Letters to the Editor: 04.02.15

Our readers' comments

When the Store Closed
    March 24, 2015

To the Editor,
    As the new owner of a longtime business in Springs, I am writing this letter not only to express my gratitude and appreciation to all those who have been a part of the process, but to let other members of the community know what a special place this is.
    I recently purchased Barnes Country Market. As a 25-year resident of Springs, I had known many of the customers before I bought the store. I had worked there for a few months prior and got to know more and more of the people in this town. What came when the store closed was completely unexpected.
    An incredible amount of people offered their time, their vehicles, their expertise, and their well-wishes to me and my family. It was overwhelming. I could have renovated five stores with the amount of help I was offered. I absolutely did not see this coming and it made what would normally be a very stressful situation into something exciting and manageable.
    I would just like to extend a truly heartfelt thank-you to all of the people who helped me: friends, family, members of the community, and of course the staff at the store. If I had to name all of them this would turn into an August-sized edition of your paper, so I will trust that they all know who they are.
    I look forward to being a part of the community for a very long time.


Lit Poles, No Flags
    March 28, 2015

Dear David,
    There is an energy-efficient and respectful manner available to illuminate an American flag at night (although it is more respectful, as is the custom at the Springs School, to raise and lower it each day). The East Hampton Town Code states that a light fixture should be mounted close to the base of the pole and glare shielded from view from off the property. The Sag Harbor Police Department has a flagpole light lit from above, facing downward. That is a good example of energy efficiency, since the closer a light source is to an object, the less energy is consumed.
    There is a light mounted on the roof of Third House at the Montauk County Park that is aimed outward toward the flag pole (and there is no flag on the pole), projecting bright glare all the way out to Montauk Highway. This is ridiculous, since the park, a designated Dark Sky Park, is closed at night except for permitted activities such as stargazing parties.
    Ashawagh Hall, for the past several months, has also had a lit flagpole and no flag on the pole.
    We live on a bird migration route, and birds are thrown off course by upwardly directed night lighting and die by the hundreds of millions each year. Since there is no law to light up flags all night, let’s use flag lighting appropriately. Lighting up advertising flags (such as on the new Wainscott building on Montauk Highway) needs to be regulated as signage.

    An observer,

Delegating Money
    March 29, 2015

Dear Editor:
    It simply amazes me that the town board is willing to spend $170,000 of taxpayers’ money for a privately owned store. While I think the Springs General Store is a good reminder of our past, I do not think our money, correct me if I am wrong, that was intended for land preservation, should be spent in this manner.
    Perhaps it is time to stop taxing those purchasing homes for this preservation, as it seems they have run out of property to purchase and they are delegating our money to a private enterprise.


Increase Exemption
    East Hampton
    March 29, 2015

To the Editor:
    The profligate East Hampton Town Board obviously doesn’t consider that the community preservation fund is funded by the hard-earned dollars of the homeowners of the township.
    One hundred seventy thousand dollars from the C.P.F. will be expended on the facade of the Springs General Store, a concept that probably required much thought. Where is the consideration and support for the Republican proposal on the C.P.F., extensively vetted in 2014, to reduce the cost of home ownership?
    While the C.P.F. has been an enormous success, since its inception, in preserving land, it should not be converted into a feel-good fund. If the original purpose, land preservation, has been fulfilled, it is time to make it easier on working people to buy and sell property by increasing the exemptions on both improved and unimproved properties. (The C.P.F. receives 2 percent of the value of a sale though exempting the first $250,000 of improved property, or $100,000 of unimproved property.) There is no reason why someone selling a house for $500,000 should incur a $5,000 expense for facade-buying.
    The East Hampton Town Republican Committee believes that the East Hampton Town Board should immediately look to implement an increase in the exempted amount. Instead of inventing uses for the C.P.F. revenue stream, the extra financial burden it imposes on lower-priced property should be lessened. 

    East Hampton Town
    Republican Committee

A Great Organization
    March 30, 2015

Dear Editor:
    We would like to thank the Springs Fire Department for serving our community over the past 50 years. It is because of their dedication and commitment that we have such a great organization in our small neighborhood. We urge everyone in the community, especially our businesses, to join us in matching our gift of $500 or a gift of any amount, for the kickoff of the Springs Fire Department’s 50-year celebration. Money raised will go toward scholarships, the benevolent fund, and the celebration.
    In the past few weeks there have been a number of devastating fires. Homes destroyed, leaving people without shelter, and one with the loss of seven children’s lives. In our own town, we lost a beautiful 1926 oceanfront historic house.
    Let’s not take them for granted! We all need to recognize these special men and women who volunteer their time. We all benefit from their service.

