Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A New Bill of Rights?

After the recent “spontaneous” demonstrations in front of the Southampton 7-11 with no police in sight, usually comprised of a few white guys having a cigarette and a beer while carrying placards urging people to protect them from illegal workers – you would think that we had reached the limits of social consciousness. After all, demonstrations of any sort used to guarantee responses from the SWAT-team mentality in Southampton Town. A few years ago, police and reporters in full blown riot gear descended upon a group rental for violating a law to file for a rental permit. The courts routinely mail out criminal summonses for crimes as egregious as not having a street number on your house. Arrest warrants are issued for notices sent by the court and served illegally. And, the Police here are not known for their international laissez-faire views on dissent. So, the 7-11 experience, no police in sight, no demand for permits to demonstrate – is neither a secret nor is it surprising. It’s just the way things are in the Hamptons, wink-wink, nod-nod.

Well, not entirely.

It seems that the Village of Southampton, under the guiding light of Mayor Mark Epley and with the political finesse of William Frankenbach, have decided to re-write the rules for participating in the 4th of July parade in that Village. Following on the heels of a series of “dictatorial” pronouncements similar to those attempted in Sag Harbor Village, the Village of Southampton has attempted to deny the rights of certain groups wishing to participate in the parade. Specifically, any group wishing to display peace signs or make any form of “political statement” was disincluded and disinvited from marching.

How? Well first of all the rules for participating were changed by Mr. Frankenbach and a convenient little committee appointed by the Village and the Mayor called the Commission on Veteran Patriotic Events. The Mayor is a member; it’s paid for by the Village and clearly one of the reasons for its existence is to have the taxpayers pay for the parade – which was formerly paid for by the Combined Veterans of Foreign Wars, Frankenbach’s group.

The second reason for the existence of the CVPE is unattractive. And, its modus operandi is even less attractive.

The CVPE changed the rules for any groups wishing to obtain permits to march, left little time for certain groups to apply, and then denied permits to those they deigned undesirable—clearly for political reasons. All this, while they claimed to be trying to keeping political statements out of the parade. In the past, the parade restrictions were limited to keeping commercial messages out of the parade and preventing any disruptive behavior.

What is at stake here is the “Right of Free Assembly” and the “Right of Free Speech.” At least, that is how it is viewed in most other American towns, cities and villages. It was, as we understand it, the rights that soldiers went to war to protect.

However, Chairman Frankenbach of the CVPE, sent out a letter to those who had marched in previous years advising them that the rules for being granted a permit to march in the July Parade had been changed to eliminate “political propaganda” or “political protests. “ According to Frankenbach’s discussion with several plaintiffs, this prevented the carrying of a UN flag, as well as any anti-war emblems or placards. Anyone appearing with “political” material, no matter what their behavior was, would be subject to forcible eviction from the Parade, and possible arrest.

Now, let’s get this straight. Veterans and others want to march to express, among other things, the fact that soldiers have died for our right to speak our minds – to fight and die for the right that we all wish to keep – for free speech, to demonstrate without reprisal, to write about how we feel about our government without fear of being silenced – and Frankenbach and Epley want to take that away from us on the FOURTH OF JULY!

Fortunately, Federal Judge Seybert agrees with the plaintiffs who took them to court --


According to the complaint filed:

Quote -- The real reason for the CVPE’s new “exclusionary rule” for objectionable
“political propaganda” that it finds objectionable appears, upon information and belief,
to be quite simple: the last year’s growing opposition to the Iraq War, compared with the
political views of Frankenbach, in particular, as well as several politically-influential,
Conservative veterans groups. This has produced a blatant attempt on the part of these
factions to curtail dissent and discriminate against anti-war veterans groups like EVE -- unquote.

Seybert heard arguments this past Friday and opened the court today in order to hear further arguments in the matter when Mayor Epley called and advised the plaintiffs that they could march. Of course, Mayor Epley theoretically doesn’t have the power to offer that since it’s not his committee (or is it?).

