Letters to the Editor - 06.30.11

Carefully Planned
     East Hampton
    June 27, 2011
Dear David:
    At a recent East Hampton Town Board work session it was announced that the town is panning to enter into an agreement with the Family Service League in which Podell House, a town-owned building, would be leased to that agency. This was touted as a “win-win/public private partnership” because the town will collect the rent, which will be less than the League presently pays. This is supposed to make up for ser­vices that were lost as a result of budget cuts to the town’s Human Services Department.
    Although this seems like a good idea at first blush, there are some problems. The most glaring is the fact that the Human Services Department provided free mental health services to any town resident regardless of income. The Family Service League charges an income-based sliding-scale fee. The last time I checked, no free services were offered. Thus, those who cannot afford to pay (in this economy there are many) must go without, and those seeking reduced fees must lay bare their personal finances (which many people find embarrassing).
    A word about Podell House. This is a town-owned building that until recently housed the adult day-care program. Clients in this program often suffer from serious physical and/or mental disorders (including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia) and require special care. Podell House was well suited to their needs because of easy access to bathrooms with showers and a physical layout that would make it difficult for clients to wander away. The adult day-care program has been moved to the town’s senior center and is housed in the area that had been previously been used by Youth Services (another program that was discontinued due to budget cuts).
    Would it be too cynical to believe that all of this was carefully planned? In the town’s quest for additional income, important free services (i.e., mental health and after-school children’s programs) were eliminated to make room for paying customers? It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to me!

Six-Figure Position
    East Hampton
    June 27, 2011
To the Editor:
    There is a perverse comfort in knowing that the Democrats’ idea of running the Town of East Hampton has not changed. If their first press conference is any indicator, they apparently have learned nothing from the budget-bloated past years of the McGintee administration.
    The campaign has barely begun and I read in all our local papers that at their first press conference last week, the Demo­cratic candidates, Zachary Cohen, Sylvia Overby, and Peter Van Scoyoc, believe this town needs more municipal employees! (“Democrats Call for a Comptroller‚” June 23) For openers, if elected they would hire a “nonpartisan” (whatever that means) comptroller for a six-figure salary, plus benefits and pension. They seem to ignore the fact that, thanks to the McGintee debacle, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli already sits as a watchdog over the town’s finances for free.
    In fact, maybe we can find ourselves a “nonpartisan” comptroller like Mr. DiNapoli. Remember when in the middle of auditing the town because then-Supervisor Bill McGintee and his hand-picked budget officer were under criminal investigation, Mr. DiNapoli chose to endorse the Democratic candidate for East Hampton Town supervisor? Call me cynical, but I don’t believe such a nonpartisan creature exists in a town government setting, or, if he does, then he is busy protecting his own self-interest.
    I think Mr. Cohen is in error when he blithely speaks of replacing the budget officer position with a comptroller. It is my understanding of town law that as a second-class town with a population under 40,000, the East Hampton Town supervisor cannot just go out and create the position of town comptroller. In addition, an East Hampton Town comptroller, if there were one, would not save the costs to the town of outside auditors. It is unimaginable that any town employee, no matter what credentials he or she possesses, would be allowed to do an independent audit of the very financial books and records he or she created for the town. No outside agency would accept such a document.
    The Democratic candidates would also like to hire a town manager or administrative officer. I don’t really understand what this position is because they seem to use the titles interchangeably.
    From what I have read elsewhere about these positions, they would appear to be diametric opposites on a management flow chart, with the town manager at the top and an administrative officer filling an administrative assistant-type role. Nonetheless, if hired, the town would add another high five-figure or low six-figure position to the payroll, along with benefits and pension.
    Not quite finished, the Democratic candidates at their press conference also spoke of hiring more attorneys with different, specialized areas of legal expertise. They tell us that by adding these new hires to the payroll the town will save money. Where have we heard that before? Are there data to support the premise that taking on additional full-time legal staff is less expensive than hiring outside counsel with the required expertise on an as-needed basis? What happens if the candidates are wrong? Do we just fire all the new people? The salaries, benefits, and pensions for these new hires will be paid for by the taxpayers for years to come.
    Democratic watchwords continue: grow, government grow. Pay, taxpayers pay!

Makes Sense
    June 27, 2011
Dear David,
    The announcement by Zach Cohen that, if elected, he will add a comptroller and an administrative officer to East Hampton Town government is a step in the right direction toward maintaining financial and operational stability. Perhaps the cost of these new officers does not have to be completely additive, as suggested.
    The League of Women Voters has pointed out that the operational workload for elected officials would shift to these new operational officers. Consequently the compensation structure for the town supervisor and town board members could be scaled back as their workload is reduced. This makes sense to me and was endorsed by Julia Prince at a Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee meeting.
    I hope that other candidates for election consider adding this to their platforms. As the voting public becomes more aware of the benefits of this type of structure, it may become a deciding factor on Election Day.

    June 26, 20111
To the Editor,
    I would like to thank Joanne Pilgrim for publishing my piece, “Becoming Galileo,” in last week’s Star. As it was a tongue-in-cheek memoir about the frustration of not being taken seriously for what I know as a high-functioning person with Asperger’s syndrome, when I opened the page and saw the error of it being identified as fiction, rather than memoir, I’m sure that any reader of it will appreciate that my loud, verbal response may well have been heard as far away as Shelter Island.
    Thanks again for publishing the piece.

