Thursday, August 30, 2007

Good Ground or Good Graft?

"Crime does not well as politics."
--Alfred E. Newman

"There’s Good Graft and Bad Graft"
--George Washington Plunkitt III

For those of you in Manhattan who have been successfully avoiding Hamptons politics, the local race for Supervisor of Southampton Town should be of some concern to you this year. If you are a resident of the Hamptons you should be even more concerned. Here’s why:

The players are these: The Supervisor (head guy) “Skip” Heaney and the four Town Board members run the Town of Southampton: Remsenberg, Westhampton, East Quogue, Quogue, Hampton Bays, Southampton, Water Mill and Bridgehampton. The current Town Board members are Linda Kabot, Steve Kenney, Chris Nuzzi and Nancy Graboski. Heaney is running for re-election as Supervisor, Kabot is challenging Heaney, Graboski is running again for Town Board, and Kenny is term-limited out.

What was once a relatively cohesive Board is now engaged in political warring. The basic antipathy seems clearly to be Ethics and the voice for women in politics – versus – the Old boy network and political graft.

Its Linda Kabot and Nancy Graboski against the Heaney, Nuzzi and Russo crowd.

If Heaney wins, if Russo wins, if Graboski loses, if Kabot loses – women lose, New Yorkers lose, and good government loses.

Linda Kabot, Town Councilmember is challenging the sitting Supervisor “Skip” Heaney partly due to the fact that he has been importing talent from up island (where he himself came from a decade or so back) in an attempt to continue his reign after political death in two years. He’s term limited and this November is his last election – which, if he wins, will give him his last two more years in office.

Kabot, a local woman originally from Westhampton Beach is known to be tired of the payoffs, highway contracts for votes, Preservation Fund deals, maneuvering to continue his political hold on power, and Heaney’s abusiveness behind closed doors. Heaney has been called a master of dirty tricks and known to be especially abusive towards female politicians when the press is not around. In public, innuendos are the preferred form of belittlement. The Southampton Press eats it up – as does Suffolk Life – following his entrails waiting for bits of PR to report. Sometimes they create “news” to help him out.

While Kabot’s Primary challenge of Heaney is a difficult one, she is a well-respected local politician and resents Heaney’s importation of Nuzzi from the neighboring Town of Brookhaven where political scandals have sent the rats looking for dryer ground – like Good Ground (a local term for Hampton Bays). They didn’t call it Crookhaven for nothing.

Both Heaney and Nuzzi have teamed up for the purpose of coordinating the continuing takeover of Southampton from out of the area politicos. One of their hallmark stunts, my Manhattan friends, has been to turn the illegal immigrant controversy into political hay and to continue the importation of talent that would keep Heaney in power after his term expires – and also create an out of town Putsch that would keep their hands on the money and power. In other words, folks, control of fundraising through contracts and power over Hamptons real estate and its industry.

So, how to do that? Well, for one thing there’s the recent passage of Heaney’s new rental law, (Resolution 2007-1184) which eliminates the existing group rental law, formerly euphemistically known as the Summer Rental Permit law. That law will now be replaced with one that requires all houses to be registered – permitting Code Enforcement Officers to inspect every house in the Town.
For what purpose, you say?

Well, to make you safe, silly! And, to know who is in that house. Didn't you know that in Southampton, the next best thing to video cameras operated by the government in your house -- is to require that you tell them who is living there?

Naturally, the law is not intended to do the work of Big Brother looking for Latinos, Gays, Blacks or summer people. It’s certainly not intended to fine or otherwise harass property owners who may rent to such "undesirables" – which would conveniently permit the sympathetic Code Enforcement Officers to enter your home without a warrant to help you find violations.

No, that couldn’t be the reason, could it?

Anna Throne-Holst, one of the candidates for Town Board, who is on to the real reason for the rental law, spoke up at the hearing which reminded some of the old days in Salem. She was clearly aware of the real intention of Heaney's boys.

As one insider said of Throne-Holst, "I guess Anna's strongest characteristic is her refusal to compromise her principles even for the sake of political gain. I was very impressed that she attended the town board meeting in which the rabble demanded the ill conceived rental law be passed. Anna made no bones about her opposition, but did it an non-confrontational way. She even took aside the leading supporter of the bill, a virulent anti-illegal immigrant proponent and engaged her in a conversation regarding the faults of the overwhelmingly passed bill."