    And the Round Swamp Farm Family

Check Her Facts
    March 29, 2015

Dear Editor:
    I am replying to a recent letter by Phyllis Italiano stating that the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee should address more important issues such as overcrowding.
    Either Ms. Italiano’s memory is failing or she is new to the Springs C.A.C. This topic was discussed at several meetings a few years ago, so much so that we had two representatives from code enforcement there to discuss the intricacies and legalities of addressing the problem of overcrowding.
    I would suggest she check her facts before mouthing off in your paper.


First Things First
    East Hampton
    March 23, 2015

Dear Mr. Rattray,
    As members of the East Hampton Town Senior Citizens Center, we the undersigned wish to voice our opinions on a local TV show that featured Mary Ella Moeller and Paul Fiondella considering the new senior center the town is thinking of building.
    Those of us who give our time as volunteers know too well the problems firsthand, so please, Mary Ella and Paul, let’s take first things first.
    While a new community gym and medical facility sound terrific, we really don’t need them at this point. What we need is a larger dining area, because right now it is almost impossible to get through the aisles. We have people who seem to come out of the woodwork at times. We even have to ask food to be passed around tables, because we can’t reach everyone individually.
    Thanks to Michelle Posillico, our director, we have a great many things to do for the seniors, like walking, movies, shuffleboard, knitting group, cards, etc.
    Thank you Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and the town board for listening to the seniors.


A Vital Final Service
    March 29, 2015

    It certainly is strange to begin a membership appeal suggested by a notice on last week’s Star obituary page. Don’t panic. I will explain shortly.
    The organization that I am referring to, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, makes daily morning calls to seniors to see how things are going. Sadly, once in awhile, it is to see how things are not going.
    We are trained, after a series of unanswered calls to the client and their backup, to call the police to go and check on the status. Happily, it turns out that the major reason for the problem is a failure of the client to tell us that they are not going to be home on a given day. The police, bless them, have never complained.
    Last week, however, the situation was different. Based on our call to the police, we learned that one of our clients, a delightful lady living alone in Montauk, had died overnight. The police congratulated us for our critical service, and even though we felt sad, the volunteers realized that we are serving not only the important function of chatting, cheering up, and advising our people, but also providing if needed a vital final service.
    I have had the privilege of working for R.S.V.P. for over 20 years and can assure you that that our clients look forward to our calls — it is a nice way to begin the day. I urge you, seniors, especially those who live alone, to register. In many cases the senior’s children register their parent, especially if they don’t live close by. Please call 267-8371 and sign up.


What Have They Done?
    March 27, 2015

Dear David:
    What has the Cantwell-Democrat team done for or to the Town of East Hampton?
    Yes, the tone of discourse has improved, but they have often failed to act.
    They caved in to pressure and failed to solve the deer problem. They have allowed the PSEG-LI poles of shame to stand. They failed to stop the building of the Wainscot Home Goods store.
    More specifically, what have they done for or to Montauk?
    On the plus side, the Highway Department has done a remarkably good job clearing our roads this winter, and Lt. Tom Grenci, a Montauk resident, is a great replacement for Lt. Chris Hatch to head our police substation. The board’s solution to Montauk beach erosion is at best controversial.
    They have not improved our deer problem. They are attempting to transfer the helicopter noise problem to Montauk. They have done nothing to reduce the problems caused by “clubs,” such as the Surf Lodge. Our recycling center is still closed on Wednesdays. They have yet to address beach erosion on Block Island Sound west of the inlet. They caved in to pressure and failed to solve the illegal short-term rentals that are degrading our water, tranquillity, and way of life.
    Here are three cost-effective ways to mitigate this last problem. Three short-term rentals in a year versus the current six months should be cause for action. The fines should be stiffer. The first fine should be 10 times the assessed evaluation of the house. The second fine higher, perhaps 20 times assessed evaluation. This helps keep the fine proportional to the offense. Third, train volunteers to assist our overworked code enforcement officers.
    We don’t need a board to make nice. We don’t need a board to ignore or transfer problems. We need a board to solve problems.

