Letters to the Editor: 01.02.14

Our readers' comments

People Step Forward
    December 22, 2013

Dear David,
    On Nov. 21 I had revision surgery on my knee. The really different thing in this second-time-around operation for me is now I live alone. My children have been a great support during this time and have done what they were able to do within the confines of their work and family responsibilities. Thus I have had to rely on my neighbors in my Clearwater Beach area.
    Betsy Ruth, the East Hampton librarian, has been a godsend. First she collected my mail every day while I was away in the hospital and rehab, a total of 14 days. This was important because my daughter Ruth, who drove me home from Burke in White Plains, has spent  minimal time here and wouldn’t know the post office from the high school. Fourteen days equals bags and bags of mail. Ms. Ruth happily picked me up from my twice-a-week blood tests and facilitated my garbage disposal trips to the dump.
    Also, Carolyn Abrams-Dyer and Joe Giannini chauffeured me around East Hampton. The town’s transportation services squired me to and from physical therapy with my taskmaster Erik Petersen even taking me to Buckley’s to purchase my live Christmas tree, so Greg Condon, another Clearwater Beach resident, could deliver it to my door. Sue and Teri deserve a tip of my hat.
    So, how does anyone live in East Hampton and survive when they can’t drive and are struggling with a physical disability? People in the community step forward and become your family. Thank God and all those people.


One of the Best
    December 27, 2013

To the Editor,
    I read with great interest your cover story on outgoing Supervisor Bill Wilkinson in last Thursday’s edition of The Star. Too bad the end of T.E. McMorrow’s story was cut off by a real estate ad.
    In part, my interest stemmed from the fact that I played a large role in Mr. Wilkinson’s decision to run for local office in the first place. I remember telling him during his first trial effort six years ago that if he were elected supervisor, he could take the summers off. Though I said this partly in jest, I figured it might pique his interest enough to bring him out of his private-sector consulting job.
    I knew from the outset that Bill had an earnest desire to make a positive contribution to local government, but I also sensed that his business background and personality would not make him the most adroit politician. Bill’s background was managing personnel on a large scale, not spending time putting a positive spin on policy decisions.
    To his credit, Bill did in four years what he said he would do — he stabilized East Hampton Town financially and made difficult decisions regarding the size and scope of town government. He never asked the people of East Hampton to like him; his priority was to run the town like a business and put sentiment in the background.
    Though Bill’s sometimes-abrasive manner as head of the town put some people off, there was a softer side to him that was never manifested in public. The morning after the Montauk Fish Dock suffered a disastrous fire in May 2012, Bill was there to help us clean up the charred remains. When Theresa Quigley’s daughter injured herself in the Amagansett surf, Bill spent hours (if not days) with the family as they tried to deal with the event. Every time I saw Bill riding around Montauk with his black Lab, Sophie, in the front seat beside him, I sensed that he had taken time off the helmet and shoulder pads necessary to maneuver through Town Hall and was being a different person.
    East Hampton Town has had a number of notable supervisors, each one of them unique in their own way. My grandfather Perry Duryea Sr. served during the Hurricane of 1938 and helped the town regroup after the storm. Judy Hope, the consummate politician, swept into office 30 years ago and changed the direction of the town. Gene Lester was the custodian. Mary Fallon the pragmatist. And Tony Bullock the brash young authoritarian.
    In Bill Wilkinson we had an officeholder who pursued his objectives regardless of his popularity ratings. Rough around the edges, yes, but in my estimation, time and events will prove Bill to be one of the best town supervisors East Hampton has ever had.