Considering the fact that there is no such thing as a house that could survive a violation search by someone who wants to find a problem, any problem – this is, by any standards, an offer that any property owner cannot refuse -- to have one’s constitutional rights violated. The ostensible reason for the law is to make the people who they have been trying to run out of town -- safer. Do they think we are all -- local residents and New Yorkers alike -- stupid?
That's like protecting your friend by shooting him rather than taking him to the doctor because he's in pain.

Whether you speak Spanish or not.

Heaney and Nuzzi have found a solution to their three major problems. How to keep the New Yorkers under thumb and docile by threatening their ability to pay for investment property with big mortgages; how to deflect everyone's anger at the outrageous increase in property taxes; and how to avoid the criticism for doing nothing about affordable housing for local residents. They have managed to use local sympathy for "undesirables" in the Town – to craft an unconstitutional answer to the waning of the Republican Party and Heaney’s dwindling political career. And, they don't care at whose expense they do it.

When the waves of property being sold really hits the local Hamptons market -- due to the horrendous tax increases and unrentable houses -- it will become apparent to New Yorkers and local Hampton residents just how bad Heaney is for everyone's pocket book.

Heaney & Company have turned the local voters attention away from the non-existent affordable housing. A campaign pledge to provide homes for the residents who cannot afford to live here is a failed promise – so, let’s go after property owners from New York and force the Guatemalans out of their rentals.

What no one wants to admit is the fact that most new investment properties are difficult to afford, even by the owners. The old rental formulas don't work. So, by offering property at less than their owners cost, investors have been creating the only new affordable rental market in the Hamptons. They have been subsidizing the Town's housing stock by supporting large mortgages in the hopes of future gain by appreciation. These are the so-called "slumlords" that Heaney is targeting. Let's kill affordable housing and then let's kill off the people who are really providing it -- that's the Heaney approach. The inferior housing (ostensible reason for the new rental law)-- which are inhabited by people they would like to kill or deport, are exaggerated for the Press and by the Press to get votes from people who don't want Latinos living next door.

So far, Heaney's boys have accomplished their mission without most women voters realizing that they are being governed by misogynistic politicians who are opposed to good government. Ask Linda Kabot, or Nancy Graboski how civil Heaney is to women outside of the Press room.

But, hey, so what? Twenty or Thirty-Somethings are not my problem and as far as the Latinos, Blacks and Gays – I’ll get a different landscaper or Interior Designer. I’ll bring my own help from New York. Or, I'll do it myself.

Well, aside from being far from PC, there are a few other little problems.

Since media coverage of these local antics is practically non-existent in the Hamptons, here are some useful pieces of information –

Nancy Graboski, member of the Town Board was a good Republican but exposed the fact that a local builder, Mr. Zizzi, perhaps should not have been deciding who gets variances while simultaneously accepting contracts to build houses locally -- from people who appeared in front of his Town committee for favorable rulings. Graboski was, and is, a successful Republican Town Board member and, as unheard of as it was, – Marcus Stinchi, the Republican Party Chair (a local landscaper), who takes his orders from Heaney, -- bumped her from the ticket.

Fortunately, Graboski also has a line on the Integrity Party – a new political party that supports individual initiative and ethics in local government.

More talent was been imported by Heaney (Russo) from the Suffolk D.A.’s Office to round out the up-Island transition team to keep his influence flowing. It is widely anticipated that Nuzzi is Heaney’s bet for Supervisor in two years – with Russo backing him up. This way, Heaney’s in power and Nuzzi’s on the Board with Russo backing them up – and these numbers would control the Board. It also doesn’t hurt that Russo is one of D.A. Spota’s A.D.A’s to round out the law and order patina. Suffolk County is big on cops and prosecutors.

Graboski, however, like Kabot, is very popular. The fact that Heaney has been putting down the women candidates – by belittling them in private and demoting them in public does not play well with female voters -- even in Hampton Bays.

But Heaney & Company can’t really control their behavior since it is an integral part of the Old Boy network psychology. Bring in the Boys from up the island, keep down the locals, threaten the New Yorkers financially and, especially, subjugate the women. And, of course, charge it to the New Yorkers while you terrorize them where it hurts – in the real estate.

This brings us to the new PILOT plan. With the help of Assemblyman Thiele (who instituted the 2% transfer tax on real estate for open land purchases), money from the Preservation Fund can now be stolen from its intended use and openly used for political graft and vote buying.

