Letters to the Editor: 02.21.13

Our readers' comments

Dogs on the Beach
    East Hampton
    February 18, 2013
Dear David Rattray,
    How unfortunate that East Hampton Village is attempting to remove dog access to our beaches! This is an assault on those of us who respect the rights of all to enjoy peaceful and clean access.
    Perhaps greater emphasis could be placed on monitoring our beaches and assessing steep fines to those who show no regard for others. As a pet owner, I am sure that those of us who enjoy early morning walks with our dogs would gladly assist in helping keep our town a beautiful respite for all!
    Yours truly,

A Walk With the Hound
    East Hampton
    February 18, 2013
Dear Editor,
    I am just one of so many people whose summer days are so wonderfully bookended by a walk with the hound on the beach in the morning and at sunset.
    There have been dogs on our beaches throughout my lifetime in this village. I hope so very much that this movement to end a wonderful tradition does not prevail.
    (And Miss Dix E. Doodle)

Live and Let Live
    February 18, 2013
Dear Editor:
    There are ever-increasing efforts to suburbanize East Hampton. The  recent assault on East Hampton Village’s policy pertaining to dogs on the beach is one such effort.
    Many people are bothered by the behaviors of others; such as trucks and SUVs careening down the beach, the  charred remains of fires streaked through the otherwise clean sand, loud music, rowdy children, balloons harmful to wildlife left on the beach, and, of course, the ubiquitous non-biodegradable  garbage left by humans: the plastic bottle.
    In many suburban communities where people live in congested overdeveloped areas, restrictions have been piled upon restrictions to prevent people from bothering each other and to ensure the sanctity of everyone’s chemically balanced lawns. However, many city dwellers and suburbanites come here to vacation to commune with nature in a way they no longer can in their home communities. I believe the East Hampton Village’s dog ordinance is enlightened, not outdated.
    The East Hampton community has valiantly fought to preserve its history, historic character, and environment.  For centuries, man’s best friend had important jobs helping humans hunt, farm, herd, and the like. Today’s dog is more likely a well-loved family member and companion. The vast majority of East Hampton dogs are well-behaved good citizens‚ whose attentive owners scrupulously pick up after them.
    I walk the beaches or woods every day with my dogs and on the rare occasion when I see someone not pick up, I politely instruct them to do so. Almost always the abhorred violators are visiting tourists or guests. 
    I suspect a majority of residents have a dog as a family member and for many of us, that walk on the beach with our best friend is the best, if not only, exercise we get. There is a joyous community of people and dogs that meets on the beaches in the early morning. I have met many of my closest friends here at the beach in this manner. Many of our dogs enjoy the ocean as much or more than their human partners and their joy has been the subject matter of many of my most popular paintings.
    The answer to the issue of dog waste should be information and enforcement.  As the village has done with beach fires, efforts should be strengthened to inform all people visiting the beaches of the appropriate conduct and the absolute necessity of controlling and cleaning up after their dogs. Perhaps on a trial basis, people could be asked to keep their dogs away from the sand area between the lifeguard stands at Main Beach. Borrowing from the late Mayor Ed Koch, perhaps in addition to the lovely polite signs that currently exist, we could have some new signage saying, Don’t Even Think About Not Picking Up After Your Dog.
    We need to preserve our East Hampton traditions, to live and let live, with respect and consideration for each other, despite our differences.

Not for Man Alone
    February 16, 2013
To the Editor:
    I understand why people may not want dogs on the beach during regular hours in the high season, but to ban dogs altogether is so elitist. Why should people be the only animals allowed to enjoy the beach? Certainly it was not meant for man alone. And, as a regular on the beach throughout the four seasons, I have found man to be the most offensive to one of nature’s most beautiful offerings.
    Having walked along the beach in the morning, I rarely find dog feces, but I often find the filth and garbage that people leave behind, including balloons, paper goods, soda and beer cans, plastic bags and containers, and other unmentionables.
    The most offensive of all are the tire tracks left by the trucks and SUVs that I am unable to pick up and erase as I can of the other garbage. These tire tracks strip the pristine beach of its natural sand formations, and that is much more of an insult to our beaches than anything a dog may leave behind.
    Since when are people the only animal allowed to enjoy nature at one of its finest?

