06/06/14 10:00am
06/06/2014 10:00 AM
Eileen Kreiling, manager of the North Fork Animal Welfare League's Riverhead shelter, with 4-year-old pitbull Benny, who has been at the shelter since February. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Eileen Kreiling, manager of the North Fork Animal Welfare League’s Riverhead shelter, with 4-year-old pitbull Benny, who has been at the shelter since February. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

When speaking about his work as an animal advocate in town government, Councilman James Wooten will often repeat a quote widely attributed to Mahatma Ghandi: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

On this front, Riverhead Town and Suffolk County governments have each made great strides over the past few years to better care for and protect animals: this in a state that consistently ranks near the bottom in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s annual report on animal protection laws in the U.S. (more…)

05/30/14 7:00am
05/30/2014 7:00 AM
A man scales a bluff 50 yards to the east of where, the night before, a Lake Grove teen was killed in a tragic fall. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

A man scales a bluff 50 yards to the east of where, the night before, a Lake Grove teen was killed in a tragic fall. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Just about anyone who grew up on the East End can recall a time they scaled a bluff.

Whether horsing around with friends, passing the time during a day at the beach or seeking a shortcut, locals rarely think about potential consequences before hiking to the top of a cliff overlooking Long Island Sound.  (more…)

05/09/14 8:00am
05/09/2014 8:00 AM
County Executive Steve Bellone, second from right, discusses Southampton Town's Riverside plans with, from left, Councilwoman Christine Scalera, Councilman Brad Benter, Sean McLean of Renaissance Downtowns, and Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

County Executive Steve Bellone, second from right, discusses Southampton Town’s Riverside plans with, from left, Councilwoman Christine Scalera, Councilman Brad Benter, Sean McLean of Renaissance Downtowns, and Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

How refreshing it was to see the county executive touring Riverside last week, a place many elected leaders have long avoided lest they have to confront firsthand the harsh realities that exist there: unpaved roads, long-abandoned stores, boarded-up shacks, drugs, crime. And this just a few miles from — and in the same town as — some of the wealthiest Zip codes in Suffolk County and the entire country.  (more…)

02/21/14 9:00am
02/21/2014 9:00 AM

McGann-Mercy athletes: Fiona Nunez (left), Paul Annunziata and Kayla Schroeher. (Photos by Garret Meade, Robert O’Rourk)

At several points during a nearly two-hour meeting last week between McGann-Mercy High School administrators and parents of football team members, principal Carl Semmler reiterated that his decisions put the best interests of the students first.

It’s hard to see how.  (more…)

01/23/14 9:00am
01/23/2014 9:00 AM
Calverton EPCAL sign

MICHAEL WHITE FILE PHOTO | One of two signs marking the EPCAL entrance along Route 25 in Calverton.

Political science students, take note: Once again, the Zoning Board of Appeals will rule this week on an application of long-term importance to Riverhead and the surrounding areas. Town Board members regularly get lots of visibility, but it’s worth reminding readers and residents that Thursday night’s decision on plans for a 34-acre substance abuse research campus will truly shape the future of the Enterprise Park at Calverton. The ZBA should support the application. (more…)

01/17/14 8:00am
01/17/2014 8:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO  |  Educators packed a forum at Eastport-South Manor High School in December to express their displeasure over Common Core.

CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Educators packed a forum at Eastport-South Manor High School in December to express their displeasure over Common Core.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to award $20,000 bonuses to teachers who are rated “highly effective” in local school districts’ teacher evaluation systems is at best a politically tone-deaf head scratcher. At worst, it’s a cynical attempt to placate tens of thousands of educators incensed about high-stakes testing tied to the rollout of the Common Core curriculum in New York.

Consider that 320 of the 610 teachers evaluated in the Riverhead, Mattituck-Cutchogue, Southold, Greenport and Oysterponds districts received “highly effective” ratings last year. If each of them were to receive a $20,000 bonus, it would cost $6.4 million. This from just one corner of one county. Think of the cost across the entire state.

To be fair, in his State of the State speech last week, Mr. Cuomo said such teachers “would be eligible” for the $20,000 bonus. (He’s yet to provide many details.) So let’s assume that not every “highly effective” teacher would receive a full bonus — or even any bonus at all —under his plan. How would it be decided which teachers did get bonuses? Implementing such a selective system would add to what already seems to be an exorbitant waste of resources in schools, as administrators spend more and more time observing and documenting teacher performance.

It’s also hard to imagine — especially after years of a stagnant economy — that the non-teaching public would welcome a move to further reward, by huge amounts, what are already the highest-paid educators in the U.S.

An incentive program in itself, isn’t a bad idea, but it should more closely align with incentives members of the general public might be offered — not a sum that’s over a third of 2010 median family income. Incentives could also be applied strategically to recruit and retain teachers in certain subjects, such as math or science, where a local district has a specific need.

Mr. Cuomo is misguided if he’s floating his plan as a way to get teachers to relax their resistance to high-stakes testing. The bonus program as pitched, should it be enacted, would only raise the stakes and would still be tied to a fledgling and very flawed system of testing. Besides, the best teachers aren’t motivated primarily by the prospect of making more money. For them, seeing their students excel is bonus enough.

01/09/14 7:00am
01/09/2014 7:00 AM

New York State Capitol

In his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to make marijuana available in 20 New York hospitals for patients with cancer, glaucoma and other illnesses. An executive order creating an interim medical marijuana program could allow him to bypass the state Senate, which has been blocking medicinal marijuana legislation efforts.

This is welcome news for those seeking relief from pain and discomfort caused by illness. It’s also promising for those who consider this an important step toward modernizing state marijuana laws by taxing and regulating its sale and use, as with alcohol and tobacco. Our current system has done much more harm than good, most notably through the imprisonment and restrictive criminal records of countless non-violent offenders over the course of decades — not to mention the violent drug trades the laws have helped create.

Historic references to marijuana as treatment for various ailments go back thousands of years, and even today approximately 76 percent of doctors worldwide sign off on medical uses where it is legally available, according to survey findings recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Marijuana can be used to treat more ailments than prednisone, for example, yet isn’t nearly as harmful to the body. Something seems amiss when we live in a state where morphine is legal for medicinal use but marijuana isn’t. This contradiction can be explained by the fact that marijuana became a scapegoat drug beginning in the early 20th century — fueled by headline-grabbing politicians — without evidence to prove any real dangers or benefits. The argument that has evolved since holds that marijuana, though itself not especially dangerous, is a gateway drug that leads to other drug use. Prominent experts debunk this theory again and again, pointing out that marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug chosen by people who go on to use other drugs only because it’s the most readily available. In fact, most people consume alcohol before ever using marijuana.

Relaxing marijuana laws isn’t just something being promoted by those on the left. Fiscal conservatives point to the huge amount of money and resources being wasted on policing, prosecuting and imprisoning offenders. Many people readily recognize that marijuana use in and of itself does not infringe upon others’ health or safety, thus its use should be a personal choice and no business of the government’s. An exception would be the operation of a vehicle after having used marijuana, which is still illegal even in Colorado and Washington State, where recreational marijuana use has been decriminalized.

In the new year, New York State lawmakers, especially Senate Republicans, should rethink their knee-jerk stances against pot and pass a law that permit medical uses of marijuana. They should also reconsider the real benefits of proposed tax-and-regulate legislation versus the real costs — and imagined benefits — of the status quo.