A Healthier Community
March 11, 2013
South Fork Community Health Initiative wishes to express our sincere gratitude to East Hampton Healthcare Foundation, Southampton Hospital, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, and our staff, friends, and volunteers for their participation in our health fairs. We extend a very special thanks to Most Holy Trinity Church for allowing us to host our health fairs at their elementary school. Without their continued support and commitment to our work, we would not be able to accomplish our mission to provide access to health care services to residents with minimal or no health care insurance living on the South Fork of Long Island.
In 2012 alone, over 500 people attended our health fairs, where more than 1,500 screenings/tests were performed to provide early detection and treatment of health-related problems. Finding problems early allows for earlier intervention and less complicated treatments. Educators and professionals participate in our health fairs to share knowledge and promote healthy living strategies for individuals and their families.
Once again, without the partnerships of our local health care providers and community leaders, South Fork Community Health Initiative would not be able to provide these services. We are eternally grateful for their hard work and continued belief that, yes, we can make a difference in building a healthier community.
President, Board of Directors
South Fork Community Health
Inside a Pinata
March 6, 2013
One of the great things about visiting museums is that, for me, there is usually a moment of unexpected bliss, along with the occasional horror.
I love, love, love the new Parrish Museum. Once you have figured out where the front door is, it is, mostly, an experience of liberated creativity.
My favorite show, after repeated visits, is the children’s exhibit. You feel like you been dropped inside a pinata.
How fortunate we are that both the Parrish and Guild Hall represent so many fine local artists, both extant and not so much. Even if obviously, the going gets harder after six.
All good things,
Moved the Problems
March 11, 2013
The Montauk sea wall project should be looked at and considered very carefully. But you cannot look at the plan, nor can you consider it at all, if you are not allowed to see it.
When I served on the town zoning board, there were a plethora of proposals to preserve certain sections of the ocean and bay beach. But these proposals often came with new construction and were usually denied because other solutions could be found. The board did, however, receive a great deal of evidence that hard structural solutions, and even less than fully permanent structures, only moved the problems elsewhere.
Montauk’s ocean and bay beaches were, and continue to be, severely hit by storm damage. And the future of downtown Montauk is clearly in the long-term balance of this equation. The downtown area already exists and we should be fighting like hell to save it.
I don’t know what the solution is, and I am not opposed to a project that is fully vetted with the positive and negative consequences clearly spelled out. But there will be both kinds of consequences.
Can we really beat Mother Nature? Perhaps. And perhaps somewhere in the world a solution has been tried with some success. To get to that point requires critical, hard, and practical long-range thinking. So any proposal cannot be a private solution to this particular community problem.
We knew this day was coming for years, but crisis solutions — ones made in a hurry or based on emotional arguments — may be no solution at all.
Dogs: Think Normal
March 6, 2013
To the Editor:
What is East Hampton thinking? Part of the reason we all visit and settle in East Hampton is this feeling of openness, nature at its best. The current dog policy in East Hampton serves our beaches, dogs, and, more important, the majority of us very well.
I frequent Indian Wells Beach on a regular basis and the negative comments are absurd. The current dog law serves us well.
East Hampton needs to contact the powers that be in Jupiter, Fla., an extremely popular Florida destination and one that allows dogs on their beaches, all day, every day, and it works well. Don’t let the prima donnas run the show. Think normal.
March 11, 2013
Regarding the meeting this week about dogs on the beach, the mayor and trustees started the meeting by saying that they were leaning toward eliminating dogs from the beaches in East Hampton Village, with the exception of west of Georgica Beach and east of Two Mile Hollow Beach, basically eliminating dogs from all East Hampton Village beaches. I sense that this was a bullying attempt to get leverage in order to put more restrictions on the beach dog walkers.
I felt they were successful, in that the people who came there with the intent of pressing for no restrictions all of a sudden were willing to compromise with new restrictions, and that the mood change and people addressing him not necessarily as Mr. Mayor but more as his majesty — and begging for minimal restrictions.
I’m not one to kiss the mayor’s (or his majesty’s) you-know-what. Although it is common for retribution in political circles, I realize I’m not that important and that one renegade letter is not going to affect the village board’s decision.
