Isn’t a Cap
May 16, 2011
I would like to thank the voters of Springs for supporting this year’s budget and also for giving me the honor of serving them on the school board for the last 13 years.
But now it’s time to move on to the next issue. Voters should not be fooled by the proposal to impose a 2-percent real property tax cap, which would most significantly affect the funding of education in our state. The proposal itself is not really a cap but rather a legislatively enacted equivalent of the filibuster rule in the United States Senate, surrendering the right to decide school budgets to the minority rather than have the majority vote for the budgets, as is currently the case. The proposed tax cap as currently structured permits a school tax increase of over 2 percent if approved by 60 percent of the voters voting, which means 41 percent can veto such a tax increase even if the majority of voters, say 59 percent, approves of it. This is not a tax cap but a change in the way we conduct our democracy.
First, it should be noted that school districts, unlike any other municipal, government, or state agency, are so democratic that their every expenditure is voted on by the general public. Every year they put to the voters a budget that must be balanced. The budgets must be on time, as there is a state-mandated deadline for getting the budget onto the ballot, and school districts must provide extensive information to the voters ahead of time so that they can make an educated decision about whether or not to vote for the budget.
The tax cap, that really isn’t a cap, really is an attempt to make political hay by our leaders in Albany by appearing to oppose education cost increases without taking on the teachers’ unions that make it so hard for school districts to keep their expenses under control. If the governor and Legislature were serious about controlling school costs, they would not propose a law that allows the minority to have veto power over the budget but rather would give school districts the tools they need to negotiate on a level playing field with teachers’ unions to get more reasonable compensation and benefit packages that grow at a reasonable rate, are sustainable and are sensitive to the ups and downs of the economy that the voters and taxpayers must deal with.
The tax cap also is a poor substitute for the real action necessary, which is to decouple educational funding statewide from the real property tax. The way we currently fund education makes it a burden on fixed income taxpayers and regressive not to mention inequitable, with richer communities getting the benefits of better funded schools.
The 2-percent tax cap is a politically motivated distraction from the action at the state level that is really required to deal with the unions or reimagine how we pay for education in this state. Voters should not be fooled or assuaged by its proposal or enactment, just as they should not be happy that in the U.S. Senate 41 votes can prevent 59 members from enacting national law and policy that the majority agrees on.
Springs School Board
May 17, 2011
To the Editor,
I would like to thank all of the voters who voted no on the Montauk school budget. Once again the parents, PTA, and the teachers’ union have another victory. Homeowners lose.
Those who voted yes have no idea as to what they voted for. Each child in the Montauk School costs over $36,000. A good education does not cost $36,000 per child.
No contract with the teachers, no assessed property valuation, and no firm budget at this time. Wait until the fall, when the final tax bill comes out.
For $33,000 you could send your child to the Ross School in East Hampton or a state college for a year.
We, the taxpayers, pay, and the teachers win. The school board can agree to anything the teachers want in a new contract. We pay.
Wait until next year.
Values That Inspire
May 16, 2011
To the Editor,
On May 5, 1866, the Civil War was over. Henry Welles of Waterloo, N.Y., closed his drugstore and asked other stores to close for a day to honor all soldiers killed in the Civil War as a gesture of healing in a land ripped apart by Conflict.
In 1882 our nation observed its first Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor the sacrifice of all who died in all our nation’s wars. In some places, these ceremonies continue, as they do here in East Hampton. Your presence will show you understand the true meaning of Memorial Day. Your being there will make a difference, showing you are not forgetting the values our men and women of the armed forces stood and died for — and are still dying for today — The values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. These are the values that inspire ordinary citizens to rise to the challenge of battle, to put their lives on the line in service to their country. We owe a great debt to those who sacrificed their lives so that we could live free.
Please read these words by Charles M. Province:
It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press,
It is the soldier, not the poet, who as given us the freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trail
And it is the soldier who salutes the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.
Even more, these words impel us to remember these courageous men and women, each so different in heritage and background, but sharing common bonds of the armed forces: duty and sacrifice. All of them reached a moment in their lives when race, religion, creed, and color made no difference. What remained was the essence of America, the fighting spirit of a proud, valorous people, soldiers who paid the price for freedom.
It is imperative that each of us show our respect for the soldiers who fought and to remember the sacrifices made by each, for it is their dedication to duty that will ensure each call to duty will be responded to with the assurance of victory over every threat to our freedom.