    East Hampton
    February 18, 2013
To the Editor,
    The front-page article in The Star “Dogs May be Reined in at Beaches” (Feb. 14) did a good job highlighting the recent village trustee work session and helped raise public awareness, again, about the fragility of this meaningful privilege of taking man’s best friends to our beautiful and cherished village beaches. Hopefully, year-round residents, summer residents, and many of our weekend visitors for the Presidents Day weekend will have also taken serious note. Unfortunately, all too often, this issue is raised during the winter months when a larger audience, and perhaps most of the offenders, are not here in East Hampton.
    Our beaches are indeed cleaner, according to village trustees, our beach manager, and many local citizens, and efforts over the last 16 years have resulted in improved signage, the availability of dog waste bags, and the printing of the “Dogs on the Beach Year-Round Code of Conduct,” which is distributed though a massive beach parking-permit mailing and available throughout the village. Much of this has been accomplished by a cooperative relationship with the mayor and village trustees who recognize the sensitivity of this issue but also realize that the majority of residents do not want this privilege curtailed or taken away.
    It seems that but a very few residents and trustees wish to curtail this privilege and do not seem to focus with such fervor on other possible abuses of recreational uses of the beaches, such as vehicle driving on the beaches, beach fires, non-dog litter, environmental protection. And, by the way, who is going to pick up after the deer?
    These recent efforts to protect dog privileges have been made through the group beachdogs11937, a three-year-old community- based volunteer group dedicated to educating owners of beach-going dogs in the Village of East Hampton on the rules for safe, polite behavior and to instill an ethic to pick up after your dog and dispose in proper receptacles. The goals of beachdogs11937 continue to be to preserve dog privileges on our beaches, under the existing regulations, and to improve compliance with the regulations. The group was not mentioned in the Star article and perhaps not highlighted enough by me during the recent session.
    It is unclear what precipitated this recent discussion on restricting dogs on our beaches and quite frankly, a more permanent solution is necessary, as this unsettling announcement to either consider once again a ban on dogs on our beaches, or have a leash law on beaches, or restrict hours for dog owners and their beloved pets seems to come up with increasing regularity at very inopportune times of the year about every three years.
    A leash law on the beaches is way too restrictive and unfair, reducing hours for dogs allowed on the beaches for the summer of 2013, especially if permitted vehicles times and beach fires are not changed to same hours as well, would be also unfair. I also believe that it is too late in the year to change these rules as all the brochures are ready to be mailed and also all the signage would need to be changed at great expense to the village. Addressing the issue before Labor Day weekend might be a good idea.
    It is clear also that picking up after one’s dog is not easy to enforce, especially during the winter months, here or in any other municipality, but I would encourage officers to issue fines ($250) rather than just summonses.
    What needs to be done therefore is to write the village trustees and express your concerns and disagreement about the possibility of more regulations for dogs on the beaches AND ensure that dog owners spread the word to other dog owners about the importance of keeping your dogs under control and to pick up and dispose at all times, all year round. Ask your local veterinarians to join the effort, tell real estate brokers to emphasize these regulations to renters and new residents, and continue picking up other waste on the beaches; this will all help.
    Finally, I would strongly suggest also that those in favor of further restrictions for dogs on our beaches provide reasonable suggestions and be at the same time respectful of innocent dogs on the beaches and not be unkind to them or harass or threaten the animals or owners in any way. The beaches are there for all of us to enjoy, not private domains.
    Our East Hampton Village beaches are among the most beautiful in the world, and it is our responsibility to help keep them that way by abiding by all the regulations and respecting each person’s own recreational use of the beaches.
    Letters to the village trustees to voice your concerns and support for no further restrictions on dogs on the village beaches can be sent to  Jlester@easthamptonvillage.org  or handwritten to Village Trustees, 86 Main Street, East Hampton 11937.
    To join and become a volunteer for beachdogs11937, please e-mail beachdogs11937@gmail.com.
    Your participation in monitoring beaches throughout the summer, participating in cleanup days, and donations to help pay for ads in local papers to educate our community is an important contribution and we need your help. There is no Web site yet, simply a mailing address to join.

Best Time of the Day
    East Hampton
    February 18, 2013
Dear Mr. Rattray,
    I am a fourth-generation resident of East Hampton. My great-grandfather settled here in the early 1900s, my grandmother and my father grew up here, as well as myself and my children. Throughout the generations, our family has spent memorable hours walking or playing with our “best friends” on the beaches. For the past 67 years, every day my dog/dogs and I look forward to the best time of our day, which is our cherished time on the beach.
    In all these years, I have never witnessed any such “attacks,” disturbances, or “piles and piles of poop,” as described by those who oppose our right to enjoy the beaches with our dogs, as much as those without a dog.
    The beaches go on and on and on, seemingly forever, and there is abundant space for all to enjoy with respect and consideration for one another. I would hope and plead that the town allow the current restrictions to remain. There are very few people without dogs on the beaches before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. Therefore, the rules seem fair and reasonable as is.
    Personally, if the restrictions become increasingly limited, and certainly if we are banned from the beaches, I will sadly be forced to move from a home and a town loved and enjoyed by my family for generations.
    Thank you for your time and consideration.
    For the Families of William H.
    Woodin, Mary Woode Minor, and
    Charles Minor Jr.

