A costly ploy
As a registered independent, I get to look at both the Republican and Democratic parties from an objective point of view without choosing sides.
But this last ploy of the Democrats to divide Southold into councilmatic districts is their way to gain seats and get control instead of winning an election.
Not only will this cause too much confusion in the town but it will also raise the cost to the taxpayers again in a time when we need to conserve as much as possible, not add to our financial hardship.
The Democrats need to go back to the table and think about the taxpayers and not themselves. There was really no problem with the way the town was run before with a mix of parties. Why change it now?
This will only make costs rise at a time when we need to keep them low.
Yes to new districts
In recent days there has been a vigorous debate on the Southold Democratic Party’s proposed change to the process used to elect town officials.
On March 31, The Suffolk Times reported that Southold’s Democratic Party proposed moving from an at-large to a councilmatic method of electing Town Board members. As a member of the Southold Democratic Party, and as a member of its executive committee and as a resident of Greenport, I write to express my appreciation for each and every comment advanced for and against changing how we elect board members.
Why do I support a change in how town officials are elected? Please recall that in my statement that appeared on page 3, I noted that it would: “bring democracy, the Democratic process, to my front door, to your front door.” For me, democracy matters, and matters a lot.
I also made the observation at that meeting that as a person of African descent, I am fully aware that it took nearly 100 years from the date of our nation’s founding before the 15th Amendment, passed in 1870, said that black men could vote. And, yes, it took another 50 years (1920) before women were granted their voting rights by passage of the 19th Amendment.
A second reason why I support council districts is that this approach seems to be working when one looks at the establishment of school districts. Why are there three high schools if we are one town? I know, I know, tax bases, etc. Are our distinct school districts a “balkanization” of educational services, or are they in reality a reflection of the best way to educate our youth?
A third reason is if we are to preserve what makes Southold distinctive, while effectively addressing changes and issues at our doorsteps — balanced growth and development, finding solutions to very pressing environmental and sustainability challenges, energy conservation, to name a few — we need a process and a structure that brings democracy to its highest level of deliberation and direct participation.
Yes, Dems go to districts because the change it brings to the election process reflects a need to respond to changing challenges. The best solutions and the most promising aspects of our social contract begin when authority is vested and begin from the bottom up.
Council districts as a basis for electing Town Board members is a step in the right direction.
It’s not small-town
Southold’s Democrats are pushing for, as they say, a major change in the way Town Board members are elected and serve. The idea is that creating councilmatic districts, in which board members represent specific communities rather than running at large, is more Democratic and constitutional.
To many, Republican and Democrat, it makes good sense. It may even be proven in the near future to be required by the U.S. Constitution to be put into local compliance.
I’m a strong advocate of democracy and following the Constitution. But like a lot of other people in our small-town, apple pie township, we like the present set-up as it is, despite the weird situation that it may be unconstitutional for Fishers Island to hold a dedicated Town Board seat, no matter how or who we vote for.
Editor’s note: Last week’s article mistakenly reported that Shelter Island is the focus of a legal challenge over Town Board representation to be heard later this month in the state Court of Appeals. Fishers Island is the subject of the case.
Power to the bosses
Art Tillman’s suggestion of a councilmatic district is nothing more than gerrymandering, which by definition is the manipulation of electoral boundaries to favor one faction over another.
Call them councilmatic districts, political wards, parishes or precincts, they have a history of being tainted and corrupt. New Orleans, Boston and Chicago are just a few cities that come to mind as breeding grounds of nepotism and corruption. The last thing Southold needs is to mirror a large Midwest city, which is one of the most corrupt in the nation and on the brink of bankruptcy.
The mantra of this Democratic city is “pay to play.” These parishes, wards and precincts are governed by a demigod known as the boss. While the boss holds no official elected office, his primary function is to rule over the designated voting block and select a charismatic individual from the councilmatic district to run for office.
The selected candidate need not be bright or even know the issues. The boss will tell him and the people in the district how and when to vote. Need a favor or variance? See your district boss. After all, it’s the typical Democratic Chicago way of doing business.
Mr. Tillman feels that to be elected to a council seat is a daunting, if not impossible, and expensive feat for a Democrat because the majority of the 16,000 registered voters in Southold are Republicans. Mr. Tillman takes offense that the GOP’s lopsided Town Board majority is a result of a fair election process where the candidates who receive the largest amount of votes are elected.