It should also be interesting to see how the local media reports this since both the Southampton Press and Suffolk Life are basically owned or operated by Republican, conservative, right wing politicians. There is no center or left of center press in the Hamptons. They would never survive the advertising blackout.

Curious, isn’t it, how ephemeral the Bill of Rights is in the Hamptons?
The First and Fourteenth Amendments are endangered species in this here part of the woods.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Monkey Business

The Villages and Towns in the Hamptons have been up to some interesting tricks. The Town of Southampton, in its inimitable style has begun permitting demonstrations. Of course, they are not the kind of demonstrations many of us may remember (or have read about) from the 1960"s. In those days, the issues were the rights of minorities, mostly black, in a society, mostly white, that prevented upward mobility and equality. If a black man had gotten together with a few friends in Hampton Bays and began waving signs seeking equal rights in the sixties, or for that matter, any time up to last year, he would have risked a beating. In the sixties, he might easily have been killed.

A black family wanting to live in "Skip" Heaney's (Republican Southampton Town Supervisor) Hampton Bays home turf was burned out in those days. Those were the days when an acre of land would cost you $20,000.

Which brings us to the recent immigration "reform" issue. Like several other Long Island towns and villages that are concerned about the civil rights (or lack thereof) of illegal immigrants who do the dirty work in the Hamptons - the Supervisor of Southampton made an election campaign promise with running Chris Nuzzi and Linda Kabot - to treat fire with fire. Instead of simply allowing these ogres to camp in the woods after bicycling to and from work every day, the campaign plank made it known that this should become a search and destroy mission. Search the schools for children who should not be there, harass landlords who provide housing for them, persecute employers who pay them anything for the privilege of cleaning toilets and planting shrubs all day long, and destroy lives of poor immigrants. After all, this is America. We let them in; now that it's inconvenient for some and a good political game for others, let's throw out 11 million people.

It should also not be lost on any of us that 90 percent of the costs are also picked up by those pesky non-resident tax-paying homeowners who do not have the privilege of voting in the Hamptons.

So, now, who are these people that have been bucking the trends (and flaunting their beer bellies) and demonstrating out in the open in front of the local police as well as citizen onlookers?

Have these illegals workers been outspoken people, standing up for their rights in America - the land of the free - using Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Speech?

Well, not exactly.

It's usually three or four local "boys," standing in front of the Southampton 7-11 with placards. They're overweight, sometimes drinking, smoking and partying - to "protest" the effect that the illegal immigrants have had on their downtrodden lives. Apparently, their rights have been trampled and they are there to raise everyone's consciousness about how they are suffering. Unfortunately, it looks more like William Masterson (who hands out the Asphalt contracts for the Town) was instructed by a still Republican-controlled government, to get out the contractors for a political agenda statement. Deprivation was neither obvious nor believable in these "demonstrators."

Somehow, neither the politicians nor the local police seem to find this offensive. Isn't that surprising?

Neither the Shinnecock Indians, Black activists, Latino housing supporters nor any other minority group has ever successfully been able to launch effective demonstrations in the Hamptons. Why? Because it wasn't permitted. The Town, the Police, or the venerable Southampton Press would make it a non-event. Either it could not happen, or if it did happen, it wasn't reported.

But, get a few contractors together, beer bellies intact and carrying placards in front of 7-11 where the "illegals" stand around looking for work. And, voila, you've got Town approval, no Police presence, and front-page photographs in the Southampton Press.

Now, that's what we call Democracy?

This is the follow-up to the combined State and local Swat teams that recently "raided" the housing in which these poor illegal immigrants live. Perhaps they were singing God Save America when they were rousting the lairs of these criminals.

Speaking of which, the Village of Sag Harbor is busy cooking up some new laws. Now the Village is looking to require permits for publications. Under the guise of protecting its citizens from those nasty free periodicals, a new ordinance is being touted as the smartest thing since dental floss. Any distributor who fails to submit the name, address and license plate number of the person or persons handing out publications - and submits a copy of the publication to the Village for a review of its appropriateness for approval, is subject to a CONTINUOUS $250 per day fine and a misdemeanor 30 day jail term for failure to cooperate.