A Human Problem
    East Hampton
    February 15, 2013
To the Editor:
    Sometimes I wonder why I stay in the Hamptons during the summer. It seems at times that the noise never ends. Between the plane and helicopter noise, the blowers and lawn mowers, and all the other chaos that summer brings to the Hamptons, I sometimes feel like I can’t get a moment of peace.
    But then comes the end of the day and at 6 p.m. my dog and I head to the beach. It is beautiful and quiet and the salty air makes us both feel alive. We run around on the beach, we play in the surf, we dig and we walk miles and I remember why I am so fortunate to live in East Hampton. I, like many other dog owners, feel the beach is a privilege and an honor, one to be protected and fought for.
    I keep an eye on my dog and pick up after her. I am so protective of this precious privilege that I also pick up any piles of stray dog poop I may come across, which are rare. I think the owner that does not pick up after their dog is the exception to the rule, not the rule. I am so focused on protecting my rights to my time on the beach with my dog that I never even use the dog bags that are provided to dog owners at the entrance to the beach. I bring my own and use them, as I want to be sure there are always bags there for someone who may have forgotten to bring their own.
    My dog and I walk the beach and she kindly shows me where all the plastic is, which I collect in a big trash bag I bring with me. I can assure you that I find much more garbage of the human kind on the beach than that which is left by dogs. Every day at sunset when we go to the beach we find countless plastic toys and digging tools left by errant children and their parents. Are these people being fined? In addition we find fishing nets and ropes, balloons and string, tampon applicators, cans and bottles, plastic bags, metal wire, empty plastic jugs, and other assorted trash. By the time we get back to the entrance to the beach we are so loaded down with garbage we can barely carry it all.
    This happens every time we go to the beach. If the people that were so concerned about the health of the beach spent less time complaining about dogs and dog owners and more time walking and cleaning up the beaches, we would all live in a kinder, cleaner, and more hospitable environment.
    Dog owners cannot take their freedom for granted. They must be diligent cleaning up after their animals, and any other forgotten or overlooked poop they may come across when they are on the beach. But the real problem is a human one, one of trash and not caring about our environment. Let’s all clean up the beaches, in any way we can — it’s up to all of us, not only dog owners who love and value their freedom.

Will Be Victorious
    East Hampton
    February 18, 2013
Hello David,
    Just felt the need to weigh in on the issue of dogs on the beach. From where I sit, it seems that Matt Norklun has been allowed to be the figurehead for the ban-the-dogs movement — in part with what looks like [East Hampton Village] board members’ blessing.
    Isn’t it ironic that this is the same man who was arrested on a complaint by the village board, found guilty, and fined for placing dog feces at the front door of Village Hall?
    I’m not judging, but there is a condition where people have irrational fears of catching disease and go to extreme lengths to protect themselves from catching those diseases. It’s important not to let one squeaky wheel overly influence our rights as dog owners and our use of our beaches.
    For me, Mr. Norklun loses his credibility with every quote. And then he has the audacity to attack the Animal Rescue Fund and suggest that they are creating an unhealthy situation in the town and on beaches. Mr. Norklun further implies that dog urine is dangerous to our health, furthering his argument to ban dogs from our beaches.
    Assuming Mr. Norklun did his research, I’m sure he’s aware that human and dog urine are sterile, meaning that they lack any dangerous qualities to humans. Also, for hundreds of years, urine has been used as an antiseptic and antibacterial, and it has many medical uses for the cure of illnesses. Therefore I would ask the board members to let go of any preconceived notions of dog urine being a danger to beachgoers.
    I know the mayor to be a very fair and common-sense gentleman. I’m sure if there is a plan to make changes to the present dog laws that he will have a public hearing so that we can all be heard on the subject before any changes are implemented. And we, not necessarily as dog owners or dog lovers but just as members of the community, have to put a stop to this nonsense. And if we all do our job, get involved, and find workable solutions, I’m confident we and our dogs will be victorious.
    Lastly, I would like to invite those who like to take their dogs to village beaches to come out and visit us on some of our town beaches in the summer, where there are no time restrictions and dogs’ rights are respected by dog owners and non-dog owners alike. Dogs are allowed a certain distance from populated areas.