Not a Single Hour
    December 28, 2013

To the Editor,
    They have taken away our silence.
    It’s 4:45 on a beautiful, unusually warm December Saturday evening after the sun has long since set.
    It’s 8:30 on a snowy December morning.
    It’s 9 a.m. after four inches of rain the day prior, with 30 miles per hour winds blowing in December.
    What is the common denominator — the constant whining of leaf blowers. There have been weeks this fall where not a single hour of quiet from 8 a.m. until dark has existed.
    The new aesthetic seems to be the blowing of leaves in wooded areas followed by the placement of hardwood mulch. This scorched earth policy removes the best nutrients for trees, scrubs, and beneficial soil insects, not to mention the pollution, use of fossil fuels, airborne allergens, and dirt issues.
    There must be a better way.


An Inhumane Agenda
    December 26, 2013
To the Editor:
    It was appalling to learn that a tentative plan is in place to kill thousands of deer across Brookhaven and the East End using trained snipers to manage the growing population. The plan, which would also include bow hunters to come within 150 feet of private residences, rather than the 500-foot current regulation, is extremely dangerous, and perhaps deadly.
    Rather than create an inhumane agenda to deal with the growing deer population, why were methods not in place all along to inhibit the expansion of this docile species across eastern Long Island? Deer culling, the management of a deer population in a certain area using birth control vaccines, has been successful in national parks for years. Instead, we choose to have hunters hanging from trees in the dark, targeting innocent animals. Rather than tout this plan, we should be ashamed to even present it.


Killing Spree
    Sag Harbor
    December 10, 2013

To the Editor,
    I would like to go on record that I am totally opposed to the Sagaponack Village outlay of $15,000 to participate in the killing spree of innocent animals.
    We took everything away from these animals. They have very little land left. They have to forage for their food and get run over in the process, but that is not enough — now we plan to kill them by the thousands.
    They have never attacked or harmed human beings, unlike some other animals, and if this is about the supposed fear of Lyme disease then we might as well anticipate killing birds, raccoons, bunnies, and other species, who all could carry it.
    If, however, it is about reproduction of the breed, then why can we not spend the money on some form of sterilization?


No Sense at All
    Shelter Island
    December 26, 2013

To the Editor:
    This deer slaughter being perpetuated on the East End by the Long Island Farm Bureau is yet another example of government at its worst. The farm bureau, seeing a little pot of money dribbling down from the federal level, grabbed it up and immediately set off to make themselves the voice of expertise on deer management, etc., when in reality it is like the 4-Poster program which has failed miserably on Shelter Island — but not before releasing tremendous amounts of deadly Permethrin into our estuaries, putting an already precarious Peconic Bay estuary at further risk of algae blooms, dead spat, seaweed, and a host of other issues. But that’s another story. Or is it?
    Now we have Joseph M. Gergela purporting to be an expert in deer herd management, bringing in “expert” sharpshooters to try and kill 3,000 does, using, get ready for this, .243-caliber rifles, all in areas where, no matter how secluded, people, property, and other wildlife are going to be at risk.
     I’m a hunter and have been my whole life. A .243-caliber rifle bullet produces a velocity of 2,960 feet per second with a 100-grain projectile from a 24-inch barrel. Think about that, and the power associated with it. It will shoot over half a mile in a second. Should it pass through a deer that it hits, which it will, ricochet off an object, or any number of other possible scenarios, the chances are that a house, car, animal not in its sights, child or adult out for a walk, will and easily can be hit.
    Needless to say, from that perspective alone it is an absolutely insane idea. But there’s more.
    The deer herds now are under such great stress that unlike years ago when I was a kid hunting deer out here, does would have one fawn each spring, usually sometime around May. Now, due to the stress they are under, twins are the norm, and if you watched the herds this year, you saw fawns being born all through the summer, right up until August. My point is that even if these bureaucrats purporting to be deer experts kill 1,000 does out here, that number will only quickly be replenished by births in 2014. The plan simply cannot work, and is about money, real estate values, and bureaucrats grabbing for little pots of money that the feds offer to them.
    What will work? Let the hunters, using bows and shotguns with slugs, thin the herds out and make their limits more liberal. Also, pay local people to dress the deer and then distribute it to food pantries, or, as they do on Shelter Island, put it in a freezer at a location like the landfill and let people help themselves.
    We have to stop thinking that we can control nature. Each time we try, it backfires on us, and this is going to be no different should it go forward. Instead of bringing out a bunch of well-meaning (I hope) “sharpshooters”(what constitutes a sharpshooter anyway?), sit down with local hunting and sportsmen’s groups, politicians, and environmentalists, and work out a plan to thin the herd safely and responsibly.
    This plan is doomed to fail and puts all involved in it at great risk of a serious liability lawsuit if someone gets hurt, or a house gets shot.
    There are better ways to spend that money, and you won’t need anywhere near all of it. Create some local jobs for hunters who can butcher deer and introduce people to the benefits of eating venison. You could also buy slugs for the hunters to offset their costs.
    But sharpshooters, firing dangerous rifle loads in what is now a suburban area, makes no sense at all.