Good luck to the dog walkers,
Grant the Tenure
March 8, 2013
Please let me take this opportunity to express my utter disappointment and shock over the developments I have recently learned of regarding Gina Kraus’s possible failure to receive tenure as principal of the John M. Marshall Elementary School.
I honestly cannot imagine what the superintendent and the board are thinking! After 32 years of teaching in the elementary school and seeing many principals come and go, I was so incredibly thrilled that J.M.M.E.S. finally discovered “the whole package” — and right there before their eyes! Never before has there been a leader who understands the whole picture: children, teachers, parents, the community, and curriculum like Gina Kraus. She’s smart, uses common sense, and, oh yes, she is fun, too — something I understand that she has been criticized about.
Many years ago, Superintendent Bob Freidah addressed the staff of the district and said, “Be sure to make each day count because school may be the only good thing in many children’s lives.” Gina has the integrity, intuitiveness, and knowledge of making this happen for the students (and her staff) each and every day.
I trust you will take my words seriously and those of other parents, teachers, and members of our community who support this leader, and grant Gina Kraus the tenure she obviously deserves.
Only Gotten Worse
March 11, 2013
Gene Oshrin addresses me personally in his last letter about aircraft noise. After pointing out that I mistakenly identified him as previous president of the East Hampton Aviation Association, he slides into an ad hominem accusing me of not caring about facts: “I think it unlikely that he would allow fact to interfere with his agenda.”
For the record, my “agenda” is not to close the airport, and I do care about facts.
My mistake regarding his résumé is irrelevant to the facts of my argument. I (and most others objecting to aircraft noise) do not have a goal of closing the airport. Mr. Oshrin can cite no reference for his accusation that I do. It is an accusation repeated by aviation interests in order to discredit those who object to aircraft noise. The goal is to establish local control over a facility whose management is mandated by a federal agency whose mission is the promotion of aviation.
I would like to call a truce to this war of letters. Mr. Oshrin owns a plane and has a hangar. He has interests in the airport. He has a right to support the airport; I have never contested that. My argument is about aircraft noise. It is very probable that he is not the real source of my complaints about aircraft noise. If he owned and operated a helicopter, jet, or seaplane, the prime source of the noise problem, I, then, would address my complaints directly at him and contest his right to degrade my (and others’) quiet enjoyment of house and home.
There is a noise problem; Mr. Oshrin has forthrightly stated so. He has participated in noise-abatement efforts. And yet, the problem has only gotten worse — for more than two decades.
The only proposal from airport proponents is to study the problem (again, and more years and more dollars away). The history of the Federal Aviation Administration acquiescing to local noise complaints is rare, dismal, and hardly encouraging.
So, here we are. We both state that there is a noise problem, the severity of which is recognized today but never projected into the future. The noise will only get worse. Air traffic will increase. The potential capacity of the airport has not been approached. All improvements wrought in the name of safety and noise abatement have the unspoken side effect of increasing total capacity. An improved economy will drive increased air traffic.
Currently, the residents of the East End have no means or legal right to limit present or future aircraft activity whose noise infringes on the peace and quiet of our neighborhoods. There will be a legal right when the controlling F.A.A. grant assurances expire Dec. 31, 2014 for the town to impose reasonable restrictions on aircraft activity. Accepting more F.A.A. money will only subject the East End to an additional 20 years of F.A.A. servitude, emasculating local control and subsidizing a segment of the population well endowed with the ability to pay its own way.
Not As It Should Be
March 11, 2013
Dear Mr. Rattray,
At the March 5 East Hampton Town Board session, Jim Brundige, manager at East Hampton Airport, stated that there was no immediate plan to expand the airport despite the recent Federal Aviation Administration designation of it as a regional airport. Mr. Brundige cited the aviation lawyer retained by the town, Mr. Kirsch, who provided a written statement indicating that there would be no significant change to the airport as a result of the new F.A.A. designation, but he noted that “that may change in five to 10 years.” Mr. Brundige then opined that Mr. Kirsch’s statements were “lawyer-speak‚” covering himself, in case something happens. What is apparent is that Mr. Brundige is using the lawyer’s words now to cover himself and airport liaison Councilman Stanzione when “something” happens. That “something‚” of course, is expansion.