Don't you wonder if the Village ever heard of the 1st amendment to the Constitution - or, if that doesn't matter - how about the role the pamphleteers played in Revolutionary France just before Louis XV1 got his sore throat?

We've heard that this is a bad move, a bad solution to a fictitious problem, and will have a bad outcome. Makes you wonder if all the political campaign literature fall under the same category.

Stay tuned on this one.

And, just when you thought we were finished with Sag Harbor, there comes this other issue.

For those of you who are in the dark about these matters, the Village of Sag Harbor is located partly within the Town of East Hampton and partly within the Town of East Hampton -- and it plans to start its own Justice Court this summer. Late last December, the Village entered into a $50,000 contract with Fundamental Business Services to provide "services and products" for the Justice Court. The Village has paid FBS $25,000 so far this year, and it plans to pay the balance sometime this July, when the Justice Court is expected to officially begin. Although the Village never actually passed a resolution or a local law which created the Justice Court, the Village Mayor and Board of Trustees say that they are confident about a "resolution, subject to permissive referendum" to create the office of elected Village Justice which also creates the Justice Court once the Village Justice is elected in the June 20th election and then sworn in.

Sometime after the position of elected Village Justice was created on December 15, 2005, however, the Village Mayor and some members of the Board of Trustees began to have second thoughts about the qualifications for that elected position. Under the State's Public Officers Law and the State's Village Law, one of those qualifications is that the elected Village Justice must be a resident of the Village in which he or she adjudicates. However, there is a special provision in the State's "Village Law" that says that if any village has less than 3000 residents, that village "may provide" that the qualification of village residency can be abolished and replaced by a qualification of county residency. Apparently, that is what the Village government decided to "provide" at the February 2006 monthly meeting when it voted on a resolution that said that the elected justice must reside in "Suffolk County."

However, one of the village residents has objected to that streamlined manner of abolishing a village residency requirement by expanding the pool of lawyers --- and non-lawyers --- who may serve as the elected Village Justice of Sag Harbor. Local attorney Patricia Weiss, who lives, works and votes in Sag Harbor, has filed an Article 78 proceeding that is now pending before Supreme Court Justice Paul J. Baisley, Jr. Ms. Weiss is saying that the Village ought to have held a public hearing, with advance notice to the public and to her, as part of the procedure for any amendment of the local law which established the office of elected Village Justice last December. Weiss's position is that there are many reasons why the village residency requirement should not have been abolished without such a public hearing for an amendment of a local law first being held. Ms. Weiss says that the Village government was required, under both a 1979 Attorney General Informal Opinion and the "legislative equivalency doctrine", to afford her a public forum in which to express those reasons before the Mayor and Board of Trustees hastily moved by a mere "resolution" to abolish the qualification of local residency for the elected Village Justice. Ms. Weiss has requested that the names of all persons who live outside the village be removed from the June 20th ballot for elected Village Justice.

One concern expressed by Ms. Weiss is that even if a village resident who is an attorney is elected to the four year term, that justice could later move to the far western part of Suffolk County and designate the Village Board's appointed (back-up) justice (perhaps even a non-lawyer) to handle practically all of the Justice Court's caseload, while still receiving the same monthly paycheck. Because local justice courts are required under the Uniform Justice Court Act to hold Small Claims Court once a month in the evening and because arraignments must be held within 24 hours of an arrest, Ms. Weiss believes that proximity to the Village is a serious consideration, given the fact that the morning traffic congestion over the Shinnecock Canal was one of the factors that the Village took into consideration in deciding to establish the Justice Court in the first place.

Ms. Weiss' concern is that the hand-picked "appointed" justice would then be hearing virtually all of the cases involving parking tickets, speeding tickets, and alleged violations of village ordinances which the Village government has passed, some of which provide for penalties and fines up to $1000 per day.