In addition, it is appropriate to acknowledge the sacrifices endured by the immediate and extended families impacted by the service of their own service members, there will be to many families that will not have the pleasure of sharing this weekend with a fallen serviceman or servicewoman.
God bless our troops, and God bless America.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 550
For the Money
May 23, 2011
To the Editor,
When in history have the invaders ever said, “We are going to war for the money?” War is the addiction; money is the drug that fuels it. Are we, the taxpayers, the junkies?
April 11, 2011
To the Editor,
As I write this on April 11, Yael, her father, Orin, and mother, Rebecca, are airborne. As we slumber, they fly. Within hours they will be landing in Israel, God willing.
Anyway, this is Yael’s third trip to her father’s birthplace. She is not even a year old yet. Her birthday is June 23.
This world traveler has five grandparents, three great-grandparents, and four great-aunts and uncles in America. I hope I have not left anyone out. Yael also has two grandparents, many aunts and uncles, and 10 cousins in Israel. She is a very popular little lady wherever she goes.
Enough about Yael’s lineage. I am writing on this first Mother’s Day for Yael and many of her loved ones. I am writing about the blessings of being a first-time grandma. It knows no bounds. Only another grandparent can really understand this special bond. To hear Yael say something like “mamma” over the telephone makes my day. I am addicted.
Yael really expresses herself now. When we meet up with mother and child every other Thursday, I cannot wait to see the lady of the moment and her lovely mama. When we cautiously open the back door of the S.U.V. (that Grandfather Les is letting them use), Yael is in her sturdy car seat facing the back seat. Within minutes the car seat becomes a stroller. This is when she studies the three of us, one grandparent at a time. I wonder what she is thinking, how much does she remember these three people who seem to be showing up pretty regularly bearing gifts that only a princess deserves? Yes, we love to spoil our little princess as only a grandparent is free to do.
We shower Yael with all the practical stuff like clothes, and then comes the fun: stuffed toys, books, and many other things that catch our eyes. Of course, we clear the extras with Mama and Papa. They are fantastic parents who know what is best for their little girl.
Rather than speak of the “material girl” we are creating, I would so prefer to write of the absolute joy Yael bestows on us. To hear her laugh touches my soul; there is nothing more precious than the laugh of a baby. I hear Yael is pulling herself up in her crib, grasping and holding stuff that seems much too heavy for this dainty little girl.
I’m just thinking of our always enjoyable visits to Stephen’s mom, one of the great-grandmothers. Anyway, when we last got together in her lovely home, Yael discovered this large bell that was within her grasp. We were concerned about how loud it might be. Well, Yael grasped onto it and she would not let go. She shook it and got everything this bell had to offer. We were surprised at her strength and endurance.
Just as I finished the last paragraph, we received the great news that the three of them had landed safely in Israel. Now they can get ready to celebrate Passover in addition to a bar mitzvah of one of Yael’s grown-up cousins.
When I awoke this morning, I saw the red light blinking, indicating a message. Rebecca had called us late last night to say they were taking off.
I want to say here that I am so happy that Orin’s family has the opportunity to celebrate with seeing Yael and her parents during the three most important dates on the Jewish calendar. They must really see growth and development in Yael with so much time between visits. How quickly the babies change in that first year. I’m sure we will see and hear subtle and not-so-subtle changes in Yael who aged almost one month in Israel. Yael is 10 months old now.
We are blessed to see our girls as often as we do. When and where we meet depends on Rebecca’s very busy schedule. Whatever place we do, we have a great time. Yael draws so much attention so often. She is definitely becoming a little ham who thrives on others’ noticing her.
Something funny happens when we do lunch. I (who love to eat) usually end up taking most of my meal home in a doggy bag. I rationalize that I can eat anytime, but it is always a novelty to be with that little girl and her entourage.
Actually, we usually come as a foursome. That would include two grandfathers (Rebecca’s father, Les, stepdad, Stephen), and yours truly.
It works out well for Les to accompany us. He prefers not to drive too far west on the Island, something I can totally relate to. Stephen, my husband, is an excellent driver. We take advantage of that and his very good nature.
The kids will be in Israel until May 4. When I realized this Mother’s Day is early, May 8, I no longer worked on finishing this letter. I would not print it without Rebecca’s approval.
A few hours ago I received a wonderful call from Israel. Rebecca called to wish us a Shabbat Shalom (good Sabbath). She wanted me to read this letter over the phone, and so I did. She gave me her thumbs-up on faxing this to The East Hampton Star, and so I did.
Happy Mother’s Day!
MICHELE LEE CONNAR