Mr. Tillman is appalled when the GOP majority wins. He would rather divide the majority so that it loses. Mr. Tillman wants to divide Southold into small and segregated minorities, such as Greenport, East Marion and Orient.
The majority of people in Southold want a councilman who represents the electorate that voted for him. Mr. Tillman wants a councilman who will be picked by a councilmatic district boss.
The question on everyone’s mind is which councilmatic district, Greenport, East Marion or Orient, does boss Tillman plan on running?
They’re not overpaid
As school district budget hearings continue, negotiations with the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District and CSEA members have stalled. The current contract ends in June 2011.
CSEA members are the teacher assistants, secretaries, custodial, security personnel and nurses. They are the lowest-paid employees of the district, who are responsible for the “behind the scenes” work of caring for our students. They do not receive longevity raises, step increases or tenure.
But as enrollment in the district decreases, and is expected to decline further, the number of school administrators has grown. These administrators are awarded raises of 3.5 percent every year, without question. A shrinking district does not need more administrators, assistants and directors who command huge salaries and benefit packages.
Sit down before you verify the salaries of the schools’ administrative staff on SeeThroughNy.com. It may shock you.
We do not need more people to run the school, but we do need qualified and dedicated workers who keep our school clean, our students safe, and parents informed. The CSEA employees of the district do exactly that.
Please speak up. Together we can make a difference.
An incomplete story
The reporter missed several key points of the public speakers at the Mattituck-Cutchogue budget meeting last week, leading the reader to distorted conclusions.
It seems rather silly to bark about the lowest budget increase in over 30 years. Absent from the reporting was the concern that 70 percent of our property tax bills goes directly to the school budget. And about 70 percent of every school budget goes solely to teacher salaries and benefits.
Mr. McKenna outlined budget item reductions taken only from the remaining 30 percent of the budget, including K-12 supplies, library books, BOCES, performing arts, sports teams, athletic equipment and the various lines directly impacting the students.
The reduction in teaching and aide staff is directly due to the reduction in student enrollment, far off from the anticipated increase in the student population projected to build the new schools a few years ago. People with children are not moving into the district as was expected, and my guess would be that high taxes are one of the reasons.
Another key point the reporter failed to mention is the significant raise in the teacher salary portion of the budget. In the contract starting in September 2005 and ending this coming June, the average teacher salary increases more than $5,000 every year. That’s $25,000 for every teacher, with 48 teachers making over $100,000 this year, totaling $5,590,609 for the 2010-11 school year.
It will be increasing even higher in September, as will teacher retirement benefits. That’s not a choice of the district, but a mandate.
Another point discussed, but not reported, is the more than million-dollar budget surplus carried over from last year. Everyone turned their heads on this one, but there was no mention of this in the news. That’s a lot of extra cash hanging around that could have been better served in the pockets of the taxpayers. How far off will they be projected this year?
The last item that failed to be reported was discussion of other school districts where the teachers are giving back money. Shoreham-Wading River district teachers agreed to raises averaging less than 1 percent annually over four years with no raise the first year. Comsewogue district teachers have all agreed to pay back $4,500 each, as well as make higher contributions to health care coverage.
The trend for these types of reductions and givebacks has not yet caught up to the North Fork educators.
The Working Poor Taxpayers group will meet again tomorrow night, Friday, April 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Cutchogue library. The group’s goal is to educate the public on the true costs of issues not always made public. The voter has to be informed in order to make their best choice in the voting booth.
This is not an anti-teacher campaign. We respect the profession. We just believe their salary and benefits are far out of control on the North Fork and Long Island, in comparison to every other state in the union.
Many Long Island school districts are turning toward a better reality base. We want to educate the public with information not forthcoming in the budget meetings and/or in every news article.
We all have different ways to deliver information. All interested people in working toward that goal are welcome to join.
Skip to Skype
I have a solution to the issue faced by the Oysterponds school board about where to send their children for secondary education.
Rather than pay transportation costs to and from Greenport and “possibly” Mattituck, why don’t they dedicate a classroom for the secondary students and allow them to Skype in on their classes.