Capt. Bill Smith

Planned Bloodbath
    East Hampton
    December 26, 2013

To the Editor:
    When pro-wildlife groups and hunters are both against an issue, you know it must be a real stinker. The issue in question? The decision by East Hampton town officials to virtually massacre the local deer population.
    Who are town officials listening to, I wonder? Certainly not residents, who are doing everything humanly possible, expressing their horrified outcry at town meetings, writing letters to newspapers, signing petitions, and filing a lawsuit, all in a desperate attempt to prevent this hideous idea from becoming reality. And town officials are certainly not listening to reason. Why launch this hideous attack on the deer at a time when their populations are actually decreasing?
    At last summer’s village meeting, when this nefarious plot was first announced, the mayor claimed there was an “epidemic.” Citizens were suffering from pestilence in the form of Lyme disease, babesiosis, and who knows what.  That the only way to stop the “epidemic” was to kill deer. 
    I was a little confused. I’m no fan of disease, having had several myself.  But I had never blamed an animal before. When my cat got fleas, I treated him with flea killer; no one suggested I kill the cat. 
    Besides, I wondered, aren’t medical or public health officials supposed to declare epidemics, not mayors?
    As I have since learned, white-footed mice are primary carriers of ticks.   Why have our fearless leaders not declared war against the mice population? 
    Maybe the answer is here: the mayor reassured those at the meeting last summer that in the first onslaught of deer killing, the shooters were going to be sent to “hotspots”; that is, areas around farms where deer were destroying crops.
    Now let me get this straight. I would think that if this were an “epidemic,” shooters would be sent to residential areas where people live who are getting sick. But no, commercial areas seem to be a priority. Which leads me to believe that the issue is not this trumped-up “epidemic” claim, but something else. 
    Perusing various accounts in newspapers, it finally becomes apparent just who town officials are listening to — this is the brainchild of the Long Island Farm Bureau executive, Mr. Joe Gergela, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Okay‚ I get it now. It all makes sense. This is about money, not the health and safety of residents. The whole notion is being sold to residents under the pretense that they are doing this for your benefit.
    If nothing yet persuades you to step up and attempt to stop this planned bloodbath, I beg you, ponder this passage in a book by Rob Dunn, a biology professor at North Carolina State University:
    “I am reminded of an apparently true story of China’s Chairman Mao and the sparrows. Mao did not like the sparrows of China. They bothered him (as did three other ‘pests,’ mosquitoes, flies, and rats). . . . So he did what other man-god rulers might have done; he had everyone in the country go outside into their backyards and beat pots and pans to make noise so that the sparrows would fly in fear. The banging continued for days as the birds hovered, unable to suppress their fear, until they fell dead by the millions, confirming the power of Mao relative to nature. But nature is politically neutral and so the next year, the locusts, once eaten by the sparrows, were more abundant than they had ever been. A plague of such magnitude ensued that the fields were quiet except for the sound of chewing. Thousands of people starved. Trying to eradicate nature always bears consequences.”
    Killing our deer may have unintended consequences. East Hampton Town and Village officials should think about what they don’t know. And maybe at the same time ask themselves why they have chosen to behave like a Communist dictator.