There are three candidates in the running, who are awaiting the decision by Justice Baisley along with Ms. Weiss. One non-lawyer candidate who lives outside the Village has been quoted in the local newspaper as saying that the Mayor personally contacted him and asked him to run for the office. That candidate is running on the party line of the two trustees who are seeking reelection and are unopposed. A second candidate lives outside the village limits and is an attorney with a private practice as a mediator of civil disputes. The third candidate is a local resident who is also an attorney with extensive experience in the areas of both criminal and civil law.

Finally, the Marty Tankleff saga continues - the story of what many claim is the false confession at the hands of the notorious Suffolk County Police Department and subsequent railroading and imprisonment of an innocent man - is coming to New York City. The Puffin Foundation, a non-profit SoHo gallery, is holding a fundraiser and meeting on June 21st where many of the notables involved in the movement to free Marty Tankleff will appear to speak. For further information log on to www.martytankleff.org. Many consider this travesty of justice to be one of the worst scandals in Suffolk County politics - and one which is about to erupt.

Be sure to keep informed by frequently checking the SoHo Journal blog.

Breaking News:


June 8th, Riverhead, Exclusive to the Sohojournal

Suffolk Supreme Court Justice Paul J. Baisley, Jr. determined on Thursday that Sag Harbor Village did not follow the State's Village Law when it took steps last December 2005 to create a Village Justice Court and make plans for an election of a Village Justice on June 20th. Justice Baisley found that the Village's February 2006 resolution to abolish the local residency requirement is a "nullity" because it sought to change the qualifications for an elected position that had never been properly established in accordance with the State's Village Law in the first place. With the decision coming so close to election day, June 20th, there is an insufficient amount of time for a "do over" before the annual Village 2006 election.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Reinventing the Democrats

Some candidates are more clearly Democratic than others.

We had the pleasure of meeting Treewolf West recently and what was most impressive about him was his commitment to reform. He is expected to shortly announce his candidacy for State Assembly for a run against incumbent Fred Thiele in the 2nd A.D. this Fall. There is no question that this will be a tough uphill battle for West because of the support that Thiele enjoys not only from Republicans, but from the entrenched Democrats who have the bad habit of cross-endorsing candidates.
Rich Schaeffer, the County Democratic Chairman who wants to be State Chairman is not only related to Thiele (he is godfather to one of Thiele's children), but has led Democrats down the garden path of cross-endorsement several times in the past. While this may have been a survival tactic in a completely Republican past environment, few seats now seem out of reach for Democrats. Both Nassau and Suffolk have Democratic County Executives, the Sheriff is a Democrat and arguably so is the District Attorney. West is a bona fide Democratic candidate who will also be running with the support of the newly-formed Integrity Party and this presents a problem. Does Thiele (a Republican) again receive a cross-endorsement with Democratic support when a credible young activist politician (who garnered 37% of the vote in the last election) is running against him? Or, does Schaeffer do the right thing for the party and start supporting Democratic candidates and stop the bullshit? While many rank and file members have already made that decision, the vote is still out.

Realizing that the winds of change are starting to gather some force, the Democratic Party in Southampton is erupting. And, over the same issue. There has not been a credible candidate to move the Republicans out of the Supervisor's office for almost 10 years. The Republicans have had a free ride and have had no serious opposition for the last 3 or 4 elections. Now, there is the possibility that this could change. The hornets nest is the Southampton Town Democratic Party -- a fairly dysfunctional organization for nearly a decade.

Interestingly, Fred Thiele has had a lot to do with this Party problem -- directly and indirectly through his ties with Heaney & Company. As the expert in cross-endorsement tactics Thiele managed to convince the Democratic Party to endorse him not once but twice -- first as Southampton Town Supervisor, then again as State Assemblyman. The ploy, which worked well, was that he would return as a Democrat once he was elected as a Republican through the miracle of cross-endorsement. Of course, he never changed parties once he won. And, Democratic party regulars have been grousing about the betrayal for years -- and yet, here they are still talking him up and preparing to support him (or avoiding the real Democratic candidate). Same thing. Masochism runs deep in Southampton Democratic tradition. Or, is it just business?

So, between Schaeffer's (and Democratic Party) cross-endorsement support of Thiele for Assembly and his history of welching on promises -- what will the new Democratic Party do?