The Fund was originally intended to buy land so that it remained vacant. Not a bad idea. The Fund generates nearly $100 million in transfer taxes – paid for primarily by New Yorkers who buy vacation homes in the Hamptons.

Real Estate pays for the property taxes that funds most of the government and the Preservation Fund pays for land purchases. Most of it is used at the discretion of the government in power – or, in this case, Heaney & Co. and it is really used to buy cooperation, favors and VOTES. Heaney could care less about the land as long as it benefits Hampton Bays or buy votes or favors elsewhere.

To Wit – The PILOT plan allows money from the Preservation Fund to be siphoned off for other uses – in this case School Taxes.

So what does that have to do with votes?

Well, in the Southampton Press, the official Republican Party Town organ recently (8/23/07) displayed a photo of Heaney and Nuzzi on the cover with a giant check from the Town of Southampton Preservation Fund written to the “Hampton Bays Taxpayers.”

Hampton Bays happens to be the largest voting block in Southampton Town. Hampton Bays gets a $1.5 million gift for local schools. Heaney and Nuzzi are handing the gift to the Hampton Bays School.

Kabot is challenging Heaney in a Republican primary for the first time. The Primary is on September 18th and the Southampton Press headline reads: "Financial Windfall for Hampton Bays." It's like a front page ad in the Southampton Press for Heaney.

The Hampton Bays vote usually decides the election – and, in this case Heaney is betting (Preservation Fund money) YOUR MONEY, that this will swing the Primary and the General Election vote his way. Nothing like buying the vote with the New Yorker’s and homeowner’s money – especially, since he plans on screwing them again once in office for another two years, and perhaps beyond that through his clones Nuzzi and Russo. Remember, New Yorker's can't vote -- even though it's their money paying for all of this. Remember the Boston Tea Party?

It's no surprise that the other Board members knew nothing of this press conference – or that even Fred Thiele explained that this PILOT program was not yet approved (but now will be by the Town Board through the intimidation of lost votes if they don’t).

Thiele professed ignorance of this ploy, along with the news conference which conveniently left Kabot and Graboski out of the loop but found a Southampton Press reporter right down the block. How do those guys from the Southampton Press -- along with a photographer -- always know just where to be to get their scoops?

This little media stunt clearly indicates that the Southampton Press is blatantly in Heaney’s pocket – along with the other major "news source" (Suffolk Life), whose publisher's son, Dave Wilmot,Jr., happens to be Heaney’s campaign manager. Talk about an independent media in the Hamptons?

Get ready for more “soldiers” from up the island imported to continue Heaney’s reign.

Get ready for more raiding of the Preservation Fund to support political games so that your tax money keeps the Emperor, Heaney, in office.

Get ready for the renewed subordination of women until this regime of good ‘old boys running Southampton Town.

And, get ready for the rental law witch-hunts, which will trample on the Constitution and make Kristalnacht looks like mischief on Prom Night at the local high school.
All the while, the Storm Troopers will be breaking into houses, eliminating the rental property market, raising taxes and flooding the market with unaffordable housing for sale.

This is the solution to the Latinos, affordable housing, equality for women, and the control and destruction of the real estate market in the Hamptons. Elect Skip Heaney!

And they’re going to do it with your money.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Seas of Change

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.
-John Kenneth Galbraith

Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others.
-Groucho Marx

The Town of Southampton's most interesting political struggles involve a few positions that have not really been challenged for the last decade.
The Supervisor race has really been a dog and pony show since Heaney and Connuscio squared off over the cell phone tower imbroglio -- and the Feds were wiring both of them to try to get a conviction for the "sale" of influence on the Town Board. The "informer" walked on that conviction and it was back to business as usual subsequent to that -- with Hal Ross hired by the Republicans to threaten anyone who wanted to run against Heaney. No wonder Ross was one of the only "Democrats" who became a paid consultant to Heaney's Republican administration.

But this year, the last possible run for Heaney as Supervisor (unless he pulls a Chavez trick and cancels term limits), finds Linda Kabot challenging him in a primary contest. As a Town Council member, her reasons for running were publicized in the local news but the truth is probably easier to find by "throwing the cards" or consulting a ouija board while sipping Margarita's at the Driver's Seat - than by reading that Republican house organ, the Southampton Press. If you're really adventurous you could also pick up Suffolk Life which is about as newsworthy as the circulars for backyard sheds or garage extensions (its life span having more to do with Free Speech compliments of the courts than independent reporting), -- and is about as relevant to current political thought.

