11/07/13 7:00am
11/07/2013 7:00 AM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Tonight's Riverhead school board meeting is at 7 p.m.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | A public forum on the Common Core State Standards Initiative was originally going to be held at Riverhead High School.

Close to a month ago, New York Education commissioner John King canceled the only meeting on Long Island he had scheduled for hearing direct feedback from the public about the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a controversial federal program that has dominated headlines over the past few months.

To his credit, Mr. King not only rescheduled the canceled meeting, originally planned for Garden City, but added three more as well – two in Suffolk County and another in Nassau.

But getting from the scheduling phase to the implementation phase – particularly in the case of the new meeting scheduled in Riverhead on Nov. 26 – appears to be a little more challenging than it should be.

State Senator Ken LaValle told News-Review staff this week that Riverhead High School’s auditorium wouldn’t be big enough to host the meeting. Mr. LaValle said he hopes to find a venue that can hold 1,000 people, 200 more than a brand-new Riverhead auditorium can handle.

And that leaves us scratching our heads.

As if getting the state education commissioner to Suffolk County wasn’t challenging enough – and, lucky us, his office even suggested meeting in Riverhead – Mr. LaValle, our elected official — it seems, is making the process even more complicated than it needs to be. A state education spokesperson told us last week, “We are working with the senator to pick a location” — but it sure doesn’t seem like it. While we’re being told by Mr. LaValle that the meeting won’t be held in Riverhead, the state’s website, as of presstime, still said it would be.

We certainly understand the desire to include as many people as possible in the meeting. This is an important topic that affects children all across Mr. LaValle’s district. However, we do have to question the logic of attempting to add 200 seats at the expense of throwing another wrench into this already messy and contentious process. It’s a sad state of affairs when leaders who play such a large role in our children’s future have such difficulty scheduling public meetings on a topic as important as this one.

Then they wonder why there’s so much skepticism surrounding the Common Core initiative in the first place.

10/24/13 7:00am
10/24/2013 7:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Waterfront homes in Jamesport along the bay.

For a weekend trip or even just one night, those wanting to stay in Riverhead Town have options that go beyond a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast. Just visit websites like homeaway.com and VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner) to see what’s out there.

While renting private homes for short stays has long been a normal practice in town, neighbors have complained about living near these veritable hotels for perhaps just as long. They’ve had to deal with the raucous bachelor, bachelorette and wedding after-parties that come with them.

Such transient rental properties not only disturb neighborhoods but cost the state and county money as well. The owners of these homes often skirt tax laws, town officials say, by failing to pay the sales and hospitality taxes assessed hotels and motels. And the state has been acting through local municipalities to crack down on non-business operators who don’t acknowledge or observe rules that govern the legitimate innkeepers they compete against.

Of course, for every rowdy group of weekend visitors, there are probably dozens of other short-term renters who are well behaved and well meaning — and their money likely translates to a net gain for the overall local economy. So in some ways, it’s a shame a few bad apples are ruining what could be an otherwise quiet, win-win-win for renters, homeowners and the economy.

But this is a problem that has come up repeatedly for years, and it’s a good thing the Riverhead Town Board has finally done something about it, in the form of a local law passed last week that would require a minimum of 29 days for such residential rentals.

To prove the law is more than election-year pandering, Town Board members must make sure the rules get enforced. Neighbors who don’t see relief from these so-called party houses after Election Day should make their voices heard through letters to this newspaper or letters and calls to Town Hall holding officials accountable.

10/17/13 9:00am
10/17/2013 9:00 AM

Testing1

Thousands of frustrated parents and educators from across Long Island were expected to attend a forum at Garden City High School Tuesday night for an opportunity to speak with New York State Education Commissioner John King about Common Core curriculum and state testing.

Then the meeting was postponed.

The New York State PTA, which was to sponsor the event — one of a series of forums across the state — announced on its website Saturday that the event and three similar forums had been postponed indefinitely at the request of the commissioner’s office.

It was bad enough that only one forum was scheduled for Long Island on this very important topic — more than an hour from the North Fork, no less. Now it appears the discussion won’t happen at all.

Considering the concerns of parents and teachers across the state, we’d expect Mr. King to schedule more forums on the topic of Common Core, not suspend the few he had already scheduled.

The commissioner said in a statement this week that the first two forums on the topic — held in Poughkeepsie and upstate Whitesboro — had been “co-opted by special interests whose stated goal was to ‘dominate’ the questions and manipulate the forum.”

“The disruptions caused by the ‘special interests’ have deprived parents of the opportunity to listen, ask questions and offer comments,” his statement continued.

But news coverage of those two forums indicated that most speakers — who were granted just two minutes apiece after the commissioner had spoken for more than an hour — were teachers and parents. Aren’t those the very people Mr. King should be hearing from?

Since it appears the forums have only been postponed and not yet canceled for good, there’s still time for Mr. King to change his mind and carry on with the program. We hope he does, because the commissioner should be hearing more of what the public has to say, not less.

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.