People With Their Dogs
    February 17, 2013
To the Editor:
    Sadly, The Star incorrectly frames the issue it reports on in its news article “Dogs My Be Reined in at Beaches” and in its editorial “Beach Party May End for Man’s Best Friend.” How we frame ideas and issues is important (as George Lakoff tells us) because it determines how we think about and try to resolve an issue. In this context, I say dogs don’t go to the beach, people go to the beach with their dogs.
    The real issue here is a conflict of different people’s lifestyle choices. All of us who live here have preferences for how we use the wonderful environment around us to enrich our lives. At issue is how we accommodate and make room for other people’s choices. I must do this all the time. Walking my dog on the beach and in the woods, year round, is central to how I live. But this choice requires me to accommodate the choices of others. Hunters force me out of the woods during hunting season, cars on the beach disturb my sense of the beauty and tranquility of the beach and threaten my dog’s safety, paddlers in Accabonac Harbor make sailing in and out very difficult, trail bikes startle me and my dog on the trails, horses leave droppings behind.
    All of us do this. Bike riders have to deal with dogs and at times horses, horse riders have to deal with all of it, especially the sound of guns; swimmers on the bay beaches have to watch out for boats, noise from a Jet Ski makes reading difficult, beer bottles on the beach, etc.
    So here is my point, don’t take away my right to enjoy the beach with my dog and my grandson. Don’t justify it with what some other town does. Find ways to increase awareness in dog owners and the general public of how we can make room for each other. Find ways to increase enforcement of the current rules. Be creative! Involve people who care.

Work of Kindness
    East Hampton
    February 18, 2013
Dear David:
    It’s not often that we thank our town officials for works of kindness. I am very happy to do so now.
    Hurricane Irene dealt a terrible blow to the street tree in front of my house. It was a lovely old tree with a huge trunk and wide expanse of branches. For 35 years I maintained the front patch it was planted on, between the sidewalk and the street. The dappled shade it offered to the living room was wonderful. Then it was gone, along with a large area of the sidewalk. A gentlemen from FEMA came to see the damage. Then we waited. None of the FEMA funds the town received came back to the Highway Department, no money available for trees, no tree planted.
    Now, thanks to the diligence of Steve Lynch, superintendent of highways, and Kevin Ahearn, assistant superintendent, there is a new tree that adorns the street. Planted a few weeks ago before all the snowfall that has gently watered its roots, the tree is standing perfectly upright.    
    Charlie Marder is the generous and thoughtful businessman (Marders Nursery) who has once again contributed to East Hampton. He sent a huge flatbed with five or six trees and the men and equipment needed to get the job done. In my book, he’s a mensch!
    Thank you, Steve Lynch, Kevin Ahearn, Charlie Marder!

New Noise Standard
    East Hampton
    February 16, 2013
Dear David,
    A few weeks ago, Mr. Charles Ehrens, an airport opponent, expressed outrage that the town airport consultants were using the federal noise standard for measuring noise at East Hampton Airport — a standard in use for many years, not just in America, but around the world.
    Yet Mr. Ehrens is suing the town for using it in the new town airport master plan. The opponents have developed their own new formula and insist it be utilized in East Hampton and, by extension, worldwide.
    Their formula would also prohibit trains from running on the tracks, noisy construction equipment from operating on the roads, and loud lawn mowers from being used, even for a short time. All this activity would violate the new noise standard of the airport opponents. Unbelievable.
    We urge the town board to reject this nonsense, use common sense, and begin the repair of the runways at the airport right away.
    Gerard Boleis
    East Hampton Aviation Association

