There were three times as many menhaden ships as whaling ships. A menhaden boat could produce more oil in a week than a whaling ship could produce in a three-year voyage. The menhaden boat crew came home every night away from sea tragedies.
Industrially, the oil was used for paints, lubricants, and leather processing. Today the oil is found in cosmetics such as lipsticks. It is used to manufacture margarines and soaps. The high protein meal is used for pig and poultry feed. Promised Land was once the most important processing area for the menhaden industry. In season, it employed hundreds and had a small community unto itself with its own postal code. The Long Island section of the East Hampton Library has a wealth of information. I even found an agreement from the town trustees to a Lawrence Smith, signed by Nathanial Dominy, Oct. 8, 1879.
There is great speculation about how Promised Land received its name. Daniel Wells, a pioneer in the oil fish industry, began his business at Greenport. He rotted them, producing such a horrible odor that the people rose up and drove him out. He went on to Shelter Island with the same results. Finally to the vast Napeague wasteland (the Promised Land).
According to Fanny Gardiner, an act of the New York Assembly “promised” that a fish factory could be located at Napeague and never be moved due to odor. Migrant workers came every season from Virginia and North Carolina. They spoke of going to the Promised Land. Frank B. Smith stated that back around 1889, there were so many fish factories and the roads so bad that travel was very difficult.
One man with a horse and wagon ran errands and carried the mail from Amagansett and East Hampton to the many factories. He was a deeply religious man but not too bright: not “overburdened,” as our elders would say. One day he heard several of the owners talking about how they should agree on a name for the area. He took off his hat, finally mustered enough courage to suggest that it was so hard to reach, he thought that it should be called the Promised Land.
The menhaden is by far the most important fish in the Atlantic ecosystem. Schools of bunkers act like vacuum cleaners, filtering the water. They remove algae, plankton, and pollutants to keep the water clean. The muddy brown color of some of our bays and harbors is the direct result of inadequate water filtration. One menhaden can rid six gallons of water of algae in a minute. The lack of proper filtration prevents sunlight and oxygen from penetrating, causing hypoxic dead zones.
Schools of bunkers have been mea-sured to be in the hundreds of thousands. One adult female can produce 300,000 eggs. This fact and that bunker fishing is prohibited in New York State produces great hope for re-establishing a balanced Atlantic food web. As we have witnessed this past year, dolphins, whales, tuna, sharks, bass, bluefish, ospreys, and eagles are some of the species that benefited. Be on the lookout this season.
Mr. Dion will lead a two-mile hike on the Promised Land trail on July 21 at 9 a.m., organized by the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society. The meeting place is the parking area at Cranberry Hole and Napeague Meadow Roads in Amagansett. Ed.
July 9, 2018
To the Editor:
He said what?
Ms. Kiteaff enclosed a copy of the East Hampton Village Board story of July 5, in which East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. was quoted saying, “Rose is a very pretty addition to the board of trustees.” Ed.
All Working Together
July 9, 2018
To the Editor,
Regarding a July 5 article, “The Water’s Mostly Fine” by Alex Lemonides, I am totally disappointed that the article stated that volunteers “weren’t taking it seriously.”
First, I can’t believe that it’s in quotes, because I never would make that statement. I know several of the volunteers at Surfrider and have witnessed them collecting and analyzing the data. All the volunteers are professional and take their work very seriously because they believe in — and are passionate about — water quality issues. These folks get the connection between failing sanitary systems and poor water quality and are trying to get the rest of the town on board. I would never make that kind of negative statement.
Our department relies heavily on volunteers — most of our outreach wouldn’t happen without them! Our plover stewards help patrol and monitor the beaches, and our energy sustainability team of volunteers is doing a great job getting the word out about our newest campaign, I Energize East Hampton. They volunteer on weekends, attending events to spread the word. Again, we could not effectively do the outreach without them.
In fact, at the next water quality committee meeting, scheduled for 2 p.m. on July 25, Natural Resources Department staff will present the Lowenstein Park pipe in Montauk at Surfside Place as a priority for corrective action based on the results of Surfrider and the Concerned Citizens of Montauk water testing.
Mara Dias of Surfrider and I worked together at the county years ago and we have partnered on town projects. Laura Tooman of C.C.O.M. and I have worked together for years and have teamed on several large-scale projects, including restoring fish passage in the Peconic River and surface water restoration initiatives here in East Hampton Town.
I was going to ignore this article and move on but I really feel if I do it’s a disservice to all the people who volunteer for the greater good. We are all working together to help improve water quality in town. It makes no sense not to!
East Hampton Town Department of Natural Resources
Should Be Commended
July 9, 2018
Thanks for including coverage of our joint water testing program in last week’s paper. The main purpose of our volunteer-driven program is to build community awareness of local water quality issues so beachgoers can have more information on where it is safe to surf, swim, and paddle in our local waterways and beaches. We are also happy to see our data being used to inform and prioritize studies to investigate the sources of pollution and restoration projects that will start solving these pollution concerns.
We’d like to thank all the volunteers who dedicate their time on a weekly basis to collect samples in the heat of the summer and the cold of winter and transport them to the lab. These volunteers receive training in proper sampling protocol and take their volunteer efforts very seriously. They volunteer their time and expertise, not because they are paid to, but because they care and they want to see our local beaches and waterways clean and safe for their own recreation and that of their children and grandchildren. They are a real credit to all three of our organizations and they should be commended for their service.
Information on our testing methodology and quality assurance controls are readily available online with current water quality results. Know Before You Go: go.surfrider.org/bwtf.
Water quality manager
Executive director and baykeeper
Concerned Citizens of Montauk
July 8, 2018
To the Editor:
To me, Plum Island is still a mystery. Reading the information in the article to preserve Plum Island has somewhat persuaded me to agree in keeping it from human disruption.
Plum Island is a natural wildlife location where some animals remain untouched. It contains an animal testing research facility that isn’t the greatest, but if this island is disturbed and no longer exists, some species are put at risk, including humans. Whoever buys the island has the remnants of disease left on the island. No matter what decontamination process is used, it will still remain in the waters and with the animals and land already infected.
“A group of researchers from the New York Natural Heritage Program documented more than 1,000 different animal species on the island, 111 of which are of conservation concern.” (“Fantasy Island” by Zinnia Smith) Where would you put these animals if the island was dismantled? The island is at a Biosafety Level of 3, which means that any disease researched should not affect humans. However, in the past, records of anthrax were found on the island, which does indeed harm humans. Again, the diseases always linger and remain where they were once found, so having humans inhabit the island completely is not a good idea. All of the concerns that people have had in the past, and even now, would just be heightened and create more chaos.
