Letters to the Editor: 06.14.12

Our readers' comments

Out of Their Way
    East Hampton
     June 11, 2012
Dear Readers:
    A week ago Sunday I was out and about doing errands and lost two letters, ready for mailing, from my purse. Of course, they contained checks, and of course, it was raining, so they got wet if they were dropped outside, and of course it was Sunday and the post office was closed. On the off-chance that someone had found them, and the lesser chance that they decided to mail them, they would probably have to wait a day and go out of their way. 
    I checked with my bank and with the recipients every day and, sure enough, someone had mailed them for me. Blessings on you, good Samaritan.
    Most sincerely,
    PATRICIA HOPE


Craig Claiborne
    East Hampton
    June 11, 2012
To the Editor,
    A surprising number of people in East Hampton, especially those under 40 and those of all ages who are not “foodistas,” don’t recognize the name Craig Claiborne, who died 12 years ago. For many years he was the food editor at The New York Times and is often credited as being the first person to write objective and informed reviews of restaurants, as well as the author of hugely popular cookbooks. He is the subject of a new biography that will certainly be reviewed extensively in The Star, titled, “The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat.”
    In my humble opinion, he is also a man who can be credited for helping to popularize East Hampton, making it the pre-eminent Hampton destination it is today. Our community had long attracted a prestigious summer crowd of artists and authors, as well as the comfortably rich, but it was Southampton that registered in the public’s mind as the most famous South Shore resort while the rough and tumble Montauk was a blue-collar fisherman’s favorite. Amagansett was simply the place where Nazi saboteurs came ashore during World War II.
    With articles and pictures in The New York Times of his East Hampton kitchen, with a parade of famous chefs brought out here to cook at his house, with grand events like his glamorous picnic on Gardner’s Island, Claiborne generated a ton of great publicity for East Hampton, not only in The Times but in major magazines as well as national TV.
    Certainly it was through Claiborne that I first learned of East Hampton, and I remember seeing him frequently in a dismal Penn Station bar while we awaited our trains and, yes, he certainly was, as the saying goes, a two-fisted drinker as well as an utterly charming gentleman.
    It is a pity there is no trace of him now in East Hampton. Perhaps a marker on the old post office on Newtown Lane, where he once had an office, would be appropriate.
JOSEPH D. POLICANO


Enjoyed the Parade
    Montauk
    June 4, 2012
Dear Editor:
    Here I go again:
    After saying last week that would be my last letter to the editor I feel compelled to write another last letter.
    I made every effort to give the information to Janis Hewitt to have it noted in the Montauk column about the V.F.W.-American Legion’s arrival at Fort Hill Cemetery at 11:00 a.m. after visiting the other cemeteries in East Hampton Town.
    It’s a shame that more veterans and others were not on hand to show their respect for these guys and gals who have been doing this for years at the cemeteries in town and now have included the long trip to Fort Hill in Montauk.
    The pictures of this ceremony, which I gave to The Star, were not printed although I was assured they arrived on time. Also there was no mention in Janis Hewitt’s Montauk column to report that they were there.
    The picture of John Behan, who is a longtime member of Post 550 of the Veterans of Foreign wars, leading the Montauk parade in his wheelchair and two of my close friends Harold Herbert and Joel Cidlowski carrying the flags to lead the parade, was very impressive.
    Many people have remarked that they enjoyed the parade and the weekend show.
    I enjoyed the weekend my own way: Fort Hill cemetery with the V.F.W.-American Legion at 11 a.m. Sunday, Main Beach at the ceremony for those who perished at sea, where the commanders of the V.F.W. and the American Legion took the wreath to the water’s edge and passed it to a surfer who disappeared with it in the fog and very rough waters, then the parade from Guild Hall to the memorial green starting at 10:30 a.m.
    I rode in the V.F.W. van as my repaired knees can’t handle marching anymore.
    Both sides of Main Street were lined with hundreds of people, including many children. The applause as we passed was thunderous and when I waved back to them it brought tears to my eyes with their response. The smiles from the kids added to my reason for being there. Also I was happy to see some Montauk residents at Main Beach.
    Maybe next year we will see more Montauk veterans and others at Fort Hill and the Memorial Day ceremonies in East Hampton.
    Also keep in mind the Nov. 11 Veterans Day parade and ceremony at the monument and the 11th hour ceremony at the American Legion Hall in Amagansett.
    Respectfully,
    GENE BECKWITH


