Letters to the editor

It’s out of control
The week before Christmas I opened my 2010-2011 property tax bill totaling $6,183.07. The school levy is 67.97 percent, for a total of $4,202.43. I just about fell over in panic and shock.
The day before Christmas Eve I read about the contractual obligations causing a “Titanic” in the Mattituck School budget, meaning I am going to sink also. I cried.
Christmas night I watched the movie “The Life and Times of Jesus Christ” and was reminded that common folk have been overtaxed since long before the time of Jesus. Nothing much really changes.
By New Year’s I recalled the movie a few decades ago where outraged common people opened their windows and doors and shouted out, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
I think this current system is out of control. I share outrage with the silent majority. Reform, please be on the horizon.
This system is broken and it is hurting many more than it is elevating.
MaryAnn Fleischman

How’d that happen?
The wind was so strong on Route 25 in Cutchogue Monday night, it blew all the snow fencing off its posts and back into rolls, leaving it as if it were never put up.
Tom Grattan Jr.

The computer age
The year is 2011 and we actually have motorized vehicles, flying machines and wireless transmission of voices and images.
We provide our citizens with electronic voting machines, wireless news releases, wireless telephone service and, of course, plenty of opportunities to exercise, reduce our auto insurance expense, dance, learn English, to name a few.
Here in Southold we educate our adult citizens with dancing, learning English as a second language, belly dancing, improving our physical well-being, guitar playing, rug hooking, helping to lower our auto insurance and becoming better boaters. This is all well and very good.
However, if we look around at other areas of Suffolk County we find continuing education or community programs where adult citizens can stay empowered in the computer age. Neighboring areas such as Patchogue, Medford, Wading River, Rocky Point and Riverhead utilize the public schools’ state-of-the-art computer labs after regular school hours to keep their citizens ahead of the typing and telegraph age.
This is all in addition to the exercise, dance, and other programs offered by Southold Town. We live in a time when continuing education is vital to the well-being of adults and keeping current with computers is extremely important.
We can see in other parts of Suffolk that school districts pick up the adult learning in all phases. This is for an economical and practical reason. The schools are most able to host computer-based courses since they have computers paid for by the taxpayer, used in the day by public school students and empty again in the evening, so they can be used by adults.
Makes sense – paid for, partially used and now fully utilized.
My question is to all adults in the Southold, Mattituck and Greenport school districts and the boards of education. In the year 2011 why is there no adult continuing education program on the North Fork in computer usage?
We need to empower our citizens so they can be more knowledgeable. Yes, the town recreation programs are excellent. However that program lacks the equipment and the space for computers. Why duplicate the space and equipment the schools already have?
Let’s move our North Fork not just forward, but alongside the current trends.
Joel Reitman

Take a hard look
The Empire Center for New York Policy, a conservative think tank, estimates that by the year 2016 contributions to the state teachers’ pension fund will have quadrupled and those to the state’s local retirement system will have doubled.
For the Oysterponds School District, this suggests the annual pension contribution for the teachers could rise from the 2010/2011 amount of $135,000 to $540,000. For the non-teaching staff, that number could go from $42,500 to $85,000 over the next five years. Thus, total annual pension contributions could conceivably rise from $177,500 to $625,000 by 2016, or 10 percent of the current budget of $5,546,845.
Although I do not know the total budgets of the other Southold Town schools, I would estimate that annual pension contributions overall could, according to this report, approximate $8 million or more by 2016. This would mean annual pension contributions going to Albany could greatly exceed any state aid coming to Southold.
If the state imposes a 2 percent cap on annual budget increases, this will require a brand-new look at what expenses are really necessary for a good education. Perhaps we will just have to restrict ourselves to what we can afford. If we don’t, we will see a rapidly accelerating exodus of working people from Southold Town.
This extremely negative financial future for Southold Town schools is confirmed by the doomsday attitude reported in the Dec. 23 issue of The Suffolk Times on the part of the Mattituck-Cutchogue school superintendent. He seems to think we are all busily rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Well put, as our coming financial problems are truly titanic.
Walter Strohmeyer
member, Oysterponds Board of Education