Reasonable Restrictions
    February 18, 2013
Dear Editor,
    My apologies to Gene Oshrin for mistakenly elevating him to the presidency of the East Hampton Aviation Association.
    But the point of my letter remains unchallenged. Mr. Oshrin has interests in the airport and continued Federal Aviation Administration funding, and, as such, supports the F.A.A.’s pro-aviation, stilted definition of noise that is tragic for residents of the East End of Long Island.
     Mr. Oshrin states, “ . . . the [Harris, Miller, Miller, Hanson] study did not support the claims of either the level or duration of noise events, and I stand by that statement.” And yet, Mr. Oshrin also states, “I honestly believe there are serious noise issues that need to be addressed and I think most airport users understand there has to be a long-term solution, not a temporary, short-term ‘Band-Aid’ fix. ” Mr. Oshrin cannot have it both ways. Is there a noise problem or not?
    Most of the aviation community has continuously affirmed the existence of a noise problem. And yet, (for decades!) the problem continues to get worse. There is a basic denial of fact. All aircraft make noise. Control and limitation of this noise is only possible by reducing aircraft activity and certain aircraft types. The only means of doing this is to operate the airport free of the legally binding grant assurances that accompany F.A.A. funding. (See U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, National Helicopter v. The City Of New York.)
    The binding assurances for East Hampton Airport expire Dec. 31, 2014. East Hampton can then impose reasonable restrictions of aircraft type and activity. That would be a “long-term solution, not a temporary, short-term ‘Band-Aid’ fix.”
    The East Hampton Town Board should not request nor accept further F.A.A. funding. That would be counter to the long-term interests of all.

It Takes a Village
    February 18, 2013
Dear David,
    Jeff Bragman’s recent letter to The Star represents an admirable attempt to simplify the complex subject of airport noise abatement. Those of us who have advocated noise abatement for a long time, like Kathy Cunningham, know that it’s just not simple. Since Jeff bases his assertions on the National Helicopter vs. New York City court case, let’s see what we can learn from that case.
    First, East Hampton will need a noise study that will hold up in court. New York City, which had never taken Federal Aviation Administration funding, took over two years to do a noise study after a previous attempt failed. East Hampton is just restarting that process now after previous attempts, like the city’s, came up short.
    Second, like New York City, East Hampton must be prepared to defend any mandatory restrictions on helicopters in court. The city spent two years in court after completing the noise study before its case was decided on appeal.
    Third, it will cost millions to defend mandatory restrictions. The fact that New York City was facing just one litigant operating under contract with the city probably made its case easier and less costly to defend. East Hampton would likely face many litigants, including all of the helicopter operators (one owned by Sikorsky) and, if Naples, Fla., is any indication, some “friends of the court.”  New York City had deep pockets; we don’t.
    Fourth, winning in court is not a sure thing. Four of New York City’s seven initiatives were upheld on appeal, but three others were denied.
    Fifth, while the city won the right to restrict helicopters, no airport operator has won a comparable right to restrict less noisy fixed-wing aircraft like the jets and seaplanes currently using East Hampton Airport.
    So it will be expensive and take years to possibly effect mandatory restrictions on helicopters, regardless of the presence or absence of F.A.A. funding and grant assurances. It would be even more expensive and perhaps impossible to impose mandatory restrictions on jets, seaplanes, and other fixed-wing aircraft using the airport.
    After 10 years of advocacy, I’ve learned that real solutions to airport noise abatement are never as simple as they appear at a distance. There are just too many interested parties with conflicting objectives. It took the National Park Service 25 years to effect noise restrictions limiting the number of flights, hours, and routes of helicopters flying over the Grand Canyon.
    So it behooves those members of the community on all sides of the issue who won’t let complexity stand in their way to come together to find financially responsible ways to reduce helicopter noise sooner rather than later. It takes a village.
    Peter A. Wadsworth