Consider other recent disingenuous statements by these two airport proponents: In 2012, residents were informed by Councilman Stanzione and Mr. Brundige that the town was seeking to obtain a temporary tower that would operate for two years until its effectiveness could be fully evaluated. The “temporary” tower is in place and looks more like a semi-permanent structure, vastly different from the “mobile” air traffic control unit initially proposed. Now, less than eight months after opening that temporary tower, airport proponents are demanding a more costly permanent tower, one that likely would require F.A.A. funds to build and operate 24/7.
The “temporary” control unit-tower was also widely touted by Stanzione, Brundige, and the East Hampton Aviation Association as a noise abatement tool; that duplicitous claim was immediately refuted by both the F.A.A. and by the control tower operators at the very first information meeting held at the airport when the “temporary” tower began operating in mid-2012.
Consider also oft-repeated claims by Messrs. Stanzione and Brundige that, since the recession, there has been less traffic at the airport. Why then are angry residents from the North and South Forks protesting at the airport and in East Hampton Village? If the airport is not expanding and if, despite recent Wall Street gains, airport proponents believe there will be fewer aircraft this season and in the future — despite F.A.A. forecasts to the contrary — why the accelerated push for a costly permanent traffic control tower? Smells like expansion to me. Truth serum should urgently be prescribed for Messrs. Stanzione and Brundige.
There are other indications that all is not as it should be at East Hampton Airport. A thorough overview of all airport operations could result in changes that would benefit the town coffers instead of a few individuals. For example, during the March 5 meeting a town official admitted to the board that there are other airport problems, specifically with a number of leases on airport property; at least one lease has not been paid for under the negotiated terms of the lease, and even though this has been known for at least three years the premises are still being occupied. Other leases have expired but are still being paid for at terms negotiated much earlier. Rumors abound that bathrooms have been added and other “illegal” modifications have been made in some hangars, yet no permits were obtained from the town.
With competent oversight, it would appear that the facility could easily correct infractions, dispel rumors, and generate far more income for its airport fund than it currently does, and would not need to beg for federal handouts from the F.A.A.
East Hampton Airport has been heralded by none other than Mr. Brundige as the nation’s “poster child” for noise-problem municipal airports, but proponents clearly have no intention of scaling back activity and allowing the facility to become again the self-sufficient, neighbor-friendly recreational asset it was for decades. Rather, under the guidance of the F.A.A., they are slowly paving the way for a far larger, much louder, and more polluted future.
March 8, 2013
I must congratulate Zachary Cohen on his creative imagination concerning his solution for airport noise issues. Pure Magic Kingdom. He is obviously not one to allow fact to interfere with fantasy.
The airport is already self-supporting, with the glaring exception that the town can not afford the `postponed and long overdue repairs and maintenance it so badly needs. No financial study needed here. Are there noise concerns? Yes, and they need to be addressed using the enormous amount of data collected from the noise studies already undertaken and paid for out of the airport budget. Do we know where the noise-sensitive areas are? Yes, and the aircraft operating in those areas with transponders can be identified and contacted thanks to a tracking system paid for out of, you guessed it, the airport budget.
Is the airport ever going to be quiet? Probably not, but noise impact can be reduced if information and data is used intelligently without pressure from inaccurate and exaggerated claims. Will more lawsuits help to control traffic in and out of the airport? Not likely, and they will further deplete the limited resources the town has available for airport operations.
Mr. Cohen’s vaguely conciliatory tone belies the fact that he proposes more legal challenges to be undertaken by the town to force the Federal Aviation Administration to allow restrictions to air traffic and airport operations. I have some sobering news for you, Mr. Cohen. If by “opposing views” you include the airport community, it is highly unlikely that you will get any support for noise abatement initiatives that do not include airport maintenance and repair, and the town obviously does not have the funds available to accomplish what is needed without Federal Aviation Administration assistance.
In a study of East Hampton taxpayers in 2010, paid for by the East Hampton Aviation Association, to determine support for F.A.A. funding, 88 percent were in favor of accepting federal assistance for airport repairs, 77 percent for noise abatement, and 76 percent for safety improvements such as deer fencing. Overall, support for requesting F.A.A. funds was better than four to one.
In his final statement, Mr. Cohen promises that failure to implement his ideas [will mean] “endless legal and political battles which may lead to rash action that will unnecessarily impose great harm to many residents.” Endless legal and political battles? What else is new? Sounds like a declaration of war. Care to explain what rash action and from whom you expect it?
