10/11/13 5:00am
10/11/2013 5:00 AM

It’s about this time each year that the job of putting out a quality weekly newspaper and maintaining 24-hour news websites gets jammed up with phone calls and emails from local political party leaders, candidates and their supporters regarding letters to the editor. Many complain about how letters or Guest Spots were edited and which letters ran or didn’t run.

First, anyone reading this paper should know that, above all, Times/Review Newsgroup strives for fairness in its editorial content — including reader input, be it letters or other opinion pieces. That means if some items of factual concern were removed from your letter or your language was changed for some reason, please trust that other submissions are being treated the same way. All letters, guest columns and even political ads are vetted for blatant factual errors or potentially libelous charges. Other than that, the editors try not to be too heavy-handed.

As for which letters make it into the paper, here are the basic ground rules (in addition to our standard letters policy):

• Each candidate will be allowed just one letter each between today, Oct. 10, and Election Day.

• Letters from supporters will be considered for publication. In the past, Times/Review Newsgroup has rejected such letters outright but that stance has softened in recent years. Letters voicing political support for a candidate may run, but they will be judged according to several criteria, including whether the paper is being fair in giving equal space to other candidates’ supporters and whether the letter itself raises clear, factual and interesting points.

• Letters that pour in as part of an obvious writing “campaign” will be largely ignored. If several letters come in regarding one particular candidate before an edition’s publication date, we’ll publish one of them.

• No letters critical of a candidate or raising issues new to the campaign will appear in the Oct. 31 edition, the last one before Election Day, since that candidate would have no opportunity to respond in print.

• Letters expressing thanks to community groups and residents will be given minimal priority during the election season.

Above all, the Opinion pages of this newspaper should be an informative and enjoyable experience for the average reader.

And the average reader is our primary concern, even in a local election season.

10/03/13 8:00am
10/03/2013 8:00 AM

Riverhead PoliceFrom Riverhead to Mastic, Wading River and South Jamesport, it seemed as if town police were everywhere at once this past week.

A steady stream of high-profile crimes began last Wednesday morning with an alleged burglary at an East Main Street gas mart and an attempted armed robbery at CVS on Route 58. In the CVS case, the suspects fled on foot before cops could arrive. But it didn’t take police long to track the suspects to a farm field and take them into custody. Three men were charged and the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case believes they may have been involved in other pharmacy robberies in Suffolk. We’ll learn more when a grand jury indictment is unsealed.

In the gas station burglary, responding officers used the help of a K-9 cop to corner a suspect who was still inside the building when they arrived, according to police. He was arrested on the spot.

Cops again called for a police dog when tracking a suspect accused of burglarizing a South Jamesport home Thursday and crashing a getaway van before fleeing on foot.

Then on Sunday, police tracked a man accused of stabbing his girlfriend at Tanger Outlets  Saturday night to Mastic, where he was apprehended the next day.

In between we saw a burglary bust in Wading River that also ended in Mastic and a handful of DWI arrests, among others that didn’t make the paper.

Congratulating police could be seen as celebrating a glass half full. A conversation could instead focus on why so many people now find themselves desperate enough to commit such crimes in town — and what can be done to identify and address contributing problems within our communities.

But that’s not the job of the police department. The police are paid to enforce the law. And they’re doing a fine job of it.

09/26/13 8:00am
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead school board members at Tuesday night's meeting.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead school board members at Tuesday night’s meeting.

It’s beyond positive news that the Riverhead School District and its teachers finally get to put labor negotiations behind them.

Teachers, administrators and school board members can now move on to what at times may seem like insurmountable challenges under the new Common Core initiative: its corresponding curriculum changes and state testing components, as well as the implementation of teacher evaluation programs.

All this, while operating under the state’s year-to-year tax levy cap.

But we at the News-Review would be remiss if we did not take a moment to recognize a job well done by all parties involved in hammering out a labor deal that’s fair to both teachers and taxpayers. It’s a deal that will help the district operate under the tax cap without having to keep shedding staff while still offering modest annual pay increases to recognize the hard work of Riverhead educators.

The teachers union, which holds much leverage in the collective bargaining process, could have exercised more of its lawful power in scratching for higher and higher pay for its members. But other factors played a role, factors beyond individual household incomes for union members.

Aside from the negotiating work on the district’s side, it seems apparent that teachers understood the state of our current economy and the tax cap — in short, that people are hurting and higher wages would necessitate reductions in services. And Riverhead teachers (and students) have been benefitting from the investment and sacrifices communities across the district have made — despite an uncertain economy — in approving a $78.3 million school bond for infrastructure upgrades in the schools. The teachers’ work spaces are larger, more modern and more pleasant. And they have local taxpayers to thank.

