12/12/14 7:00am
12/12/2014 7:00 AM
The speed limit posting and radar screen on Main Road outside Mattituck High School. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The speed limit posting and radar screen on Main Road outside Mattituck High School. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and the county’s legislators made the right call in backing off a planned camera and ticket program that was to be implemented next year in school zones across Suffolk. They did so after witnessing the uproar and outrage among those who live, work or regularly visit neighboring Nassau County.  (more…)

12/07/14 10:00am
12/07/2014 10:00 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Students in Ms. Salmaggi's class work with iPads Tuesday morning at Southold High School.

Students work with iPads in 2012 at Southold High School. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

There is no doubt that the largest portion of any local property tax bill is the amount funding the public school district. It’s a bill that causes taxpayers agita each and every year.

The 2 percent state cap on year-to-year tax levy increases is a temporary control tactic, not a sustainable strategy. And as we tighten our belts as a result of the cap, there are significant negative outcomes: pre- and after-school program cutbacks minimize opportunities for youth; increasing class sizes to maximum allowable levels results in instruction that cannot possibly address the needs and diversity of any given classroom population; lobbying for “our fair share” produces great photo-ops but makes us look like pigs at the trough; and staff layoffs are temporary fixes and only hand more responsibilities to someone already working at capacity, creating resentment and loss of pride in work.

So, what is the answer? (more…)

12/05/14 2:31pm
12/05/2014 2:31 PM

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

You wouldn’t want to see your teenage nephew’s life derailed. You’ve watched him grow up. You know he’s a smart kid with a ton of potential; he’s just run into some trouble at home lately.

At this point, an arrest for, say, buying a case of beer with a fake ID — technically a felony — could ruin his chances of getting into college.

Now imagine you’re a cop and that kid behind the wheel of the car you just stopped reminds you of your nephew — or son, or younger cousin. Maybe you try to do right by him.

I’ve benefited several times from what I’ve long called the “nephew” effect. Many of my friends have, too. We were often together when police would stop us back in the 1990s, whether it was for using a fake ID or some other stupid thing teenagers do.

There was one time we got pulled over, still under age, in a remote area upstate (don’t ask) and were questioned by two officers who found bottles of booze in our trunk. They scared us a bit, sure, but we weren’t arrested. We weren’t even ticketed. In fact — though maybe this might not have been the best call — they let us keep the booze.

I’ve often thought about these times in my youth and how fortunate I was. But at some point, I realized, I probably would have been arrested — I might even have a criminal record today — if I were black.

It appears I’m not alone in my thoughts.

After a grand jury declined to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Eric Garner, a profound conversation started in the social media world, specifically on Twitter. The site erupted with people using the hashtag #crimingwhilewhite to highlight posts about their own personal experiences as white people committing crimes and how their experiences with the cops differed from those of so many black people in the United States.

Here are some examples:

 

 

I also chimed in on Twitter, calling the leniency shown toward white people the “you remind me of my nephew” effect.

It’s just easier to understand and sympathize with someone who looks like you and your family members — maybe even resembles you as a young person. I think it’s fair to say that, growing up,most white cops didn’t have many black teenagers at their family parties or barbecues, so their experiences with them might be mostly negative.

Racism, conscious or unconscious, doesn’t end with policing. I know this firsthand from watching hours upon hours of arraignment proceedings in courtrooms throughout the region, mostly when I was a writer with the Daily News. In Suffolk County Criminal Court especially, the racism on display became a sort of sad running joke among the reporters as we observed black suspects being treated differently from white ones.

And the differences were stark.

“Speak up!” the judges barked at the scared black teenagers.

The white kids were often spoken to like wayward, well, nephews.

For example: “I really hope I don’t have to see you again here, Charles.”

In my experience, everyday white privilege has much more to do with human nature — and the occasional Police Benevolent Association card — than with money or powerful connections, though I don’t doubt the latter play a huge role in higher profile cases.

But here’s the thing: The type of common sense approach to policing that I experienced as a youth was not just better for me; it’s better for all of society. So long as no one’s getting hurt, keeping as many people as possible out of the criminal justice system is an overall benefit. Whether you share my opinions or not, I’d like to think I’m a productive member of society today. Same for my friends. My one buddy is a police sergeant. Another is a dedicated youth hockey coach. Two others each found success in the financial world.

