Letters to the Editor: Dec. 1, 2011


Bring back the jobs

During the last election campaign at one of the debates, a simple statement by one of the participants got me thinking. The statement was to the effect that there are about 180 employees who go to work on Plum Island every day from Connecticut.

Think about that. One hundred-eighty jobs that once belonged to the North Fork now are out of state. How did this happen? It seems that when the previous director retired, the man who was hired to replace him lived in Connecticut so the Plum Island ferry was used to transport him to his job.

Whether it just happened or was done to soften the use of the ferry for his personal use, the jobs migrated to Connecticut.

With all the concern about the lack of good-paying jobs on the North Fork, how could we allow this to happen? Everyone talks about our children going off to college, getting a degree and then not being able to get a good-paying local job. The jobs that have left us are good ones, scientific, technical, skilled positions that pay good salaries.

What is the impact on our local economy? Let’s be conservative and say that after taxes the average worker takes home $50,000 per year. Do the math — $50,000 times 180 workers totals $9 million lost from the local economy. These are jobs we should strive to return to the North Fork.

Can’t you see the headlines if our local congressman brought 180 jobs with a payroll of $10 million or $11 million to the area?

Since it appears that the Plum Island lab may remain in operation, we should have our congressman, Mr. Bishop, spearhead an effort to return what has been rightfully ours.

We receive no taxes from Plum Island, we get all the road traffic associated with its operation, assume the health risks of a potential outbreak and now have lost over $9 million out of the local economy.

All this and we have not yet addressed the extra cost of running the ferry to and from Connecticut four times every day. This can’t be cheap.

Robert Villa


For safer roads

I was taught to drive with both eyes looking straight ahead down the road. At night or during inclement weather this angle of vision doesn’t provide proper sight.

Inclement weather requires the driver to look at the white lines on the road for guidance. At night the glare of oncoming headlights also requires one to use the painted white line on the right side.

Recently the state repainted the white line on the eastbound side of Route 25. The line was a nice bright beacon last Wednesday, in the rain and later at night. I’m sure most readers have noticed the difference.

I hope the state gets around to painting the westbound side before the harsh weather and shorter days truly take hold. On our rural and dimly lit roadways, the guidance given by those white lines is appreciated.

Joel Reitman


It was way off base

I’m a longtime subscriber who was startled at Ms. Chinese’s column last week. It was not clever or funny.

I grew up in Brooklyn and raised my children in the city and we’ve lived in Southold for over 25 years. They know about Washington Heights. They know that Columbia Presbyterian is one of the best hospitals in the world. I’ve taken them to Coogan’s pub, a place you can meet folks who are proud of their Dominican Republic background and meet firefighters and cops and nurses.

It reminds me of Founders Tavern.

My daughters love Southold. They learned to swim here, they went to basketball camp in Mattituck, we went to Christmas tree lightings and learned how to drive here. We are huge fans of the North Fork Community Theatre.

Ms. Chinese is not accurate. The streets of New York are not full of urine and nutshells. Just like Southold, they are filled with people who are full of compassion and care.

Michael Regan


Why print that?

Whatever the source of her obvious ignorance and envy, Vera Chinese is entitled to her private opinions about New York.

But why on earth would you publish her article? Would you publish an equally bilious and uninformed piece about the North Fork?

I, Susan, moved to Manhattan at age 18, loved it then and still love it. My husband and I bought our first house in Southold in 1980.

Although our primary residence is now in Mattituck, we keep an apartment in the Village, surrounded by ambitious, energetic and successful young people.

Susan and Warren Cannon


Acting without info

The Town Board is preparing to outsource local government web design work to CivicPlus, a company located in Manhattan, Kansas, the same city proposed as the site for relocating the national bio- and agro-defense facility from Plum Island.

A proposed resolution to authorize a contract with CivicPlus recently was defeated. The supervisor explained that it was because of a lack of public notice. That, however, was only incidental to the substantive objection that the contract had not yet been negotiated or reviewed by the board. One board member commented to the effect that they frequently authorize the supervisor to sign contracts that have yet to be negotiated.

The CivicPlus response to the town’s request for proposals contains conflicting pricing. CivicPlus stated, “Total cost 1st year not to exceed $22,409.00” but continues with pages of optional additional costs, many of which may be incurred during the first year.

The “total cost” includes 24 hours of webinar training for up to six employees. So called “project enhancement options,” such as suggested on-site meetings, are not included. Also not included in the “total cost” are fees for possible pages of additional content, a three-month checkup consultation/training, a refresher consultation and advanced training and graphic design services.