Federal $ the Only Hope
    February 18, 2013
Dear David,
    With the recent blizzard of angry and frustrated letters concerning the inability of the town to satisfactorily address noise issues at East Hampton Airport, I’d like to try to put at least some perceptions in context.
    First, there are approximately 15,000 airports in the continental United States, of which about 5,000 are classified as public use, down from about 6,700 in 1969 — not 500, as reported in last week’s Letters. They comprise a major part of the federal airway system.
    Second, the deer fence which was constructed in the 1990s and never completed is not made of “barbed wire and chain link,” and was designed to keep deer off the active runways. Unfortunately, no one informed the deer, and they like to congregate on and around the runways, usually late in the day and at night and have managed to become a dangerous nuisance.
    This is the reason why it was determined to be a priority for completion. There have been regular conflicts between deer and aircraft.
    I’m pleased to hear, however, that the airport is considered “one of our most scenic vistas” and an “asset.”
    Next, I have a problem with the statement that “navigable airspace begins at 700 feet and anything below that is under the jurisdiction of local authorities.” As a pilot, I can assure the writer of this misquote that the F.A.A. would not agree, and considers anything over 155 pounds (ultra-light aircraft under 155 pounds are considered “vehicles” and exempt from most federal aviation regulations) with air under the wheels within its jurisdiction and subject to its regulations, not municipal governments’.
    And, once again, we have the oft-quoted claim by Jeffrey Bragman that with the expiration of several of the grant assurances at the end of 2014, the town will be able to emplace “reasonable restrictions to noise and traffic.”
    One should consider whether Mr. Bragman’s perspective of “reasonable” will be shared by the F.A.A., which will still have jurisdiction over air operation as long as East Hampton Airport is a public-use airport.
    Mr. Bragman’s supporters should remember that he and David Gruber have acted as plaintiffs and pro bono co-counsel on numerous and seemingly endless legal actions against the town that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars to defend against. And they have never won a single lawsuit or appeal. Never. Ever.
    The town has allowed itself to be put in a position where it cannot afford to provide the funds necessary to repair and maintain the airport infrastructure because it has used airport revenue and taxpayer funds to defend itself against over 20 years of frivolous lawsuits and delaying tactics by airport opponents.
    Repairs and maintenance that would have been affordable when originally needed have deteriorated to a level that the town cannot afford on its own, thanks to deliberate delaying actions by opponents.
    The only hope of keeping the airport operating in the future lies with federal funding.
    Mr. Gruber and company are obviously against the town accepting F.A.A. money because it renews grant assurance obligations, which would interfere with their goal of running out the grant assurance clock and force the town into the position of deciding the fate of the airport’s very existence.
    With the apparent removal of Dominick Stanzione by the supervisor as airport liaison and the reassignment of his responsibilities to the entire board, the board has taken a giant step backward in a possible resolution to noise issues affecting airport neighbors.
    No doubt, the board will waste valuable time educating itself to the very complex process of dealing with airport operations and will decide to study the problem until the clock runs out and a new board will have to start all over again.
    In spite of getting little support or cooperation from the supervisor or other board members, Mr. Stanzione is the only one to have the courage to take responsibility and try his best to address a very difficult problem, even when vilified by airport opponents and his own majority board members.
    There is a widely held belief in the airport community that opponents do not really want a resolution to the noise problem short of closing the airport completely, and that no amount of dialogue will produce anything that will satisfy the various coalitions and citizens groups. Local pilots have tried for many years to address noise issues, which for the most part we have not created, but nonetheless we have been tarred with the same brush, whether we like it or not.
    One administration after another showed the same unwillingness to commit to addressing airport matters in any meaningful way, and this administration is no exception. We had hoped that at some point our support for noise abatement initiatives would help the airport get the funds it needs for repair and maintenance, but such has not been the case.
    It has been previously stated that we should all get on the same page if there is to be any progress in solving the noise problem. There was a time I might have believed a solution was possible, but with the current dysfunctional town board, I don’t have a great deal of hope.
    Perhaps if the airport opposition would state their real agenda as closing the airport, we’d have an honest place to start.