An Outrage!
    Amagansett
    June 8, 2012
Editor dear,
    Another eventful week in the Village of East Hampton (Also on the Logs, June 7), and you dropped the ball again.
    A resident reports seeing a strange man at the train station putting rattlesnakes in his backpack on several occasions — and that’s it? Have you any idea what a nuisance loose rattlesnakes are on a crowded train, especially those prone to motion sickness? Did the man have a parlor car ticket, or do snakes travel in the baggage car? If neither, do they end up strapped to the top of the train like Mitt Romney’s Irish setter?
    And then an elderly gentleman gets reported by an anonymous caller for masturbating in his car while parked on Old Beach Lane. What an outrage! I believe I speak for many when I say it would be a public service for you to furnish a list of sites where senior citizens can go to masturbate without being spied on by anonymous voyeurs.
    As to the road rage account on page 11, allow me to observe that only the owner of a Hummer would hurl a carrot cake — from Citarella, surely — at another driver. I, myself, am partial to flinging Brent’s fried chicken bones when provoked.
    Respectfully,
    PAULA DIAMOND


Disturbing the Peace
    East Hampton
    June 10, 2012
To the Editor:
    Summer torture by motorcycle: When you are breakfasting on your terrace on a sunny Sunday morning and the growl of a motorcycle approaches, and grows into a roar that drowns out conversation and thought — and then winds out in a mile-long, prolonged explosion of sound — you don’t have to just cringe, shake your head, and wish for the 100th time that the young thug would crash and burn. What you experienced is not an annoyance of summer, not your penalty for having a home on a major thoroughfare, not a seasonal nuisance like mosquitoes.
    You have been assaulted, an important right violated. Courts at every level have ruled again and again that unreasonable, unnecessary noise is an assault. There are laws against it.
    This letter is not about all motorcycles. I am not advocating banning them, limiting their size, curtailing their hours. I am not talking about normal: I am talking only about the operation of motorcycles without the required sound mufflers and driving motorcycles in a manner that creates the single loudest, more intrusive, unnecessary noise of the Hamptons summer.
    I have suffered day and night assault from one motorcyclist who roars along Stephen Hand’s Path in East Hampton without benefit of mufflers, and probably with deliberately enhanced noise, then winds out up Route 114 for a long, drawn-out explosion of racket. I know that this could not occur, year after year, if the East Hampton police enforced the vehicle laws against lack of sound mufflers or enforced the laws against disturbing the peace. But apparently they don’t.
    I have put up with the racket, but no more; now, I am pursuing this blatant assault on our civility until something is done.
    I should add, by the way, that anyone living on Route 114 knows that every summer weekend there are troops of 50 or more motorcycles heading for Sag Harbor and later returning. This is not illegal, and not every motorcycle and motorcyclist has a bike in violation or drives it in an illegal way. But enough do so to create long periods on Sunday mornings and afternoons in which the mind turns to Nazi motorcycle extravaganzas in Munich.
    What the police should do, of course, is stop any motorcycle creating unnecessary and illegal noise levels, ticket the motorcyclist, and, if the bike is in violation, impound the bike on the spot‚ since obviously it cannot be driven away without violating the law.
    News probably gets around the biker community fast‚ through talk at gatherings like that every weekend near Sag Harbor, at biking clubs, and in biking magazines. It would not take many arrests or impounded bikes to change the way bikers operate in the Hamptons. They would have to change; the laws against unnecessary and unreasonable noise are not ones that can be violated by stealth.
    The torture of summer mornings and afternoons can end, and end soon, if we let the police, our town and village representatives, and our neighbors know that the assault no longer will be tolerated. You don’t have to cringe and absorb the assault by those who often deliberately take glee in their power to invade your day and your mind.
    Just join me in making known, through letters like this, but particularly through requests for police protection, that we know that the law is on our side — and now we want it to be enforced.
WALTER DONWAY


How to Waste Gas
    Springs
    June 6, 2012
To the Editor:
    How to waste gas, an unofficial guide:
    1. Step on the gas the way they do it in the commercials.
    2. Rush to the nearest stop sign and then rush off as fast as possible. (See above.)
    3 Tailgate. This will cause you to brake and accelerate regularly. It might also cause an accident. (See this or any issue of The East Hampton Star.)
    4. Don’t let people in while you tailgate at six miles per hour on Route 27, thereby causing them to remain stopped, using up gas.
    5. Idle. This gets you zero m.p.g. and also pollutes the air unnecessarily. Leaving your car unattended with the engine running gives you the same results plus you may also have your car and/or its contents stolen. (See this or any issue of The East Hampton Star.) Leaving your car idling while at the recycling center wastes gas while you are busy recycling.
    Additional suggestions welcome.
PAUL HECHT


