01/03/13 8:00am
01/03/2013 8:00 AM

JUDY AHRENS FILE PHOTO | Troy and Joan Gustavson outside the original Suffolk Times building in the late 1970s.

If you have not already perused this week’s business news section, let me be the first to inform you that this week marks a changing of the guard at Times/Review NewsGroup.

Effective with the new year, the former Joan Giger Walker and I have transferred ownership of the company and the three community newspapers it publishes — The Suffolk Times, The Riverhead News-Review and The Shelter Island Reporter — to our daughter, Sarah Olsen, and her husband, Andrew Olsen, who has served as publisher since Joan and I stepped down as co-publishers in 2003.

This is, as you might imagine, a bittersweet time for the Gustavsons. We purchased the business from the Dorman family in November of 1977, and our 35 years as owners have been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that began when I “published” The Coolidge Place Gazette as a 10-year-old in Hackensack, N.J. So this is the end of an era, and that’s the bitter part.

The sweet part is that Times/Review will remain in our family for the foreseeable future. Sarah and Andrew are ready, willing and able to take the helm, and Joan and I are confident that they and their amazing staff will continue to produce high-quality, prize-winning newspapers and websites.

You can assess the Olsens’ qualifications for yourself in the aforementioned business story, but here’s one most people are unaware of: Back in the late ’80s, before they were married, Sarah and Andrew were co-editors of The Quill, the newspaper jointly published by students from Greenport and Southold high schools. (Sarah went to Greenport, Andrew to Southold.) So, you see, they’ve had newspapering in their blood for a long time, too.

On Jan. 5, 1978, as the new owners we published an editorial under a headline that read: “What We Stand For.” It appeared in both The Suffolk Times and The News-Review, and the sentiments expressed applied once again when we acquired the Shelter Island paper some 20 years later. We’ll leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide if those promises were fulfilled or not, as follows:

“The changing of the guard at The Suffolk Times hopefully will be taken for what it is: a natural evolution. Newspapers are bigger than their owners, and The Times will be here for a long time after we’ve all played out our part in its life.

“Nevertheless, the community has a right to know what we stand for. And that will be up to you — our readers — to determine over a period of time. What follows is offered to help you keep score in the months and years ahead.

“We stand for truth. The truth will always be our guiding light.

“We stand for excellence. There is always room for improvement, but we intend to build upon the record of excellence that has become the standard at the Times.

“We stand for fairness. If we fail to be even-handed in our reporting and editorial policy, we hope it will be merely because we are human and not in the business of grinding axes.

“We stand for self-determination. The right of the individual to determine his own fate — beyond the influence of outside forces — is supreme in our eyes. And that goes for outside forces who would overdevelop our diminishing farmland, supply power to points west by despoiling the North Fork’s natural resources and endangering its people, or bring interstate ferry service to a village that has serious reservations about that service.

“We stand for non-partisanship. It doesn’t matter to us whether someone is a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent. Honesty, integrity and performance are what matter.

“That is what we stand for. Now it’s up to you to determine whether we live up to our word.”

[email protected]

12/22/12 7:58am
12/22/2012 7:58 AM

A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings last week.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

— Second Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution 

“I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

—National Rifle Association
bumper sticker 

So the Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic carbine that fired 11 lethal bullets into the body of a 6-year-old last Friday in Newtown, Conn. was legally purchased and licensed by the killer’s mother. Oh, isn’t that reassuring.

And where will it happen next time — and there will be a next time, there’s always a next time — a nursing home? Or the halls of Congress? It’s not a question of when, only of where.

This madness must stop, and it’s perfectly clear to me where we must start. And it’s not with better mental health screening or with better security in schools or, as some idiots have suggested, with arming school principals.

We must start by banning the ownership of semi-automatic (and automatic) weapons by private citizens. Period.

