Letters to the Editor

08/26/2010 12:00 AM |


Voters need a choice

I decided to run for state Senate after I went to vote in November 2008 and saw that no one was running against our long-term state Senator Ken Lavalle, who has held the job since 1976. Since Albany’s dysfunction is due to long-term incumbents’ failure to act responsibly, I believe that the long-term incumbents’ not being challenged is what prevents true reform and fiscal housecleaning.

Since the beginning of the campaign, I have been incredibly transparent about my personal life. One aspect of it I shared is that I was honored to be recruited by a firm representing the state of New York Common Retirement Fund (NYSCRF) when it had lost over $300 million in its investment in WorldCom due to the fraud that WorldCom executives perpetrated on the markets. However, the challenge in participating in litigating this suit is that although the clients and courts in this matter were in New York, my firm was based in Philadelphia. Thus that is where the documents and litigation team were, so I had to manage a life between both states, which required me to have dual residencies at times.

I am very proud of the work that I did on the WorldCom case, however the opposing party saw my work in Pennsylvania on that case as a way to prevent me from running against him.

Once the litigation aspect of the case was completed, and I realize that my marriage was irreconcilable, I left my husband and the house we co-owned in Pennsylvania to be in New York full-time in the late fall of 2005.

Decades of case law in New York allow candidates to run for state office if they have dual residences, even if their domicile is in another state, as long as the candidate can show a constructive residency in New York for five years preceding election. So in question were only six months between November 2005 and the early spring of 2006, six months where I was transitioning back to New York full-time after representing the state pension funds and taxpayers on a substantial matter. When I sought legal counsel on this matter I was advised that decades of precedent are on my side regarding dual residency for state candidates. If I had been told otherwise, I would not have pursued this race.

The stakes in the state Senate races are high. At stake is reforming Albany. If just a handful of outsider candidates were to beat long-term Albany insider incumbents, this would force change in Albany. Those with vested interests in maintaining the status quo are worried. So rather than my former opponent’s battling it out with me at the ballot box, Lavalle and his cohorts took me to court and spent quite a substantial sum of money and resources to prevent voters from having a choice and ultimately prevent a reform candidate from being elected.

One needs to ask: Who hired the attorneys and paid the legal bills and expenses incurred in this expensive litigation?

The first two courts did not rely upon decades of legal precedence in my favor but rather changed the rules in the middle of the game. Within 12 hours of the decision I had to choose whether to appeal or assign my ballot lines to another worthy candidate. I chose the latter. I had to be true to my convictions and the reason I chose to run for state Senate.

Democracy only works when voters have a choice.

Regina Calcaterra


Candidate to blame?

I am a member of the Southold Town Democratic Committee, but I am speaking solely for myself when I say that I am extremely disappointed, even angry, that I won’t be able to vote for Regina Calcaterra for state senator this fall.

But my feelings do not center on the rogue Democrat and two Republican women who raised questions about Ms. Calcaterra’s New York residency. Instead, my distress is with the ousted candidate and her staff.

It is the candidate’s responsibility, and that of her advisers, to know and understand the election laws and be sure nothing in the candidate’s background violates them. Ms. Calcaterra is a lawyer, and by all accounts a good and intelligent one. I would have expected her to recognize the potential problem posed by her Pennsylvania residency and be completely certain that those months away from New York could not be used to derail her candidacy.

Some of the blame may also lie with the county Democratic committee that selected her to run. A thorough vetting process should have turned up the Pennsylvania sojourn and prompted some investigation into its implications. I don’t know whether the committee brought up the issue and accepted Ms. Calcaterra’s dismissal of it, but I hope they will be more careful in the future.

As for the cries of “foul play” I’ve heard some fellow Democrats make toward those who brought up the residency problem, my reaction is, basically, “Poppycock.”

This is politics. It is not as if the Republicans made bogus accusations that Ms. Calcaterra was hiding a felony conviction or running an illegitimate business or, heaven forbid, had been born in another country or practiced a politically unpopular religion. The Republicans brought up a legitimate issue and won, fairly I think.

Let’s be frank — the Democrats wouldn’t hesitate a second to exploit a similar situation affecting a Republican opponent. Or at least I hope they wouldn’t.