For Balanced Growth
    Springs
    June 11, 2012
Dear David,
    The resolution to reorganize the Planning Department that was never discussed publicly at the last meeting by Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley caused anxiety and an “Oh no, not again” feeling among many of us who have been involved in the crucial planning and zoning issues that affect us all.
    East Hampton’s excellent and professional Planning Department makes recommendations impacting our clean drinking water, traffic, preservation of our beautiful natural and historic resources, and protects the peaceful qualities of our neighborhoods.
    East Hampton is noted as one of the leading communities in America for short-range and long-range planning, which allows for reasonable growth, realizing that our economy and the value of our houses are based on a healthy environment and could be harmfully impacted by overdevelopment.
    Whenever East Hampton has had a Republican majority on the town board, they have restricted or eliminated the Planning Department, resulting in the potential for runaway overdevelopment.
    In 1983, the town board tossed out the Planning Department because “it was not efficient.” This was a disaster for our town. The Grace Estate, Barcelona Neck (both beautiful forest and coastline ecosystems in Northwest), had preliminary approval for development of hundreds of condos along our shoreline, large mansion lots, polo fields, and a private golf course in gated communities shut off to the public. Hither Woods was in for development with so many lots that New York State required space for a school. Condos were in the final stages of approval on Three Mile Harbor.
    The only reason all of those beautiful ecosystems are protected public parks is because a Democratic majority, advocating for balanced growth and reinstating the Planning Department, was swept into office.
    The 2000-2004 Republican majority appointed a hospital administrator from UpIsland to oversee the Planning Department because they felt it was, yep, “not efficient.” Then the administration tried for four years to update the comprehensive plan by embracing overdevelopment of our hamlets with commercial buildings down the lanes in Amagansett and 450 condos on Lake Montauk.
    Once again, on the promise of adopting a comprehensive plan to “save what’s left‚” Democrats were swept into office and reinstated the Planning Department’s powers.
    Now the current majority wants to re-organize the Planning Department because, you guessed it, it is “not efficient.” This is the administration that has had public confrontations and conflicts with our Planning Department. This is the Republican administration that has recommended nine tenants on one lot in residential neighborhoods, public crowds of 30,000 near houses (larger than our year-round population), and tossing out our “dark sky” rules so we cannot continue to enjoy the Milky Way.
    Reorganize the Planning Department with no public discussion? Good idea? You decide and stay vigilant.
    Sincerely,
    DEBRA FOSTER



    Ms. Foster has served on both the East Hampton Town Board and Planning Board. Ed.


Trash-and-Burn
    Amagansett
    June 11, 2012
Dear David,
    The duo heading the Wilkinson administration purport to have some good ideas, but there’s no way to know if the ideas are good or not because the implementation is so faulty. The proposal to reorganize the Planning Department is an example.
    The administration has been arguing for months that our planning system is inefficient and needs to be shaped up to reduce the time it takes to go from an application for a building permit, variance, or site plan review to ground-laying. Measures wisely calculated to address this issue might make sense. But just as in other situations, the administration’s strategy is a trash-and-burn approach that would compound the problems it intends to tackle if it were not so obviously inappropriate that it stops in its tracks.
    Just look at the proposed planning reorganization. Four new divisions are created in the natural resources program. Planning Department personnel are redistributed between the Planning Department, under direction of the planning director, and the Environmental Protection Unit, and Natural Resource Reviews Group, under the direction of the natural resources director. There are no functional analyses or new job descriptions for any of them. There is no chart showing the many ways in which our zoning code would have to be amended to indicate the transfer of functions. There is no way to know which agency or which planner would do what. One can expect duplication rather than consolidation of currently integrated efforts. The further irony of this proposal to make our government more “efficient” is that the process of developing it was inefficiency squared.
    The matter was almost entirely pursued in secret by only two of the five members of the board. Professional staff who would implement the new plan were barely consulted. The two members of the board with extensive experience in zoning and planning, Sylvia Overby, a former planning board chairwoman, and Peter Van Scoyoc, who served on both the zoning and planning boards, had no role in its development.
    The minority members received the plan late in the afternoon of the scheduled vote. The public, of course, was totally excluded from considering the matter, which was discussed by the board in two five-minute closed sessions. Those sessions were illegal, since the reorganization did not necessarily involve issues such as pay and performance ratings that allow an executive session.
    Like other initiatives of Bill Wilkinson and Theresa Quigley (for example, the apartment law and lighting law), this proposal was at best a work in process. It should not have been presented for a vote, and the public is fortunate that in the absence of Councilman Dominick Stanzione, it had no chance of being passed.
    Sincerely yours,
    JEANNE FRANKL



    Ms. Frankl is the chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Committee.    Ed.    