The only hope for a solution beneficial to all concerned parties is to have a town board with the commitment and resolve to seriously address the problems without being intimidated by threats of legal action and interference by the airport’s long-time opponents, who we are all familiar with. Very obviously the current supervisor and deputy supervisor have shown their inability to follow through on their initial promise to move ahead to address airport needs. Perhaps East Hampton taxpayers need to pay close attention to the next slate of potential board members soon to surface and what they promise for a solution to airport problems, and who they get their support from.
On the Shelf
March 10, 2013
A pompous scoundrel and a miscreant have decided not to seek re-election (it really has been decided for them and we all know that). Obviously they don’t have the “core competencies” for leadership or building consensus.
They will search for every excuse possible to explain away their rejection by us and the dismissal by their own party. They will, however, never consider self-examination.
Perhaps with more time for themselves they will seek the professional counseling so desperately needed. Meanwhile, they must be monitored closely, for there remains time enough to wreak more havoc on East Hampton, as they will surely continue to pursue their own personal interests.
Currently they sit on the shelf of the East Hampton Town Board well past their sell-by date.
FRED J. WEINBERG
Open and Transparent
March 10, 2013
This letter addresses one part of your lead editorial in last week’s Star which criticizes the town budgeting process by attempting to compare it to the processes used by school districts.
The budgeting process used in East Hampton Town over the last three years is as open a process as allowed by law.
Town Law sections 104 and 106 require the budget officer and supervisor to prepare a tentative budget using input from town department heads. In East Hampton the current administration has gone one step further by inviting the town board liaisons to attend each of the departmental budget meetings for the departments they are assigned. This is not required but desirable in that it opens the process to multiple elected officials and increases input and transparency on a nonpartisan basis.
The meetings with department heads and town board liaisons are crucial to the zero-based budget method which has been used the last three years to develop efficient, effective, and lean spending plans.
The budget officer and supervisor are required, by law, to present a fully drafted budget (that contains a number of elements required by law) to the town clerk by Sept. 30, who passes it on to the town board. The town board then reviews the tentative budget at public work sessions, makes changes, and generates a preliminary budget in accordance with section 107 of town law. Normally the budget is reviewed at two or three public work sessions.
The preliminary budget is then noticed for a public hearing in early November, at which the town board receives comments from the community that it then considers in finalizing the budget for adoption by Nov. 20 in accordance with section 109 of town law.
As you can hopefully see, the first stage of the budget process, by law, mandates the budget officer and supervisor to work to develop the first draft of the budget (the tentative budget). One needs to simply look at how those first drafts have been formulated in East Hampton Town over the last three years — with the input, both on paper and in face-to-face meetings with department heads and other town board members — to realize it is a far cry from what you described in your editorial as “two men in a room.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The tentative budgets have been formulated with many people in the room and with much input from multiple sources.
Look at how those first drafts, which were created through solid zero-based budgeting principles, were refined at public meetings into preliminary budgets that were heard at scheduled and noticed public meetings and voted on by the entire board — all in accordance with town law. Transparency every step of the way.
Contrary to your assertion in the editorial, school districts are not “required to hold public work sessions in creating budgets.” Section 1608 of Education Law only requires one public hearing. A school board can choose to hold public work sessions when creating the annual budget, but there is no requirement. When the 2-percent tax levy cap became law, pressure was created to keep school tax levies and rates low. Prior to the cap many districts chose not to hold many work sessions, or workshops‚ as they are sometimes called, when developing budgets. The 2-percent levy cap has pushed the school budget process more into the open because of the need to make more difficult decisions that require greater vetting in order for the budget to be accepted by the community when voting.
A school board is only required to develop a budget and notice it at least seven days before the required public hearing. That one hearing is required to take place 7 to 14 days prior to the annual meeting where the budget is voted on by the residents of the school district. That is the extent of what is required by law. I suggest you go back and read articles from your own newspaper on school budgets’ development from last year and the five or six years prior to see how often public work sessions were held prior to the public hearing. I think you will find not many in most places.
I can only say that your attempt to diminish the open and transparent manner in which budgets have been formulated in East Hampton Town over the last three years is not only incorrect, it neglects to look at the legal requirements of how municipal budgets must be created. And, in an effort to make an invalid and misleading point on how the current administration has successfully dug the town out of the financial quagmire it inherited on Jan. 1, 2010, your editorial was incorrect on the requirements of how school budgets are formulated.
