Letters to the editor

Unsustainable costs
Recent North Fork school teacher contracts are now unsustainable.
Each budget year superintendents and school boards lament they have almost no control over the final budget as the greater part of the annual school expenditures are fixed either by law or circumstances beyond local control.
Not quite true. Teachers’ salaries are the greatest budget expenditure and superintendents and school boards negotiate and approve these contracts with no public participation. These contracts do not uniformly represent the best interests of their taxpayer constituency.
The superintendents and school boards are the ones whose actions have determined future budgets so that on average a $70,000 salary can morph into $125,000 over a nine-year period.
Mattituck-Cutchogue’s nine year contract ending June 2014 provides an average 81 percent raise, or 9 percent annually.
Southold’s five-year contract ending June 2013 provides an average 39 percent raise, or 7.8 percent annually.
Greenport’s five-year contract ending June 2011 also provides an average 39 percent raise, or 7.8 percent annually.  
Oysterponds’ four-year contract ending June 2011 provides an average 31 percent raise, or 7.8% annually.  
Not included are pension increases, additional school course credits increases and stipends granted for any work outside the normal short work day, about six hours, and a short work year of about 175 days or less after sick and personal time days.
Most other people work seven to eight hours a day and a much longer work year of 225 to 230 days.
The current rate of school tax increases is unsustainable. I suggest the Town Board sit down with all North Fork school superintendents and board presidents at a public meeting. If this is not done soon, the exodus of young people from this area will accelerate and the schools’ decline in student census will accelerate.
I also suggest this same group make a presentation to Albany to discontinue all step increases and to transfer the financial and administrative responsibility for special education to the state.
Walter Strohmeyer
member and former president, Oysterponds Board of Education

What our taxes cover
Imagine Governor Cuomo stands firm on his proposed budget cuts to the public school system.
Imagine the working poor taxpayer confirms that all is not lost and true change to save our homes is at hand. Imagine the working poor taxpayer takes back the power and votes every school district budget down in 2011.
Imagine the message is heard throughout the land and taken seriously.
Ms. Domenici is correct that the May budget is very important and has a direct hit on every property taxpayer. Please go to www.seethroughny.com and read the contracts for the school districts we’re paying for. If the information is reliable — and to date most appears to be accurate — your awareness will increase as much as taxes do.
Remember, this is why roughly 70 percent of your tax bill is for your school district.
In the Southold district, under the contract beginning in 2008 and ending next year, every teacher received a 4 percent salary increase each year. The base salary for a 10-year teacher with a master’s plus 75 credits — $81,064 in 2008 — by 2012 will be $107,394. The increase is $26,330 in four years, averaging $6,582 per year.
In Mattituck, the superintendent’s base salary stood at $170,780 in 2010 and that number rises to $197,457 in 2013. A 10-year teacher at master’s plus 50 credits earned a base salary of $67,641 in 2005. By 2010 that rose to $95,998. That’s an increase of $28,357 in five years, averaging $5,671 every year.
In Greenport, a 10-year teacher at master’s plus 60 earned a base salary of $65,114 in 2006. By 2010 that rose to $86,358, an increase of $21,244 in four years, averaging $5,311 per year.  
Greenport’s superintendent began the 2010 school year with a base salary of $175,000. In 2013 that jumps to $200,000.
The public has a right to full and complete disclosure of the facts. An educated taxpayer decides best at the polls. A meeting is being organized by the Working Poor Taxpayers at the town Recreation Center on Peconic Lane in Peconic for Tuesday, March 29, at 7 p.m. The meeting’s focus will be to identify issues burdening taxpayers and to present methods for change. This is a work planning forum. Community members are welcome, with all ideas to be explored.   
If you think these school salary increments are proper, please stay home. If you are troubled by this out of control system, join the meeting and be part of a solution.
It only works in solidarity, so your voice needs to be heard.
MaryAnn Fleischman