Why Dilute?
    Springs
    June 6, 2012
To the Editor,
    At its last meeting, the East Hampton Town Board surprised its audience with a resolution to restructure the Natural Resources Department. Fortunately, the resolution could not be immediately passed because a board member was absent. One has to question why this resolution was proposed, and why it was being put to a vote without any public input.
    The resolution appears to separate the Planning Department and the Natural Resources Department (which deals with environmental issues) with the stated purpose of increasing the efficiency and operation of their individual responsibilities. However, the integration of the Planning and Natural Resources Departments in one office is exactly what has enabled the Town of East Hampton to maintain its beauty and environmental quality in the face of tremendous growth.
    The town has also been fortunate in having a uniquely qualified overseer in the Planning Department as it is currently organized. In addition to extensive planning experience, Marguerite Wolffsohn has an undergraduate science degree from Syracuse University’s School of Forestry and a master’s degree in wildlife ments and Ms. Wolffsohn’s responsibilities?
    When a system has clearly proved to benefit a community, it shows that early planners and officials were ahead of the curve. This is a perfect example of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Separating planning and environmental issues would be a step backward, not forward.
    Sincerely yours,
    SHARON STAHL


Should Be Independent
    Amagansett
    June 11, 2012
Dear David,
    Len Bernard and Charlene Kagel requested that the town board approve the establishment of an audit committee at the May 5 work session. They spent much time answering questions asked by town board members. Actually, this was a charade because the resolution was already in the packet with the names of Bill Wilkinson, Theresa Quigley, Mr. Bernard, Ms. Kagel, Patrick Gunn, Carole Campolo, and Stan Arkin (town employees and two Republican supporters, one of whom is the secretary of the town Republican committee).
    Luckily, Dominick Stanzione was not present to vote on the resolution Thursday evening, so it wasn’t approved. What kind of functioning audit committee would this be? A properly designed audit committee should be independent. There have to be checks and balances in fulfilling the purpose of an audit committee, which is to oversee management’s conduct of the town’s financial reporting process.
    If the supervisor and deputy supervisor had studied the idea they would have made their audit committee more independent, effective, and efficient. Wasn’t that the idea in creating it?
    According to the U.S. Government Finance Officers Association, the recommendation to local government audit committees was to enhance the independence of an external auditor, and hence the reliability of the town’s finances. The idea is to have committee members selected from outside management with one representative from the town. Members should possess all of the financial skills needed to realize the committee’s objectives.
    Establishing a committee to evaluate town finances is a step in the right direction; however, discussion needs to take place with all the town board members participating in a decision about the goals and objectives of the committee. Then members can serve in an oversight capacity, not as a rubber stamp. The committee needs an audit committee charter, which would describe the work of the committee for each year. Ms. Quigley, who has been against studying any issues, should be aware that study and evaluation are good values in government.
    Sincerely,
    RONA KLOPMAN