With respect to the town budget officer being an appointee and thus some pawn of the supervisor, let me say that by law the supervisor is actually considered the budget officer of the town and is permitted to appoint someone (who is given the appointed title of budget officer) to assist him or her on budgets and other financial matters in an effort to bring expertise, experience, and perspective to the financial and management table.
A budget officer being appointed and serving under the pleasure of the supervisor is similar to having a comptroller who by law (Section 20 of town law) serves a two-year term at the pleasure of the town board. Both are appointed positions with potentially limited tenures, that recognize the need for the elected board to have the authority to bring in people as needed who have experience and expertise to assist with one of the most important functions in municipal government — finance.
I have served as a budget officer in East Hampton, a comptroller in the Town of Brookhaven, and the business manager (a Civil Service position) in the Sag Harbor School District, and I can tell you all three positions are very similar, have the same objectives, and are performed by professionals whose goal it is to serve the public in the most beneficial way possible.
I understand you have some leeway in drafting editorials, but they should be based on some truth, fact, and reality. I will try to help whenever possible.
Town of East Hampton
For a Town Manager
March 10, 2013
I was disappointed by your recent editorial withholding your support for a town manager government because “it could consolidate power and put residents at a greater remove from government.”
The Village of East Hampton has a village administrator, quite akin to a town manager, and it appears to have neither of these problems. In contrast, our town government has suffered under successive administrations. Our town supervisors and council members work hard and want to do their best, but our current form of town government is better suited to a time of less complex technical problems. Well-meaning citizens who have a desire to hold elective office generally have little in their professional background, and limited time to learn, to prepare them to understand the increasingly complex and technical issues they are expected to solve. A professional town manager, serving at the pleasure of the board, would have fuller knowledge and a legacy understanding of very complex issues. With a town manager in place, our citizen council members can better provide thoughtful policy guidance, a task more suited to their talents and backgrounds.
The Group for Good Government has called for a discussion to consider moving to a town manager/administrator exercising day-to-day executive authority and a town board exercising general policy-making authority. I urge you to please carefully study and reconsider your verdict. Having done so, I feel confident you will join with the League of Women Voters in strongly advocating for a town manager form of government for the Town of East Hampton.
Politics for Life
March 9, 2013
Well it seems that Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman wants to run for East Hampton Town Supervisor again. The last time he ran in 1999, I had met him prior to the election at the Farmhouse restaurant one evening along with its owner at the time, who is now deceased, Fred Lieberman. I remember Fred asking Jay what he thought his chances were of winning while running as a Republican. Jay responded, “I’m going to run as an Independent. This way I stand a better chance of getting in.”
Well as we all know he turned out to be a Republican in sheep’s clothing!
Now he is an Independent legislator who is going to run as a Republican for the East Hampton Town Supervisor’s office. I am sure if it would benefit him, he would run as a Democrat or maybe even on the Socialist Labor Party ticket.
I decided after that first meeting, I didn’t trust him and it seems I was right, he’s flip-flopping again and the only one’s interest he has in mind is his own. He will say what he thinks you want to hear just to ensure he has a job in politics for life and we all know when politicians are lying, we see their mouths moving, so please remember this come next Election Day should he be on one of the tickets.
CAPT. KEN RAFFERTY Sr.
One Election Day
March 11, 2013
To the Editor,
I just received a self-promoting notice from our Assemblyman Thiele informing us that he is working “to improve the elections and our democracy.” He suggests increasing the time allowed to vote from one day to 14 for a general election and seven days before a primary.
I am old enough to remember when you had to register to vote every year in October to vote in November. That was changed so that you only had to register once provided you did not move and voted regularly. Great improvement, right? Well, what that has created is voting rolls that are seldom checked and have voters listed in districts they haven’t lived in for some time. Now we are going to increase the chance for fraud by giving people two weeks to vote? And since we do not have to prove we are who we say we are, we now have two weeks to cheat. This law should be called the incumbents’ security act.
