10/11/13 7:00am
10/11/2013 7:00 AM

Red states blue states

The Other Times informs us this week that 11 counties in Colorado are mounting an effort to secede from the rest of the state because it’s too liberal. “They bristle at gun control laws and marijuana shops, green energy policies and steps to embrace gay marriage and illegal immigrants,” The Times reports. And to that you most likely can add Obamacare, the health insurance initiative that Congressional Republicans are attempting to undo after the fact, bringing the federal government to the brink of insolvency in the process.

And that’s got me to thinking. Maybe we should gladly let them go, along with the other Red counties and states that share their regressive attitudes. In fact, why don’t we let them break away from the union entirely, forming their own nation of Ye Olde United States. Then, and only then, can they void the Emancipation Proclamation and reinstitute slavery, which has been their secret objective from the start, no doubt.

Yes, let the troglodyte Congressional Republicans who are attempting to undo Obamacare after the fact have their own nation. And the rest of us will gladly have ours, one that is progressive, not regressive, and that shares the belief that all men and women are created equal and entitled to equal opportunity.

Let’s see. We’ll take New England (although, admittedly, some of our neighbors to the north have not yet accepted Obamacare), the Mid-Atlantic states and most of the Rust Belt, with the possible exception of Detroit, which would be better off in Canada, don’t you think? Then I suppose we can write off most of the Southeast (except maybe Florida, with vacations in mind; also see Hawaii and Alaska, below) and Southwest. We’ll take the West Coast states, the aforementioned last two jurisdictions to attain statehood and Colorado’s remaining 53 counties.

Obviously, we’ll have to see which nation gets to keep the Pledge of Allegiance, but maybe, just maybe, the red and blue states finally can agree on something: “Two nations under God …”

Before I am accused (again) of being a Demon Democrat, let it be known that I will be voting for at least one lifelong Republican in next month’s local election: Southold Town Justice Bill Price Jr. It just so happens he’s running as a Democrat because, for reasons unknown but hotly speculated upon, his own party declined to endorse him for re-election and Southold’s largely disorganized and dysfunctional Democratic Party saw an opportunity it could not resist.

I have my own theories, all of them speculative, as to how and why this happened. It’s because Bill Price is his own man and unwilling to take direction from GOP leaders. It’s because his Republican-endorsed opponent, Bill Goggins, is a good party soldier willing to take direction from GOP leaders. And it’s because, I have on reliable authority, Bill Price wears a small earring in one ear, much to the chagrin of certain elements of the GOP establishment. Seriously.

As the Price campaign ads have reminded us throughout this election, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

(Disclaimer: I am not now, nor have I been for several years, a member of Times/Review’s editorial board, which decides which candidates to endorse in local, state and national elections. I am, I suppose, a Demon Democrat.)

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10/10/13 8:00am
10/10/2013 8:00 AM

An advertisement in last week’s Suffolk Times has turned waterfront property lines into a campaign issue.

A walk on the beach sounds peaceful. But in Southold Town, where property lines have been a bone of contention between beachfront homeowners and people passing by on the shore, it’s now become a political issue as well.

“It started out as an issue that was somewhat minor about a decade ago but now, this seems to result in conflict on a much more regular basis,” said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell. “It’s a big issue, and it’s a growing issue.”

Last week, the full slate of Democrats running for town offices, currently all held by Republicans, purchased an advertisement in The Suffolk Times claiming that “some people” want to take away Southolders’ right to walk along local beaches and questioning if the present town government has been doing enough to protect those rights.

“Nobody likes one-party rule,” the ad states, alluding to Southold’s all-Republican Town Board and Board of Trustees. “Protect your basic rights from drifting away.”

“We’re just reacting to the number of complaints there have been from property owners who feel that the public walking in front of their property is a violation of their property rights, and I think the confusion stems from the interpretation of the mean high water mark, which is generally not understood,” said Geoffrey Wells, a Democratic candidate for one of three open seats on the town’s Board of Trustees.

The New York State Public Trust Doctrine says that anything seaward of the mean high water mark on the beach is public land, and anything landward of the mean high water mark on the beach is private property. The so-called wrack line, where debris washes up on the beach, is often looked at as an informal high tide mark, but it can change from day to day.

So how do you know where the mean high water mark is?

Both Mr. Russell, a Republican, and Mr. Wells agree there is no official document that defines where the mean high water mark is on Southold Town beaches. The mean high water mark is meant to be an average of the high tide mark over a 19-year period.

There have been several recent court cases on the subject involving beachfront properties on Long Island Sound in Mattituck. In one 2007 case, the court ruled in favor of a group of property owners after the state failed to defend the case. In another case in 2011, a court backed a Mattituck man who was accused of trespassing on private property along the beach near Mattituck Inlet.