Living on an infected island is not safe for any species, and if humans are so concerned with the island, then it makes no sense to take it over.
Plum Island has not made a tremendous amount of progress either, scientifically or morally, but it most certainly would not prosper if it no longer existed.
In taking part of the action process of preserving Plum Island, I have and will continue to contact local and state representatives to discuss the issue, and perhaps persuade them to favor the same idea. In doing this, I hope to play a role in preserving the natural wildlife of Plum Island and hopefully, if any destruction is put in place, the facilities will be taken down, but the environment, how it was originally found, will stay.
July 9, 2018
To the Editor:
I was struck by the cover story in last week’s Star on the impact to East Hampton’s coastal properties from coastal changes. It is time to switch to nonfossil fuel-based energy sources; there is broad agreement on that high level objective. The best technology for the East End is more controversial.
Solar for roof-based systems has made huge improvements in the last few years, including solar roof tiles and the ability to store energy for future use. We are witnessing enormous innovation and investment in this area. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, energy storage systems are number 8 in the top 12 new technologies with economic impact. I have been shopping for a rooftop system and am really impressed by what the new systems offer.
Given this technology change, it seems prudent to consider enhanced solar technology as an energy source for East Hampton and compare it to the proposed ocean-based wind turbines that are currently under review.
Solar has several advantages for the East End. Solar energy supply peaks in summer, which aligns with demand for energy on Long Island. Ocean winds die down in summer. Relying on wind turbines in the summer means we will need another (probably fossil-based) system to meet demand for electricity.
With solar there is no need to bury cables in the ocean for electric transmission and no need to have transmission lines crossing our pristine beaches.
The wind turbines, according to the current plan, would be located in highly productive commercial fishing areas. The fishing boats could be restricted from these areas, resulting in fewer fish. This wind farm installation has the potential to put the commercial fisherman out of business and leave the consumer with few choices except farm-raised imported fish, which many find a poor substitute to wild fish.
Then there is the maintenance of the turbines and the cables in the ocean, which is not trivial, potentially increasing our electric bills even beyond the unconscionable levels they are currently at.
Wind turbines kill birds. Land-based wind turbines in the Western states have killed many birds, including bald eagles. We can expect the same experience here. The wind turbines will be located in a key migratory pathway, which is also an area rich with fish, making them places osprey like to fish in. It is unacceptable if ospreys and eagles, which, after making a comeback, suffer losses.
In conclusion, it is clear that continued reliance on fossil fuels is problematic. It is also clear that East Hampton’s approval of wind turbines is not going to be the immediate solution to global warming and we should be afforded the time necessary for our due diligence with respect to advances in solar technology.
The best solution will be one that provides renewable energy without disturbing and altering the landscape, harming wildlife, destroying a viable industry, and reducing our food choices. We may be well positioned to leverage advances in solar rooftop systems. That should be confirmed before wind turbines are approved, a decision that cannot easily be reversed.
July 9, 2018
I want to thank all those who visited the town’s energy sustainability committee’s table at the St. Luke’s Family Fair on Saturday, July 7. Committee members and volunteers had an opportunity to discuss with interested homeowners available options to “Go Solar, Save Money, and Get Energy Smart” as East Hampton Town strives for its 100 percent goal in transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy resources.
East Hampton Energize, EnergizeEH.org, is 100 percent committed to helping our neighbors discover the benefits of clean energy, not only to their purse, but to the town’s effort to become a model coastal community with its 100 percent renewable energy goal. Contributing to this clean energy goal can now become part of every East Hampton home, a legacy we can gift to our children and grandchildren.
Thank you to the Very Rev. Denis Brunelle and the St. Luke’s community for making this opportunity possible to the energy sustainability committee and, to East Hampton Town. Thank you to Kim Shaw, director of the East Hampton Town Department of Natural Resources, who provides the staff and dedicated volunteers with whom the town-appointed committee members work in tandem. It is a most productive partnership, which provides this local coastal community these opportunities to join the march toward renewable energy and sustainability.
Energy Sustainability Committee
July 7, 2018
To the Editor,
Concerns about aerial sprays sometimes lose perspective. Mosquito-borne diseases are dangerous and sometimes fatal — clearly settled science. Methoprene dangers to the marine environment as currently used is anything but settled science.
Flouting the Rules
July 9, 2018
Maidstone Beach from Flaggy Hole Road to the jetty at the entrance to Three Mile Harbor is closed to beach driving. At least, that’s what the sign says at the jetty. That’s also what the sign says on the newly installed fence spanning the beach by Flaggy Hole Road. I saw the signs with my own eyes.
Unfortunately, those who insist on tearing up our beaches with their vehicles, threatening endangered piping plovers and least terns (yes, there’s a sign about them, too, at Flaggy Hole Road) didn’t see the signs. Or more likely, they saw them, but didn’t care.
The fence across the beach would have been more effective if it hadn’t been built with a large truck-wide-size gap in it. The new fence is completely ineffective in deterring people who delight in flouting the rules.
And the tiny sign posted demurely off to the side at the jetty portion of the “restricted” area is hardly more effective. The tire tracks run right past the sign, all the way up to nearly the water’s edge and turn right to sashay defiantly in a large circle before defiling the beach again on the return trip.
By now, town officials should know that if you want people to observe the rules, you need to make it impossible for them to violate them. It’s distressing that a fence should even be necessary, but since it is, the town needs to build a fence that actually prevents vehicles from driving on the beach. Make the gap wide enough for a walking human, not a truck. And put the same kind of fence at the jetty.
Right to Access
July 9, 2018
The board of directors for Citizens for Access Rights (CfAR) has recently had some town residents and CfAR members reach out to us with questions concerning the public’s right to access the shoreline between high and low tides.
Our board supports the public’s right to access the foreshore of East Hampton’s coastline based on the principles set forth in New York State’s Public Trust Doctrine.
Our board would like the public to know that based on that doctrine, the lands seaward of high tide were meant to be kept for the use of the public and the public is not to be denied access to the foreshore.
While we acknowledge that there are exceptions to every rule, we firmly believe, at a minimum, that the majority of the foreshore along ocean and bay beaches is accessible to the public based on the Public Trust Doctrine.
Thank you and have a great summer,
Citizens for Access Rights
Took the One
July 6, 2018
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and it still took me two hours to get to Southampton.