People in some countries risk getting shot or blown up to vote; we can’t be inconvenienced a little to vote. We will camp out for days to get the new Harry Potter book or tickets to a Stones concert, but we can’t spend a little time on line to elect our representatives. Perhaps the increased loosening of the voting rules in some states has allowed the current crop of politicians to get elected. For years we elected Washington, Adams, Lincoln, and other true patriots and statesmen in the one election day permitted. If they want to shorten the wait time to vote they should increase the number of election board workers. I worked on the Montauk elections a few years. The number of voters was minuscule, the boredom was intolerable. We sat around trying not to fall asleep.
This proposal is a bad law and should be defeated. Write your representatives and tell them not to vote for this increased chance for fraud.
The Anthropocene Club
March 6, 2013
To the Editor:
Nature Conservancy scientist: Bury Thoreau.
Actually, what Peter Kareiva, chief scientist of the Nature Conservancy, said was, Let Thoreau Go. The former Goldman Sachs executive also wants to invite loggers into his living room, thinks nature recovers easily from being raped, wants to protect “nature’s services” for people, not nature for its own sake or for ecological and evolutionary values, doesn’t think some endangered species need to be saved, thinks the purpose of environmental protection is to serve strictly human needs, and welcomes the “Anthropocene” as warmly as his sponsors, Stewart Brand and the Breakthrough Institute, have welcomed him.
Let’s put aside Kareiva’s opinions for now and try to understand where he fits into the bigger picture. We know that the Nature Conservancy gets big corporate bucks. What those bucks are buying is what counts. They are buying the opinions and status of a purportedly credible qualified scientist with one of the country’s leading conservation groups — and they are already employing these for their own propaganda campaigns. Every time you read an ad placed by Exxon or Monsanto about how they are working their keisters off to help feed the poor of the world or heat our homes, you are reading the justification for ecological destruction stamped with the Kareiva/Conservancy seal of approval. Every time you see a corporation boasting of how it is improving human well-being, you are reading what Kareiva has said and believes. And what the Nature Conservancy believes.
The supporters of the “Anthropocene” do not believe in ecological doomsday. They don’t believe anything seriously threatens humans or life on earth or the planet. They believe that nature exists for humans alone. They believe that the purpose of the conservation of land and resources is to serve human needs. For them, as opposed to what Darwin told us, humans are the pinnacle, the measure of success, the supreme master, and as such have the right to dominate the entire earth for their own needs. They believe that the impact of this domination is minimal and easily addressed, because human technology can readily deal with any adverse side effects, which in any case will be trivial. The word “ecosystem” has been discarded by Kareiva and the Anthropocene cheerleaders. The new term is “ecosystem services.” Animals, plants, and ecosystems will now be judged only by what they can provide to humans. If they do not provide such services, they will be sacrificed.
It is not surprising that Stewart Brand (who famously said “We are as gods and we had better get used to it”) and the Breakthrough Institute (Nordhaus and Shellenberger) have joined the Anthropocene Club. For them, there is no ecological crisis that humans cannot solve. In fact, they deny there is any crisis at all. The Breakthrough Boys say that our biggest problem is how to restore prosperity to everyone. They think maybe, just maybe, that the Amazon forests should be saved, but nothing else really matters.
All of this is sweet music to corporate destroyers and polluters. They have been given the green light by prominent self-promoting snake oil salesmen. For them, there is nothing more valuable than being told that everything they are doing is actually good for the earth. After decades of withering attacks from the environmentalists, finally they have found sources in the conservation field that support their work and goals. They now have important sources of good news to counteract and rebut the bearers of bad news.
This is Kareiva’s accomplishment, if one can call it that. It led to a couple of resignations from the Nature Conservancy board, but it is unlikely that the organization is going to do anything to alienate their corporate donors. They already have some crimes on their hands with regard to lands donated to them which they then turned over to corporate exploitation, in exchange for some tidy sums no doubt.
What better way to keep those megabucks flowing than have their chief scientist put icing on the cake and ensure their nest egg for the future? Whatever salary Kareiva gets, he is earning it handily. His services to the Conservancy are priceless; he has put his own price on the earth, some of whose parts are, to Kareiva, worthless. Will someone on the Nature Conservancy board compare its mission statement to what Kareiva has stated and realize that they are in conflict? Or will silence, accompanying dreams of deep corporate pockets, become the new anthem of the Nature Conservancy?