In addition to Kabot for Supervisor, one of the candidates for Judge in this country's busiest Justice Court is Andrea Schiavoni. She's running against Eddy Burke, one of the East End's best known jurists and Republican Party insider. He is well connected and he is, well, well connected. He's not a bad lawyer and his family moniker is about at the same par with the Gilmartins. Southampton is really a small town in that regard. People are still warned to leave town at sundown in subtle ways - it's just done differently from the days when Clint Eastwood was still making spaghetti westerns.

Eddy Burke's son is a Town Attorney in Southampton. Gilmartin was Town Attorney and Village Attorney.

If you want to get things done in this Town, or Village, you get to know who matters.

Or, you just don't get things done.

It's really not PC to be a New Yorker, a Democrat, a Jew, a Black or a Latino.

In other words, New Yorkers cannot vote for what's done with the property tax money that pays for the local government; Democrats don't inherit any political power; Jews are supposed to stick to buying vacation homes; Blacks are told to keep quiet, and, Latinos - well, they're just supposed to work hard and watch out that they don't get shot at for not speaking English. And hope that they are not going to be forced out of their homes by Steve Frano, Code Enforcement One (yes, that is his title), and his storm troopers. Especially, if Heaney decides to target the property owners or the Spanish speaking tenants - and then sics Frano on them. Targeting political rivals or vocal opponents is a favorite tactic of Heaney and his new kemosave, Chris Nuzzi, an "associate" who was imported from Crookhaven after some nasty political dirt erupted there. Both of them campaigned on the issue of creating a new rental housing law, among other tactics, to deal with politically unpopular inaction by Bush at the national level - to "solve" the illegal immigration problem. Together, they molded a proposed law that took aim at all of the "undesirables."
So, what did they do?

Heaney and Nuzzi decided to expand the presently unconstitutional "summer share house law" which was intended to do the work of code enforcement people who were too uneducated and/or incompetent to enforce the laws already on the books without violating everyone's rights (i.e., garbage, noise, parking, tenancy violations) - and so they decided to lump the Latinos into that mix - and add some REALLY good criminal sanctions.

And, to help out the economy and their buddies, they targeted homeowners and property owners who have the gall to rent to these undesirables. Why?

Because affordable housing in the Hamptons is a joke.

And, because it is easier to issue a criminal summons than it is to enforce rational, unbiased laws. If you are smart you advise people to make changes.

If you're stupid, you pull a gun on them and bully them.

That's the Town of Southampton way - under Heaney.

You can't have your hands in those property-owner tax payer's pockets if you cannot threaten them with criminal summonses. They might get pissed off at not having the ability to vote you out of office if you can't target them when they complain.

Heaney & Co. has no intention of offending local developers or their attorneys, nor does he have any intention of introducing zoning rules that will give local residents the ability to afford a house - so he and Nuzzi want the voters to be angry at the Latinos and property owners who don't fill their campaign coffers. That's the ticket: Heaney and Nuzzi. Heaney now, Nuzzi in two years. Heaney goes and Nuzzi escapes the smell from Brookhaven and takes over Southampton in two years.

According to the June article in Suffolk Life, Nuzzi is quoted as saying, there is "presumptive evidence" of illegal occupancy if the Code Enforcement people don't like what they see at someone's house. Instead of having to issue a warning, to serve a homeowner if they live out of town, we're going to allow the owner to be served by advising the Town Clerk. Gee, that's really giving someone notices of a problem.

So, in other words, folks, if we think we don't like something, we're just going to give the notice to one of our people - and, you've served. We'll mail a letter to ourselves. Isn't that neat -- and illegal -- don't you think?

How's that for legal process - or, constitutional law?

Back to Andrea Schiavoni. She is a very business-like attorney who suffers from only a few tragic flaws in Southampton: she's smart and she's experienced.

And, Burke suffers from only one major flaw. He's, well, Burke.

Aside from being part of the old boy network and needs to find a new sinecure after Pataki bit the dust, Burke and Burke and Burke are similar to Gilmartin and Gilmartin and Gilmartin.

The inbred problem seems to be good for local business but it is does not bode well for the concept of political or economic reform.

It's not always necessary for malevolent charges of unethical or immoral, or even illegal behavior - for the public to say, we need a change.

The cobwebs of connections in a small but very rich community sometimes speak for themselves.

Andrea Schiavoni is highly experienced and would augment a Justice Court bench where the level of Republican control of legal decisions is only too obvious.

