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Letter: A history lesson for transient renters

I have lived in Cutchogue so long I am now a grandmother. I am also an American historian who has taught for many years.

I live in a small neighborhood that has been a residential community for some 50 years but has recently changed. I also recently read the letter to your paper about people’s “constitutional” right to rent their homes as frequently as they please. So I ask: Do other residents have any rights to protect themselves from this practice and both the advertisement of their homes on the Internet as well as strangers roaming their neighborhoods?

I think the answer, presently and historically, is yes.

When the Declaration of Independence was written by a small group of men, they claimed they were protecting the rights of the majority of Americans living in the British colonies. Tories, those who opposed this, had no “grandfathered” rights to retain their British citizenship! When the Constitution was formulated, the “people” was defined as the rational (“and male property owning”) members of the nation. (Try reading Adams, Jefferson and Madison.)

As a teacher and longtime student of early American political philosophy, it amazes me how vague interpretations of our founding documents are literally thrown around without much study. One of the basics of the Constitution is the idea that it could be changed for the benefit of all. Women once could not vote, and let us not forget that slavery was once legal! The beauty of our system is that situations are reviewed and we move forward to protect the expanding concept of citizenship as well as the population at large.

I would also note that these patriotic renters should remember a famous cry of the revolution was “no taxation without representation.” There are serious doubts that many renters do not report their “earnings” from their businesses, so they are practicing “representation without taxation.” Southold Town needs a registration policy.

It is good to “look before you leap” and I would advocate “learn before you speak.”

– Cutchogue

Image: Greenport vacation homes advertised earlier this year on airbnb.com.