July 4, 2018
For the life of me, I cannot understand why East Hampton Town continues to offer free parking at Kirk Park Beach in Montauk. Not only does the town have to maintain the physical space, but in season the town provides personnel to collect garbage there, as well as monitoring parking violations.
I know of no other spot on the south side of East Hampton Town, let alone Bridgehampton and Southampton, where town parking is free (except for town permit holders). New York State charges to park at both Hither Hills and Montauk Point on a seasonal basis, and I believe that parking at Main Beach in East Hampton Village is $30 per visit.
The argument that free parking at Kirk Park Beach alleviates parking on side streets in downtown Montauk falls short, because on a sunny summer weekend there are cars parked everywhere (even the Montauk I.G.A. lot hosts beach users). $10 per car per visit at Kirk Park Beach is not beyond reason, and would augment town coffers going into the 2019 season.
PERRY DURYEA III
July 4, 2018
Recently Councilwoman Burke-Gonzalez circulated a memorandum in response to your recent editorial.
The memorandum circulated by Councilwoman Burke-Gonzalez claims to answer frequently asked questions but it starts off on page two by factually understating the number of seniors over the age of 65 living in East Hampton at 4,435. The July 1, 2017, United States census population estimate of the over-65 seniors in July 2016 was 24.1 percent of the estimated 22,009 total population, or 5,304. Quite an error to begin with! The memorandum claims on page four that the proposed facility would give the town the ability to accommodate the needs of seniors for the next 20 years.
The department summary shows that out of this population of 5,304, only 346 seniors participate in the nutrition program, less than 7 percent. Only 250 were transported using the town’s Human Services vehicle fleet, less than 5 percent. Only 85 benefited from home repair services, less than 2 percent. The average noon meal attendance, the largest senior service provided at the facility, was 78, or less than 1.5 percent of the East Hampton senior population.
The new facility increases the lunchroom space (page 10) from 1,350 square feet to 1,500 square feet, with an extra 1,500 square feet available if all multipurpose rooms are used. What happens if all 346 currently registered seniors showed up in the new lunchroom? The memorandum says 200 can be accommodated. The new lunchroom space will not handle the existing registered seniors and it is supposed to handle the senior population for the next 20 years?
It is not difficult to conclude that the needs of seniors over the next 20 years will only be met if 98.5 percent of them do not use the nutrition program. The new facility cannot handle any major increase in services and is only useful if you assume the same level of under-utilization as at present. This raises the question then of why a fiscally responsible town board would spend $8 million to $12 million on a facility that cannot handle the needs of 98.5 percent of the senior population.
Clearly the current Springs-Fireplace facility is not just a senior services center. It is actually the locus of all the town’s Human Services Department activities with the exception of Montauk. That means youth programs, drug and alcohol addiction programs, and other more general welfare and community service programs are located there. Why doesn’t the memorandum discuss the fact that the Springs-Fireplace facility is not just dedicated to senior use? What percentage of the facility is used for those other purposes? A more focused approach would look at where the other services might be relocated or transferred.
More conspicuously absent is any discussion of the enormous amount of new office space planned for the Human Services Department in the new facility. Why wasn’t moving this office space to be nearer the future hospital discussed? Why hasn’t the town board looked to make use of the existing buildings at Town Hall, to move some of the departments not involved with the public directly, to free up space on Pantigo Place across from the existing health center and where the future hospital was to be located? Why build new office space when you already have unused office space? Removing the Human Services Department from the proposed new facility frees up space there for other uses.
Similarly there is no particular reason for putting the transportation center for the senior program there rather than, say, at the proposed East Hampton School District bus depot or at the town Highway Department or in some other existing or planned facility.
A more focused approach would concentrate on what segment of the senior population can actually be accommodated by a new facility effectively. Perhaps we should be building an assisted living facility or a rehabilitation facility for those who now have to go far out of town after recovering from a medical event, combined with a day care and more limited nutrition program, instead of trying to build an all-purpose facility that cannot ever serve the needs of 98.5 percent of the seniors in the town!
What do we really need for seniors?
Page nine shows that the Montauk Playhouse, with 28,500 square feet, is the type of community center with senior services facility that best addresses senior and community needs. This facility serves the 3,000 or so residents of Montauk. The proposed smaller Springs-Fireplace facility will serve the 17,000 or so residents of the rest of East Hampton. Do you see something wrong with this logic — 28,500 square feet (plus a large future expansion) for 3,000 people vs. 18,700 square feet for 17,000 people?
The memorandum rejects the use of the existing Child Development Center of the Hamptons facility based on anecdotal evidence. It also dismisses the integrated housing/hospital/community center proposal that I made to the senior services committee in 2014, which could be funded (based upon my recent conversations with Fred Thiele) by the expansion or use of community preservation funds to make the land purchases.
There are additional ideas out there. But the public hasn’t been consulted or informed in any meaningful way.
No credit is given in the memorandum to the work of Mary Ella Moeller in 2013 to form the senior services committee, nor to myself and Howard Lebwith for the work we did in pushing forward the hospital proposal and the research done by the senior services committee. Since 2014 there hasn’t been the type of discussion that is necessary when addressing a planning problem of this scale.
To build an inadequate senior services facility as is currently proposed is nothing short of irresponsible. We live in a town with no senior housing, no hospital, no rehabilitation facility, no assisted living facility, and we pretend it is all-okay. Our senior population jumped from 17 percent to 24 percent from 2010 to 2016 and is only expected to continue to grow with the aging baby boomers to as much as 34 percent of the population.
Where is the common sense of this town board?
July 6, 2018
We wish to thank the staff of the senior center for the wonderful picnic on Tuesday at Fresh Pond. We also had music by Town Justice Steven Tekulsky and Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc. The food was great. We had games of toss, which I tried. People who do not join us at the seniors center should stop by and see our lunch program and activities.
Close the Airport
July 9, 2018
Traffic at KHTO, East Hampton Airport, becomes more dangerous every day. It’s not one type of aircraft that causes widespread concern, it’s all of them. For example, huge jets regularly skim above village rooftops to land, and then take off despite aircraft manufacturers specifications requiring longer takeoff distances than the length of KHTO’s main runway! And large jets, including Gulfstream models with reduced luxury seating configurations that are heavier than the weight the current taxiway was built to withstand. Some jets are designed for intercontinental travel. Others, classed as midsize regional carriers, ferry tristate “charter” passengers on multiple round trips per week. Big jets are causing excessive wear and tear on a surface not designed for their use. No surprise then that aviation proponents want the current taxiway lengthened and repaved!