    Yours truly,

Louse Point Problem
    March 28, 2015

Dear David,
    Since May 2014, several homeowners in Louse Point have been pressuring the East Hampton Trustees and the Zoning Board of Appeals to stabilize the toe of the bluffs with a 560-foot rock revetment facing Gardiner’s Bay. Homeowners claim the loss of 20 feet of bluff, and they feel that this revetment would stabilize the bluff. The trustees and the Z.B.A. have listened to numerous hours of testimony by lawyers and homeowners.
    On March 24 the Z.B.A. again listened to four hours of testimony on the Louse Point problem. Brian Frank, chief environmental analyst for the town, and the trustees worked together at this hearing to discourage placing hard structures on the beach. The public hearing revealed that the Wilder family signed a covenant in 2009 stating that they would replenish sand on their beach every year. That was six years ago, and no sand was ever placed over their rocks.
    This was the finest hour for the trustees, working together with the Z.B.A. This hearing was a good example of the cooperation needed among our governmental bodies in order to keep this town as great as it is.


Shoreline Stabilization
    March 30, 2015

Dear David,
    Helen Rattray’s recent “Connections” column articulates a frustration faced by coastal communities across the nation. Having once allowed private development of the shoreline, why can’t we simply relocate those developments in the face of rising sea levels, more frequent storms, and retreating beaches?
    Unfortunately, complex environmental issues are not subject to silver-bullet solutions. Key environmental and planning successes in our region — the Pine Barrens Act, the community preservation fund, Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection Program, the Bridgehampton and Sagaponack Erosion Control District, to name a few — have succeeded precisely because they did not gloss over the true complexity of the issues or strongly held positions of the affected parties. Only then could advocates and local leaders help build broad community support for new legislation and create the dedicated funding streams that make these programs possible.
    The current litigation filed by coastal advocates points to legitimate concerns about the long-term impacts even of so-called “temporary” shoreline stabilization projects. Those seeking to protect our beaches rely on a variety of strategies to prevent the installation of permanent bulkheads, seawalls, and revetments that, once in place, are nearly impossible to get removed. Simultaneously we are building the case for stronger and more effective redevelopment rules. Litigation is only one strategy for creating real-world solutions to coastal development conflicts.
    Instead of pitting one environmental group against another, Ms. Rattray would have done well to point out that the principal reason the current debate in Montauk is over sandbags — not a stone revetment or hard-core manufactured dune, as the Army Corps originally proposed — is because Concerned Citizens of Montauk, Group for the East End, and other conservationists worked for years to oppose such measures. To suggest that our organizations have not been heard from is simply a suspension of reality. In fact, thanks to the efforts of the C.C.O.M., the town now has $250,000 of New York State grant money to create the framework for a coastal plan that includes retreat.
    That said, substantial concerns remain regarding the design of the Army Corps stabilization plan. Group for the East End and C.C.O.M. have called upon the town to take the lead in assessing the project, getting independent technical review, and assuring that future decisions about the project rest with local officials and not the individual landowners. Should the Corps’s interim sandbag proposal move forward, there is a substantially improved chance the community can finally begin the larger task of adaptation and resiliency planning, instead of battling indefinitely over a flood of individual applications for stone walls and steel bulkheads.
    In her closing, Ms. Rattray makes easy reference to the need for relocating Montauk’s vulnerable motels, as if such a measure could ever happen without the active engagement of those property owners.
    If the town refuses outside storm protection funding, the motel owners have no reason to ever come to the table and every reason to file applications for private seawalls. The history of such applications in Suffolk County tells us that a judge will eventually award permission and the walls will never come out.
    Given all of the facts and circumstances, Group for the East End and C.C.O.M. believe the eventual goal of retreat is best accomplished by having a publicly owned erosion-control easement that places the future of any erosion-control structure in public hands and provides that any structure can be removed when the community is ready, and a viable mechanism to allow for the relocation of the hotels is in place. Saying we should move the motels is one thing, actually figuring out how to achieve that goal requires much more than rhetoric.
    Clearly there is plenty to unpack for anyone legitimately trying to figure out the best way to protect our beaches. Given the consequences, passions about this issue run high. As a result, it would be extremely helpful for all those who feel compelled to weigh in, to recognize that workable solutions involve a lot more than any one approach can ever offer.