Pipeline Is Disastrous
March 11, 2013
On Feb. 17, I answered the call to go to Washington D.C. for the Forward on Climate rally, which was spearheaded by 350.org. The bus (one of many that went from New York City and Long Island) was packed to the gills with people of all ages and backgrounds.
In the seat behind me were the two people who were the main reason for my willingness to get up at 5:30 a.m. on a bitterly cold winter day to make the 7 a.m. bus from Brooklyn’s Barclay Center to the rally in D.C., stand freezing in the whipping wind to hear, among others, Bill McKibben, Van Jones, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and the billionaire private equity investor and founder of Farallon Capital Management, Tom Steyer, exhort the swelling crowd on the historic importance of the rally (the largest climate rally ever), and then march a frigid mile or so to the White House.
Those two people were my son and my 8-year-old granddaughter. They will bear the brunt of climate change. (And for you aging baby boomers like me out there: have you thought of what it will be like to be old and frail with extreme weather disasters coming ever faster and fiercer?)
After the speeches, we marched to the White House. “Can he hear us?” my granddaughter asked me. “Yes,” I answered, “he lives there. He’s inside.” But I was wrong. Obama wasn’t inside and he wasn’t listening. He couldn’t. He was in Florida playing golf with key players in the oil, gas, and pipeline industries. Just a few weeks after declaring in his inaugural address, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Obama seemed to deliberately snub the very people who have his back, should he take real action on the climate.
Whether he meant it as a snub or not, Obama telegraphed some disturbing optics with that Florida junket. (Ironically, in a few decades, the Floridian Yacht and Golf Club will likely be no more, buried under rising seas.) And his decision on the pipeline may well define his legacy for generations.
From an economic, scientific, and moral standpoint there is no justification for the Keystone XL pipeline. The proponents of the pipeline claim an economic benefit, but it is disastrous from the standpoint of opportunity cost — the cost of not investing in clean energy because we are investing in dirty energy that has an extremely limited lifetime. That’s because we are running out of fossil fuels — we will either end our use of them sooner, and survive, or later, and die, as a result of the ecocide they cause. We simply can’t afford to continue sinking capital into a dying industry, thereby diverting resources from the clean energy economy that could ensure our very survival. The more capital put into huge fossil fuel projects, the less political and economic willingness to abandon them — as abandon them we must. And the less resources to scale up the clean energy industry in time to avert — or mitigate — catastrophic climate change.
Another economic cost are the so-called “external costs‚” costs that are external to the fossil fuel industry, which is causing them, but internal to the rest of us and all future generations. Climate change has already cost the U.S. economy and its government hundreds of billions of dollars, from devastating drought to floods to hurricanes and other extreme weather disasters. We here on Long Island know well the toll in mortality and treasure Hurricane Sandy caused. That’s only the beginning.
These externalities have no economic justification. The XL pipeline will result in a few thousand temporary jobs while destroying hundreds of thousands of other jobs and drawing resources away from millions of potential jobs in clean energy. Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy completely misses this point. Many think he will go ahead and permit the Keystone XL pipeline. But doing so will send exactly the wrong message.
The thousands massed in front of his residence were sending Obama their own historic message: that the people will hold his feet to the fire. They will not be placated by pretty speeches, while the president tries to play both sides of the climate game. He’s either on the side of the people or on the side of the polluters; there is no middle ground anymore. Carbon fuels must be left underground. The world must leap forward on the climate.
March 5, 2013
To the Editor:
President Carter, in 1980, naively allowed Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to flush his prisons directly into south Florida in what became known as the Mariel boatlift.
South Florida suffered a spike in murder and mayhem as Cuban criminals victimized innocent Americans and ended up in our prisons. We just witnessed Mr. Obama’s “Mariel moment.”
Our president’s cynical decision to release up to 10,000 criminal aliens, not American citizens incarcerated for minor crimes, is a calculated political ploy designed to hurt Republicans while pandering to amnesty advocates.
The Obama Administration enjoys releasing deportable aliens. They’ve done it before with disastrous results.
According to the Congressional Research Service, between 2008 and the middle of 2011, there were 7,283 deportable aliens released. From this cohort, there were 16,226 subsequent crimes committed including 19 murders, 142 sexual assaults, and thousands of drunk-driving offenses and drug crimes.