Recently, a recommendation was made for an area dedicated to boarding and parking seaplanes, paving the way for accommodating even more of them. Seaplane landings have increased in number and frequency, many making multiple round trips daily to KHTO. These amphibian aircraft are among the worst low-altitude offenders and are particularly dangerous in poor weather conditions, which should ground them, yet they continue to fly at even lower altitudes! Most are not the small seaplanes we once saw at KHTO but are larger, heavier aircraft seating a dozen or more passengers.
Helicopters, including twin-engine behemoths, afflict residents primarily on North and South Shore routes and those living under transition paths or near the airport. Profitable commuter aircraft operations necessitate fast turnaround but pose a danger to all. It’s like a scene from “M*A*S*H” at KHTO as commuter choppers and seaplanes jostle to land, unload, and rapidly depart for New York City on another round trip while, at the same time and just minutes apart, jets large and small are arriving and departing. Conditions for a tragedy in the air and on the ground are increasing at an alarming rate.
A recent CNBC segment focusing on a new app for commuter flight bookings reported that in a few years, a seat on crowd-sourced flights to KHTO would be $50, and small airports like East Hampton will be swamped. Apparently, CNBC failed to notice the airport has been swamped for years. It’s time to close the airport to all aircraft, before airport developers reveal their plans for a far larger KHTO.
Legal battles have been fought and lost for decades over attempts to control traffic at KHTO. If the town does not succeed in regaining local control, through its Part 161 application to the Federal Aviation Administration, the board has stated it could close the airport. Given the dangerous chaos from all types of aircraft flying above East Hampton residents and communities the length of Long Island, “Say NO to KHTO” advocates that residents ask local, state, and federal representatives to close the airport permanently to all aircraft. It is the only way we can be safe from dangerous aircraft operations above our homes.
Say No to KHTO
July 6, 2018
The Supreme Court has ruled, and the Janus decision is now the law of the land. Countless political talking heads, political operatives, politicians, union and business leaders have all offered their two cents. So why should I be any different as I do have my own firsthand experience in the public sector union field and am the founding president of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State?
Throughout most of my 34-year career in law enforcement, I have been involved in my union. Initially, I was represented by Council 82, Local 102, of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO. What I quickly discovered was that Council 82 was a horrible union and poorly served the members. Our contracts were subpar, legal representation was third rate, legislative initiative was flat, pursued a political agenda and support of politicians often in conflict with the membership’s wishes. Being the activist that I am and disheartened by the injustices thrust upon us, I lead the charge to decertify Council 82 and AFSCME and for an independent Police Benevolent Association.
We were challenged in the New York State Public Employees Relations Board by both A.F.S.C.M.E. and New York State and in 1992 we lost. I was thrown out of Council 82 and A.F.S.C.M.E., yet still had to pay my dues, was given no representation, and was a man without a country considered public enemy number one. Despite my nonmember status as a police supervisor, I remained active throughout the ’90s continuing advocacy for my members. In 1995, a federal investigation was opened, in part because of my testimony at the Public Employment Relations Board into Council 82 A.F.S.C.M.E. when it was discovered that union dues were embezzled, misappropriated for junkets to casinos and strip bars. By 2000 I had been vindicated, reinstated, and from 2000 to 2010 I worked tirelessly to represent our members even though many of the original problems, lackluster representation, and political advocacy that was counter to the wishes of the membership remained.
By 2010 once again the wheels came off the cart and I led a second decertification attempt after Council 82 at A.F.S.C.M.E.’s request accepted a horrific contract offer from the Cuomo administration. After several legal challenges and a nasty election, we prevailed, and with a vote 99 percent to 1 percent we decertified to form an independent police union, the P.B.A., which is now New York State’s fifth biggest police union.
I am not a supporter of the Janus decision and would have hoped the SCOTUS would have taken a different track. Public sector employment and representation are complicated. Many elected politicians and their appointees have limited understanding of the legalities that govern public sector employment and rarely have the best interest of the employees at heart just because there is little political gain.
One has only to look at East Hampton Town employees. Despite the best efforts of locally elected union leaders, on average many town employees earn 30 percent less than employees from the surrounding four East End towns, do not make enough to qualify for affordable housing, and this has created a recruitment and retention problem. This has an adverse impact on the services and ultimately will cost taxpayers more in the long run.
As for my union, the Police Benevolent Association, post-Janus we have under 3 percent more members, have declared an impasse, and are taking Governor Cuomo and his administration to task. We will remain an independent union and aggressively represent our members, hence why Janus will have little impact. It is a new dawn for public sector unions. The days of pursuing political ideology over union members’ interest have come to a close. Monolithic unions such as A.F.S.C.M.E. that collect hard-earned union dues will have to change their ways.
Unions have been the single most significant driving force both public and private in improving workers salaries, benefits, safe working conditions, and quality of life. To do this, the union leaders had to be smart, crafty, gritty, and tough. They had to stand behind their members and be responsive to their needs. The Janus decision may be a blessing in disguise for public sector employees if union leaders can get back to basics.
MANUEL M. VILAR
July 1, 2018
I am honored to have been elected chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Committee. My heartfelt thanks to my colleagues who put their trust in me and to my friends and colleagues in the community who wrote such encouraging words of support.
These are divided times everywhere in our country. We are feeling the impacts of divisiveness even here in our close-knit community. The trend of attack politics is here too. How can we let ourselves be fooled by that?
I have never seen divisiveness accomplish one thing and those motivated by self-interest usually wreak havoc that takes a long time to reverse; it is wasted time that would have been used for unified action. I’ve just returned from a climate conference in Berlin where the attempt to tribalize community has happened in its history. The people I met there feel empathy for us because they know what happens when cult of personality replaces rational thinking.
We have a group of more than 30 hard-working people on the East Hampton Democratic Committee who like many others in our town volunteer an amazing amount of time. They inspire me, as do all who give their time to support our Democratic goals for East Hampton, including strong, transparent, yet independent leadership and sensible solutions for the issues our community faces every day.
This is the core of my support for David Lys, and why I will work tirelessly for his election this year, not only because it is my obligation as chairwoman to support our duly elected nominee, but because I know David Lys. He was a strong voice on the zoning board of appeals. He dug deep into every application, based his decisions on merits, and worked with civility and respect for his colleagues and community.
David Lys is a hard-working man, devoted to his family and community. The special quality Democrats look for in our elected officials is that passion for our community, coupled with a deep sense of responsibility. He has taken the oath of office before and you know that oath is tattooed on his heart.