Green? Not hardly
The truth is out and Go Green is not green.
The evidence is Supervisor Russell’s and Councilman Ruland’s visit to the Yaphank transfer station, which is used by Go Green Sanitation. The company’s recycling of only large items is minimal at best.
My concern is that Mr. Fisher’s low introductory price is only going to reverse three decades of training for Southolders to be good stewards of our environment.
By encouraging Southolders to throw everything in one bin, we will go back to throwing batteries, fluorescent fixtures, toxic electronics and STOP (stop throwing out pollutants) item into landfills as we once did many years ago.
Our town has invested in a modern transfer station that is doing a wonderful job recycling for Southold. I think our elected leaders are trying to enforce the town code, which is the least we can do for the environment.
Ken Peterson

Call me confused
Now I admit I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but in the past couple of weeks there have been several quotes and letters addressing certain issues that, quite frankly, I simply do not comprehend.
First, a councilman from East Hampton is quoted as saying Southold’s representative at a helicopter noise meeting is “stepping on people’s toes” when he pushes for a route over the South Fork. It’s my understanding the airport the helicopters in question use is on the South Fork, the people who travel in these helicopters live on the South Fork and the entity at the center of the controversy, the Town of East Hampton, is also on the South Fork.  
Am I missing something here? I don’t think so. If those concerned feel their toes are being stepped on why don’t they simply move their feet?
Next, we have a letter in last week’s edition from the president of Go Green Sanitation, who claims everything his company does is aboveboard and in full compliance with New York State law. He backs up his claim by saying he has been assured by DEC officials that he and his company are doing nothing illegal.  
If this is so, why are there quotes from two DEC representatives stating Go Green is most definitely in violation of the law? I’m sorry, boys and girls, but one of you has got to be wrong.
Finally, we’re told by none other than our esteemed senior senator, Chuck Schumer, that we can rest assured we’ll be taken care of in the above-mentioned helicopter matter. Unfortunately for us, nothing specific is spelled out in his amendment and, to make matters worse, the FAA is given another year to basically ignore the entire problem.  
Like most politicians, the senator lauds himself as a leader, but I don’t see much leadership in this case. What I do see isn’t fit to be printed.
It never ceases to amaze me what some people seem to think about the North Fork and the people who live here. I’m sure it must come as a great surprise when they finally realize we all don’t live in straw huts.
Pat Lohn

Orlando responds
I would like to state my position on a letter that was circulated.
Carole Geiss approached me several months ago at the end of a work session that had the animal shelter on its agenda and offered that, if the town were to go out to bid to run the shelter, she could get a list of bidders together. I acknowledged her with “that would be fine.”
On Feb. 1 the Town Board passed a resolution at an open meeting aired on public access television authorizing and directing the town clerk to advertise a request for proposals on the operation of the town animal shelter. Ms. Geiss was not present at this public meeting.  
Knowing her interest in this subject, I sent her an e-mail from my home e-mail address. I was letting her know that the board passed a resolution for an animal shelter RFP and could she let people know who may be interested in bidding. I sent this e-mail as a courtesy to Ms. Geiss, just as I would for any other constituent who had taken a keen interest in a town issue, be it drainage, erosion or alternative energy.  
It was simply a matter of courtesy in my position as a public servant that I informed a constituent who has been following an issue, yet missed the meeting where a resolution was passed.
I humbly regret that what I said was misinterpreted. At no point did I authorize the use of my name or title, officially or unofficially. Ms. Geiss sent this letter without my knowledge or permission.
Councilman Vincent Orlando