    Executive Director
    Concerned Citizens of Montauk
    Group for the East End

Coastal Armoring
    Sag Harbor
    March 30, 2015

Dear David,
    I write to provide some context to the lawsuit filed by my organization, Defend H2O, myself, and other individuals challenging the Town of East Hampton’s approval of the downtown Montauk stabilization project. Moreover, to offer my perspective on the larger issue of coastal policy relating to coastal armoring in light of the inevitable, landward-migrating shorelines. Although the other petitioners may share my perspective, the following commentary is exclusively from me.
    Back in 1999, during the town’s initial drafting of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, I recall being so impressed by East Hampton’s grasp of coastal processes and progressive management. More specifically, East Hampton’s recognition that shoreline hardening would adversely affect both the natural environment and local economy by the inevitable loss of the foreshore. That is why hard erosion-control structures are appropriately banned or restricted. Regretfully, the L.W.R.P. was distorted when adhering to its restrictions meant elected officials were compelled to say no.
    Commencing legal action is a serious matter. A prerequisite is that there is a strong scientific basis for the position I’m supporting and no other means available to alter a bad decision. That being said, the town board was fully informed of the environmental consequences this project would bring. Federal dollars and political considerations aside, the board made the conscious decision to sacrifice a public beach in favor of protecting private property.
    With all the necessary approvals and funding in place, the options were straightforward: either accept the outcome or litigate, in hopes that a bad decision would be nullified by the courts.
    Beyond the local impacts, downtown Montauk sits front and center in the larger context of progressive coastal policy. With the very real effects of a rising sea level already present, what is our region’s course of action going to be? Are we to wholesale armor the coast, buying some time for structures that are in harm’s way knowing that we will permanently destroy our beaches? I say no.
    And I truly hope that going forward our elected leadership will find the political fortitude to prioritize the viability of beaches above all else. That’s the visionary course and East Hampton has already charted it. Now the challenge is staying that course.

    Defend H2O

A Sandbagging Job
    March 30, 2015

Dear Mr. Rattray:
    I know, it’s been awhile since my last letter to the editor. And it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter (sing it with me!), but as you know, it’s been a very busy winter as well. Yes, the shoveling, of course — I got to your driveway as soon as possible, but there were others whose needs were more urgent, so I hope you and your family were able to ride out those extra few days on the porridge and snow cones.
    Actually, I’ve been writing a monthly column on the subject of music and popular culture for one of my industry’s online publications. As you would expect, it’s insightful, witty, often hilarious, and incredibly self-indulgent. Many of my professional colleagues save the pieces until they have enough to delete en masse from their computers. An honor for me!
    Furthermore, as you may know, Mary and I are restoring a home in the historic district on Main Street in Amagansett — a very big job that has required the skilled work and craftsmanship of our neighbors. I myself have participated in this labor of love to the extent that my skill sets allow, namely digging holes, spreading gravel, removing nails, bringing debris to the Dumpster. Did I mention digging holes?
    We spent our first night in the house two weeks ago. Please do not tell the Building Department, as we have not yet asked for our final inspection! But it was amazing, to be in this beautiful home, remembering vividly how it recently looked with its leaking roof, destroyed plaster, broken windows. And now, it’s transformed. A living thing again! Did you know that Mary’s father grew up just five doors away on Meeting House Lane, where her grandfather, a conductor on the Long Island Rail Road, had his house! Long before Farrell Building Company came to our little hamlet and started ripping the Lanes a new, um, floor plan?
    But that’s not why I’m writing, Mr. Rattray. I’m writing because I’ve lately encountered a few neighbors out and about who’ve noted — accusingly — “You haven’t written anything in the Star lately! What’s wrong?” Pretty selfish. But here it is, so shut up.
    You’re well aware how difficult it is for me to agree with you, sir, on almost any topic. I regard it as my duty, as a matter of fact. At the same time, I do not enjoy disagreeing with my esteemed friends and leadership on the East Hampton Town Board. But I’m going to make an exception right now, so everybody gather round the letters section of this paper and pay attention. Put down your handheld device! Here it is:
    The idea we’ve been “sold” on -— I mean, made to swallow -— that the ocean beaches in Montauk can be “saved” through this questionable project advanced by the Army Corps of Engineers, with support of politicians not only at the state level but at the local level as well, is a sham based upon false assumptions and debatable evidence. The rush to claim the millions of dollars earmarked for this, before the “deadline” passes, is a terrible mistake that Mother Nature will make us pay for in the not so sweet bye and bye. This is a sandbagging job on us, the residents of East Hampton, the lovers of our ocean beaches. To cite a definition of sandbagging from Wikipedia: “When one withholds comments or information that could support another party’s cause or argument. . . .”
    The debate on this issue — whether to excavate, then backfill over 3,000 linear feet of beach with plastic bags filled with sand — has not been justly aired and understood. The movements of the seas, currents, and storm surges pay no attention to objects placed in their way. They remove, they relocate, and finally they restore the sand, pebbles, and stones at their shore.
    A short-term gain, in which the “deciding” parties get to high-five each other when the artificial dune is planted with beach grass, will be a sorry sight the next time the sea rises up, as it will surely do on our beautiful island-peninsula.
    If Mike Bottini or Carl or Rav is reading this, tell me where to send money to support your suit. Forget the money-grab, East Hampton. There’s a better way to do this.