Screw the Second Amendment. We no longer have a “well regulated Militia.” Nowhere is it written that we have a right to own weapons of mass destruction. The guns Adam Lanza wielded last week — and I’m talking about both the rifle and the two semi-automatic pistols — should be available only to military and law enforcement personnel. And the ones already in circulation should be subject to a buyback program like the one that worked so successfully in Australia after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

And that’s not all we should do. No one who walks into a gun show should be able to walk out with a new gun. Anyone who purchases a new gun should be subject to a reasonable waiting period — during which his or her background should be properly vetted — before taking possession of that gun. And the vetting doesn’t have to be that complex. In Canada, they require gun purchasers to provide two personal references, which probably would have stopped the obviously troubled Adam Lanza in his tracks … if his mother hadn’t purchased those assault weapons legally. Which is exactly my point. Those guns never should have been available to her.

To do what I’m suggesting will, of course, involve a direct confrontation with those defenders of the Second Amendment, the National Rifle Association. Bring it on. In the wake of this epidemic of mass killings in America, the NRA can no longer be considered viable or relevant. If it doesn’t moderate its position, these treacherous assault weapons must be pried from the organization’s cold, dead hands.

The U.S. Constitution is not, and was never intended to be, inviolate. It has, and it must, change with the times. Government must have the power to regulate assault weapons — just as it has the power to ban smoking in public places or require the use of seat belts — neither of which could have been foreseen by our founding fathers. (Also, see suffrage for women and the abolition of slavery.)

I had hoped President Obama would address the gun control issue when he spoke in Newtown Sunday night. His remarks were sensitive and consoling, but I think he missed, once again, an opportunity to say what must be said. I kept thinking to myself, “OK, Mr. President, but what are you going to DO? Specifically, what are you going to DO?”

If Barack Obama is the man I think he is, the man I hope he is, the man I’ve voted for two times now, he ultimately will be remembered as the president who led the fight to bring some sanity to the issue of gun ownership in America.

[email protected]

11/15/12 6:01am
11/15/2012 6:01 AM

I began to write this column a month ago but then some newsmakers named Sandy and Barack got in the way. It (the column) was prompted by news reports that the Boy Scouts of America had covered up decades (1959-1985) of sex abuse, which in turn stirred up some uncomfortable personal memories of my own. And I suppose the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State scandal was a factor, too.

After the names of offending Scout leaders were released publicly, the first thing I did was ask Times/Review executive editor Grant Parpan to check the web for the name of the Scout leader who had attempted to grope me when I first joined the Scouts in the late ’50s. His name wasn’t on the list, but then we realized that’s probably because the incident took place before 1959. It’s also possible his name wasn’t there because his predilection for pubescent boys was never discovered.

What was most remarkable about the incident wasn’t that a pedophile was the leader of my Scout troop — it was my parents’ reaction to the incident, which, as I recall, occurred shortly after I made the transition from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. To their credit, they agreed to let me quit Scouting immediately, never to return. But that was the end of it. My father did not confront Mr. N., Scouting authorities weren’t alerted and, most saliently, local law enforcement officials were never notified.

An aberration, a momentary lapse in good judgment, you might surmise. But wait! That wasn’t the only time my parents opted not to drop a dime on a sexual predator. And the second incident was far more frightening because it lasted an entire weekend.

I honestly don’t remember if it happened before or after my brief experience in Boy Scouting, but other details are indelibly etched in my memory. It took place in a cottage in Greenwood Lake, N.Y., just over the border from New Jersey.

Long story writ short: The unmarried brother of a former high school girlfriend of my father’s owned a car dealership in Bergen County, N.J. He invited me and two other young boys — the sons of one of my mother’s nursing school classmates — to spend the weekend alone with him at the lake. And our parents agreed to let us go!

Am I off base in suggesting that red flags should have been raised? That parents today would think twice, or even thrice, about sending their children away for the weekend with a bachelor they barely knew? Yes, it was a more innocent era, but still …

Fortunately, there were three of us that weekend. I’ll call the brothers “Chip” and “Bruce,” and what I remember most is that we were inseparable for those two days, making certain no one of us was put in the position of being alone with “Henry,” whose unsavory intentions became quite clear as soon as we arrived at the cottage.