I am committed to the pillars of our democracy. That’s why I am a Democrat. I made a choice. No one is “born a Dem- ocrat,” that is just absurd. I welcome all to our monthly meetings on the third Wednesday of every month at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett at 6:45 p.m. If you have an issue you would like to talk about, please stop by, our door is open. We have a lot of work to do this year. Please contact me at email@example.com to volunteer some of your time to helping us. Most important, please register to vote, and vote. Use the same email address for information on registering or visit our website at www.ehdems.com.
We, Democrats, have a great opportunity right now, to unify and push back against the populist authoritarianism that is invading and straining the fabric of our community. Civil debate and consensus building is the only way to achieve our goals and this takes putting service above self. I promise to work to achieve our goals. This is my oath to the East Hampton Democratic Party.
July 9, 2018
When I cast my vote in the primary election on Sept. 13, I will do so for an individual that I have known to be one who puts the quality of life in our community and concern for its residents as one of his first priorities. David Lys has worked tirelessly in that effort through his tenure on the town zoning board and as only one example, the restoration of the Amagansett Life-Saving Station. In all he undertakes, a collaborative effort between civic organizations and the town is a top priority to try to solve the many important issues that face us. To me, this is more important and indicative of his focus than his past membership in the Republican Party.
July 6, 2018
To the Editor:
I was shocked and disappointed to read your editorial titled “First District Dilemma For Democratic Voters.” It will, undoubtedly, have the effect of discouraging civic engagement by Democratic voters in the First District. Just one week after the Democratic primary in which voters elected Perry Gershon, you have essentially conceded the election to his Republican opponent, Lee Zeldin.
You are totally missing the boat here. All the polls show an increased intensity among Democratic voters, here there was a sharp increase in voter turnout in the primary and all the candidates have quickly endorsed the winner. At a unity event last Sunday in 90-degree heat, where all of the candidates showed up to endorse Perry Gershon, there was a large turnout of local Democrats who committed to canvassing, phone calling, donating, and otherwise engaging actively to defeat Zeldin.
The election is more than four months away — so much could happen that will affect the outcome of the race. I know and respect the Cook Political Report, but even they know that conditions on the ground can change and affect their calculus. Your editorial reports how extreme Zeldin’s views are and how this district has sent both Democrats and Republicans to Congress. How dare you editorialize, at this stage of the contest, that Democrats here should not waste their time on this race but rather should be donating their time and money to other New York districts where Democratic candidates are thought to have a better chance of winning.
We all want to see the House of Representatives flip from red to blue. But to do so, we are most effective if we engage where we live, if we strengthen our own community. We need to do everything we can to elect someone who shares our values and our fundamental commitment to access to health care, including abortion, protecting the environment, treating immigrants fairly and humanely, and providing better jobs for struggling workers and their families. This newspaper should be encouraging not discouraging civic engagement, encouraging support for Gershon as a necessary step to flipping the house and revitalizing our democracy.
July 3, 2018
I am writing in response to Phyllis Italiano’s letter in the June 28 issue of The Star regarding David Lys. I first met David several years ago when he was visiting my father (the late Milton Miller Sr.) at Windmill Village. As some will recall, my father was very vocal in promoting the restoration of the Amagansett Life-Saving Station. David and my father developed a close relationship as they spent many hours discussing the history of the Life-Saving Station, for which they shared a common passion — to make the restoration a reality.
You see, my father (who was born in 1915) grew up in a tiny beach cottage almost directly across from the station. My grandfather Russell Miller Sr. served in the United States Coast Guard but was stationed in Mecox. When he wasn’t at the Mecox station, he spent time with fellow Coast Guardsmen at the Amagansett station. As a young boy, trailing on the tailcoats of my grandfather, my father’s curiosity was peaked as he listened to the men share their stories. Years later, after the Hurricane of 1938, my father joined the Coast Guard and served in the Navy during World War II.
After the passing of my father in 2012, I felt compelled to join the Amagansett Life-Saving Station restoration committee. Shortly after I joined, David Lys was elected chairman of the committee. I found him to be very intelligent and level-minded. He worked tirelessly and effortlessly donating many, many hours to see his passion come to fruition. I am forever grateful to him for making my father’s dream a reality.
In my opinion, David is more than qualified to be a member of the town board and I highly recommend his election as councilman in November. Remember to keep in mind, vote for the person, not the party.
July 9, 2018
I read your lead editorial two weeks ago with increasing disbelief over its inaccuracies. This bit of obscure journalism is either a joke and deserves a hilarious response or your informant is having a jolly time pulling your leg.
Yes, there is a lot of fussing going on, not just in Amagansett but in other areas of town as well. The ado over the 555 property adjacent to Montauk Highway is the result of a memory lapse by some and ignorance by others.
Those who were living here about a decade ago, and who took an interest in the doings of the town board at that time, may recall the meetings held in private homes by citizen groups, as well as outraged oratory at town board meetings, and the frenzy of reaction when the 555 acreage was threatened by development.
The hero of the hour was John Whelan, who at that time was a member of the Suffolk County Planning Commission. Those who heard him speak that night will never forget his plea to that board to preserve the property. He met with success, and a great sigh of relief was heard around town when the property was saved through purchase with community preservation funds. We were assured at that time that 555 would never be pursued again for personal, municipal, or institutional gain, no matter how worthy the cause. And yet, it only took a few years short of a decade for newcomers and newbie government officials to lose all awareness of this history.
The floodgates were opened with the innocuous Soldier Ride activities. Now it is the “perfect” site for Authors Night‚ a fund-raiser for the library. What’s next? A cake sale for the Knit and Stitch Club? A riding school for Olympic equestrians? An auxiliary parking lot for the Lions barbecue? A firemen’s carnival?
Proposals to misuse the amenities of our town for worthy causes are many and varied. One of my favorites is a suggestion to use the old Sheep Pound at Pantigo for additional post office parking. Another winner during the Wilkinson years was a paint ball war in Northwest, to be sponsored by Nassau County police.
The tide of newcomers to our community each summer threatens to drown us all in a tsunami of bright ideas for fund-raising. Keeping up some form of resistance is an enormous challenge to town fathers and mothers. The community preservation fund has done great service in keeping our town livable and enjoyable. No member of the town board should be open to any suggestion, however innocent, of the use of public land for a private goal. The quality of our lives is far more important than creating venues for fund-raising for personal pet projects.