    From the beachhead,

Boating Rules
    East Hampton
    March 26, 2015

To the Editor:
    More noise will be created if Jet Skis are permitted in our waterways. Kids and young adults love these boats, and the faster they travel and the noisier the engine, the bigger the thrill.
    Some of these enthusiasts will head directly to open waters, but I fear a great many will operate in the safety of Three Mile Harbor and similar waters. And unfortunately, the marine police do not have the manpower to stop most of the violators.
    If this drastic change in boating rules is to be enacted, I suggest waiting until summer, when a public meeting could be held with full representation for those at or near shorelines.
    No winter stealth, please.


Sky Will Not Fall
    East Hampton
    March 29, 2015

Dear David:
    With the East Hampton Town Board finally proposing to take meaningful action to reduce the burden of airport noise, aviation interests, those who make money by making noise, have been working hard to intimidate the board into doing nothing. A favored ploy has been predicting that the airport will be unable to sustain itself financially if aircraft operations are reduced in number. This is theatrical nonsense. It is time to put it to rest.
    At the airport finance subcommittee meeting last Friday, the chairman, Arthur Malman, reported that even Jeff Smith, head of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, agrees that landing fees at East Hampton couldn’t be raised high enough to reduce traffic.
    The implication of completely inelastic demand for access to the airport is that landing fees will certainly be more than enough to meet the airport’s financial needs. Indeed, the fee increase necessary if the proposed rules are adopted amounts to about three minutes of additional flying time for all aircraft types. The sky will not be falling any time soon.
    The record to support the board’s proposed rules is overwhelming. The airport can be a good neighbor while serving local needs if the board now moves forward and adopts its proposals. Action is long past due.


Doomsday? Balderdash
    Sag Harbor
    March 30, 2015

Dear Editor,
    Aviation proponents opposing restrictions at East Hampton Airport would have us believe that our economy is driven by aviation access to the airport, and that without 24/7/365 access and the thundering jets, helicopters, and seaplanes that disgorge wealthy passengers on our tarmac, economic doomsday is certain. Balderdash!
    The East End economy has been growing for decades, enduring periods of slow growth in tandem with the rest of the nation during economic downturns and flourishing during Wall Street’s exuberant bull runs. Yet we are asked to believe that if airport access restrictions are set, the very wealthy will immediately flee the area and leave us wallowing in unsold multimillion-dollar homes.
    Really? Does anyone actually believe aviation proponents’ fear-mongering harangues, at a time when our country is annually minting new multimillionaires by the dozen and elevating others to billionaire status? The reality is that those eager to compete with their peers in the vacation playground of the rich and famous will, in a New York nanosecond, snatch up a bargain mansion vacated by a fleeing jet or helicopter user; indeed, as never before, the “new” wealthy are lining up in droves to buy our shrinking available real estate — provided it is not located under a flight path.
    So how will they travel here? Aviation proponents scoff at the idea that many wealthy people actually enjoy driving. Really? If not to the Hamptons, then where will they drive their Rollses and Bentleys — on Upper East Side shopping expeditions? Did they purchase a shiny new Porsche convertible simply to be admired on the West Side Highway or while stalled in Midtown traffic? Will they test the speedometer on the Maserati or Lamborghini on weekend drives to the Jersey Shore or the Catskills?
    Absurd, it will not happen, and for those who don’t choose to drive themselves, chauffeur-driven limos and car services can be summoned with a 60-second phone call. Failing all else, there is the dependable Hampton Jitney Ambassador, which remains a preferred means of travel for hundreds of people (wealthy and otherwise), many of whom have relied upon its all-weather service since the 1970s.
    Fear not, the wealthy will not be leaving in droves. On the contrary, expect more visitors this season as peer pressure drives some to spend ever more lavishly on what only the Hamptons has to offer.