Extreme Action
    December 27, 2013

To the Editor,
    I just returned from the East Hampton Village Board meeting, Dec 20, concerning the deer population. I would like to say a few more words.
    Statistics don’t lie. Authorities often argue that the science is not exact, as an excuse to ignore results of scientific studies in favor of their own personal opinions and agendas. But on the contrary, statistics is a powerfully accurate tool for measuring natural and man-made phenomenon. In fact, no science is exact in the sense of black and white. These mathematical tools were specifically invented to measure the gray areas that make up the greater part of our natural existence and environment.
    The remainder of this letter is in reference to two statistical surveys, conducted in 2006 and 2013, designed to count the deer population in the Town of East Hampton. The 2006 survey was a distance (roadside) survey that determined a population of 3,293. The second survey was an infrared aerial survey conducted by a company called Vision Air in March 2013 that determined the deer population of the town to now be 877, an approximate seven-year time window. The town has also been changing demographically in recent years. Significant community demographic changes reap complicated effects. Statistics can measure these effects and answer important questions.
    The survey results point to a significantly decreasing deer population, not an increasing one. This result is also supported by a significantly increasing harvest, or hunt, since 1990. The aerial survey report depicts a graph showing the harvest by hunters starting at 70 in 1990 and steadily increasing to 546 and 525 in 2011 and 2012. These harvest numbers also help explain a decreasing population.
    The result of the aerial survey is accurate, an approximation within a reasonable boundary. The surveyors noted that evergreens can block the detection signal and therefore miss some animals, but the errors that they calculated still put the population at around 1,000, which is far less than the 2006 number. Therefore, the 2012 harvest of 525 deer represents an approximate 33 percent cull.
    Unfortunately, the authorities decided that the information gathered by Vision Air does not carry enough weight and more action is needed. Our premise is that the hunters appear to be doing the job. The sharpshooters are simply an unneeded and extreme methodology. And there should be a referendum with respect to these kinds of decisions.
    My family has lived in Amagansett’s Stony Hill area for 17 years, a prime habitat for deer. Over that time we have also sensed a decrease in the deer numbers. I hope the town will be careful in its final plan and pay closer attention to this data. Hunters are significantly reducing the numbers of deer without a cull.
    If the cull goes through and the hunters keep up their pace at about 500 per year, there will be few deer left in East Hampton by 2014. Ironically, similar stories are being published about other animal groups in the United States, such as the wolf.
    Also, remember that every action has a reaction, especially in nature. The methodology of the proposed cull sends a signal to the community, and the surrounding nature. The newspapers and Internet are filled with stories about current disturbances to wildlife. This extreme action against the deer is one more.
    If you also noticed lesser numbers of deer in your area, do them a service and speak out. The survey report can be found on the front page of the town website: town.east-hampton.ny.us  under Deer Management Plan.


Means to the End?
    December 23, 2013

To the Editor:
    Unfortunately, I do not reside in your beautiful backyard. I raised my family of six in Hauppauge, which is where we decided to settle. After my son decided to head east, I wished we had settled out east. I try to visit as much as I can. He keeps promising to get me into the Maidstone golf course, that’s the only reason I keep visiting him. (Only joking, son!)
    We spoke for a few hours on my last visit and to me he seems to be headed in the right direction, finally. He loves the East End and works part-time at the Catholic Guardian in East Hampton. His personal matters are his business, but he’s doing good things for himself as well as for others. I commend him. We spoke about communities and the New York Giants. The football discussion was quite mundane, but I was intrigued by his Ellis Island depiction of “the Hamptons.”
    My son made it sound like people of all nationalities were gathering in an undisclosed area east of Manorville. As they dismember they are handed Illinois or out-of-state license plates and instructions from others who have previously made the voyage. These instructions include a sample section 8 form, disability information forms in bold print, work for cash, no checks; and do not carry proper ID. Get job applications at 7-Elevens or railroad stations. Am I understanding him correctly? Please let me know.
    Some of our more recognized, crustier Old World families (Rockefellers, Kennedys, Hearsts, etc.) have made wealth their business. Is it legally, illegally, or illegally legal cashing-in, plain and simple? Modern-day housing options have improved from 80 people carless under one roof, to 16 people with cars (16 of them). In fact, it looks as if things couldn’t get any better for the “indentures.”
    The real problem is the aspirations of business owners and people who pay cash to make more cash. East Hampton and Montauk, two areas I know best, thanks to my son, are both spectacular areas. Is this the means to the end? Or an end? Hats off to the farmers!
    In closing, perhaps I misunderstood him. If indeed I did, I sincerely apologize. More importantly, to Bill and his many friends, nice knowing all of you. Happy and healthy holidays. Best wishes, carry on, this is your home!
    Thanking you in advance.