Carol Lew Simons

Ms. Simons works as a copy editor for Times/Review Newspapers.


It’s about the wine

Ron Goerler and Steve Bates made an appropriate case for the wineries to be able to continue/resume events to promote the wines of Long Island.

Two other points are worth considering: What the wineries should do to win this battle and for wineries to be successful in the long term, they need to get past this model and work on the image of the wine we produce.

Indeed, while we may win the argument, we may also lose the battle. In order to prevail we need public opinion to be on our side as well. We can far better influence town governments when the community is pulling with us.

The corollary is also true. While we may be right, as detailed by Ron and Steve, if the community is against us the politicians will farm that negativity better than we can argue the merits of our case. Similarly, we should evaluate whether there may be any other solution to activities that may affect the quality of life of our neighbors. Some of this applies to all farms, not just vineyards.

The industry can play a positive role in encouraging a dialogue with the community and another role in working with town governments in helping design practical solutions to real or perceived problems. It is far better to be part of the solution than to be part of the problem.

As to the current wave of events at wineries that are triggering much of the negative responses that Ron and Steve are properly challenging, the question to be asked has to do with the effectiveness of such events and their residual impact on the image of Long Island wine.

Where wineries have used their creativity at orchestrating interesting events that in reality have little to do with wine and more to do with increasing traffic at the winery, there is a strong chance that the residual is negative regarding its impact on the image of LI wine. In the long term, if we end up getting more known for our events rather than for the quality of our wine, then we only will have ourselves to blame for having lacked the foresight to have anticipated the consequences of our actions.

In fact, the case for a positive image for LI wine is perhaps the most important issue that I invite Steve and Ron to exercise their leadership on. The stronger the image of our wines, the better it will sell and the more likely it will command the price it deserves. The road to profitability is, after all, in seeing that our principal product, wine, sells as well as it can at the highest price possible.

For that we need to grow demand. And to grow demand we need to improve our image. An image that LI wine is about quality and as delicious as they come. No circus required.

Charles Massoud

Mr. Massoud and his wife, Ursula, own Paumanok Vineyards.


It’s about alcohol

With respect to Ron Goerler Jr. and Steve Bate, representatives of the Wine Council requesting a break from the town (“Towns, don’t crush the grape growers,” Aug. 19), I think I understand their perspective of the world from their side of the vineyard. Collectively, millions of your dollars have purchased the vineyards and millions are required for the wine-making process. In addition more millions are spent in a variety of venues to promote the wine product in order to receive millions more in revenue that help to maintain the million-dollar lifestyles.

I live on the other side of the vineyard, with a different perspective.

My simple mind sees the vineyard farmer appropriately categorized under the agriculture status because of the grape crop. If you were to market and sell the grapes, the designation would remain the same. However, once the grape is turned into wine, the designation changes. No longer is it in the agriculture classification because it no longer is a crop. It is an alcoholic beverage. The wine region’s marketing strategies promote the alcoholic beverage and ought to be dealt with accordingly.

Not placing restrictions on the type or the amount of marketing activity is irresponsible. No other bar or saloon is granted exemption from restrictions and neither should be the wineries.

MaryAnn Fleischman


A wasted effort

I think it is sad to hear that someone who has a personal agenda that is against our local high school has been voted into the position of president of the Board of Education of our local elementary school.

As a parent of a child who attended both the Oysterponds and Greenport schools and received a very fine education from both, I feel sad for the children and parents of these schools. I know what it feels like to be thought of as a “less than,” or unsure of the future of your education.

Two years ago Ms. Dumont was a part of a task force that tried to find another high school for our children to attend. After working on a report that was around 300 pages long that tried to find something to complain about, the school board found little to back up a school change. At that time the parents and students came out in force to plead their case for keeping things as they are because they all felt that our public school system is more than fine the way it is. You get out of it what you put into it.

I pray that Ms. Dumont will find time to participate in the education of our children rather than waste so much time trying to find an alternative. The children would be much better served. I truly hope that all this negative energy can and will be turned into positive thinking toward our children and their schools.