Laws Take Precedence
    East Hampton
    March 28, 2015

To the Editor:
    There are a multitude of ways to view the new Indiana law, and pending laws in 19 other states, permitting stores not to serve homosexuals based on religious beliefs. Unfortunately, most are not printable on these pages.
    This perverse idea that religious beliefs trump civil laws is the new rationale for legal discriminations. The unconstitutional and fraudulent belief that the right to religious freedom implies the right to discriminate based on any bullshit that someone puts into a book and calls God’s laws is simply absurd.
    America functions on a set of civil laws that permit the freedom to practice one’s religion of choice. What is never unclear is that civil laws take precedence over all religious beliefs, and that violating civil laws is a criminal offense no matter what religious leaders might tell you. The nation’s founders understood that all religions have a fascist nature that emerges when left unchecked, understanding that the brutality and inhumanity that sometimes emanate from religious beliefs is simply human nature at its worst.
    The essential problem that derives from the religious-secular conundrum is most obvious in the Middle East. When illogically extended, it allows someone to kill people with dark skins because their book tells them it’s okay. They cherry-pick the things in the book that work for them and ignore the parts that don’t.
    Historically, Christianity has always had a serious problem among its various sects. Vying for supremacy and the wealth that accompanies it engenders a constant search to differentiate one sect from the other. While they all keep a healthy distance from Jesus, too tough an act to follow, they willingly enter the fray to discriminate and abuse as a means to attract more followers. Self-esteem is much easier to attain by putting others down rather than doing the deeds that elevate the individual.
    Devout Indiana Christians will need to establish an exacting and provable definition of who, exactly, they don’t want to serve.
    Millions of same-sex Americans live and work together in various degrees of interaction. Are two same-sex people who share an apartment homosexual, or do they have to have provable sex to be so considered? If sex is the determining factor, then what about separate-sex couples who live together but don’t have sexual relations? What do we call them? What about people who have sex with members of both sexes and live alone? How will Indiana determine who is or isn’t a homosexual? In keeping with the fascist spirit, they could use yellow badges.
    What precedents will the Indiana law set besides sending us back to the dark ages? (The Supreme Court probably agrees with the new law.) Who’s next? Jews, Asians, blacks, Latinos, blondes? Blondes would be unusual, and biblically acceptable. (Were there any blondes in Israel in 2000 B.C.?)
    The whole issue is another fake Christian scam to protect the moral integrity of a group of people who don’t have any. ISIS can feel a little less isolated knowing that many Americans share a similar sensibility.


Stop This Nonsense
    March 20, 2015

Dear Editor:
    Pharmaceutical companies have taken over your rights to see a doctor. Big banks have managed to take over your 401(k), even stolen from you with no repercussions. Now publishing companies and educational consultants are going after the money allocated to public education.
    How have your students’ test scores affected their class schedule? They have not; most test scores are reported to the teacher the following year, after your child has left the classroom. How can this be relevant to your child’s education?
    So what is this really about? Corporate greed and politics, big business, and big money. This is happening now, it is real, and it’s dangerous.
    Take a closer look at your children. I watch as they sit and struggle to finish tests that are not based on the curriculum being taught in the classroom. When we were young, we were tested on information created from our curriculum. Your kids are not. Your child is tested on information that no teacher, administrator, or parent has read for relevancy, accuracy, or fairness. I have read questions that have no answer, paragraphs from Proust that make no sense, math questions two or three grade levels above a student’s level.
    Would you sit by quietly if your child’s teacher awarded 4 percent of the students a trophy, but no one else? What effect would that have on your child year after year after year? What do you tell siblings when one scores a 2 and the other a 4? How do you feel about your child being branded as less-than?
    I work in one of the largest districts on Long Island as a librarian. Since our budget cuts, I have been asked to take on “shared administration” duties. For the past three years, I have administered the national tests to 1,200 students; that’s three times a year. We now refer to it as “testing season.”
    Understandably, you would never agree to let me be a head coach during football season. That wouldn’t be safe; your kids might get hurt. Believe me when I say that your children are being hurt now. I have no qualms admitting that the administration of these tests is flawed as well. These tests were thrown at us without training, exactly the way they threw the Common Core at us. To administer the test, they gave us a three-week deadline. The only way for me to make this deadline this winter was to run both tests simultaneously. In my haste, I never thought of the student who would end up taking both the tests in one day. This violates the testing mandate.
    My error surely resulted in lower scores and lower self-esteem. The child’s classroom teacher gets a lower evaluation score, and the parents, in turn, mistakenly lower their opinion of that teacher. My mistakes are costing teachers’ evaluations to plummet along with children’s self-esteem.
    I look at their exhausted faces, discouraged and fed up and, finally, shamed. Shame and fear are very resilient feelings that I am seeing in your children’s faces, and I feel responsible. I stand by and shake my head to their regularly asked question; “Mrs. H., can you help me?” No, I cannot. “Mrs. H., there is no answer to this question, can you help me?” No, I cannot.
    I look out to see banners in our hallways that read “Be an up-stander, not a by-stander‚” and I realize I have become a bystander in the face of bullies.
    How to fix it? Poverty results in low test scores, everyone knows that. If the money allocated to private industry to create, grade, evaluate, and assess your child and teacher were given directly to the schools in need, we wouldn’t have these problems. Instead, schools that are identified as in need are given a failing grade and are taken over by the state. A state-run public school has never in the history of public education raised scores — never, not once.
    You elect school board members and you elect your state officials. As Americans, we are able to vote people out of office. We need to use social media, and time spent on the bleachers, to talk to each other and figure out how to stop this nonsense. It is no longer okay for me to remain silent. I am asking you to ask your teachers and administrators what they think and why.
    What is this all about? Google something called Long Island Opt Out or Stop Common Core in New York (which also has a Facebook page).