How about a license?
After speaking with the owner of Go Green Sanitation, I realized that his service threatens the Town of Southold’s waste removal system that essentially pays for itself.
The fact that we use yellow bags and have a revenue from recyclables, keeps our property taxes down.
In order to preserve these facts, an even playing field must be laid. I suggest a licensing agreement with all carters that make pickups here on the North Fork.
Jeff Abrams
president, Peconic Pick-Up

Food for thought
Some thoughts and questions for the New Year.
Whoever started this thing called “political correctness” is incorrect.
In order to vote, you must be a citizen of the U.S. and prove that you can read, write and speak English. Then why are the signs posted at our local polling places in a foreign language?
If Obama really wants to protect us from terrorist attacks, then why doesn’t he completely secure our borders?
Shouldn’t Obama stop his political goal of acquiring future Hispanic votes and start fully protecting us?
Obama can enhance our national security by bringing our kids home from this unwinable Afghan war and posting them along our borders.
President Eisenhower stated, ”we must guard against the acquisition of unwanted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex.” We haven’t listened.
Why aren’t our feminists protesting the mistreatment of women under Sharia law? Come on, Hillary, speak up.
When will English be established as our official national language?
I never heard of anyone enlisting in the armed forces of this country in order to protect a socialist government.
Why hasn’t the leftist press and news media fully reported the “entitlement riots” in the near bankrupt countries of Greece, Portugal and England?
Obama and his Marxist cohorts should start concentrating on economic growth instead of class warfare.
The easiest way for a government to exercise complete control over its citizens is to create economic chaos.
When economic chaos occurs, who do the people turn to?
Think about Germany in the early thirties.
John Copertino

Waking up indeed
When Jack McGreevy writes, “Merry Christmas and to all a Happy New Year,” he certainly doesn’t really mean “all.”
Rather, his good wishes are solely for the heterosexual population and excludes the many millions of gay men and lesbians and their families, friends and loved ones who, according to Mr. McGreevy, are members of radical minority fringe groups.
While the leaders of some of the largest religious communities in the United States have every right to express their disapproval of same-sex marriage, they do not have the right to impose their views on, and limit the civil rights of, millions of their fellow Americans.
If no church wants to bless my marriage, so be it. But the last time I looked, the United States does not have an official religion.
Marriage is, and has always been, a civil issue that may or may not be recognized by a particular religion. How granting me and my partner of 25 years the same civil rights that Mr. McGreevy enjoys threatens his or anyone else’s marriage is beyond my understanding.
At a time when we are facing a huge financial crisis that threatens the future of our country, it is heartening to know that people can be so passionate about an issue that, like it or not, will eventually be dealt with in the same way that “don’t ask, don’t tell” has been dealt with.
Yes, America is waking up and it is realizing that demonizing people for whom they love is not in anyone’s best interest.
Jerry Barkan

It’s a basic right
In the Dec. 23 and Dec. 30 issues of The Suffolk Times Jack McGreevy wrote, “America is waking up, and it’s about time.”
However, he is dead wrong that the country is going to continue denying the basic right of marriage to gay and lesbian couples.
All Mr. McGreevy needs to do is look at the statistics and he will discover that the majority of people under 35 strongly support same-sex marriage. Even the age group between 35 and 50 is about evenly divided, with those favoring same-sex marriage growing daily.
Enough is enough indeed. Mr. McGreevy’s views are that of a bigot who uses religion to justify his prejudices. Marriage on the state level is, by its nature, a civil ceremony, which allows committed couples to reap certain benefits. No religious institution should ever have to marry anyone it doesn’t want to. But you should not confuse marriage with a blessing.
Also consider how cruel bigotry is when it denies couples who have been together for years basic hospital visiting rights in times of emergency.
And think about how utterly ridiculous a law called the Defense of Marriage Act sounds, ringing with so much fear and insecurity. As one wag said, if you want to defend marriage, outlaw divorce.
America has undone the shame of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And it will eventually legalize same-sex marriage. The numbers support that.
William Sertl