Toxic Tides
    Springs
    June 3, 2012
Dear David,
    Applause, applause, for the East Hampton Town Trustees for their proactive position on dangerous and destructive algae blooms that appear to be creeping closer and closer to our presently pristine waters by presenting an informative discussion of the history and the effects of these blooms. The presenter was Christopher Gobler, from our own Stony Brook University, an expert on such matters, who outlined the disastrous effects on what was once the most prolific shellfish industry in the country.
    The brown, red, and now the present and most toxic of all tides that have decimated our waters, destroyed our eelgrass, and posed a real life threat to humans as well, have closed some bays to procuring of shellfish. The cause is no surprise to those of us who have watched the haphazard growth of Suffolk County. If you were around in the 1950s or ’60s, you know that the open fields of those times have given way to an explosion of homes and with each home a septic system or cesspool. And that is the culprit, the nitrogenous waste that emanates from our bodies to these old and often antiquated systems and, subsequently, to our groundwater.
    How long will it be before we find ourselves with worthless properties because the waters we swim in will be polluted and potable water will no longer exist? All other issues pale in light of this, the most crucial to our quality of life. The state of the scavenger waste facility and density of places like Springs need our prompt attention. I urge those in our government, if you really care about East Hampton, give your attention to these two critical and pending issues.
    I know the expert’s message was understood by some members of the town board, as Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc were attentive participants in the audience. Too bad the Republicans were noticeably absent.
    Lee Koppelman was quoted by Dr. Gobler as saying if he had it to do over he would have bought up all the vacant land in Suffolk County. We need to do that before it disappears and adds to the causes of the algae blooms. As Tim Bishop reiterated his mantra on Saturday at his birthday celebration, “The economy is the environment and the environment is the economy.” Plain and simple!
    Sincerely,
    PHYLLIS I. MALLAH


Move the Problem
    Amagansett
    June 8, 2012
To the Editor:
    For a while I have been following the discussion in The Star about noise around East Hampton Airport. As a homeowner in Amagansett for nearly three decades, and being the owner of a small plane (single-engine, four-seater), I am a fairly regular user of the airport, although it is not my home airport.
    I’ve been around airports for a long time, so for anyone to suggest that a control tower, seasonal or not, might be an answer to the noise problem strikes me as ludicrous. It is unlikely there would be any change in the traffic patterns flown by fixed-wing aircraft, since the patterns are dictated by runway alignment.
    The predominant approach route now used by helicopters is to come in over the power lines from the northwest and drop onto the airport property, not using the main runway. Every controlled airport I’ve seen where fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters mix, helicopters are directed in and out on routes that stay clear of the fixed-wing pattern. But even if a tower here chose to direct helicopters into the fixed-wing pattern for noise-abatement reasons, that would simply move the problem around slightly. There is only so much that can be done.
    In my opinion, the one potential benefit of a tower (a benefit that interests me), is that it might reduce the chance of aircraft parts falling out of the sky by reducing the chance of a midair collision.
    I don’t have a dog in the noise fight. I haven’t heard any proposal from either side that would materially affect me. But the noise-reduction rationale for the tower is just so absurd that it makes me wonder what the real rationale is.
JOHN KEARNEY


Gruber’s First Action
    Bridgehampton
    June 7, 2012
To the Editor:
    In the words of the late Ronald Reagan, “There you go again!”
    Once more, David Gruber, in his latest novella, trots out his worn-out mantra on his viewpoint of how airport issues should be addressed.
    Keep in mind that Mr. Gruber has never won a court case or appeal in his numerous lawsuits against the town concerning East Hampton Airport since he began his crusade over two decades ago using the same tactics he is using now.
    What he has managed to do is cost East Hampton taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees to defend against baseless, frivolous lawsuits, and delay long- needed airport maintenance, and a meaningful noise abatement program.
    In addition, he has been able to shave several years off some of the grant assurance obligations by suing the Federal Aviation Administration and has kept the town from participating or even having knowledge of this action despite the fact that it was the town that originally signed the grant assurance agreement.
    The actual date of expiration for the town’s obligation is 2021, not 2014, as Mr. Gruber claims.
    The present board is trying to address noise issues now, not waiting until grant assurances expire according to Mr. Gruber’s misleading timetable.
    It is somewhat surprising that Mr. Gruber would describe Peter Kirsch as Dominick Stanzione’s “pet aviation lawyer,” when in fact it was Mr. Gruber’s “pet supervisor,” Bill McGintee, who hired Mr. Kirsch at Mr. Gruber’s insistence!
    As far as “poison money” is concerned, perhaps those who have accepted Gruber money in the past for their various anti-airport organizations and political campaigns should consider the cost of hiring on to his agenda, when the promised results continue to fail.
    There is not a doubt in my mind that should the grant assurances be allowed to expire, Mr. Gruber’s first action will be to move to close the airport.
    What the public should know is that even without grant obligations, as long as it is a public-use airport, there is a strict limit to how much the town can do to restrict specific aircraft despite Mr. Gruber’s viewpoint that there are only “very modest limitations” to the town’s ability to control traffic.
    What the airport needs is long overdue maintenance and a real-time noise abatement program that the town has been trying to accomplish despite interference from the anti-airport coalition.
    It is time to give the town the chance to accomplish what it has spent considerable time, effort, and tax money on, without condemning the results before there is a chance to allow it to work.
GENE OSHRIN