Oysterponds school should finally be more supportive of the Greenport school and really become a part of it. When the children know that we are behind them and their school they sense that the work and play that they do there is important.

I guess the debate about test scores is for the future, but for now I wish Ms. Dumont would stop wasting so much time on her personal agenda and start thinking of how to make our school system better. Simply moving to a new location, cost what it may, is not the solution, supporting our schools is.

Gary Parker


It’s a great school

I have long been frustrated with the ongoing talks about sending Oysterponds’ secondary students to schools other than Greenport.

I decided to speak out after reading last week’s article, “Teacher decries state tests.” Greenport High School gave me a solid education, in part because of great teachers such as Mr. McEvoy.

More importantly, Greenport’s unique environment gave me a great perspective on life and prepared me for the “real world.” I’d be very surprised if you could find a school or community with more spirit, camaraderie and compassion.

I’m sick and tired of hearing people who did not attend Greenport bash its students and teachers. I speak for myself as well as for many other recent graduates when I say that we wouldn’t have wanted to attend any other high school.

We never considered ourselves as “Oysterponds kids” attending Greenport. Greenport is not perfect, but it’s where I call home.

Jordon Bogden

Editor’s note: Mr. Bogden is a 2008 graduate of Greenport High School and is currently a U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet.


A rare institution

Why line Jeff Bezos’ pockets at the expense of a local library that offers much more than e-books?

Carla Rosen’s narrow view on the library’s role would have us all buying Kindles. She assumes everyone not only owns an Internet-ready home computer, but that it is the entire community’s choice to use said computer exclusively rather than avail themselves of public library offerings — the greener, more sustainable choice.

“Underused?” Check the availability of the community room. If you are looking to book a program, you need to plan months in advance, as demand exceeds available time and space. If you’re tutoring either as a literacy volunteer or privately, same problem, little or no space to reserve. I know because I’ve personally experienced this several times. The staff bends over backwards to accommodate everyone, but they cannot create space.

A $300 to $600 per year price tag? That may be the price for those whose properties are assessed at a value of $1.8 million and up, not the average resident’s home. For those whose homes are assessed at $600,000, the annual price is $115 for 20 years at current rates.

“Don’t let our town be the laughing stock of this quiet, rural farm community,” Ms. Rosen implores. It seems refusing to recognize a community need and attempting to satisfy that need at an opportune time would be shortsighted and foolish. Using the bequests to simply renovate existing physical space would be the height of foolishness.

The people who are regular and even occasional library users and the staff would agree that the Southold community would benefit from an expansion. Libraries are the rare institution that provide for all ages groups and do so regardless of economic means. Libraries also serve as a barometer of the community’s values.

You may choose to read books on a Kindle, but don’t assume everyone wants to do that. If you do not take advantage of public library offerings, so be it, but don’t assume no one else does.

Those who support the library expansion proposal should turn out for a future public presentation, or the rest of the North Fork who read the Times will be led to think there is no public support and I suspect that this is not the case.

Does Ms. Rosen also encourage Southolders not to shop locally?

Mary Charters


The heart and soul

We read Carla Rosen’s “I vote no!” letter with great puzzlement. Is it possible that there are two Southold libraries – the one whose reasonable expansion she disparages and the one we go to several times each week?

The one we go to hums with activity. There are young children emerging from the children’s room clutching books to borrow and proud of crafts they have made. There are teens who (believe it or not, Ms. Rosen) may well not have computers at home surfing the Web. Older Southolders are checking the selection of large-type books and locals are reading the community bulletin board and helping themselves to two-fers. The book group is having a lively discussion.

At the desk, Southolders are betting on the monthly raffle, reserving and checking out books and DVDs, ordering books from the amazing inter-library system and signing up for an affordable trip to New York City.

Upstairs, in the bright, sunny reading room, our neighbors are reading newspapers and magazines. There are meetings in the Whittaker room and down in the basement. Underused? Certainly not the Southold Library we go to.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the cottage is the go-to place, representing the ultimate in recycling, with people donating and buying books and vinyl, magazines and CDs, all day long.