And we believe that thank-you, in part, has come in the form of agreeing to a fair compensation deal during a tough, stressful time in our schools.

09/19/13 8:00am
09/19/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Riverhead News-Review People of the Year (clockwise from top): Civic person Georgete Keller, Educator Jeff Doroski, Overall POY Denise Lucas, Business person Rich Stabile and Public servant Ed Romaine.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Riverhead News-Review’s 2012 People of the Year (clockwise from top): Civic person Georgete Keller, Educator Jeff Doroski, Overall POY Denise Lucas, Business person Rich Stabile and Public servant Ed Romaine.

Every year at this time we use this space to ask Riverhead News-Review readers to nominate candidates for our People of the Year issue. In our first issue of 2014, we will name a civic leader, educator, businessperson, public servant and overall person of the year.

With their poignant nominations, our readers have always played perhaps the most important role in the selection process. Last year, they helped us choose a wide array of worthy recipients, from a local woman who made a tireless effort to raise funds to improve the town’s animal shelter, to the founder of Long Island’s first vodka distillery and a football coach who led a traditionally losing program to its best season in three decades.

We’ve always prided ourselves on honoring people from diverse fields and all walks of life. We want to hear about people like the teacher who went above and beyond to help you become a better student or the business owner who never stops giving back to the community.

This town is loaded with residents who work tirelessly to make our area a better place. We always have a growing list of people who are more than qualified to earn such an honor. That list can never be too long.

We realize there are a great many people doing big things in their community who don’t seek the spotlight. As a result, the work they do is hardly noticed. That’s who we’re talking about.

Do you know such a person? Let us know.

Nominations can be mailed to Times/Review Newsgroup, P.O. Box 1500, Mattituck, NY 11952. Or you can email the editor at mwhite@timesreview.com. Faxes are OK, too; our fax number is 631-298-3287. Or just give us a call at 631-298-3200 and ask for Michael White at extension 152.

Tell us why this person or group is deserving — and please be sure to give us your phone number so we can follow up. All correspondence will be kept confidential, so the people nominated don’t even have to know you are singling them out. Nominations should be submitted by Dec. 4.

We plan to announce our People of the Year in the Jan. 2, 2014, edition.

We’ll do our best to keep our awards hush-hush until the day the paper comes out. Become involved in the selection process. Practice your own random act of kindness by helping us showcase a deserving friend or neighbor.

09/12/13 8:00am
09/12/2013 8:00 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Hundreds marched down Park Road in Reeves Park Monday night, joined by uniformed members of the Riverhead Fire Department, the Wading River Boy Scouts troop and other groups, to pay their respects to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Hundreds marched down Park Road in Reeves Park Monday night, joined by uniformed members of the Riverhead Fire Department, the Wading River Boy Scouts troop and other groups, to pay their respects to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Our country was changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001, and the fallout from the events of that terrible day has yielded nothing glorious except the inspiring deeds of individuals in service to others.

We’ve witnessed the courage, selflessness and nobility of the victims and their families; of the soldiers who later fought and died for their comrades and their country; and, perhaps above all, of the emergency responders of that day — and every day.

Perhaps one of the greater goods to come out of the terrorist attacks 12 years ago is the evolution of Sept. 11 as a sort of de facto holiday on which we remember and honor the work of police, firefighters and ambulance workers in communities throughout the U.S. During Sept. 11 every year, TV, newspapers and social media abound with tributes and thanks to these brave men and women. God knows they deserve it.

But for far too long, their sacrifices had gone largely overlooked, except in the cases of tragedy or uniquely heroic acts. Our emergency responders perform heroic acts each and every day. Waking up in the middle of the night to respond to a fire alarm or an accident is a heroic act. Sacrificing time with relatives — sometimes missing out on birthday parties or ballgames — is a heroic act. And the support and understanding of first responders’ spouses and children are acts of sacrifice and heroism as well.

Sept. 11 has become a day to remember these sacrifices and tip our hats to those who work to protect the rest of us from fire, accidents, violence and health hazards. For these reasons, The Suffolk Times supports the call for making Sept. 11 a national holiday.

As Veterans Day and Memorial Day honor all American members of the Armed Forces, past and present, Sept. 11, a day marred by great loss and tragedy, can and should be turned into something similarly grand: an official day to honor those who died on that day or in its aftermath, along with all those still fighting terrorism abroad and those continuing to serve as everyday heroes in their own communities.

09/05/13 8:00am
09/05/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio at Monday's debate.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio at the Aug. 26 debate.

Americans often complain of entrenched elected leaders, party machines and the overall political powers-that-be joining forces to give a Heisman Trophy-style stiff-arm to the electorate when it comes to who gets into public office — and who stays there.