AVERILL D. GEUS
East Hampton Town Historian
July 8, 2018
By the time this issue of The Star is published, nominating petitions will have been filed with the Suffolk County Board of Elections and I will officially be running for the Democratic nomination for the open seat on the East Hampton Town Board, a vacancy created by Peter Van Scoyoc’s election as supervisor. David Lys, who was appointed by the town board to serve this year of Van Scoyoc’s term, is also running for the nomination. The Democratic primary election will be held on Thursday, Sept. 13.
As the election campaign begins, it behooves me to tell the community why I am running. For more than 20 years, I have spent a good part of my time, energy, and money working for social, economic, and environmental justice in East Hampton — to make local government work, especially for those who do not get an even break unless government weighs in on their behalf. That is why I am a Democrat.
When I was chair of the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee, from 2002 through 2004, I first recruited both Peter Van Scoyoc and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez to run for the town board. I stood with Sylvia Overby in the early morning hours in front of delis and convenience stores when we ran for town office together, in 2001. I have been the largest single donor to their political campaigns, and I worked to get all of them elected as the behind-the-scenes writer of most of the Democrats’ campaign strategy and literature for the past 15 years.
Although I worked to elect all of them, I am deeply disappointed with the results, for housing and job opportunity for local working families and kids who grow up here, for the environment and quality of life, for transparency and public participation in government, and for respect for law.
The town has barely made a dent in the need for affordable housing identified 15 years ago in the comprehensive plan. Nothing at all has been done to create job opportunities so that young adults who grow up here can find employment and stay. Our water quality is continually declining. Airport noise grows worse. Giant sandbags sit on the beach in Montauk, with no executable plan to remove them or to deal with coastal erosion generally.
We have no director of public safety or head of code enforcement this summer, as a direct result of cronyism and the cynical effort by this town board to provide public employment to its friends who are not qualified for their jobs. The supervisor’s response to that state of affairs is to complain to the press about the necessity of complying with the state’s Civil Service Law.
That’s not the only law that this town board is unwilling to comply with. The town board evades its responsibility for thorough environmental review before taking action. Lately it is ignoring restrictions on the use of community preservation fund property. And it is more secretive than ever, meeting in private two by two to frustrate the Open Meetings Law, holding improper discussions under the cloak of executive session and suppressing any public discussion by board members.
The promises that Democrats make in each election campaign are the same promises they have been making for decades. Unfulfilled. I believe that this town board needs a fire lit under it, and it badly needs help to understand how it can actually achieve the things Democrats have long promised to do.
It looks to me as though Councilman Jeffrey Bragman is trying to do just that. But he faces a very uphill battle as only one member of a five-person board. He needs help. That is why I choose now to stand for the town board, to fulfill the promises that the Democratic Party has made to the people of East Hampton these past 20 years.
David Lys, who is not my opponent but someone also willing to serve the community, brings to the table undoubted youth, energy, or devotion to the community, as his supporters all say. As demonstrated by my history of service, I bring to the table no less energy or devotion to the community, together with experience — degrees in physics, law, and advanced economics, and a long career overseeing diverse businesses in everything from fishing to trucking to movie theaters to animal feed to apparel, banking, statistics, and finance.
If the problems of East Hampton were simple, they would have been solved by now. They are complex. I believe that we can solve our problems well enough, but it requires more than hope and enthusiasm. It requires political will, focus, and practical knowledge of how to solve complex problems. From long and varied experience, I understand how to plan and implement complex technical solutions requiring the integration of social, legal, economic, financial, and scientific knowledge.
Contested elections are the very essence of democracy. They should be welcomed and celebrated, not discouraged, as the principal means by which the voters can chart a course for their own town government. It is for the voters, not Democratic Party insiders, to decide the future of our town.
As we saw just days ago in the Democratic congressional primary, with not two but five candidates running, public discussion in the course of a primary campaign heightens awareness of the issues to the benefit of the entire electorate. The voters whose well-being depends on effective local government will scrutinize the two candidates for the town board seat carefully, in word and deed, and then decide who they believe will better serve to meet their needs at this particular time and place in our shared history.
I look forward eagerly to that dialogue in the next two months.
July 9, 2018
As a retired schoolteacher and administrator, I am always eager to learn of the educational background of candidates. A person’s education says a great deal about a candidate. Besides the obvious intelligence factor, it also indicates their desire to know and understand the world. As an individual zeroes in on particular interests and pursues advanced degrees, they hone their problem-solving abilities and we begin to understand what the candidate has to offer if they obtain the position they are running for.
David Gruber’s credentials are the most impressive of any candidate I have ever seen. Besides obtaining a B.A. in physics at Hampshire College, where he later served as a trustee for the college, he also graduated magma cum laude from Michigan Law School, then went on to graduate schools at Columbia and New York University, eventually obtaining advanced degrees in economics. He is presently working on a Ph.D. in economics from the New School.
Not one to just pursue knowledge, he was presented with the opportunity to join the board of the Hampton Day School when he became a full-time resident of East Hampton. He then served as their trustee and treasurer, managing finance and scholarships, and also supervising the school’s administrators. A movement among a group of other board members began whose goal it was to found the Hayground School, another equally progressive school, and there he served as its first treasurer. Gruber has always had a keen sense that developing young people who would grow up with a deep commitment to the community and the world was a worthy goal.
This is a candidate worthy of your vote. With all the many, many complex issues facing our beloved East Hampton, we need someone with experience, a rich background, and possessing a problem-solving ability and attitude to join our town board. This is a serious, determined, lifelong Democrat. His name is David Gruber!
July 9, 2018
Reading your editorial “Dems Fight Over First-Time Official” one can’t help but compare with the East Hampton Press editorial on the same topic. You suggested, preposterously, that the objection to use of the community preservation fund property in Amagansett for a library fund-raiser was payback to Peter Van Scoyoc for appointing a Republican, David Lys, to the town board.
In contrast, The Press managed to reach the obvious conclusion that even if reading is a recreation, which would be permitted on community preservation fund property, a “lavish fund-raiser” of hundreds of people in a hugh tent is not. As The Press said, “That is a perversion of common sense and an inappropriately glib response [by the town board] to people who raise a legitimate concern.” The Press got it right!
Proud to Serve
July 9, 2018
Betty Mazur’s letter last week titled “Feckless Quest” was both long and incoherent. What caught my eye was her reference to a Gruber/Klopman/Meyer coalition as being naysayers.