Board Games
    February 17, 2013
Dear Mr. Rattray,
    Please sit down. Over there is fine, near the aquarium. I didn’t want you to fall down when you read a compliment, from me, on your editorial, “A Plea for Civility,” in the recent Star. But here it is. Your tone is pitch-perfect, and perfectly captures the exhaustion that so many of us feel with the absence of even tempers, basic manners, and a willingness to collaborate for the benefit of the common good among our elected officials. Oh how East Hampton’s board games seem like a microcosm of our Great Union.
    Your observation of several exchanges from the recent town board meeting reminds me of why I’ve stayed away from these public hearings for so many moons. Almost unimaginable, given my fondness for the sound of my own voice. Well, though I’m sorry for my loss, I’m sure for many the silence is golden. Fine. Let all speak in civil tongues or forever — never mind.
    On an equally painful topic, a number of readers have asked me how things are panning out with my ongoing periodontal journey. (Thank you, Paula Diamond, for admitting you read the letter. That took courage. And no one has ever referred to me as “estimable” — not even my accountant!).
    There have been two more appointments with the periodontist since that first “treatment.” They both sucked. Far more than the device the hygienist sticks in your mouth to evacuate the water she’s squirting on the drill while he’s deep-scraping. He keeps asking, “Am I hurting you?” Read my lips! Oh, wait, they can’t move because there are two hands and three devices in my mouth!! Anyway, it’s going great and I get free dental floss and a toothbrush after each visit. Only 15 more to go. Bite me.
    On a more painful note, our cat, Sami, died three weeks ago. As you well know, Mr. Rattray, I don’t much care for cats. Their passive-aggressive ambivalence has always left me wondering, why would I feed you? Actually, Sami was Mary’s cat, so when I married Mary the cat was part of the package, like certain furnishings, kitchen utensils, bathroom divisions.
    And then I developed an affection for the thing. He kept an eye on me when I was building a fire, knowing there’d be a warm lap to sit on soon. And when he took his position, there was no moving him — the engine purred until I needed to get up. He’d sit on the stool next to me watching me write these letters. When I got up he’d swat my hand with an open paw and claws, eliciting from me a “What the f—- is wrong with you?!”
    A couple months ago I noticed that Sami was becoming lethargic, barely moving in the house, eating little. When he’d go outside he just took a few steps and sat, staring in the distance. I told Mary I thought he was dying of old age, but she reminded me that he was only 12. A few days later we became alarmed enough that we took him to the East Hampton Veterinary Group where, after a series of tests, Sami was diagnosed with a blood parasite. We were given a prescription for medication that should eliminate the parasite within three weeks.
    Hours after giving Sami the first dose of the medication, he disappeared. He went out of the house and didn’t return for a day, then another day, and another. He was gone for a week and I thought, He’s gone off to die. They know when it’s the end. He’s under a bush somewhere.
    And then he appeared again. I walked into the downstairs bathroom eight mornings later and he was lying on the floor, eyes lifeless, breathing slowly. We kept him inside the house administering the meds and force-feeding him some special cat food. But he wouldn’t swallow the food and a few days later Sami could barely stand.
    We took him back to the vet and told the doctor that our assumption was he could not be saved. The doctor massaged the cat’s body gently with his hands and after a few moments said he felt a massive tumor in his stomach.
    And that was that. Sami seemed relieved when his eyes shut. He seemed to embrace his sleep. I’m just projecting, right? How would I know what he was or was not thinking? We brought him home in a towel and buried him deep in the sand behind the house. Friends told us later, “Oh, it’s illegal to bury a pet in your yard.” Really? Okay, we didn’t do that. Whatever.
    There’s a cupboard door in the kitchen where we kept Sami’s food, and when I open it, the food’s still there. We didn’t get rid of it yet, just didn’t think of it. It’s a sad sight, so I’ve gotta do that.
    On a brighter note, the ground birds and rabbits have returned to the backyard and don’t seem to be looking over their shoulders — or wings — with the usual trepidation.
    To common ground,

Downsize the Country
    East Hampton
    February 17, 2013
Dear Editor,
    The State of the Union and Marco Rubio’s response seem completely irrelevant in the context of reading “Detroit; An American Autopsy” by Charlie LeDuff. Rubio, sadly, exposed himself as a village idiot, parroting conservative orthodoxy about free enterprise and the market as being the cure for reviving the middle class. He seemed oblivious of Obama’s speech and that repeating the same worn-out drivel that has been proven ineffective provides no relief to anyone.
    Obama again refused to attach a critical piece to his proposals for middle-class renewal. He won’t say that the system as it is functioning no longer works for 80 percent of the American people. Consequently, we have no obligation to rethink our capitalist model and rework it to make it functional.
    Obama’s refusal to speak truth to reality and Rubio’s insistence on hackneyed drivel tells us that there is little hope that our economy will turn around any time soon.
    Detroit. A frightening word in any context. Once a vibrant major U.S. city, now a burnt-out eyesore marked by hopeless corruption and financial collapse. How does a major U.S. city lose half its population and more than half of its economic value and no one in the government gives a rat? We filter billions of dollars for every disaster both here and abroad but when facing the disaster of Detroit we do squat. Detroit is the birthplace and the collapse of middle-class America. Is Detroit the future as it once was, or a major blip in the capitalist economic model gone astray?
    Enter Rick Perry. No matter what anyone says about him, he is undeniably an idiot. But sometimes great ideas are the output of tiny minds. Last year Perry floated the idea of Texas seceding from the U.S. It caused a bit of a war in 1860, so it’s not the best idea. But a more realistic pragmatic approach to our economic problems, one that every major corporation has embraced, is downsizing. What if we decided to downsize the country? Make us leaner and more efficient? More competitive in the world marketplace? Sell off some of our assets?
    We use a simple formula for every state to determine its value to the nation: Tax revenues produced against government expenditures in that state. Most of the east and west coasts would meet this litmus test, but the Louisianas, South Carolinas, and Mississippis of the world wouldn’t come close. So, what if we sold Texas back to Mexico and the rest of the South back to France and Spain? Bring our deficit to zero and deal with those states as a foreign country. (But would those countries be dumb enough to pay fair market value? With real estate still depressed, they could be getting a terrific deal.)
    Absurd as the downsizing idea might seem, it is no less absurd than our current economic policies. Allowing the middle class to slip into oblivion is the great American tragedy. It’s time for Obama to step up and tell us that the system is broken and needs to be repaired. If Detroit is the future, we can either pack our bags or begin to downsize.