Costs aside, it was clear that the Town Board had not kicked the tires, nor looked under the hood.

The resolution adopted on Nov. 22 to seek a contract with CivicPlus will do nothing to address how a new website will be managed.

When I proposed a web presence committee the Town Board gave the impression that it did not have the slightest idea what I was talking about and did not want to know. A web presence committee would be able to review the current site and make a reasonable plan to upgrade it.

While a new website will be beneficial at some point, clearing up the existing web presence is essential to prepare for a successful new web design.

Contrary to Supervisor Russell’s statement that I am “looking to make money from the town,” the truth that Southold Town is operating without knowledge of the subject is tragic.

Benja Schwartz

Editor’s note: Mr. Schwartz operates a website design business.


A first for the kids

An extraordinary event occurred recently at the Oysterponds School. The new principal, Francoise Wittenburg, treated the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders to a visit to the Oysterponds Oyster Co. run by Reggie Tuthill and Associates.

Before they walked to the in-village marine site, former Trustee John Holzapfel gave a brief slide lecture on oysters and afterwards, at the creek, Frank Passanante was busy for almost 30 minutes shucking oysters as fast as he could for the ravenous youngsters, while the whole operation from seed to maturity was fully explained and demonstrated. This may be the first time Orient’s natural marine resources have been utilized to educate our children.

In another matter, because discussion at the Nov. 15 school board meeting was, as usual, open, it became clear the new superintendent believes she knows best. For instance, two board motions, if passed, would have eliminated any board approval of budget transfers up to $30,000 and any prior board approval of any purchase contracts up to $20,000.

This board wisely took a pass on both, as they well know from past experience that the last three school budgets (averaging $5,500,000) occurred only because of board prior review of all budget transfers and all contract purchases exceeding $1,000.

That the board tighten control of expenditures from now on is especially important since the district has already spent and encumbered $450,000 more than last year. At this rate, the fund balance will vanish.

Also, Julie Lane’s Nov. 17 article titled “Where should they go?” covered the subject of where Oysterponds students might attend high school quite well. One board member implied Shelter Island as a possible receiving school.

Not that it necessarily would be the best choice, but any review in this area should include Shelter Island, as it is nearby, the student body almost mirrors Oysterponds in size as well as student body make-up, and it has a generally good reputation.

Though the ferry ride should be considered, do not overlook that one Oysterponds teacher commutes daily from the island, the present superintendent commutes from Sag Harbor via two ferries and quite a few teachers and students commute daily from New London to Fishers Island.

Walter Strohmeyer
former president, Oysterponds school board


Social justice needed

It is reported F. Scott Fitzgerald remarked to Ernest Hemingway, “The rich are different from us.” Hemingway replied laconically, “Yes, they have more money.”

The global Occupy Wall Street movement prompts further discussion. One strategy used to address this movement is rather than respond with cogent counter ideas, a cascade of personal insults is hurled at the demonstrators. Language going nowhere.

We are reminded frequently that this nation is founded on Judeo-Christian principles. No doubt, however, these principles deserve examination beyond their use as talking points in a debate.

The late Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel noted it was the ancient Hebrew prophets who bequeathed to Western civilization and to Christianity the notion of a social conscience focusing upon the needs of the marginalized and the vulnerable, summed up in a catch-all phrase, “the widows and orphans.”

The notion of social justice was of little interest to many of our revered authors of ancient Greece and Rome. A notion ridiculed today as “class warfare,” or envy of the wealthy.

To invoke Judeo-Christian principles is to invoke social justice. It is a complex notion not to be dismissed as warmed-over Marxism or satisfied with a generous check to our favorite charity.

Tom Dunn


This isn’t Omaha

A letter in last week’s paper urged us to turn everything around by emulating Omaha, Neb. This guy was kidding, right?

Have you ever been to Omaha? I have on several occasions and while it’s not exactly my cup of tea I’ve always been treated well there and I guess it offers the same things you’ll find in any midsize city in America’s heartland. But to compare our situation to theirs is patently ridiculous.

Let’s start with the problem of space. We have a very limited amount, while it can be argued space is all Omaha has. It’s huge compared to us. What the writer would have us develop here is not really addressed, but I would wager what can and has been built out there wouldn’t physically fit here in a million years unless you filled in Long Island Sound.