Chris Kelley, Jeanne Frankl, and Betty Mazur, the Kelley/Frankl/Mazur cabal, were engaged in stacking, packing, and vote rigging on the Democratic Committee to get the outcome they wanted for committee chair and the town board nomination. That’s the sort of voter manipulation we expect from Republicans, not Democrats.
David Gruber, Ilissa Meyer, and I were among the many who objected. Any good Democrat should object. If that makes me a member of a coalition with David and Ilissa, I am proud to serve.
It is time for the Kelley/Frankl/Mazur cabal to go. Vote rigging by Democrats is intolerable.
July 9, 2018
Rona Klopman’s nasty aspersions on David Lys and the Town Democratic Committee cannot tarnish either the legitimacy or the wisdom of the committee’s nomination of David Lys for town board. The committee’s decision was not “symbolic” but a vetted, principled designation of a young man whose intelligence, commitment to public service, and representation of the best in our community, already known to many, were affirmed by a thorough and fair selection process.
David Lys was nominated by the Democratic Committee to be the Democratic candidate for election to the town board seat in which he is now serving on an interim basis after a sustained, individualized screening for each would-be candidate. After nominations and seconds in a convention open to the public and press, of 29 members, 18 selected David Lys by voice vote loud and clear. All voters were fully qualified as had been decided by a justice of the New York State Supreme Court in a suit by Rona raising the same contentions as her letter.
The Democratic Committee nominated David Lys fair and square, but his candidacy has been challenged by a disappointed would-be candidate; therefore, there will be a Democratic primary. The primary will take place on Thursday, Sept. 13, when it will be up to all our town’s registered Democratic voters to make David Lys our candidate. I hope those Democrats who do not already know this interesting and original young father of four, businessman, public servant, and all-round community leader will get to know him during his campaign and add their votes for David Lys to those of his many Democratic friends and admirers.
July 14, 2918
It was startling to hear that the sick rhetoric of Democratic leader “Mad” Maxine Waters has taken root with one of Perry Gershon’s followers here on Long Island. The idea that this man could make terroristic threats against Representative Lee Zeldin and our president and then try to run over Lee’s staff is downright frightening. What is worse that at the writing of this letter, days after this attempted assault, there is not one peep from Park Avenue Perry denouncing this violence and that speaks volumes.
This is not surprising given the heated rhetoric coming from the increasingly desperate left. We have been witness to growing eruptions of violence from the unhinged snowflakes for over two years now, and it will likely get worse as their blue wave turns into trickle.
Don’t forget it wasn’t Republicans who were vandalizing college campuses, it wasn’t Conservatives trying to stop people from exercising free speech, it wasn’t a Tea Party member who tried to assassinate members of Congress on a baseball field, and it wasn’t Representative Zeldin’s supporters who threatened murder or tried to run down people.
No, this is a troubling trend, one nurtured by the hateful rhetoric of the left, one where Democrat Maxine Waters urges her followers to follow members of the administration and to harass them and assault them. It is the flames of hate fanned by Michael Moore, who openly pines for a second civil war, or uber-leftist Tom Steyer, who thinks a nuclear war may be a good way to set a “course correction.” It is the blind hate preached by liberal favorite Bill Maher, who hopes for a crippling recession, knowing full well it could destroy people’s lives, as acceptable as long as it hurts Trump.
But, hey, why should Bill care what happens to middle America, he is a rich white liberal guy who won’t be affected by it‚ just like Perry Gershon. What kind of an American hopes for these awful things?
MICHAEL D. BOUKER
Business Is Great
July 9, 2018
What a week it was, locally, everything was popping. The weather was hot, the beach waters were invigorating, people brought their money to town and the outfits set the trend as to what is hip.
You know what also happened this week: There were thousands of children in internment camps along our southern border, without their families.
Since Saturday, June 30, through Sunday, July 8, our portly orange-colored president has played six rounds of golf. But, hey, business is great and my 401(k) account is healthier then ever.
This American still cares and thinks of those kids every day. My heart beats in shame. This isn’t about policy, or the lack of intellect of our president. This isn’t even about the perceived corruption of his regime. It’s about decency.
Silence is not an option.
July 6, 2018
In 1985, the Reagan administration introduced the Lifeline Program, which subsidized telephone service to the poorest Americans. Under the current Lifeline Program, people at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible for a discount of $9.25 a month on internet and phone subscriptions.
Lifeline has been a huge success, providing some 8.3-million Americans critical access to lower cost phone service and internet access. Lifeline allows these needy Americans to find jobs, schedule doctor’s appointments, and generally take care of basic needs. In short, Lifeline helps Americans — including a disproportionate number of veterans and persons of color — to help themselves. Mr. Trump’s Federal Communications Commission czar has proposed to scale back Lifeline. His plan would effectively cut affordable internet access for 8 million people, about 70 percent of the Lifeline recipients.
Opposition has been swift. Last week, 11 Democratic senators wrote seeking to persuade the F.C.C. to reconsider the cutbacks. They wrote that Lifeline is essential for millions of Americans who rely on subsidized internet access to find jobs, schedule doctor’s appointments, complete their school assignments, and remain connected in a digital economy. Sixty-eight House members also asked the F.C.C. to reconsider the cutbacks.
Even some of the largest telecom and internet providers have voiced their opposition, stating that the plan would hurt low-income consumers. For example, Verizon explained that the F.C.C.’s proposal would be highly disruptive to existing Lifeline beneficiaries and is at odds with the F.C.C.’s goal of supporting affordable voice telephone and high-speed broadband for low-income households.
And our congressman, Lee Zeldin? He just sent a self-congratulatory campaign pitch proclaiming that he was a true friend of his constituents. Say what?
His actions belie his words: He has failed to protect his poorer constituents’ access to Lifeline. Indeed, he refused to sign the House letter opposing the F.C.C. cutbacks, undoubtedly because of his blind fealty to Mr. Trump. Several communities in his district have high poverty levels, East Hampton included, yet Mr. Zeldin has chosen to turn his back on us. Let’s all return the favor this November.
July 10, 2018
If you are under any illusions about congressional Republicans’ intentions to undermine the financial security of American families, just take a look at their new budget plan. Barely six months after passing a huge tax cut for corporations and the wealthy that swelled federal deficits by almost $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, the Republican-controlled House Budget Committee issued a plan on June 17 that bemoans the “irresponsible imbalance” of the federal budget.
With stunning hypocrisy, the document states, “The federal government is spending more than it takes in. This increasing disparity is largely due to mandatory . . . spending, which includes safety-net programs like Medicare and Social Security. . . .” The plan then proposes to cut Medicare spending by $537 billion through partial privatization.