Well, that depends upon who takes control of the Party. The activists support George Guldi, the former County Legislator. The Friends of Thiele contingent support Mike Anthony. Tim Bishop, Steve Kenny, Dennis Suskind and Tim Motz are perceived to be too close to Thiele, emanating from an era during which no Democrat felt sure of even winning the post of Dog-catcher. Bishop, in particular, has been seen to be best buddies with Thiele and is perceived by activists to have turned his back on them once he achieved his Congressional seat. And, the "close to Thiele" group, reminds too many voters and party activists who want a real reform movement, of those days of betrayal -- which occurred twice before at the hands of Thiele and anyone surrounding him. Once the Republicans are voted out of office, the rank and file want Democrats, not reconstituted or reinvented Republicans in Bush's or Thiele's clothing.

The fact that the Southampton Press is all gushy (February 9th issue) over Mike Anthony, and barely mentions Guldi's candidacy, is telling and should worry any Democrat. The Press has been the Republican House Organ for decades. Its publication will cling to the Heaney crowd, hoping within 2 years to be the Kabot crowd, as long as possible. And, as it did with DiPirro, it will try to slowly pull the rug out from underneath any Democrat in power.

We'll keep you posted on where this goes, and why.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Hamptons Resurgence

We have learned that Treewolf West has decided to run for Fred Thiele's seat with support from the Integrity Party.

Thiele is the New York State Assembly incumbent and has been criticized by mainstream Democrats as well as independents for exhibiting the kind of public pronouncements that have earned him the moniker "Flip-flop Fred."

Among the criticisms of Thiele have been his exaggeration of the efforts he made at saving the 106th Air Rescue Group stationed at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, when party regulars credit Hank Beck for the hard work in getting that accomplished.

Of more concern to many is Thiele's apparent leanings in favor of the Death Penalty, which has become a newly divisive issue in Suffolk politics -- especially, in light of the number of mistakes uncovered by the Innocence Project. The Progressive wind blowing through Long Island is another reason for concern over this issue. The Marty Tankleff case supporters point out that there would be no issue at all to debate had there been a Death Penalty option available to the judge when this case was originally decided (by former Sheriff Tisch). The Braslow decision is still keeping political observers and the media on the edge of their seats. Contrary to the wish of many, this controversy and potential corruption case will only blow up if Tankleff is denied a new trial for the murder of his parents 17 years ago.

For some, Thiele's claim to have fostered numerous bills in the Assembly, seem to be followed up with -- well, nothing. While much legislation has been proposed, few of these initiatives have resulted in passage -- as compared to the lip-service it has afforded him.

There is the distinct sense that Fred Thiele has produced more smoke and mirrors than substance -- unless you call trying to kill the Shinnecocks right to self-determination, substance.

Treewolf is a union guy who is working the grass roots and is another of the local, honest, hard working New Politicians -- who is progressive and honest. Thiele has consistently opposed worker-friendly legislation. We have no comment on the honest and progressive part. He appears to be the worst combination of Hamptons elitist, who, along with the characters running Town Hall in Southampton, care absolutely nothing for the non-resident tax-paying property owners. While they plan to demand the right to vote in local elections, New Yorkers cannot even get a voice in local government. Many times we have stated that there needs to be a Hamptons Advocate appointment at Town Hall -- not some local Heaney favorite who knows nothing of our concerns.

We hope to catch up with Treewolf and give you more information on his campaign. As with other successful candidates, like Sheriff Vince DeMarco, the Integrity Party is less about politics than it is about rooting out corruption and taking a stand on issues.

Tim Laube, the Deputy Mayor of the Village of Westhampton Beach, is weighing his options carefully. Although he has been mulling over whether to run for Mayor (since Strebel is retiring due to his wife's illness), he has had to reconsider his choices since having been appointed as Clerk of the Legislature. It's been almost 30 years since the Democrats have gained control of this body and he has an exciting opportunity. It's quite a choice to have to make, but one which we hope he will soon decide to make -- to do both jobs. He promises that he will be making his decision in the next couple of weeks.