Ms. Rosen observes that in the age of the Kindle, board-and-paper books are increasingly irrelevant and less than cost-effective. We beg to differ. In the age of the virtual book, of the Kindle, the Nook and the iPad, libraries are increasingly important. Each of those electronic devices provides a useful, but essentially solitary, experience.

The Southold Library is the heart and soul of our community, a place that draws us together. And as such, it deserves the greatest support we as a community can give it.

David and Sara Evans


Hardly underused

Regrettably, Carla Rosen’s thoughtful letter opposing Southold Free Library’s expansion contained some factual errors that need to be corrected.

The library is hardly underused. To the contrary, it is bursting at the seams. Use is up substantially, the collection overflows and computers have become a routine part of the library’s offerings.

In particular, the library is unable to accommodate properly all the teenagers who show up – the fastest growing segment of patrons. The expansion will provide the space (and computers) needed to serve these bright young people at a formative stage of their lives.

The Kindle will not put the library out of business. It will become part of its offerings, as have computers before it. Unlike the library’s services, the Kindle isn’t free. Not everyone can afford $150 or more for a Kindle and up to $10 every time you want to read a book. Think what that would cost a family of readers every year.

‘Tis true, attendance at library events is sometimes poor. That says more about the present meeting room, a cramped and dingy space, than it does about the quality of those events. The expansion will add a spacious, first-rate mini-auditorium, not only for library events but also for those of other community groups. Except for the high school, no such facility now exists in Southold.

‘Tis also true that four other libraries exist within 20 miles. But why should one have to drive up to 40 miles round trip to hear a lecture or see a film? And why should we in Southold rely on other communities to bear the costs and work required to produce such offerings?

We take Carla Rosen at her word that she loves the library. We ask her to consider that the expansion is meant not only to serve today’s needs, which it will do in fine fashion, but to provide what is needed for the next twenty years. And given the fall in interest rates and construction costs, there could be no more economical time to build.

Vote yes on October 16.

Jane and Fred Andrews


Count on Scott

Supervisor Russell seems to be the only one of the Town Board who actually listens to the concerns of the town’s west end.

The other board members seem to remain quiet and apathetic on issues that concern the residents of Mattituck. Although I’m sure the others will suddenly get vocal and come up with their big plans when election time comes around.

Jon Ferris


Don’t blame teachers

Every few months a letter from a member of the community is printed on these pages suggesting that North Fork teachers are responsible for school tax increases, including last week’s letter from Frank Genovese lauding the William Floyd teachers who accepted a pay cut in exchange for a contract extension.

Mr. Genovese and others concerned about school spending might have more success in keeping tax hikes at bay if they encouraged their local boards of education to think creatively about how to not just spend less, but to spend smarter. For example, we have five school districts in the town of Southold, each of which must support an entire cadre of district-level staff and administrators and must fulfill expensive state-mandated requirements.

The one thing we can’t afford to do is to start cutting teachers’ pay. Any chief executive, including our local superintendents, would likely agree that one of the greatest challenges in running an efficient and successful organization is finding and retaining talent. If anything, we should be looking for ways to save in other areas of district operations so we can ensure that our teachers get, at a bare minimum, cost-of-living salary increases each year.

The U.S. Department of Education is in the process of awarding millions of grant dollars as part of its “Race to the Top” competition, rewarding states based on their commitment to school reform, including the exploration of increased compensation for successful teachers (New York is a finalist for this grant).

There seems to be national consensus that teachers are underpaid relative to the value they add to our society, our communities and our lives. Many adults can look back and point to specific teachers who either helped turn their around their academic careers or, in some cases, maybe even saved their lives.

If Mr. Genovese and others demand that teachers accept a pay cut, they should also demand the same of our police officers, our doctors and health professionals, our elected officials, our judges, our librarians as well as demanding a reduction in the budgets for our volunteer fire departments. They also might ask themselves if they and their families would happily accept a pay cut?

Singling out our teachers to bear the brunt of your frustration with high taxes is unfair and flies in the face of one of the most important of American ideals and rights, that of a free, high-quality public education for all.

Let’s work together to find ways to spend smarter in our schools and keep tax increases reasonable and leave out the cheap attacks on our teachers and their families.