This is fiscal chicanery, pure and simple, and Lee Zeldin is fully on board with it. In November, let him know you are not on board with it. Vote for Perry Gershon, Democrat, and you will be voting for a representative who will work for real tax reform that helps middle class families and small-business owners, rather than tax reform that further lines the pockets of the 1 percent and large corporations.
July 3, 2018
I recently received a self-congratulatory email from our congressman, Lee Zeldin, in which he claims to be a friend of his constituency.
However, Mr. Zeldin displayed his true colors at his recent campaign kick-off rally. While the Zeldin campaign invited local press to attend and document his campaign launch, several of the invited press attendees were ejected without explanation.
Guest speakers gushed about Lee Zeldin and his purported work ethic, his belief in America, and his blind, unprincipled allegiance to Donald Trump. But, what about his allegiance to us?
Mr. Zeldin took an oath to uphold the Constitution. What we now have come to expect from Mr. Zeldin is that he, through his staff, will dishonestly criticize and embarrass his critics and arbitrarily ignore or remove invited press from his events without explanation and without cause.
So, while his supporters crow about Mr. Zeldin’s love of country, that “love” does not include respect for the First Amendment. Indeed, Mr. Zeldin has taken a page from the Trump playbook, embracing the crude tactic of personal insults and an abject disregard, even disrespect, for the important work journalists do. Mr. Zeldin’s purpose behind publicly ejecting members of the invited press was his way of tainting his constituents’ views toward journalistic objectivity.
Mr. Zeldin recognizes that he has a real adversary in Perry Gershon. Rather than campaigning substantively on real issues, he has already resorted to slurs and efforts to quiet the voices of those who challenge or question him. Voters should take notice and quiet Mr. Zeldin this November.
July 10, 2018
Offered less than 10 days into our district’s 133-day congressional race, The Star’s advice to local Democrats (“First District Dilemma”) is not only premature, but also misguided. As the 2016 presidential election (painfully) demonstrated, a race can turn around in the final weeks. But more important, the editorial ignores voter turnout — a key component to winning midterm elections in this swing district (which has been represented by Democrats for 40 of the last 57 years). There are already very encouraging signs that once again New York District 1 Democrats have the momentum and enthusiasm that generate winning turnouts in November. For example:
1. Democratic turnout in the June 26 primary was up 60 percent from the last primary.
2. In an online one-day fund-raiser for Perry Gershon, New York 1 grass-roots groups raised more than $50,000 in donations ranging from $20 to $2,700 (the maximum allowable).
3. Within days of the primary, hundreds of people had volunteered to work for Gershon, and more are signing up each day.
Furthermore, Zeldin is hardly behaving like a candidate who is certain of victory. Within hours after Gershon’s nomination, Zeldin started the preferred Trump tactic of name-calling rather than touting his own voting record. Why? Because Zeldin knows his policy positions are unpopular in this district: repealing Obamacare, opposing common-sense gun-safety measures, and supporting the dismantling of Environmental Protection Agency regulations, to name just a few. And it was hardly a show of confidence when Zeldin’s staff (in further echoes of Trump) forcibly removed local press from the campaign’s kickoff event, which was headlined by Sebastian Gorka. (Star readers unfamiliar with Gorka will learn much from Helen Rattray’s column, “Bad Company,” which appeared opposite the editorial referred to in this letter and which states, “Our congressman has become extraordinarily buddy-buddy with radicals and extremists of the ultra-right, bigoted wing of his party.”)
Although the editorial suggests that local Democrats should focus elsewhere, it is worth remembering that we, the voters of New York 1, are responsible for sending to Congress a right-wing extremist who allies himself with Trump, Gorka, and Bannon rather than the values upon which this nation was founded. In my view, we voters have a moral obligation to do all we can to support Perry Gershon and send Zeldin packing!
July 8, 2018
At some point in the late 1960s, after the civil rights bill released the South from its Democratic Party allegiance, the Republican Party came up with a scheme that would even the battle between our two political parties. The union system in the country had to be taken apart. Workers needed to believe that the unions didn’t represent their interests and that the fastest and best way to improve their economic and social conditions was through trickle-down theory (putting wealth in the hands of the wealthiest and letting them create jobs).
The unions were a vital force in U.S. politics. With their millions of members and huge amounts of money from workers’ dues and contributions, they influenced our social and economic agendas. For working-class Americans there was a clear logic in being a union member. The idea of individuals negotiating contracts with big business and corporations was blatantly absurd. Strength in the marketplace existed only in numbers. Better wages, retirement benefits, health care, paid leave, vacations, work hours, overtime, workplace conditions. What else is there?
No contest. Any worker who bought the B.S. from corporate America and the Republican Party was a blithering idiot. Yet, overtime. Year by year, decade by decade, the Republicans insisted and the courts accommodated. No one seemed to notice that wages weren’t going up, retirement benefits were getting squishy, two people had to work to keep afloat. Wages were replaced by debt. Debt by more debt and different debt. Who needed unions when you could borrow yourself into heaven?
Thirty-five years later the unions are on their last legs. The relentless attacks have even broken the government workers. But where is middle class America? Like the unions it has disappeared into a cloud of debt, innovation, and outsourcing. Living on oxy or some other crap provided by the government at ridiculously high prices.
The court decision that workers had no obligation to pay union dues seems to have a certain logic in the American narrative of individualism and freedom. Except that the narrative is false and disingenuous. Workers’ obligation to pay union dues is the only way to keep the unions alive and corporate America from destroying our middle class (a little too late perhaps). Corporations and businesses don’t pay high wages and benefits because they want to. Every negotiation has been a struggle. Keeping the unions alive for what they have already done is enough justification. The world didn’t begin today and we didn’t create it.
If our debt to the union system is not sufficient reason to pay dues then we should not be obligated to pay income taxes and Social Security. We get no return on our tax dollars, as much of it goes to the rest of the country to keep it out of bankruptcy. Social Security is a joke if you are obligated to live on the pittance you receive at 65. Yet, we pay in fully, knowing that corporations don’t but not understanding how we are subsidizing their existence through our largess.
When you pay union dues, at least you are covering your own butt, taking care of your family. The best investment you can ever make that doesn’t fill the pockets of someone else. The downward trajectory of the middle class closely follows the same route as the unions. The Republicans designed and initiated the plan. The Democrats stood by and twiddled their thumbs. And the American people bowed their heads and bent over. A tale of blithering stupidity.