While we are on the subject, however, one of Laube's pet projects is to get sewers installed in the Village. Right now, behind many of the establishments along Main Street, including restaurants, the waste has to be pumped out on a regular basis to avoid dumping directly into the waters adjacent to the Village. When serious storms hit, the overflow and seepage is not a pretty picture -- one which could prove to be quite a Health crisis. Many stores are not legally operating but the Village has no choice but to look the other way for the sake of the local economy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Hamptons Voting Revisited

For those of you who have managed to buy a house in the Hamptons -- whether you only visit during the summer months or spend most of the year in the area, the issue of voting is a sore point. Elections in most of the Hampton (Incorporated) Villages are typically held in June. The Town Supervisor elections (Easthampton and Southampton), in which Town Council and Justice Court judges also run, is held in November as part of the County and National elections. That's Incorporated Villages in June, National, County and Town elections in November. This is where the problem lies. This is important since most of us are aware of the fact that you can only vote once in an election that includes candidates for national office or local office. For example, you could not have legally voted for President Bush in the Hamptons and John Kerry in New York City in the previous Presidential election. One man or woman, one vote. That's the rational.

Beyond that it gets trickier. The reason why we vote is to choose among candidates to represent us in political office who make decisions about how to spend the money we pay in property taxes. You might remember that taxation without representation was the rallying cry and the raison d'etre for overthrowing the British regime in America. It is an abomination to Americans to pay taxes and not have the right to vote where those taxes are paid.

This is where the issue of paying property taxes, especially in a location like the Hamptons where these taxes fund the major portion of government's expenses, becomes a hot issue. When the collected taxes are those of non-resident property owners who spend a substantial amount of time in the community and collectively contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to Town and County coffers -- the ability to vote in elections is an inalienable right.

In the case of the Villages, the process is fairly simple. Contact the Suffolk County Board of Elections and request a registration form. Fill out the form and file it with your local Hamptons address in advance of the June election. Your summer address or weekend address will become your legal address during the election period and you may either leave it that way or change it back once the election is over. It is cumbersome but it can be done.

So far so good.

Unfortunately, the solution in Town and County elections is not so simple. Since you cannot vote in an election where candidates for National office are on the ballot in two places, you cannot vote in your primary residence and again in the Hamptons Town election. This is where cooperation and consideration by the Towns of Southampton and Easthampton matters most. If the local election were held on a different date, and voting for National elections were held in November -- in the Hamptons -- and if the Town Charter permitted property owners to vote in local elections -- the problem would be solved. Don't expect that to happen because both Towns have been getting a free ride for a long time and do not want to share spending control with those pesky out-of-towners. If people in these Towns are elected by margins of only 50 or 100 votes, allowing the thousands of New Yorkers with property to vote in local elections would be a disaster. And, then there's the issue of the money. Sharing the take on those millions is clearly not in sight.

Which is really too bad. Because there is precedent for permitting non-resident property owners to vote in local elections. They do so in Colorado and it can be done here -- IF they wanted it to happen.

The Town of Mountain Village in Colorado, for example, in their Charter included the provision for non-resident property owners to vote. They offered these rights -- and when this Town near Telluride faced a challenge to their having provided these rights, the Appeals court wrote:

"Plaintiffs (a group of residents) have failed to show that the Defendants' (the Town) reason for allowing nonresident landowners to vote in the Town. . . is either irrational or arbitrary. I find credible Defendants' contentions that the Town. . . is a unique resort community where nonresident landowners own the majority of property and pay more than eight times the amount of property tax. Defendants further assert that without the significant revenues the nonresident landowners have contributed to the Town, the Town might never have come into existence. Moreover, the nonresidents con-tinue to bear the weight of the financial burden for the Town. Defendants argue that providing the nonresident landowners the right to vote gives them a voice in the Town's future, including the taxes they will have to pay and how those taxes should be spent. . . These factors demonstrate that the Town had a rational basis for enacting the Charter provi-sion granting nonresident landowners the right to vote." (944 F. Supp. at 825)

And, further, the Appeal Court wrote:

"In this case it is clear that the nonresident property owners have a sufficient interest in Town affairs to make it rational for the Town to include them in the political process. Currently they pay approximately eight times more real property taxes in property taxes, and under the Charter, the Town has the power to establish land use standards, enact ordinances, adopt capital improvement programs, set tax rates, borrow money, issue bonds, create special improvement districts, control utilities, and to condemn property. Each of these powers has great potential to affect property owners in significant respects."