Next comes the question of what can we build here to create jobs, etc. I’ll answer that with another question: why build anything?

From the former Grumman property in Calverton to several large office buildings farther east there are many possibilities for all types of businesses and if Capital One closes its Mattituck headquarters yet another location will be available.

Of course, how people will travel to and from these potential job sites is another matter because our roads can’t handle any more traffic and there isn’t any real mass transit serving our area.

In Omaha, however, none of this would present a real problem. In fact, developing more of “all that space” would actually solve a lot by increasing the city’s tax base. We, on the other hand, have what we have and no more. Trying to solve our problems by using what’s already here makes a lot more sense than banging the drum for the Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

Pat Lohn


Light rail is the key

Our roads in Southold Town were built for the early 1900s — and so was the Long Island Rail Road system.

We shouldn’t build more roads out here but build a better railroad. To grow as a viable community, we need a modern mass transportation system out here, and an important part of that new world-class system should be light rail.

An attractive, commuter/tourist designed light rail system could induce people to use the comfortable, people-friendly light rail instead of their cars — to everyone’s relief and benefit, as time goes on.

Good transportation is key to our town’s future.

Jack McGreevy


Death of a holiday

On the Monday after Thanksgiving Day, the electronic and written media continued to hype the death of another American holiday to greed. They report a huge increase in sales this past weekend.

But let’s look at their comparison and see if it’s all they say it’s cracked up to be.

This year many retailers opened their doors on Thanksgiving eve. Some even opened on Thanksgiving itself. This created a longer shopping window and created hype for what has become the new American holiday — Black Friday. It is now “fun” to shop on Thanksgiving Day.

The media is touting a huge increase in sales over last year, but what were the actual hourly sales? Was it the same as last year?

There has to be a limited number of cash registers. Do you ever see more cash registers installed, or even more clerks using the ones still available?

Did the retailers increase the number this year? I doubt it. Instead, they increased the window of opportunity for sales and, in so doing, are bringing about the slow death of another American holiday.

So far they have claimed Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day and even New Year’s Day. This is just one more holiday to conquer.

The first Thanksgiving was a three-day feast for the Pilgrims and Native Americans, a time to thank the creator, not to make commerce.

Yes, Virginia, it really is all about greed. And that greed was captured on the nightly news as shoppers camped out in front of stores and fought one another to get the deal of the day.

I recognize that consumer buying is necessary in order for the entire country to prosper. What I don’t recognize is why that buying must take place during Thanksgiving Day, the day before that and in the wee hours of the following morning.

If retailers must open early, why isn’t 6 a.m. early enough? As reported by family members, no one was in the stores at that hour.

Why not extend the shopping window at the end of Black Friday instead of the beginning?

Sales may be up, but did the number of customers increase over the weekend from the same time as last year? People waiting in line for days before the sales start certainly says something about American values.

Let’s all return to the days of yesteryear, when family values overruled profits and the return on investment. If not, we have only ourselves to blame for the death of Thanksgiving.

Bob Bittner


Like the way it was

I have a suggestion that if implemented will reduce many of the major problems facing our nation.

My idea will not only address the Wall Street protesters’ demands for jobs, but it will also reduce illegal drug imports, the illegal immigration problem and it will offer free medical coverage and benefits for all participants.

It is not a new idea, but when it was in effect, our youth and country were far better off. The U.S. should reinstitute the Selective Service draft.

Yes, draft all kids’ right out of high school, male and female, and assign them to our Homeland Security forces.

Once they finish boot camp they would be an integral part of our Homeland Security system.

They would be used to guard our borders and all other points of entry. They would also be used to register all illegal immigrants, and those who refuse to register would be escorted to the border from where they entered.

This new Homeland Security force would also empty our prisons of any illegal immigrants and escort them out of this country.

Think of the hundreds of billions of dollars that would be saved, and how many millions of new taxpayers that would be created.

Welfare and entitlements would also be reduced.

Our youth would have employment right out of high school, and while serving would learn responsibility that would serve them well throughout their lives.

The armed services will not put up with drug use, so that problem would be drastically reduced.

Also the inductees will, upon discharge, have a direction and self independence and an increased sense of patriotism and appreciation for this country that would have otherwise taken them years to learn, if ever. Plus educational benefits under a new GI bill.

For those that read this with disdain, allow me to remind you that the Selective Service draft was used to effectively protect this nation for many years.

I cannot think of a time when this country needed protection more than now. Can you?

God bless America.

John Copertino