Let’s switch values
In spite of the rising stock market and the increase in corporate profits, we are still far short of being out of the recession. Job creation is very slow and citizens are hurting.
America is way down the list on social and economic equality. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Jobs are still in short supply and our ability to help the needy is deteriorating.
We are investing our business profits off shore to garner additional profit. We are moving manufacturing off shore to profit from cheap labor. Meanwhile, the trade imbalance grows, our national debt grows, our budget deficit grows and our social problems grow.
There are many more years of dirt poor, cheap labor out in the world. We either adapt with intelligent policy and moral conviction or we continue our slow, inevitable decline. Our present situation? A country run by the very rich while an ever increasing underclass grovels and sweats. (Want to know more? Google oligarchy.)
Here is the question: Is the power of profit (you can read greed here) so all-important that it justifies sliding America into crisis and throwing the working class out on the street?
Now is the time for a sea change in American values. We need to substitute the old “America first” attitude for the current, devastating “me first” attitude. Why can’t CEOs work to support America, set up manufacturing in America, hire workers in America and invest in America? They did once. Why can’t financial institutions make loans and finance local initiatives? Maybe even unwind the mortgage crisis?
A rebirth of the old “America first” spirit in business and finance would do wonders. It’s vital to get beyond the current fixation on greed and private wealth and bring on a rebirth of the real America. Follow this with some very necessary government tax policy changes and renewed hiring, business growth and prosperity will follow.
However, this takes belief and stamina. Do we, does Washington, have them?         
Howard Meinke

A very poor decision
The definition of a preamble is an introductory and expressive statement that explains a document’s purpose and underlying philosophy. The preamble of the Constitution is often cited as the succinct statement of our national identity.
The preamble of the U.S. Constitution is as follows:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
I may not be a lawyer and I have never really studied law, however it seems to me the preamble is probably the most important part of the Constitution because it states the reasoning why we have the Constitution. In fact, the preamble came before any of the amendments and should probably carry more weight during the decision-making processes.  
Establishing justice and insuring domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare, all seem to point to the establishment of laws which agree with this philosophy.
Tranquility is defined as harmony, so how does allowing loud and hurtful protest at any funeral promote tranquility among the population?  
How is allowing a protest at any funeral considered just?  
How does providing an avenue for hurtful protest at a time when dignity and respect are fully warranted and expected promote the general welfare?
With all due respect, eight of the Supreme Court justices got this one wrong.  
Bob Bittner

The wrong priorities
Are we broke or are we broken?
On a daily basis our leaders are telling us that we can afford things, things like teachers or public employees pensions or health care or Medicare or Social Security. We are told there must be cuts. We’ve already cut taxes on the wealthy and eliminated most corporate taxes.
We give big tax breaks to big oil and agribusiness and hedge fund managers. So let’s spread the cuts to people who live on Social Security. Let’s cut teachers’ pay and eliminate collective bargaining. Let’s help the powerless be even less powerful.
To cut is the current verb of choice, and it seems to apply to lots of socially important things, but not to executive pay.
There are things we can afford. There are two wars that should never have been fought and heaven only knows at what cost, but trillions would not be far off.
Are teachers responsible for the national debt? How many teachers does a trillion pay for? Are our kids worth a trillion or so?
We can afford a war on drugs which costs billions. How long have we been fighting the war on drugs? Noticed any progress? Ask the border guards or look at the state of affairs in Mexico. The war on drugs is unwinnable.
What we have done is created the world’s largest prison system, created an entrenched prison bureaucracy and spent billions of law enforcement dollars locking up drug offenders. No one thinks that the war on drugs is being won or that any end is in sight.
We are not broke, we are broken. We have lost our sense that our common good is worth paying for.
We have given up the idea of having a decent society where children can be educated and where people can expect reasonably priced health care. Lee Iacocca once said that you can judge a society by how it treats the young and the old. How are we doing on that front?
We have given the rich a pass on contributing to the well-being of the society from which they receive so many benefits. We have given the powerful the power to gamble with our lives and when their schemes come up empty they don’t have to pay the price for their gambling.
It wasn’t their money that was lost, no one foreclosed on their home, their kids won’t be in overcrowded classrooms.
We need to stop being spoiled children who believe the bill never comes due. It’s due.
What sort of country do we want for our kids and for our old folks? How do we stop fighting stupid, unwinnable wars?
What’s most important to us and what will that contribute to the future? We can’t have a future worth having unless it’s based on a strong belief in the common welfare and unless we are willing to pay for it.
Steve Curry