Perhaps we should strongly suggest that the crowd in Southampton Town Hall start making overtures to those who are paying the bills. If not, perhaps some of the non-resident property owners will start making some overtures to them. Of an entirely different sort. Like, litigation, perhaps?

Speaking of Town Hall in Southampton, we hear that there is a general feeling of nervousness about. For one thing, the surge of Democratic victories on Long Island may be giving pause. Although the Republicans did well in Southampton, it is clear that the handwriting on the wall is not good for them. The Crookhaven crowd elected a Democrat and one of that Town's escapees, Nuzzi, is now on the Town Board in Southampton. So, we have lame duck Heaney as Supervisor and a collection of relics from a bygone redneck era in dealing with people, especially minorities. Progressive politics and Democratic social policy is clearly on the march and the existing administration is on the defensive. What is their response? Find a new target -- the Latino immigrants who are generally castigated as the "illegals." County Executive Steve Levy has been duped in dealing with this issue and it has trickled down to the ecstatic Republicans still in Town Hall as a "license to kill." Watch carefully, the murder of a latino in Quogue was not an aberration.

The fact that most of the major politicians will be attending the Martin Luther King Day ceremony this week in Islandia where Reverend Cloverdale presides, and are mostly Democrats, underscores where the future lies. This event, which has grown over the last 20 years to the point where the 900 invited attendees jockey for a ticket, is telling. Even Heaney goes. Imagine that! The fact that the Shinnecock Nation, which is predominantly African-American at this point in its mixed blood heritage, will be building a casino in spite of the efforts to block them -- within two years (that's what we hear) -- is another example of racial indifference or outright hostility on the part of the Old Boy network that was handled badly. The fact that Heaney's family hails from Hampton Bays of old where they used to burn out black families, should not be lost on anyone. It's like having a sniper with his rifle aimed -- while negotiating with a perp for the release of a hostage. The Shinnecocks refused to fork over big payoffs to the Republicans and decided to push forward on their own.

Another reason for nervousness might also be found in the recent Federal indictments of Town officials on Long Island (not Southampton) for involvement with the "Asphalt Cartel," which has been reported in Newsday and the Daily News recently. The fact that people have been hauled away in chains because of alleged "contributions" emanating from Highway paving contracts, may be a source of concern. It is one of the worst kept secrets in the Town of Southampton that the Republican Party has been the happy recipient of lavish contributions from grateful vendors.

The re-election of Masterson as Highway Department chief by only a handful of votes over Mr. Gregor -- we predict -- will not happen next time. Gregor should stand by in case a new election is called. In any event, we hear, that the populace is tired of corruption and Gregor is their man.

Finally, we need to think about the answer to this question.

Why is it that the Justice Court in the Town of Southampton acts as if it is Above the Law? The Unified Court System REQUIRES that there be an evening session which would permit working people and, dare we say, property owners from outside of the Town -- attend court without hiring expensive local lawyers, without taking off from work. This has been ignored by the Justice Court. Because they can. Ponder this. Is this stupidity, is it arrogance, or is it another example of having been in power too long. The local people don't matter and the New Yorkers (who pay the bills) are hated.

For simple Code violations, the Town does not do what other civilized Towns do on Long Island. A simple letter to the homeowner advising them of a problem that needs to be corrected, is the reasonable thing to do. But, not in Southampton. Several years ago, a slew of Criminal Summonses were sent out to hundreds of homeowners (you know, those property owners who can't vote and therefore can't get these characters out of office), and threatening arrest for not appearing. Why? Because some of the homes either did not have a street number on it or it was not visible to the Code Enforcement cop who drove by. Be aware of this problem because it portends a way of bilking non-resident tax-paying homeowners in a way that would have been the envy of the Gestapo.