Political primaries are one tool the public has to take a bit of that power back, because regular citizens — at least in New York, citizens registered with parties — get to choose who runs for office on a given party line.

Locally, party nominations up for grabs on primary day, Tuesday, Sept. 10, include the Democratic pick for Riverhead Town supervisor and Republican and Independence party nods for two open council seats.

While party leaders and incumbent candidates may hate primaries, it’s hard to argue against the positives they bring to the political process.

This year’s primary races have given voters a unique opportunity to get to know candidates they might not otherwise have heard much from — or about — until now.

And the dialogue during the races, including at the Aug. 26 primary debates, has pushed some real issues in Riverhead Town to the forefront. These include zoning and planning matters, and whether the town is headed in the right direction, in terms of development. Other questions concern the role of the Industrial Development Agency and whether it should exist at all. The idea of term limits is also something that seemed to be gaining traction based on some pretty hearty applause at the downtown debates.

As far as endorsements go, politically independent newspapers like the News-Review don’t typically endorse candidates in party primaries. The paper is in no position to say who would be the better Republican or better Democrat. That’s up to the club: registered party members.

But we do hope we’ve provided enough coverage and opportunity for readers to get to know these candidates, so that they can make an informed choice.

08/30/13 7:00am
08/30/2013 7:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Friends set up a memorial on Route 58 for hit-and-run victim Kristina Tfelt a few days after her death.

It should go without saying that tough drunk driving laws have prevented countless deaths here and across the United States. But there are also the laws of unintended consequences.

Local and state law enforcement officers and prosecutors have come to notice a loophole in state penal law when it comes to prosecuting drivers in fatal hit-and-run accidents. It’s a hole that lets real criminals off on lighter sentences, creating another set of victims in the form of surviving family members left to cope not only with the loss of a loved one but also with the feeling that justice had never been served.

As things stand, there’s actually an incentive for drivers who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol to flee serious accidents rather than stay on scene and, say, call 911 for immediate help. That’s because standing by could lead to much harsher charges. Heading home — or hiding out — gives a driver time to sober up. And self-preservation can be a powerful emotion in an emergency.

The state Senate has supported legislation that would impose harsher penalties for leaving the scene of a fatal crash. These penalties can be just as harsh as the same vehicular manslaughter laws someone could face if he or she were found to have been driving drunk during such a crash. But the bill stalled in the state Assembly in the last legislative session.

It’s being said that Albany lawmakers are concerned that some people, who may or may not be drunk, could end up being punished too severely for panicking and fleeing the scene of an accident. And safeguards to prevent decent people from serving long prison sentences should be addressed in any changes to the law. But such concerns are no excuse to do nothing.

Certainly, lawmakers could agree that rewarding drunken people for fleeing crash scenes — even in non-serious accidents, which can be quite pricey for victims — is a problem that must be dealt with. While stiffer penalties may not deter such incidents, there are real issues of justice at hand.

08/22/13 8:00am
08/22/2013 8:00 AM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO  |  County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, center, listens to a 2012 presentation on the county's fiscal situation.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, center, listens to a 2012 presentation on the county’s fiscal situation.

Suffolk County’s plan to merge the elected comptroller and treasurer positions into one job with one staff is supposed to save more than $800,000 annually. Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone, now with the overwhelming support of the county Legislature, has been pushing the measure, saying it would eliminate duplicative jobs.

The consolidation proposal goes to voters countywide through a referendum on Election Day, when it will likely pass. (Who wouldn’t vote to trim county jobs?)

But current county Treasurer Angie Carpenter, who is running for re-election in November to a position that’s likely to be eliminated, has screamed foul. She calls this a cynical, purely political move meant only to allow Republican Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, expected to be appointed as interim chief financial officer, to sidestep his expiring term limits and be able to run for that new position in 2014. Ms. Carpenter, a Republican, has also argued that consolidating the positions would rob the county of necessary checks and balances when it comes to fiscal matters — although, last we looked, those checks and balances haven’t worked so well in recent years in Suffolk County, which faces massive budget deficits.

It’s entirely possible that revenge politics are involved, as Ms. Carpenter — Mr. Bellone’s Republican rival in the 2011 race for county executive — has alleged. But pundits could also speculate that Mr. Bellone is trying to prevent Mr. Sawicki — county government’s one elected Republican outside the Legislature — from challenging his re-election bid. Either way, so what? No matter the motivation, a good idea is a good idea. Keep in mind that Suffolk is the only county in the state that still has two fiscal positions; this consolidation should have been done years ago. If the politics are finally right for such a move, the opportunity should be taken.