Public education on the North Fork will most likely next year cost $84 million. Student population will drop next year from 3,200 to 3,040 and total salaries and benefits should next year total $50,400,000.
Certainly, many teachers are dedicated and career-oriented. Unfortunately, top management — school boards and superintendents — and many employees who take their cue from above do not understand their business is to produce a product, namely educated students.
No records are maintained of how elementary students do in high school to report back to the elementary school principals in order for them to take corrective action. No records are maintained on how the high school students do in either academics or business once they graduate to report back to the high school principals in order for them to take corrective action.
One school district is so callous as to fire 13 people and at the same time give a bonus of $7,500 and a 3.5 percent raise to the superintendent. This same school is facing a 17.65 percent decline in student population over the next four years (1,489 down to 1,226).
Other schools face similar population problems. Despite very prudent advice from taxpayers, this same top management embarked upon a major building program that required a bond issue now about $30 million.
With a shrinking customer base, the schools should be presenting shrinking budgets to the electorate. Instead, they are all looking for increases of 2 percent or more. Further, this is on top of budget increases of 45 percent over the past seven years for all except Greenport, whose increase was 30 percent.
As a matter of fact, Oysterponds increased its budget three of these years by 10 to 14 percent.
Regrettably, when first on the board and a real amateur, I did not strenuously object to all these increases. I have more than made up for that lapse in recent years.
However, none of this takes into account the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the coming state aid reductions combined with pension contribution increases, a double whammy of millions of dollars, a financial tsunami.
member, Oysterponds school board
Now we can see why Tim Bishop’s victory in last fall’s election was razor-slim. Our congressman thinks that we, his constituents, are morons.
While the congressman’s [March 31] Guest Spot rails against GE and its corporate breaks, which he attributes solely to the proposed House Republican budget, Mr. Bishop neatly overlooks the fact that GE and its CEO Jeffrey Immelt are in bed with President Obama. GE contributed half a million dollars to Mr. Obama’s campaign and the president recently appointed Mr. Immelt to chair the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
In addition, Mr. Immelt is an ardent supporter of the president’s “green” initiatives, even as GE-designed nuclear reactors are melting down in Japan.
Even liberals from MoveOn.org are screaming for the president to dump Mr. Immelt. Once again, we see the incompetence of Mr. Obama reflected in the people he chooses to advise him as he forges policies that are killing our country.
I can understand if it were Congressman Bishop’s intent to distance himself from the Obama Administration. 2012 promises to be an even more difficult election than 2010. As constituents, we must demand that our representatives make it their business to tell the whole truth.
What’s he cutting?
It was disappointing to see Rep. Bishop resort to populist rhetoric in his most recent article.
I guess that’s one way to deflect attention from the real debate in Washington, which is how do we cut federal spending. This year the government will spend an astounding $4 trillion, much of that borrowed, all our elected representatives can come up with in cuts, amounting to less than one percent of spending. Really?
Why isn’t Mr. Bishop telling us why he voted no to the spending cuts in the last two continuing resolutions? What are his ideas on how government can be run more efficiently?
A good place to start would be the recent Government Accountability Office report, which detailed hundreds of duplicative government programs, which if eliminated could result in $200 billion in savings. Rather, Mr. Bishop wants to talk taxes and how to grow the revenue side instead.
If history is any guide, more revenue to Washington just means more money spent, with no meaningful effort to reduce the debt or deficit. While there is no doubt that crony capitalism, enabled by Washington, is outrageous, isn’t the excessive and ever-rising level of spending by Washington equally egregious and of little incremental benefit to the middle-class taxpayer?
I read Congressman Tim Bishop’s “Guest Spot” article last week and remembered why I voted for him.
He is an intelligent, sensible, fair-minded, practical public servant. Thank God he beat back that Tea Party onslaught last November.
The article pointed out the tremendous inequity between what ordinary people pay in taxes to maintain services and infrastructure and what major corporations, such as GE pay. Last year GE made $5.5 billion in profit and paid zero taxes. Over the past five years GE made $26 billion and got a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.
There are over 100 corporations that pay little or no taxes. Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profit, paid no federal taxes and received a rebate of $156 million. Bank of America made $4.4 billion in profits and got a $1.9 billion refund plus nearly $1 trillion in bailout money.