That was in the days before cellphones, and I’m pretty sure there was no land line at the cottage, so it wasn’t until we returned to Bergen County Sunday evening that we were able to tell our parents what had happened. And once again: silence.

Oh, I suppose our fathers might have taken “Henry” aside for a little talking to, and we never saw the man again, as far as I can recall. But once again, that was it. Hush-hush, no cops, no consequence — for “Henry,” at least.

My, how times have changed — for the better. It is inconceivable to me that parents today would let incidents like these go unreported and unpunished. Or that parents and school officials wouldn’t routinely alert children to the dangers posed by pedophiles and assure them that it’s OK to report abuse or attempted abuse. Fifty years ago, the response — at least based on my family’s experience — was to handle things discreetly and then quietly sweep them under the rug. Today, you can plug your street address into a data base and find out instantly if a child predator lives in your neighborhood.

And please don’t read this and conclude that my parents were clueless or, worse still, negligent. They were loving, caring parents who probably thought they acted appropriately and in the best interests of their child. That’s just how situations like that were handled back then — at least in civilized society. (In other societies, I suppose, that Scout leader and “Henry” might have had more to worry about than their reputations.) But today, at the very least they would be candidates for a serious “time out,” ranging from public censure to incarceration.

As well they should be.

[email protected]

10/18/12 2:12pm
10/18/2012 2:12 PM

I suppose it could be worse. I could be a Red Sox fan. But I switched allegiance from the Sox to the Yankees more than 50 years ago, as Ted Williams stepped out of his cleats for the last time.

So it’s been the Yanks ever since, through thick and thin.

And thin it is, with the Yankees down three games to love versus the Detroit Tigers, with Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter out for the season with injuries and with the remainder of the Yanks’ long-of-tooth lineup showing their advanced age.

Remember: The finger that just typed this letter “L” is attached to the hand that shook the hand of Mickey Mantle in 1956, when the immortal Mick took five minutes during a rain delay to chat with yours truly and a schoolmate whose aunt worked for a sponsor of Yankee telecasts. Which is to say: When you’ve been touched by The Mick, you remain a Yankee fan for life.

But I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps I’ve become a fair weather fan. You know, the sort of fan who curses Alex Rodriguez and his ancestors when he fans with the bases loaded yet another time. Or one who switches channels in frustration when Nick Swisher or the umpire or the weatherman do something unacceptable.

There’s no doubt about it: We have been spoiled by the Yankees. When a team prevails year after year, decade after decade, you begin to take success for granted. And when that success is in jeopardy, as it is now, one tends to take it personally.

Which is why I wish to invoke, herewith, The Pete Sampras Precedent. Longtime faithful readers of this column may recall The Precedent, wherein I called for the tennis great’s retirement after he suffered a first-round loss to a relatively unknown player in a tournament here on Long Island in the weeks leading up to the 2002 U.S. Open. Two weeks later, he won the Open for the fifth time, in direct contradiction to the friendly counsel I had offered.

So, without further ado, I call on Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman to hang up their spikes, just as Ted Williams did.

If this time-tested ploy works, the Yankees will come roaring back and the American League Championship Series will go to seven games.

And if it doesn’t work, there’s always next year.

Believe it or not, dear reader, I used to be a registered Republican. (Go ahead, take your time picking yourself up off the carpet.)
It was when I worked as press secretary to U.S. Senator Richard S. Schweiker (R-PA) back in the ’70s, in an age when there was such a thing as a moderate Republican. (Schweiker’s pro-labor, pro-environment and anti-war positions were counterbalanced by his pro-school prayer, anti-gun control and anti-abortion positions.)

After he retired from the Senate, Schweiker was succeeded by another moderate Republican, Arlen Specter, who died this week at the age of 82, marking the passage of truly endangered species.

Regrettably, there doesn’t seem to be any room for moderates in today’s Grand Old Party. It has slowly but surely moved to the right — and some might argue the far right — since the days of such Republican moderates as Schweiker and Specter and Mathias and Javits. And don’t forget that even conservative godfather Ronald Reagan attempted to bridge philosophical differences within the party when he tapped Schweiker to be his vice presidential running mate in 1976.