Sagg Deer Fantasies
    February 17, 2013
Dear Editor,
    “I would like to herd the deer into one place and send in a fleet of helicopters with automatic weapons” proclaims Sagaponack’s Mayor Louchheim. Deputy Mayor Foster says that “bow hunters should be allowed on your front porch.”
    Are the residents afraid that the deer will invade their homes and take away their guns and the groceries they have hoarded for survival? What violent fantasies, fueled by the ravings of the N.R.A.’s Wayne LaPierre, these are.
    The South Fork’s problem with deer must be tackled rationally and humanely, not with vicious visions.

A Gun in the House
    New York City
    February 8, 2013
To the Editor,
    Americans have been under the delusion for the past generation that guns are the means to solving problems both domestically and internationally. The image of John Wayne or Charles Bronson defending his family with a gun has been ingrained in the American male psyche for decades. If only gun owners would consider the statistics, which are that keeping a gun in the house runs a far greater risk that it will be used for killing a member of your family, a guest or acquaintance, or used for suicide, rather than used for stopping an intruder. The reason is simple — guns fire quicker than you can think. In the short time it takes to pull the trigger, the consequences of killing a person are not taken into consideration. Alcohol, anger, drugs, and fear are more often the cause.
    A friend of mine woke up hearing footsteps in another room and reached for his loaded gun under the bed. As the figure approached the doorway he released the safety, aimed and started to squeeze the trigger when he realized it was his wife coming back from the kitchen.
    Consider this: If you encounter a gun-carrying intruder in your house you are much more likely to get killed in a gun exchange if he sees that you are holding a gun, than if you did not. He is the bad guy and is entering your house prepared to shoot if necessary, whereas you are the good guy and may not be ready to have your children witness you killing another human being.
    This does not mean you should not protect your family. There are many things that you can do, like installing a remote alarm system in the house that could be activated in any given room. What burglar would stick around if an ear-splitting alarm was going off? Suddenly the situation would be reversed and the intruder would start thinking about escaping rather than attacking.
    If you live very close to your neighbors, throwing a telephone through the window and screaming Help! Police! achieves the same effect. There have been many cases reported in the news where a victim has yelled for help and the attacker has become scared and run away.
    Your ability to scream may be the safest means of defense.

A Spending Problem
    February 17, 2013
To the Editor,
    In 2008 I listened carefully to all the candidates and I said to my husband Obama sounds really good, makes great statements. Then my ears went up. I was listening to things like the Constitution was flawed and we need redistribution of wealth — what the hell is that? Further investigation showed the company he kept and no media person would print a single item that would bring negative news against this man.
    Because McCain was born in Panama he was asked to show his birth certificate, so what was so wrong having Obama show his? All his school records sealed. Why did his refusal spark questions? Why? Because this is our country that we love and want to protect.
    So now after four years God knows how many millions the Obamas have spent our taxpaying money on vacations, while the country stands still with economy and housing showing very little improvement, our ambassador and three others giving their lives, we get no answers except what does it matter. A president giving bailouts to all except the American people, refuses to acknowledge that Washington has a spending problem, just wants to tax his way out of everything, cannot lead unless it’s his way or the highway.
    Now let’s talk about Obamacare, did he read it? Or did he let some fool sit down and say I think I could break America’s economy if we can get this passed. Future: It will cost a family of five $20,000 for health care. The employer will pay $3,800 for the employee making $40,000 a year, the remainder is up to the family to pay $16,200. The I.R.S. announced on Jan. 30 that employers don’t have to pay for dependants, also children won’t be covered. The [Congressional Budget Office] states lost coverage of up to 8 million people by 2016, and by 2019 12 million people will not be covered.
    The president goes on television and repeats the same false statements, you can keep your doctor, and you can keep your plan. Stares right into the TV monitor and repeats this over and over again, he deceives the American people with his lies.
    This is kinda long but this is where I am coming from, I despise someone looking in my face and lying to me. Statements like “for the first time in my adult life I am proud to be an American,” clear as a bell I heard this, next statement it was taken out of context, whose context?.
    Sequester is coming, let it happen. Stop spending and stop raising taxes.

    February 18, 2013
To the Editor,
    Re: Immigrant’s template resource
    Dear student of Joan and Jock,
    “They will be brother and sisters”
    Brother: Merriam-Webster Dictionary
    Sister: Merriam-Webster Dictionary