 Gone Too Far
    March 30, 2015

Dear David,
    The president has gone too far. The baby in the White House had a hissy fit that Bibi came to talk on the floor of Congress so Obama declassified documents revealing Israel’s nuclear program. This statement says it all. I don’t need to stretch this conversation out at all.
    His foreign policy is sickening. Look what he has done in the Middle East, everyone is out to torture or kill each other. We have no allies there, no one trusts the United States. Thank you, not Bush, for that. Tired of hearing “Death to America,” especially from Iran, the one you are negotiating with.
    Now, Bowe Bergdahl — Obama knew he was a traitor and he still let five of the worst Taliban free — and a big happy Rose Garden celebration. Backfired, didn’t it? Truth came out, but your legacy is more important. Where are the five now? Three said to be right back on the front line of fighting.
    Susan Rice, you should be ashamed of yourself. Stay off the Sunday morning shows. We are tired of your climbing the ladder of power and will say anything, anything, just to get a name for yourself. You are a disgrace.

    In God and country,

Regressive Policies
    East Hampton
    March 19, 2015

Dear Dave,
    Republican conservatives and Tea Party supporters, using their present control of legislatures in states across the country and the failure of opponents, mainly minorities, to vote in local elections, are trying to prolong their ability to win future elections with a status quo of a majority of white male voters over the age of 45 years, who vote conservative, in the face of the changing electorate.
    With the aid of a Supreme Court decision stating that there was no longer any need for U.S. Justice Department intervention to stop racial deception and undermining of the Voting Rights Act, 12 marginally blue states have acted to narrow the voter turnout of the elderly, the infirm, Latinos, and black minorities, which may very well turn those states red.
    Understanding full well that such younger and minority voters tend to vote Democratic and oppose their negative budget cuts, anti-union views, anti-gay policies, trickle-down economic fiascos, denial of minimum wages, destruction of safety net provisions of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, as well as their war on women, anti same-sex marriage, and pro 1-percent monetary policy, among other regressive policies, these Republican conservatives and Tea Party activists have moved to revert to the days of the poll tax, stringent voter ID laws, and similar barriers to free voting. They have decided that they can cut down access to the polls of the newer opposition and, with the additional use of gerrymandered districting, preserve the status quo.
    Let’s face it, folks, Republican conservatives never saw a liberal or progressive policy they liked, and they block every one they oppose even if they are supported by a majority of the voters, and, if it is proposed by the president, they just hate them.
    Now, they could become more malleable and compromising, but they feel they can always do that if gerrymandering of voting districts becomes difficult and restricting access to the voting booth with cumbersome conditions and hard-to-obtain ID fails to stem the new voter tide. 
    The Supreme Court has also now refused to look at or stop Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID law, thus enabling the strategy of Reince Priebus and Gov. Scott Walker and their Wisconsin cohorts to join the attack on voting rights.
    We know, of course, that the Republican-controlled Congress won’t act to amend the law, so it’s up to all of us to bolster America’s strongest attribute, and get out the vote.