Court Officers, Code Enforcement Officers, Town Police, County Police, Village Police, Town Attorneys, Village Attorneys, Assistant District Attorneys - all glare at and subtly threaten Judges to "do the right thing" in these small local Village and Town courts.

Andrea Andrea Schiavoni is no pale flower and is not someone who would easily be influenced to rule by anything but "the rule of law." She is not an insider but she is also not an outsider. She is a Sag Harbor resident and would be a real addition and instrument of change for that court.

Linda Kabot, member of the Town Council, had been an associate of "Skip" Heaney but has recently ruptured with the Republican hierarchy, as has Nancy Graboski.

Graboski, a Town Board member ruptured ties with the Republican Party over the Zizzi flap. While the Southampton Press has been careful to not step on Kabot or too heavily on Graboski, it is clear that they are siding with the Southampton Town Republican Party majority who feed them business and information. It's one reason why you will never find a key Republican in their police blotter - they would be shut out of information and advertising.

Kabot is respected by the local populace and is not sitting on a several hundred thousand dollar campaign chest as Heaney is - but is challenging Heaney nevertheless. She is also one of several candidates supported by the new reform-minded Integrity Party - whose leaders include Darren Johnson and Bob Olson.

Both Johnson and Olson are a breed of political leaders that work outside of the box; if you are a reform-minded candidate seeking to improve the political process, they want to talk to you. In the cross-endorsement era of Suffolk politics, they are more interested in improving politics than controlling political power for local voters.

In response to Kabot's declaration of independence, of course, Heaney felt it was his "obligation" to report a conflict of interest issue regarding a piece of land that relatives in Kabot's family owned - NEXT TO a parcel that was being developed. No profit or income to Kabot or her family, of course, and no benefit to them.

This is Conflict of interest?

Now, Conflict of Interest is as common a concept in the Heaney administration - or in Southampton Town politics up to this point - as are unconstitutional local laws. You know, those laws that are intended to harass people out of their homes and prevent young people from sharing a house in the summer? With a handful of code enforcement officers who like to issue "Criminal Summonses" rather than simply send warning letters to homeowners; with a set of laws that seek to criminalize homeowners for not having a house number affixed to their doors; with the "Target your enemies" attitude in the one real income producing business in the Hamptons (real estate) - you have a Town owned and operated by people who look up to Storm Troopers - and who have the same attitude as their WWII counterparts towards Blacks, Jews, Latinos and New Yorkers.

Zizzi was a builder who sat on the Zoning Appeals Committee and who voted on variance applications for people who were going to build locally. (Talk about Conflict of Interest) And, it was this odorous connection in the Town that got Graboski upset - causing the rift among the Republicans.

Masterson runs the Highway Department and gives out contracts for paving and is one of the biggest fundraisers for the Republican Party. (No conflict here)

Heaney decides which parcels are bought with Peconic Transfer Tax money, which sub Rosa repays political favors. (You see any conflict here?)

Kabot is guilty of Conflict of Interest when a relative owned property next to a parcel that received a variance?

Did Heaney see fit to report the bag of cash on the front seat of the vehicle when he and Cannuscio were sparring - or, did the Feds mention that to him first?

And, what about the campaign contributions discrepancies that has been investigated and reported in the East Hampton Star?

The Kabot flap is so weak that it only points out to all observers that Heaney has obviously been weakened. Why has he decided just now to make this an issue? She has been serving on the Town Board for how many years now?

James Henry has been the target of the Republicans as well. The most recent shot across the bow has been the Heaney "leaks" involving marital antagonism with Henry's former wife.

His bona fides are well respected and impressive. He's a graduate of Harvard and has credentials as an investigative reporter. He's even spent time in Noriega's Panama, which helped bring down the deposed dictator.

Henry is running for Supervisor against Heaney - on the Democratic line.

Rich Schaeffer, the head "cross-endorsement" Chair of the Suffolk County Democratic Party has already had his "Fireside chat" with Henry.

Apparently, the fact that Schaeffer is buddies with Fred Thiele, the Assemblyman and new Sag Harbor judge, seems to have enabled Henry get some unpleasant opinions of his candidacy.

Thiele is buddies with Heaney, Thiele is buddies with Schaeffer, and Schaeffer is not buddies with his own Democratic candidate.

What is that about? I think we can all guess. It used to be called political corruption. Now it's called cross-endorsement.
All very chummy, isn't it?

We'll keep you posted on these unfolding election year games.