Doug Roberts

Mr. Roberts is the president of a Greenport education consulting company


A bad example

The New York Times published a scary article about serious pollution in Cape Cod’s salt ponds and inlets. The Cape is a pile of sand, surrounded by salt water and partially covered with houses. Sounds like a description of the North Fork.

The substance of the article was the damaging effect of residential septic run off. The sand base allows the effluent to flow through and pollute the ponds and inlets with nitrogen. What to do? Well, the article speaks of large sums of money required for sewer systems and the citizens’ understandable objections to the expenditures.

And that’s it. Period.

Here on the North Fork we are not quite as far down that path as the Cape, but we are within worrying distance.

Let’s attack this budding problem from today’s hot topic – taxes. Here are two proven statements:

First, increasing residential development brings higher taxes. Second, more residential development will bring us closer to the unavoidable Cape Cod problem of financing sewer systems, a serious round of tax increases and money spent there simply enables more development. A vicious cycle.

There is an optimistic view for the North Fork, however. Enact a well thought-out comprehensive master plan that sets up real growth controls and open space preservation. Thus we support tourism and our agricultural and vineyard and maritime industries and we dodge the bullet. We can save the rural ambiance, which is the tourism magnet. We can stop the damage and start to restore our creeks and estuaries.

We need to rally behind what is good for this magical place and put personal and selfish arguments behind us.

Now is the time.

Howard Meinke


Unhealthy obsession

I had occasion to drive a friend toJFK International Airport on Thursday, arriving at the airport at 4:00 p.m.

While driving along JFK Expressway, a huge fixed-wing plane flew over our car at about 100 feet directly above us. The noise generated by this large aircraft was less annoying when compared to the noise of low-flying helicopters invading the airspace above my North Fork home.

Counting helicopters to be reported to the new quietskiesli.com website is fast becoming an unhealthy obsession.

Joanne McGill


Geese are a problem

Mattituck is suffering from an infestation of Canada geese in our community.

Laurel Lake, Marratooka Lake and many of our ball fields, parks, farm fields and picnic areas suffer from these birds. Canada geese are not only unbelievably noisy, they soil our playing fields, grounds and water. We are especially concerned that the enormous amount of defecation harms the water quality our few freshwater ponds. We take pride that Laurel Lake is one of the cleanest lakes in New York State and would like to keep it that way. But the geese are harming the lake’s vegetation and wildlife, producing bacteria that chokes flora and fauna.

We know that other towns and cities, including New York City and Oyster Bay, have taken measures to address the excess Canada geese population. These birds, which are not native to our area, are a town-wide threat to our beautiful environment. In ever-growing numbers, they create noise and environmental pollution.

We urge the Town of Southold to research this matter and take action. Perhaps the county could be called on for help with solutions.

Winifred Jacoby Breines


Geese by the pound

Think about this when your hearts go out to the geese: I read an article the other day that told me Canada geese poop a pound a day. Ugh.

Stephen Cornelius


Create a bike trail

Regarding your Aug. 19 front page article, “Southold not so safe for cyclists,” I would like to suggest an engaging yet practical solution to this very real problem.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a bike path between villages for our visitors and ourselves? Why not create a hiker-biker trail alongside the already existing railroad right of way between Riverhead and Greenport?

It would be both safe and green and, with a little imagination in the way of bike rentals, gift shops, ice cream stands, restaurants and more along the way, the North Fork could simultaneously become both a unique and more attractive tourist destination and a less traffic-congested area.

What’s not to like about that?

Mary Lou Wickham


Shameful groveling

It is discouraging to realize that there are small, dedicated minds out there enforcing linguist political correctness – the word police.

The Suffolk Times’ shameful groveling apology for the use of the word “fair” undermines the American tradition of free speech and freedom of the press.

Brian Kelly


An outrageous claim

If you accept the claim of al-Qaida to speak for all of Islam, then of course you should be offended by the thought of an Islamic center a few blocks from Ground Zero.

But if you don’t accept this outrageous and false claim, why should you object to the Islamic center?

So why are so many Americans implicitly supporting al-Qaida’s claim?

Stanley Brown