The list goes on and on and includes Verizon, FedEx and Citi Group. Goldman Sachs, which paid only 1.1 percent of its income in taxes, even though it made $2.3 billion profit, received almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury.
It’s an outrage.
I don’t blame the local hardware store or builder complaining about taxes. But the big guys complain the loudest, pay the least and want their rate lowered.
What can ordinary people do about it? In England, when social programs such as rent and fuel support for the poor were cut, a grassroots group named UK Uncut got together and organized protests in front of local outlets of major corporations that paid little or no taxes.
The signs read something like: “If your company uses the infrastructure, i.e. the roads, etc., pay your fair share!” Other signs showed the amount not paid and contrasted it with the cost of a specific social program cut, and asked the question: “If you don’t think this is fair, pass them by.”
It’s been very effective so far. The American version, U.S. Uncut, has started by picketing corporate meetings, to no great effect so far. But you can check out their website, usuncut.org, to see what else they’re doing.
A review of tax law is coming up before Congress. Mr. Bishop will hopefully fight to make major corporations pay their fair share while protecting small local businesses and ordinary taxpayers.
Once the numbers start coming out, maybe U.S. Uncut can organize local boycotts to influence the national dialogue on tax reform.
Where’s the money?
As we come to the end of another season of saving and enhancing lives by providing a safe and warm place to sleep each night from November through March, we wish to thank everyone who supported this important effort.
To the houses of worship that open their doors to our homeless guests, to the countless volunteers who prepare meals, offer solace and a supportive ear, stay overnight, wash sheets and blankets and coordinate every detail for a particular site.
To the civic organizations, youth groups and businesses and to countless others who give of their time, expertise and resources, we send a resounding and heartfelt message of gratitude and love.
The Maureen’s Haven program would not be possible without all of you coming together as one community in caring and loving service to those in need. This winter season was particularly brutal, with many major storms that could have been disastrous to those without a home in which to seek shelter.
We would also like to take this opportunity to discuss our fundraising efforts this year and to clarify some misconceptions that may have resulted from the Maureen’s Haven name being used by groups and businesses throughout our community.
There have been a number of large events such as The Snow Ball and many smaller ones such as spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts and chili cookoffs, that have stated or implied that the funds raised would go to support our work under the auspices of Peconic Community Council.
We’re fairly certain that many attendees of these events were under the impression that a significant portion of their donation was going to us in order to meet the costs of operating the overnight shelter program.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case.
While the coordinators of The Snow Ball advertised in Dan’s Paper and on large signs throughout the community that the event was benefitting Maureen’s Haven, only $1,000 of the proceeds generated were actually donated to our program.
We are very disturbed by this trend of using the Maureen’s Haven name in order to generate interest in particular fundraising events when very little, if any, of the proceeds actually goes to support this very worthwhile endeavor.
We want to assure our constituents and supporters that any fundraising solicitation with our name on it is one in which the proceeds are truly going to support the cause to which you are led to believe you are contributing. Any such solicitation should be considered if, and only if, it bears the Maureen’s Haven logo and a stamp of approval from the doard of directors of Peconic Community Council.
The Maureen’s Haven program is a life-saving one. It’s also extremely costly to run, particularly in this stressed economy with the number of adults in need of our services on the rise. Every donation is priceless to us and we do not want anyone to think that our cup runneth over as a result of some promoters who use our name to gain revenue for anything other than our work.
For those who wish to ensure their donation goes directly to fund our work with the homeless, please send your contribution to our office rather than support an event that may not be sanctioned by us. Please feel free to call or email us with any questions or if you know of an event in your community that is using our name. We are happy to answer any and all questions you may have.
We thank everyone once again for your consistent support of our work and your commitment to serving those less fortunate than most.
chairman, Peconic Community Council
Where’s the Levy press release?
It’s been two weeks since the announcement that County Executive Steve Levy would not be seeking re-election and would be turning over his $4 million campaign chest to the district attorney’s office. Yet in all that time the people of this county have not heard one word from all parties concerned of exactly what has transpired to bring these events about.
On a good day, the taxpayers and voters of the county could expect as many as five to six press releases from Mr. Levy concerning events in Hauppauge, so his continued silence can only make us all wonder just what he, the district attorney and the political parties are trying to hide.
Thomas W. Smith