Please Say Hello
    March 20, 2015

Dear David Rattray,
    Lunch time, the kids from my elementary school would end up eating at White Tower restaurant on Continental Avenue in Forest Hills. Exciting people would surprise us, me, I think, the most! One was Clarabelle the clown. He would “hang out” there, leaning over the counter on his big elbow, just a big regular. The hungry kids didn’t seem to even notice him! Under his clown mask he looked kind of rough. I just found out he lived in town and went to Forest Hills High.
    Another time, Brian Donlevy took me to White Tower. He didn’t talk too much, but was very kind. He had a great mustache, and a suit I liked. I was a pre-teen and had a nice part on a movie, where Donlevy played a small-town judge. My part, I had to speak a few lines at the dinner table, his daughter.
    My heart was beating, more scared than I ever was. But the words came out. I thought they wouldn’t but they came out excellent. I saw the picture a few years back and was surprised, I spoke well.
    About five years later, I saw Brian Donlevy again at a boys’ club in Forest Hills near Grand Central Parkway. You had to go downstairs into a nice finished basement, where he was staging Christ. His head and arms were in wooden loops and leather, and they were persecuting him. Hair was over his face and he’d make painful noises. It seemed so real as the boys forced cruets to his mouth. There was a line of girls there I knew from high school, a long double line, loudly wisecracking to get a remark back.
    I came back the next day, and he was still in the loops. It blew my sensitive mind.
    One of his close friends was the Ida Lupino model who had an apartment on Queens Boulevard. I remember seeing her up there on the windowsill, pounding her pillows hard, about 50 years ago. Brian Donlevy would take us out. She dressed so stylish. A kid, I’d go in baggy jeans, probably to the movies, but never forgot her beautiful example, and the greatest lady to laugh with! I managed to try hard to dress the same way.
    There was a girl from East Hampton that was the ringer for the late first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. She would come into Forest Hills for the action in the offseason, like February. I, 17, invited her to my house, which had little action. I’d make her risotto. Ha! I made up that. Only my mother really could, great!
    And she decided to go back. I hope she found a party. If she comes in, please say hello. I miss all my friends so nonstop. Maybe I’m a politician, I love them. I need them.
    Thanks. Known for honesty, all my stories are true.


    March 30, 2015

Dear Editor:
I am compelled to write this. Last month I am 51 years young. In my years I have had heartache. On the other side of heartache, I have felt love.
    I have seen tears of joy many of times and tears, only a few. When I am sitting by myself wondering where is the justice in the world of injustice around me.
    I have at times spoken my truth and my voice was not heard. I have learned when you speak in a respectable way it will not be threatening to the other person.
    In my life I have seen riches of money and people standing on line for food for the day. I have known the ravages of addiction only to get to the other side to believe once again.
    I have heard people sing with a great voice and standing alone to get their necessities met for the day. I have seen people die young, as well as old. At any time death will inevitably be part of you. Through this experience I have learned death will show you good in a person.
    When I see a sunrise or sunset and enjoy the gift of sight, I will wonder what it might be like to see only darkness.
    I try often to learn from what I don’t know.
    In humanity I see love in people.
    Anger and fear are corrosive forms of the unknown.
    In my few years I have seen war and heard of wars past and present. Instead of war, let’s have a day of peace, when guns can be replaced with hugs. I think it would be great to celebrate life rather than another casualty.
    In my day I have seen the riches of people having a home. On the other side someone is looking for a place to sleep. I have seen in my years people looking for a meal because they are hungry. On the other side I have seen people wasting food. I hope and pray one day we will not turn the other way when we see someone less unfortunate. 
    I have learned that the true sense of humility is doing it with no pomp and circumstance, by doing it. By doing this you will find the goodness in yourself.
    I have seen “people” buy name brand clothes when there is someone you might know that needs clothes for the day. I personally have known someone in need of shampoo and soap to start a new day to feel good. When you are poor, the gift of water is a gift. Rather than shaming and looking down on the less unfortunate, give them the gift of respect.
    I have seen the gift of a hand, to hold someone’s hand to comfort. I have also seen the hand to use it to communicate.
    In reflection I have seen people with no shoes to know how fortunate I have two feet. I appreciate the gift and I can walk. The joy I receive when I see a child enjoying the freedom of walking on their own.
    It always amazes me when I take the time to listen and care, it allows me to be true. The gift of getting to know someone is priceless. I have learned it is well worth the risk. If I have never taken the risk I might not have learned a valuable lesson. If you already have a friend try to reach out to someone who is alone. Take the risk, it is well worth it at the end. Sometimes it takes just a few minutes to be a friend. Sometimes the best gift to someone is to speak without judgment or ridicule.
    Try to reflect on all of the good things you have in your life. If you have extra, try to share with someone less unfortunate.


Getting Cold
    March 12, 2015

Dear East Hampton Star,
    Roast beef and apple pie getting cold on table. Great White off Main Beach.