Demand Correction
    East Hampton
    June 9, 2012
To the Editor:
    Your recent letters column (June 7) included a contribution from East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione’s frequent apologist on airport matters, who attacked the Quiet Skies Coalition. The party line there expressed, however, contained typical inaccuracies, the most important of which demand correction.
    The coalition does not oppose — and has not opposed — the seasonal control tower installation. The tower clearly is a safety tool, without question. What remains to be seen, however, is its actual noise-mitigation value. The coalition, like everyone else, awaits the results, but its members harbor varying degrees of skepticism as we wait.
    Also, the coalition did not invent the $1 million cost figure recently attached to the tower. As The Star has reported, that amount was pronounced by Councilman Stanzione, himself, at the May 15 town board work session. Mr. Stanzione will have to live with what he said.
    Finally, as a matter of history, the town board’s former airport noise abatement advisory committee did not recommend a seasonal control tower “as an important noise abatement (and safety) initiative.” That committee, on which I served as vice chairman, favored the tower as a safety initiative with possible noise-mitigation value. And, like the coalition today, that committee’s members then viewed the tower’s noise-mitigation potential with varying degrees of skepticism.
    Thus, for six years, the informed citizens have been waiting for the opportunity to observe the tower’s operations and the actual extent of its effects on the airport noise problem.
    Sincerely,
    CHARLES A. EHREN JR.
    Vice chairman
    Quiet Skies Coalition


Taste and Care
    East Hampton
    June 10, 2012
Dear David,
    The East Hampton Democrats want to thank the staff at Spring Close restaurant for their help in having a wonderful cocktail party. The back room was decorated with taste and care, with lanterns of soft light and massive ferns. The hors d’oeuvres were plentiful and yummy. Lastly, the staff responded to all our needs with a great attitude.
    And thanks to all those who attended!
    Yours truly,
    NAOMI SALZ


We Get It
    East Hampton
    June 5, 2012
Dear Editor:
    Enough with the feral cat poems already! We get it, cats, we get it.
    CONCERNED CANINE
    (Fed up with the Ferals)
    (Submitted by Devin Mac, on behalf of his concerned canine, who has an intense obsession with feral cats)


Social Security Option
    East Hampton
    June 11, 2012
Dear Editor:
    It seems likely Social Security payments will have to be lowered as the large baby boom contingent retires. We are not as wealthy a nation as we once were, and current levels may not be able to be maintained. I have a proposal that I think would make the system more fair to low-income recipients. I have listened to a pension fund expert on TV who said that only about half the population of retirees will live to collect for the 20, 30 years we now hear some are collecting. The other half of retirees, working-class folk, are retiring with many health problems and only collect pensions for a few years. If such a person is forced to give up retirement years because the retirement age is increased for everybody, that is tragically unfair. If they take a major hit to their Social Security pension check because they are forced into early retirement because of ill health or guardianship of grandchildren, that’s not fair, either.
    I propose a “front-loaded” option where, for a fee, a retiree in ill health could opt for a higher payment for the first 8 or 10 years and have the amount stepped down in future decades. Retirees with dependents or serious health problems would have extra help when they need it most. The healthy could opt (for a fee) for a “back-loaded” pension check with a lower payment for the initial decade and stepped-up payments or cost of living adjustments in subsequent decades as they age and health problems begin to manifest. If you think this might work, please spread the word. Perhaps we can get Congress to take action.
NINA TRABONA


Tax Talk
    East Hampton
    June 1, 2012
To the Editor,
    Does anyone really care about fairness in taxation? Is anyone listening to the debate over the Bush tax cuts? The president talks and talks and talks about making sure everyone pays their share, but does anyone hear him? A recent report showed 20,752 households that reported earning more than $200,000 in 2009 paid no federal income taxes. About 1,500 of those tax-free Americans were millionaires.
    Mitt Romney says he will leave the Bush tax cuts in place and add some more for good measure. Hooray for the people who earn over $200,000 per year. Too bad for everyone else. So 2,500 millionaires paid no taxes, and thousands paid very little. That was before the alternative minimum tax law was passed 40 years ago in an attempt to see that everyone paid some share of the tax burden. But now, with sharp accounting, loopholes, exemptions, corporations, overseas earnings exempt from tax, etc.,  2,000 millionaires pay no federal income taxes, and those 20,000 households with incomes over $200,000 pay reduced or little taxes.
    Under Mr. Obama’s plan, the top 1 percent of income earners would see their taxes go up about 5 percent. Under Mr. Romney’s plan, they would go down by nearly 8 percent, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center. And as for the 21,000 wealthy Americans who currently pay no income tax, the Tax Policy Center reported, “Under Obama’s plan, these people would almost certainly pay more. Under Romney’s, they will almost certainly pay less.” And, by the way, Mr. Romney will cut education funds, as he did in Massachusets, so there will be no improvement on America’s college graduation levels. I wonder why?
    Wake up, America. I know all the tax talk is very boring and most don’t even bother thinking about it, so elect Mr. Romney and have the country run by the Grover Norquists and big money interests who laugh all the way to the bank.
RICHARD HIGER