Follow Ma Nature
Southold Town and Town Beach just received a wonderful gift from Mother Nature in the recent storm.
She has provided the perfect opportunity to restore the damaged Town Beach with a proper beach grass dune. Mother Nature has already done much of the work herself by removing the pavement back as far as she could reach. Now it’s just a matter of cutting back the pavement where it’s broken off, cleaning up the beach of the broken pavement and establishing a dune there.
A fence installed would be nice also at Kenney’s and McCabe’s beaches to help direct people off the grass and onto the beach via walkways.
One only has to look at Kenney’s Beach and the recent planting at McCabe’s to see what effect the beach grass planted there and the dune build-up have had on the area. While the beach and the grass in that area are pretty beat up, the roots system remains under all that piled-up debris. In about early April the little green shoots will start to peek through and once again begin the process of restoring the natural dune.
From a very practical sense, the rebuilding of the dune at Kenney’s only cost about $300 for the grass and the generous work of many volunteers. The whole strip was done in about a half-day. Town Beach is certainly a larger project but is easily done this winter.
On another note of this past storm, the preserved land formerly known as the Bittner property also sustained considerable erosion.
The cliff there is now about 20 feet back from were it was before this storm and some of the recent beach grass planting was ripped out by the strong winds and tide. Also, the most recent work the town did in grading is all but gone.
A better plan there would have been to spend some money and properly grade the cliff back to its natural state. Then it would be only a matter of waiting for a better time to plant the beach grass and other naturally accruing plants so it, too, could begin its healing.
Usually January through March is a better time to plant, particularly when you have such a fragile area as Bittner’s is at this time of year. At this point what is planted there is subject to the drying winter winds and basically will just sit there waiting for spring, provided it does not get blown out.
It’s much easier to do it right the first time than to come back and do it again. Not to mention the cost of doing things twice for Southold’s taxpayers.
Southold Town should follow Mother Nature and do it right, as she did at Town Beach.
Rick Bird
Mr. Bird served as project coordinator for the 2006 Kenney’s Beach dune restoration project.

We need light rail
Tourism is Southold’s lifeblood and we can’t afford to lose it. But we are about to lose our tourism if we don’t face up to a mounting, serious problem.
As tourism grows, so does vehicle traffic. During the height of the season it’s obvious that we’re clogging up our limited roads with heavy vehicle traffic. Over time, as traffic problems grow, tourism as we know it will gradually, but noticeably, disappear.
It’s a fact of life that people come to Southold for “the good life,” not to be choking in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Something has to be done and it’s obvious. What we need — ASAP — is a modern, people-oriented public transportation system, such as a light rail system.
With that at the core of a well-designed public transportation system to service all the five East End townships, tourism will survive and flourish and the whole of eastern Suffolk County will be the better because of this public improvement and substantial investment in our future.
Good and reliable public transportation is vital to a region’s growth and prosperity. It stabilizes communities, giving people and businesses a sense of security.
Convenient transportation attracts industries and capital investments and in turn creates new, well-paying jobs providing incentives for our well-educated young people to live and raise their families here.
Any way you look at it, public transportation, well designed and well engineered to serve the public, is key to our economic well-being and the health of the region’s future.
Jack McGreevy