    P.S. Town Board? He said some good life arriving!

Universal Health Care
    East Hampton
    December 23, 2013

Dear David:
    Christmas is a time when charitable giving and care for loved ones and friends is heightened in all of us. The act of giving is healing for the giver and the receiver. Although most people are charitable, most also prefer to choose rather than to be told, let alone required, to give in a particular way.
    All of the Western European demo­cracies have set an example that I believe that we in the United States need to follow — they provide universal health care for all of their citizens. This amounts in essence to a form of public charity which requires the more fortunate, wealthier people to give more for the public good, in the form of paying more to their governments to pay for health care.
    Obamacare requires the wealthier to pay higher premiums to compensate for the assistance given to those who have less, so that they too can have medical-hospital insurance. Paying more is not what most Americans are willing to do. Nevertheless, this is the effect of Obamacare for those Americans who earn over $95,000, the approximate current cutoff point above which families do not receive subsidies for their medical insurance.
    Ironically, at the same time that most people would not want to pay more for their coverage if they earn above $95,000 a year, those same people would say that they don’t want their fellow citizens to be denied the protection that Obamacare affords for everyone: no caps to prevent bankrupting a family that suffers a catastrophic illness, no denial of coverage because of a previously existing condition, coverage for all family members under age 26, coverage for everyone including the 39 million Americans who presently have no coverage, and eliminating unnecessary and pointless but expensive medical procedures that drive insurance premiums up for all of us.
    Almost every American is in favor of these benefits until it hits their own pocketbook. That seems to be where charity stops. At the same time, most American citizens are in favor of Medicare for people over 65 years of age and do not object to the fact that sustaining Medicare requires more than the Social Security contribution made by its beneficiaries. Isn’t Obamacare really the same? I think so.
    Most of the European nations cover all of their fellow citizens with an outlay per capita that is approximately one-half of that incurred in the United States, and people are now living longer in those countries than here.
    There are inequities in the new law that need to be addressed so that a family of four earning more than $95,000 does not have its premiums increased by 50 percent. The solution will be to have the increases for these folks subsidized in a gradual way so as to reduce them. The one-year extension on existing policies that do not comply with the new law will allow time to work this out.
    I believe Americans are at a moral crossroads. Will we become charitable enough so that all people have access to health insurance? Ironically, if we are, the total cost of medical coverage will ultimately come down. In fact, in spite of all the negative propaganda, total medical expenditures have been decreasing since 2010 when the new law went into effect. This is because unnecessary tests and procedures are no longer covered.
    Likewise, if all people are covered, then total medical expenses will decrease nationwide, because people in need of medical care will have insurance and not be forced to go to emergency rooms for ordinary treatment, which studies show to be hugely expensive. And who pays the emergency room bill? We all do, through higher taxes.