Representative Robert Goodlatte of Virginia, chair of the Judiciary Committee, said, “It’s abhorrent that President Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration. By releasing criminal immigrants on to the streets, the administration is needlessly endangering American lives.
With the careless release of criminal aliens for political gains, Mr. Obama has proven beyond any doubt that he can’t be trusted on immigration-related matters. Congress must firmly reject so-called “comprehensive immigration reform” and demand an enforcement-based policy that protects American citizens in the workplace and on the streets.
LYNDA A.W. EDWARDS
The Right to Vote
March 8, 2013
To the Editor,
The Supreme Court’s debate on the extension of the Voting Rights Act demonstrates the absolute need for the act to not only be renewed but its protections to be strengthened. The act, in essence and section 5 in particular, is aimed at protecting everyone’s right to vote. A constitutional right, that has been and still is abused in myriad forms. Yet, different from every other constitutional right, because the absolute essence of a democracy is the capacity of the population to vote. No vote, no democracy. If one stretches the interpretation (see Scalia), then the act of inhibiting someone’s right to vote is akin to treason.
The measure of any democracy is that people exercise their right to vote. The U.S.S.R. used to flaunt its democratic bonafides because voting was obligatory and turnout was always close to 100 percent. Our turnout is in the 60th percentile and sometimes lower. It is the obligation of every democratic government to expand the voting rolls on one hand and to battle against any efforts to limit them.
Voting rights have always been a congressional obligation. When the voting rights bill came up for an extension in 2006 more than 6,000 pages of testimony were presented to make the case for extension. The vote was overwhelmingly for extension. The case was obvious beyond question.
Since 2006, the voting rolls have been increased despite a relentless attack on voter legitimacy. We moved away from poll taxes and on-site literacy tests to voter IDs and more subtle impediments. The Voting Rights Act was designed to prohibit these changes by obligating communities, cities, and states that have been identified as flagrant violators to get government approval for any changes in the registration process. Section 5 puts the burden on the communities to prove the changes are valid. Without section 5, individuals or groups could still sue for infringements of their rights but the burden would now shift to the individuals to prove discrimination. Ass-backwards is too kindly put.
In a fascist state undesirable groups are identified and eliminated. When the Supreme Court oversteps its mandate to interfere in congressional obligations it begins to border on fascism. But when it fantasizes on the cold realities of voter discrimination, in the face of the accumulated evidence, what else can one call it? Voter discrimination is so obvious and blatant that for intelligent men not to observe it brings their motives into question.
Why does the court take up this issue when seven years ago the law was almost unanimously extended by Congress? Clearly the rise in nonwhite voters makes a certain political party very nervous. Does our supposedly impartial court genuflect to this party? Are we talking about protecting and expanding the rights of the Constitution? Or are we talking about the last breaths of the old right-wing elite (see fascism) that sees their world coming to an end and are petrified of a country whose constitution mandates that every man and woman, no matter what color, race, or creed, really has the right to vote?
The Looking Glass
March 8, 2013
I guess it’s time to review the Obama presidency through the looking glass of the Hannitys and Limbaughs of the world. This Socialist Obama, this anti-capitalist, incompetent, lazy, golf-playing, dark-skinned boy president, who just refused to fit the negative straw-man posture designed for him by right-wing jerkoffs, including some here in East Hampton, and further failed to preside over the projected destruction of America as we know it.
But he has done the following:
1. Killed off our jihadist tormentors by the hundreds, killed their leader, kept us safe from domestic terrorist violence,
2. Doubled the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a new high,
3. Reduced unemployment to 7.7 percent,
4. Allowed corporations to increase their profits to historic highs,
5. Strengthened the auto industry,
6. Saved the major insurance company of the world, A.I.G.,
7. Fought two wars with distinction and intelligence,
8. Ended the longest war in American history,
9. Fought for and achieved gay and lesbian equality in the armed forces,
10. Renewed women’s right to be free of violence and obtain equal pay,
11. Been elected for a second time with a large margin of popular votes,
12. Devastated and wrecked the anti-populist, obstruction-oriented Republican political machine,
13. Presided over an economic recovery from a tsunami of financial disasters,
14. Stayed loyal to the Chicago Bulls.
Send all negative commentary to the foregoing to Fox Network,
RICHARD P. HIGER