The court cases reflect a general public confusion over the issue, as Mr. Wells has said.

“People don’t understand what the actual mean high water mark is, and they don’t know where it is,” Mr. Wells said. “The public and the homeowners are in a state of interpreting where the line might be. As part of our campaign, we’re saying let’s resolve this.”

He said the first thing that needs to be done is to revisit the mean high tide mark and either commission a survey to pinpoint exactly where it is or use existing surveys or aerial maps to do so.

Mr. Russell disagrees.

“On the issue of where the mean high water mark is, there’s a real technical problem with that,” he said. “You can ask five different surveyors and come up with five different answers.”

Other issues also complicate the matter, such as the fact that some waterfront property deeds reference the mean high water mark as being the end of the property, whereas other deeds give specific metes and bounds for a parcel but make no mention of the mean high water mark, Mr. Russell said.

“Ultimately, to find the mean high water mark, basically a surveyor or an engineer is out there trying to find the least erroneous answer to an unanswerable question,” Mr. Russell said. He said that even if the town undertook a plan to identify where the mean high water mark is, it would be subject to a challenge from beachfront property owners. The findings of such a venture would merely be an opinion and not a solid, technical answer to the question, he said, adding that it would also be a very costly undertaking.

Trustee president Jimmy King said he agrees with Mr. Russell that it would be impossible to formally locate the mean high water mark on all beaches within the town.

“I don’t see how it can be done,” he said. The public beachfront land along both the Sound and Peconic Bay in Southold Town is state land, Mr. King said, and it would be the state’s responsibility to mark the mean high water mark on those beaches, not the town’s.

Mr. Russell said he invited the secretary of state of New York to attempt to designate where the mean high water mark is, but that invitation has not yet been accepted.

Joseph Finora, another Democrat running for Trustee, says he believes there will be more conflicts in the future, especially in light of recent “superstorms” that will leave more of the beach under water and bring high tides closer to private property.

“In the future, the big picture answer is that we’re going to need greater cooperation among neighbors who live on the waterfront,” Mr. Finora said.

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05/31/13 5:39pm
05/31/2013 5:39 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Marie Domenici addressing Southold Democrats during the party’s 2011 convention.

The Southold Democratic Party filled one of the vacancies in its 2013 town election slate Friday, choosing Mattituck resident Marie Domenici to run for town assessor.

“Marie is a tireless worker who follows town government and school boards closely,” said town Democratic Chairman Art Tillman. “She’s a totally involved civic person.”

Ms. Domenici was the first chairperson of the town’s renewable energy committee, which drafted the town code permitting wind turbines on agricultural lands. She previously worked as a senior project manager for American Express and most recently served as an energy educator in the solar energy industry.

Two years ago she ran unsuccessfully on the Democratic line for a seat on the Town Board.

“This is about being someone who’s involved in the community and if I can help people count me in,” she said.

The Democrats chose several candidates for town elected positions during the party’s convention Wednesday, but are still looking for another assessor, highway superintendent, Fishers Island justice and town clerk.

05/30/13 1:45pm
05/30/2013 1:45 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTOS | Southold Democratic Town Board candidates Mary Eisenstein and Ron Rothman.

Giving Republican Town Justice William Price the Democratic nomination after the GOP dropped him from its ticket was a headline maker, but it wasn’t the only decision made during the town Democrats’ nominating convention Wednesday night.

The party also selected a third-generation Southold store owner and a communications specialist and mediator from Mattituck to top the Southold Democratic Party’s ticket in the fall elections.

The supervisor’s position, which has a four-year term, is not on this year’s ballot.

The party also selected three Town Trustee candidates and one town assessor hopeful, but left open two assessors positions, Fishers Island justice, highway superintendent and town clerk.

The Town Board candidates are Ron Rothman of Rothman’s Department Store on Main Road in Southold and Mary Eisenstein, the operator of Melmar Enterprises, which offers workshops in corporate and individual communications. She’s also a mediator who has worked to resolve civil cases before the Town Justice Court.

For Trustee, the Democrats chose South African native Geoffery Well, a retired corporate IT officer; Joe Finora Jr, one of the organizers of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League and Bill Funke, who prior to his retirement worked in the marine insurance industry.

Although three Trustee positions will be on this year’s ballot, the party selected just one candidate. Southold resident Jason Petrucci, who earned a master’s in government and politics from the University of Maryland, will run to fill the 26 months left in Assessor Darline Duffy’s term. Ms. Duffy is retiring this week.

The party left it to Chairman Art Tillman to continue the search for candidates for the other positions.

The Democrats were thrown a curve Wednesday morning when Highway Superintendent Pete Harris, the party’s only representative in local elected office, announced he will retire at the end of his term.