For the Greater Good
    Stamford, Conn.
    December 11, 2013

To the Editor,
    A year ago an under-supervised, over-videogamed, Rambo wannabe named Adam Lanza walked, or rather fired his way, into and through Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He shot out a piece of all of our hearts, killing the very young and totally innocent along the way. Now, a year later, the school has been torn down, erased like a bad memory, and lives destroyed both among the living and the dead.
    The Newtown tragedy brought to center stage where we were as a nation, as everyone in America searched for solutions. Were we so politically and socially impudent that we could not come together and save our own children? Newtown gave us a chance to effect change as our country sat at a crossroad. If there was anything good to come out of Newtown let it be that we were willing to act for the greater good.
    So what, if anything, have we accomplished since then to ward off events like this from happening again and are we in better shape than we were a year ago? Here are the facts. So you decide.
    There are four fronts as to why this happened, with each accusing the other three while refusing to be accountable for their own. Let’s start on the home front: parenting. Adam Lanza came from a broken home. No big deal; that’s half of America. But read the just-released report and look at the pictures: a stark room, windows covered with black garbage bags, talk about a bunker mentality. Although he lived in the same house as his mother, he would only communicate with her via email and would not let her into his room. Talk about the animals running the zoo. What on earth was she doing? On top of that, being a gun enthusiast, she maintained an arsenal of her own weapons for “protection” inside that same house. What was she thinking? Obviously she was not and that’s what killed her, along with everybody else that day.
    Next up are violent video games, first-person-shooter games in particular, that are played for hours, even days, literally nonstop to the exclusion of all else. See back to reason one, failed parenting. Tunnel vision on any front is not a good thing, that’s why they call it parenting. Be a parent as to what your kids are doing. The video game manufacturers say it’s just a game, which is like the National Rifle Association saying that guns don’t kill people, people do. Game manufacturers take the same out by saying it’s not the playing, it’s the people.
    Next in line is the N.R.A. A lot of us have been firing weapons since childhood, and the N.R.A., except for one day, is a fine organization. But for many, they can’t help but remember how the head of the N.R.A. came on TV after the Newtown shootings and how he came across to the nation. You had to see the whole thing, and not just news clips, to appreciate how he appeared. It was so jaw-droppingly bad that when they cut back to the two anchormen in the studio afterward, they just stared at each other in dead silence for several seconds, unheard of for television.
    His argument was that it is a changed society that has led to all of this. He seemed to further argue that there have always been a lot of guns around and it is the fault of a more violent and less moral world and he is right about that. But if you accept the fact that something has to be done, then isn’t that making the case for the other side, because it is harder to change morality than it is the mortality rate from some of these weapons. The N.R.A. doesn’t want to change any of these laws, citing the slippery slope theory that once you change a thing. Are we sure that’s true since the slippery slope has had no effect on the changes to drinking ages, driving ages, speed limits, etc.?
    The head of the N.R.A.’s solution to Sandy Hook was to put armed rent-a-cops in our schools. Got to give them an assault rifle too, so it’s a fair fight, right? Who thinks that was a good idea? Didn’t happen. Why? Because then who cares about buying weapons and background checks when you can boost the guard’s Bushmaster rifle before the next bell wakes him up. The latest mass shooting on a naval base in the Washington, D.C., area shows that fighting fire with fire, or firepower with firepower, is not a given solution, since the good guys were armed, too. Is that why the N.R.A. was eerily silent then? Many also believe that it is time to stop using the antiquated Second Amendment, which states the right to bear arms as a weapon to buy any kind of weapon. It was meant more for a time of muskets, not madmen killing children.
    Last and certainly of least help have been our politicians. The N.R.A., while deflecting their own responsibility, were absolutely right in wanting the government to address the mental health side of this, as well as the violent video games. The political powers decided to do neither. Instead they went after the guns, where predictably they failed miserably. They stood up for gun control and the N.R.A. lobbyists made them stand down and in two cases out, as recall elections forced them out of office. So the N.R.A. made its case clear and what politician would want to step on that third rail of politics again?
    So where are we a year later? Politicians want to keep their power. The N.R.A. battles on. Parents want to protect their own, whether they’re monsters or elementary schoolers. And gamers play on. Business as usual.