This is an example of the arrogance of politicians who collect your money and give back nothing but hostility and indifference.

Think about that.

In the Village of Westhampton Beach, one of the local luminaries, Simon of Beach Bakery, was about to be railroaded. Simon is a well-known businessman who offers his time and baked goods each year for a number of events including the Easter Egg hunt held for the all of the children and is the first Hamptons bakery to offer kosher baked goods. Even Rabbi Schneier of the Hamptons Synagogue eats there. Dick Haefeli, the renowned prosecutor of the Village had cited Simon with a number of fines for the egregious act of bringing music to Main Street. Live singer-guitarists played evenings in front of his Bakery and, frankly, brought a little life the local businesses and kept shops open a little longer. While they were a tad too loud at times and spawned copycat players down the street, it was a welcomed surprise.

In Judge Kelly's courtroom, attorney George Guldi appeared to defend Simon and onlookers were treated to a rare view of the Village's attitude towards criminal prosecution. When Kelly asked why the case had lingered so long, Haefeli chimed in that it didn't matter -- that justice was long overdue since his arrainment in September. He wanted severe penalties. When attorney Guldi pointed out the there was clearly a lack of attention in prosecuting this case (which was bullshit in the first case) and that Simon had been deprived of a speedy trial -- Haefeli sputtered and said "that doesn't matter." So much for justice. Judge Kelly had 40 jurors in the next room for a real case -- he dismissed the charges.

We hope that Deputy Mayor Tim Laube is paying attention to the way in which matters are being handled. We understand that he is a viable candidate for Mayor once Strebel's term is up.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hamptons Political Scenes

Things are moving at a rapid pace in the Marty Tankleff case (www.martytankleff.com).While D.A. Spota has not changed his public position on the guilt or innocence of this high profile prisoner -- whose re-trial application has been sitting on Judge Braslow's desk for months -- apparently everyone is feeling the heat by now. The New York Times, CBS News and other major media organizations as well as Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project appear to be incredulous(if you read between the lines) about the depth of what appears to be political corruption in Suffolk County. Only a re-trial will put this issue to bed and a re-trial is what many politicians do not want -- ergo the delay, hoping it will all just go away. Of course, as a result of the momentum now generated it is more likely the Titanic will sail again -- than this will just disappear.

The fact that Tankleff has just been ordered back to prison during Braslow's extended soul-searching, while the media has it's field day with the smell of Suffolk County politics wafting through the courtroom --has been the source of speculation that the court long ago decided to rule against him. Understandably, Tankleff's attorneys are concerned.

What all of us should be concerned with is that the Hamptons -- the "jewel" of Suffolk County which fills the tax coffers compliments of non-resident property owners that pay virtually all of the bills (and cannot vote in local elections)-- is owned and operated by either Republicans or "Democrats in Republican clothing." Although there is a progressive political trend sweeping Long Island, the jury is still out on whether this Democratic surge is real or imagined. Steve Levy, the Suffolk County Executive who is a Democrat has gotten good marks but has recently been reported to have supported some of the anti-immigrant legislation proposed that follows on the heels of the Farmingville problems with all of those nasty "illegals" that clean toilets and handle the heavy landscaping work that Americans are averse to doing. He has also been criticized for being sensitive to political criticism and has been reported to be establishing a virtual freeze on reporters who are not complimentary. We have not experienced that but it is an issue to keep on top of. Freedom of Information and "Sunlight" behavior is critical to our delicate system of an open Democracy.

Important in all of this is the fact that Vince DeMarco recently won his election and has taken office as the new Suffolk County Sheriff. He seems to be showing signs of responsible law enforcement that has come of age (due, in part to support of the new Integrity Party), and his election is an indication that the populace has had enough of real or imagined corruption and is pissed off enough to finally vote the suspects out of office. Tisch, the outgoing Sheriff, not incidentally, was the Judge who was responsible for imprisoning Tankleff in the first place. Small world, isn't it?