Comments

And more Tax Talk: Associated Press, September 20, 2011: '"There may be individual millionaires who pay taxes at rates lower than middle-income workers. In 2009, 1,470 households filed tax returns with incomes above $1 million yet paid no federal income tax, according to the Internal Revenue Service. But that's less than 1% of the nearly 237,000 returns with incomes above $1 million. "This year, households making more than $1 million will pay an average 29.1% of their income in federal taxes, including income taxes, payroll taxes and other taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank." And, of course, as the National Taxpayer's Union reports, based on IRS figures, the bottom HALF of all taxpayers pay 2 percent of all federal income taxes. But that does not quite capture the situation, though, because that statistic refers only to tax PAYERS. There is another category: about HALF of all adult Americans pay NO federal income taxes, a result of the Bush tax reforms, which dropped huge percentages of low-income Americans off the tax roles. Walter Donway East Hamtpon
Since Mr. Higer cites the Tax Policy Institute, let us cite the Seattle Times in reporting ont he Tax Policy Institute and taxes in general. This is from the June 14, 2012 Times: "The Tax Policy Center estimates that 46 percent of households, mostly low- and medium-income households, will pay no federal income taxes this year. Most, however, will pay other taxes, including Social Security payroll taxes. "People who are doing quite well and worry about low-income people not paying any taxes bemoan the fact that they get so many tax breaks that they are zeroed out," said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center. "People at the bottom of the distribution say, `But all of those rich guys are getting bigger tax breaks than we're getting,' which is also the case." Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was pressed at a White House briefing on the number of millionaires who pay taxes at a lower rate than middle-income families. He demurred, saying that people who make most of their money in wages pay taxes at a higher rate, while those who get most of their income from investments pay at lower rates. "So it really depends on what is your profession, where's the source of your income, what's the specific circumstances you face, and the averages won't really capture that," Geithner said. But, of course, this provides a broader and fairer context, which Mr. Higer carefully avoids...
And now, for a bit more of that boring TAX TALK, let's hear from the National Taxpayers Union. First, about 46 percent of adult Americans pay NO federal income taxes, though some pay Social Security. Second, among the other HALF who do pay SOME taxes: Those with the top 1 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) pay 37 percent of all personal federal income tax that is paid. Those with the top 5 percent of AGI pay 59 percent. To skip a few categories, those with the bottom 50 percent of AGI pay about 2 percent. For those who haven't read the classic "How To Lie With Statistics," I recommend it. What Mr. Higer has done, in his letter, is focus on absolute numbers of, say, millionaires, who pay little or no taxes. But he does not give the denominator--that is, say what percentage this number represents of ALL taxpayers with AGI of one million or more. I can supply that information: about 1 percent of taxpayers with AGI of a million or more. On average, however, this entire group pays 30 percent of their AGI in taxes. In any large group there ALWAYS are outliers. In any given year, some small percent of millionaires, for example, are going to make very large philanthropic gifts out of capital that exceed that year's income. As for the Alternative Minimum Tax mentioned by Mr. Higer, it was enacted in 1969 as a result of "outrage" at 21--yes, 21--wealthy taxpayers who didn't "pay up." But the AMT was not indexed to inflation, so, by 2007, more than 25 MILLION middle-class people found themselves forced to pay it every year. Psychologically, I suppose, living in East Hampton makes it tempting to feel envy and resentment at those who are more successful financially, and to wish that they could be shorn of their wealth. But if this is to be expressed in the form of calls for some undefined tax "fairness," we should at least see the tax situation in a true (fair?) perspective. Walter Donway, East Hampton