Dog’s-Eye View
    June 21, 2011
Dear David,
    To date, I’ve had various husbands and numerous dogs; I still have a dog. If there were a Hamptons dog training for husbands, I might risk another marital adventure, but there isn’t, so I won’t.
    Thanks to Nikki Wood of Hamptons Dog Training, my 8-month-old mixed breed, Aya, is gearing up for service to children, with all of the love and acceptance that she can muster.
    I am newly learning the world from a canine perspective. I newly respect a dog’s-eye view. If only I had figured that out about the husbands.
    All good things,

Cash Reserves
    East Hampton
    June 27, 2011
To the Editor,
    Many corporations have huge cash reserves that they show no sign of spending. Many of these same corporations have billions overseas which they refuse to bring home without huge tax concessions.
    In an era of 9-percent unemployment, I see more automated checkout lines, clearly a method to avoid hiring and paying workers. No matter what they say in their million-dollar ads, they are not our friends. 

Economic Crisis
    East Hampton
    June 19, 2011
To the Editor,
    The call of Republican leaders to get out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya should be applauded and viewed as a harbinger of possible practical political action in a time of crisis. One shouldn’t think for a second that they are not the same hypocritical scum that they have always been, but who cares? They seem to have grasped the ridiculous nature of our war mentality and the knee-jerk mechanism that gets us into, but rarely out of, these conflicts. While they have rarely wavered from their strict warmonger philosophy, they seem to have left their philosophical rigidity behind and have moved to a saner, more logical approach.
    Now, if they could exercise the same level of suppleness in their approach to the economic crisis this could be a major achievement. Karl Marx understood and repeated incessantly that capitalism will cannibalize itself, that greed and stupidity will overwhelm fairness and intellect as long as governments keep their distance. Marx believed that governments, owned and operated by the capitalists, were incapable of serious regulation. The United States proved him essentially wrong except for the depressions of 1929 and 2009; both crises a function of failed governmental oversight and philosophical rigidity in economic policies.
    So, it is understood that the roots of our current malaise are the heart and soul of free market capitalism without regulation, or Republican orthodoxy. We also know that the Republican Party has had an anti-labor, anti-working class position as a basic tenet: Screw the poor and reward the wealthy. Tax the middle class, not the wealthy, etc. It totally supported the transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top 2 percent.
    So, is it possible, given the shift in its pro-war mentality (stupid and irrational), that the same kind of shift could take place in its economic growth vision? It rails about the deficit because it is clueless about job creation. It blames government regulation and high taxes for economic stagnation when U.S. corporations pay the least amount of taxes than any industrialized country. The U.S. is considered the best and safest place for corporate investments, and they babble stupidly about creating a positive environment when profits and demand are all that matter.
    Could winning in 2012 be enough of an inducement to come out with a plan to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, redo the tax code to shift income into the middle class, and let corporate America fend for itself? Instead of whining about President Obama, provide programs and alternatives. Be positive, not negative. Accept that growth is a function of demand and demand can’t possibly exist without jobs and credit. Stow the crap about deficit reduction, which will result in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs (450,00 so far this year), and support economic expansion through public works and government spending. (The private sector has already bailed on job creation.)
    Alternatively, we will be facing another five years of economic stagnation and pain, and even if the Republicans win next year they are certain to be thrown out the next time around. So, a little courage could put them back in power for another 15 years or they could do what they’ve always done: cleave themselves to the corporate nipple and screw the 98 percent of the country who are suffering from the mess that they created by their old policies.

War Powers
    East Hampton
    June 18, 2011
To the Editor,    
    President Obama’s decision to use drones to attack Qaddafi’s forces fighting  the rebels in Libya is a violation of the United States Constitution. Article 1 section 8 gives Congress the exclusive power to authorize military force. For the president to say as ground troops are not engaged in the fight he does not need Congressional approval, is misleading. There is no difference between using drones to attack those forces and firing ballistic missiles at them. Both are forms of military force.
    As a Republican, I saw it as my duty to constantly e-mail the Bush White House condemning that administration every time it violated Article 1 section 8 of the Constitution.
    Presidents and their staffs, like George Bush and Dick Cheney, and now Barack Obama and the White House staff, become obsessed with being commander in chief. The office of the president has the power to determine how military action is conducted but not the power to instigate military action.
    Congress passed the war powers act to give the president time to react to a military crisis but after 60 days, the president must seek Congressional approval.
    It seems to me that use of the war powers act in the case of Libya is a perversion of the intent of the that act. In initiating drone attacks, President Obama was not reacting to a clear and present danger to our national security.
    Members of Congress have taken the administration to court to halt his action or force him to seek Congressional approval. Most legal scholars believe the Supreme Court will duck the issue.
    I will be interested to see if Demo­crats like the East End Veterans and other critics of the Bush administration will step forward and demand that President Obama seek Congressional approval for his actions in Libya.
    It is time for the public to demand Congressional approval for our engagement in Libya.

Run Amok
    Sag Harbor
    June 16, 2011
To the Editor,
    Capitalism is held up by four pillars: competition, profit, greed, and power, which breeds violence perpetrated by the white collar criminals run amok with no controls. Corporate lobbyists call the shots and write their own loopholes, assisted by members of Congress. You must have made that observation when Wall Street collapsed.
    War is merely an extension of this violence. There is so much money to be made from war and its built-in corruption. Most of those who benefit from military buildups are already rich. In wartime the few make huge profits at the expense of the many.
    What I detest is our soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder sent back to combat as many as five times with pockets full of mind-altering drugs. These are crimes against humanity, slaves of capitalism. Many sources are raising the question: Have we entered a post-capitalist era?
    In peace,