Touched by an angel
I want to share a story about something that was either a Christmas miracle or an angelic visit.
My daughter and her husband had driven from Savannah for a Christmas visit. The day after Christmas we women decided to go shopping in Riverhead. I went to pay at a register and discovered my wallet missing, with my whole life in it, including bank and credit cards, driver’s license, $450 cash, name, address and, of course, my entire identity.
We both stood there horrified at the prospect of what could happen.
A retracing through the store proved fruitless. A security person was summoned, who took down all the information. He then advised us to file a police report, which we did. The officer told us to cancel all cards and go to the DMV to apply for a duplicate license.
There was nothing to do but go home and cancel the credit cards as soon as possible.
On Tuesday we got my new bank card. Next, with coats on and ready to head to the DMV, we heard a knock on the door.
There stood a young Hispanic man who asked if I was Jewell Gonzalez. I nodded yes and he said (paraphrased), “I have your wallet. I found it in Target parking lot. I waited ten minutes to see if anyone came for it, but no one did, and I couldn’t find your phone number. I knew you would be worried, but I couldn’t get here until today because of the snow. Everything is there.”
And everything was there! I tried twice to give him a reward, but he refused it. So I gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek and told him he was an angel, and then he left. I didn’t get his name but did find out that he came from Colombia.
It is important for us all to realize that there are still many good, honest people out there, even in these often despairing, tough times. And yes, some of them are immigrants.
I can’t say thank you enough to this wonderful young man, and I wish him many blessings in this New Year.
Jewell Gonzalez

Wonderful partners
As we begin a new year, Southold Rotary would like to thank all our friends and partners in the North Fork community who have supported our service work in myriad ways.
We would especially like to thank those people and organizations who, year in and year out, contribute to our holiday food box project.
Thank you Southold IGA, Sep’s Farm, Krupski’s Farm, Wickham’s Fruit Farm and the students of the Culinary Arts 1 and the seventh-grade home and career skills classes in the Southold schools.
We are honored to be part of such a generous community and look forward to continued relationships in the coming year as we seek to live our motto: “Service Above Self.”
Michael Cortese
president, Rotary Club of Southold

Brighter and warmer
Grateful thanks to Verizon Pioneers, Peconic Bay Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America, St. Patrick Rosary Altar Society, Marian Council Columbiettes #3852 and many generous local families who made it possible for us to collect and distribute 300 pairs of pajamas during the holiday season.
Children benefitting from the caring and kindness of their neighbors were clients of CAST, North Fork Outreach, The Retreat, Family Service League and the North Fork Spanish Apostolate of Sister Margaret Smyth.
We hope Christmas will have been a bit brighter, and warmer, for the many children who were the recipients of these gifts.
Ann Cummings

Stay out of it
At the Greenport Village Board of Trustees’ December meeting an item was placed on the agenda by the mayor to spend $30,000 on repairs to the village’s mooring field.
There was also an item to spend money for a dinghy dock, to be placed at the baymen’s dock to service the field.
When asked to recuse himself, due to the fact that as a holder of a permit to a village mooring an obvious ethical conflict might exist, the mayor declined, comparing it to voting on roads that he also uses.
But the roads are not limited to 40 users, as are the moorings, a percentage of which are not even village residents. Trustee Phillips regularly declines to vote on railroad dock issues, citing a conflict.
An attempt was made to kill a resolution by Trustee Osinski to privatize the operation of the field, with the mayor leading the opposition. Why?
There’s a real appearance of conflict here.
The public has a real suspicion that politicos are only out for themselves. The mayor should do the honorable thing and not participate on this issue.
William Swiskey

Boundless thanks
On Christmas Day I was in Peconic Bay Medical Center’s emergency room because one of my artificial knees popped out. It was my second time there in December after the same knee dislocated as I simply took off a shoe.
But apart from having to face the prospect of more knee surgery, I witnessed something that deserves recording and praise.
Fifteen police, ambulance and fire personnel responded to our 911 call when they could have been with their families for Christmas. All were solicitous and helpful in keeping me as pain-free as possible while getting me into the ambulance and to PBMC. To each one I offer my heart-felt thank you.  
What I do know is that most of the 15 were volunteers who respond to emergencies in the Mattituck area and we are blessed to have such community-minded people. Their selfless sense of duty to help others embodies values that we liken to the Christmas spirit, but it is a spirit that they demonstrate all year long.
The same applies to the hospital’s staff, who were as comfortingly efficient as could be imagined. So were the doctors who repositioned my knee.
It ultimately took three of them half an hour, but to doctors Alban Bailey, Lincoln Cox and Brian McMahon, my praise for your care and concern during that difficult manipulation is offered along with boundless gratitude for your perseverance.
To all who helped me, I thank you and wish you the best for 2011.
James David Porteous