Many young black kids don’t get the same breaks early in life that white kids do (or worse) and there’s no doubt that a few arrests as a young person can interfere with living productive, fulfilling lives as adults. Black or white, once you’re arrested or convicted of a crime, it’s hard to get any leniency during subsequent traffic stops.

From slavery to terrorism to Jim Crow to discrimination in banking and real estate, inequitable policing remains today a very effective form of repression, even if it’s not deliberate.

If the rest of us can begin to acknowledge this problem now, it will only make for a better, safer society moving forward.

As Neal Taflinger wrote on Twitter as @NealTaflinger last Thursday:

“#CrimingWhileWhite is like introducing yourself at AA. Self-awareness is a huge hurdle, but it’s just the first step.”

Michael White, editorMichael White is the editor of The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at 631-298-3200, or email him at mwhite@timesereview.com.

12/05/14 6:00am

Southold_Town_Hall_Sign41511It’s Sept. 12, 1957, and a Mattituck resident is appearing before the newly created Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals. He wants to add an enclosed porch to his home on Bray Avenue. His is the 22nd appeal ever filed with the ZBA, which was established April 9, 1957, and approved its first variance that June.

The building department had denied the Mattituck man’s application to build the porch, records show, because the alteration would have extended beyond his property’s building line.

So the man applied for the variance. He said it was in the spirit of the law and that the porch wouldn’t change the character of the district because there were “mostly summer dwellings on this street.”

The variance was approved.

Fifty-seven years later, the man’s home appears to have been replaced by a newer, larger house — and the portion of the town’s zoning ordinance that pertains to variance powers has just been amended for the first time. The amendment, approved Tuesday night, dictates that any project requiring a variance must be completed within three years or else the homeowner will need to seek an extension.

The measure was approved 5-1 Tuesday with only board member Jim Dinizio, a former ZBA chairman, voting against it. His argument, which he strongly voiced at a Town Board work session Tuesday morning, is that government should not get a “second bite at the apple.” If a variance is approved, it should remain in perpetuity, he said.

We disagree.


More from our opinion section: 

• Featured Letter: The benefit of the doubt

• Suffolk Closeup: Twomey was never, ever giving up

• Guest Spot: How deer have decimated our woodlands


The amendment is certainly within the spirit of what the town set out to do when it formed the East End’s first ZBA in 1957. As quoted from the April 12, 1957, issue of The Suffolk Times: “The sole purpose of zoning and planning is not to work a hardship on any individual, but to ensure residents of the Town of Southold that their homes and businesses will be protected against undesirable ventures.” The very section of the zoning ordinance amended Tuesday states that it exists, in part, to protect public welfare.

We recognize that it’s a reach to say the addition of an enclosed porch would be an undesirable venture today. But we couldn’t help but notice that the man’s argument in 1957 about why the variance wouldn’t change the character of the district would no longer be accurate. While Bray Avenue, like many other streets in Southold Town, was once filled mostly with summer homes, that’s not exactly the case today.

Communities change. Houses change. People change. Why should a variance be the one thing to remain constant?

11/30/14 8:00am
11/30/2014 8:00 AM
(Credit: Celia Iannelli)

(Credit: Celia Iannelli)

Of late, I’ve been fascinated with cloud formations. I head down to my “sacred spot” at the beach almost daily to photograph the ever-changing sky. I especially enjoy taking shots of the magnificent sunrises and sunsets — so much so that I’ve dubbed myself a “sky junkie.” I sometimes post my pictures on Facebook with a few descriptive words taken from a song or poem.  (more…)

11/29/14 8:00am
11/29/2014 8:00 AM
Deer in the backyard of a Southold home. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

Deer in the backyard of a Southold home. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

Our woodlands are under attack. It’s not the first time. By 1750, loggers had removed nearly all trees and brush from Wading River to Southold. Action was taken. Laws were enacted. As a result, our woodlands came back. But unless steps are taken, and soon, the North Fork may once again experience a near total loss of our woodlands, which in turn will endanger not only wildlife but the protection of our land and our waters.  (more…)