Mr. Tillman said he has “feelers out” for potential highway candidates.

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11/15/12 6:00am
11/15/2012 6:00 AM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Al Krupski announcing his legislative candidacy Tuesday night.

Well, this could get interesting.

For years, the Southold political scene has provided a textbook example of stability and continuity. True, some might describe it as frozen and stagnant. With a few notable exceptions, Republicans dominate. Democrats and independents have scored a few David vs. Goliath victories over the years, but at the moment there are but two Democrats in elected town positions.

One is Highway Superintendent Pete Harris and the other is Councilman Al Krupski. In a matter of weeks, that number may drop to one.

Mr. Krupski announced Tuesday that he will seek the Democratic nomination to run for the County Legislature seat Ed Romaine is leaving to ascend to Brookhaven supervisor. With Suffolk Democratic leader Rich Schaffer voicing support for the councilman just minutes after Mr. Romaine’s Election Night victory, it’s hard to imagine anyone else getting the nod.

Should Mr. Krupski prevail, the script many believed the parties would follow in future elections gets thrown out the window.

Although he’s the Town Board’s lone Democrat, Mr. Krupski is a fiscal conservative. That’s hardly surprising given his farming background. Votes split along party lines are as rare as Democratic victories. Mr. Krupski is universally admired and respected, a fact quite evident when his party “roasted” him earlier this year. A number of Republicans attended and GOP Supervisor Scott Russell was the main “roaster,” having a great deal of fun at the councilman’s expense. The two have a close bond, so close that Mr. Krupski has said he’d never run for supervisor as long as Mr. Russell holds the job, and the supervisor recently said he wouldn’t run against the councilman in the special legislative election.

The consensus Republicans and Democrats shared was that Mr. Krupski was heir-apparent to the supervisor’s post should Mr. Russell leave town government, and that he’d serve there for 20 years or more if he so wished. He’s the Democrats’ rising star and — should he run, win and move on to county government — he’d be extremely difficult for the party to replace.

Whoever wins the special election will serve only one year and face re-election in 2013. Were Mr. Krupski to win, the Town Board would likely appoint a replacement, who also would serve one year and face re-election next fall.

Get ready. The carousel is about to start spinning.

05/31/12 11:19am
05/31/2012 11:19 AM

JERI WOODHOUSE

The Southold Democratic Party has selected Jeri Woodhouse of Orient to face incumbent GOP Trustee Mike Domino in November’s special election.

No stranger to town government, Ms. Woodhouse served as chairwoman of the town Planning Board during the administration of former supervisor Josh Horton. She ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Town Board in 2009.

She owns and operates the Taste of the North Fork food business in Cutchogue.

“Jeri is a strong candidate with a background of Democratic Party participation, community affairs and is a business woman,” said Art Tillman, Southold Democratic chairman. “We are most pleased Jeri has decided to  run.”

She’ll be up against Mike Domino of Southold, who in January was appointed to a one-year Trustee term to fill the vacancy left when GOP Trustee Jill Doherty was elected town councilwoman. Mr. Domino is a retired science teacher and former president of the North Fork Environmental Council.

10/15/11 1:31pm
10/15/2011 1:31 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Greenport couple George Agnew and Linda Mugford with Southold resident Ellen Gomez hold protest signs in front of Rothmans on Saturday where Southold Democrats gathered and called for the preservation of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Southold Democrats held a rally Saturday, calling for the preservation of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as well as what committee chairman Art Tillman is describing as “a new plank” in his party’s platform: eliminating helicopter noise on the North Fork.

Frank Dalene, vice chairman of the civic action group Quiet Skies Coalition, told a crowd of about 30 people at Rothmans Department Store in Southold that he believes helicopter noise  could be reduced if East Hampton Airport returns to operating as a private airport.

“[The airport] now acts as a commercial hub,” said Mr. Dalene, a pilot from Wainscott. “It’s an aerial assault on our quality of life. The same helicopters that fly over your homes, fly over ours.”

Mr. Tillman said the Democrats decided to join Quiet Skies Coalition’s quest because helicopter traffic has increased over the past few years.

“As the rich get even more money, they resort to helicopters and it seems the public be damned,” Mr. Tillman said.

There will be a public forum on helicopter noise at the LTV PBS television station, located at 75 Industrial Road in East Hampton, on Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Mr. Tillman, along with Town Board challenger Marie Domenici and Town Justice candidate Brian Hughes, hope campaign efforts such as Saturday’s rally will help make up for the party’s decision to forgo the use of political signs.

“Because our candidates agreed to no signs, we are taking one big risk,” he said, adding that his party plans to spread its campaign message through “non-conventional” methods. “If the people would read about our policies online, then we will win.”

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