Today, Republicans in the Senate seem to expend most of their energy attempting to thwart and discredit our Democratic president. And in the process the party of Abraham Lincoln has become something else entirely.

[email protected]

09/27/12 10:00am
09/27/2012 10:00 AM

In his column last week, Troy Gustavson wrote about a recent incident in which he drove friends to Greenport from his home in Orient despite the group “having consumed more glasses of wine than [he cares] to count.”

“At no time during the drive did I consider myself impaired, but if I had been stopped by the police I do not know if I would have passed a Breathalyzer test,” he wrote.

The incident, he said, came to mind recently when a friend challenged him about this newspaper’s policy of publishing the names of all persons arrested for driving while intoxicated.

At the end of his column, Mr. Gustavson asked readers to share their thoughts about our policy.

“Should the newspaper publish the names of all those arrested for DWI?” he wrote. “Does the inevitability of that publication have a deterrent effect that keeps drunk drivers off the roads? Or does publication prematurely and unfairly stigmatize those who have been arrested?”

Here’s a sample of some of the online comments and emails he received from readers this week:

Troy,

My suggestion is this: Keep the arrests to the print version, keep out of the online version.

I think there is value in letting the local public know of these violations — there is a bit of a shaming aspect to it, and hopefully having their neighbors know of their mistake will make them more cautious in the future.

The problem with posting them online is that they become a matter of public record forever. More and more businesses conduct background checks on potential employees. A simple Google search could harm a person’s career many, many years after the offense. We all make mistakes, but posting them on the internet creates a permanent red flag, which seems cruel and unusual.

Just my two cents.

Rob

Troy,

Your article on publishing the names of those arrested for DWI was interesting. My feeling is that the names should not be published. We live in small towns where everyone knows everyone, if not personally then at least by name. Too much harm occurs not only to the person, but to the family. If you had actually been caught and arrested, how would your grandchildren have felt? Would they have had to face any comments from other students?

Also, I don’t think publishing names is a deterrent to drinking and driving. When you are drinking you certainly are not thinking about the fact that your name might appear in the paper.

I only see this practice as harmful to too many people.

But I admire your publishing the article. You are a very truthful person!

Betty Christy

Troy,

Print the names. During my career I have personally witnessed too many accidents that resulted from DWI/DWAI. It is such a simple gesture that may serve as a deterrent. It is a public service worthy of the Suffolk Times.

Kathy Tole

Troy,

I’m not gonna lie, my name has appeared in this paper far more than I’d like, but I flat out deserved it at the time. I was not inebriated. I consciously knew the who, what, when, where and why concerning the situations and also did what had to be done to clear my name. That’s how society rolls. If you do something stupid, get caught or rat yourself out, then be prepared to be judged on a social level.

I’m not saying judging is the morally correct thing to do (let’s face it, who are we to judge?), but if that’s how the fallout happened, roll with it and learn.

I sure did.

Anne Marie Grossman

Troy,

If you print names that are accused, why not print what happens after court? Many DWI cases get thrown out or the driver receives a reduced sentence. As far as you driving, they have the level so low today that even if you had one glass of wine, waited an hour and then drove, if you got stopped you would still be considered drunk. The only way around it is to not drive.

Laurie Downs

Troy,

Greater legal minds than mine have determined it to be a crime, because too many have died as a result of such. Thank you for your honesty. It raises awareness.

Joan Redlon

Troy,

I am in favor of publishing DWI arrests.

Most times the plea downs are procedural and do not reflect the impaired driving.

I do know that the .08 is an impossible, most likely political impossible, limit and I have known lawyers who think it should be .1.

Me, I am the designated driver.

Thanks for broaching the subject.

JN

Troy,

Driving drunk is something I did almost 40 years ago and got away with. I haven’t had a drink in almost 40 years, because I can’t handle it … I had a big problem with that.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea if they had the name of the person and put his or her picture with it. I think it would help.

Anthony Kearney