Letters to the editor: March 24, 2011

Councilman Dunleavy always finds the time

I would to like comment on your attack of our Town Councilman John Dunleavy in the March. 10 edition of the News-Review. Mr Dunleavy is always available for questions via phone or in person. In fact we met just last week, on March 1, on matters pertaining to permits on signage at Riverhead Toyota. He actually made time for me and met at my place of business to direct me and our company on what was needed to rectify some issues. This type of professionalism is what I expect from elected officials such as Mr. Dunleavy.
Michael Hamill
service director, Riverhead Toyota

Unacceptable misjudgment
People involved in politics need to put their energies into developing and promoting the beautification and revitalization of Riverhead instead of criticizing Councilman John Dunleavy and his vacation status. Where are their priorities?
The March 10 News-Review article was a disgrace and an infringement on Mr. Dunleavy’s privacy. Nowhere in his oath of office does it stipulate when, where or how long he may vacation. Councilman Dunleavy was available 24/7 and even flew back to Riverhead twice, at his own expense, to attend to necessary Town Board business. To our knowledge, our town of Riverhead did not suffer as a result of his physical absence.
We have known John Dunleavy for over 30 years, during which time he and his wife have given more than 100 percent of their time and service to the people and town of Riverhead. We consider the article in question as an attack on his integrity and character and his dedication as a member of the Riverhead Town Board.
To whom it may concern, please rethink and organize your priorities and Councilman John Dunleavy’s vacation plans should not be on your agenda.
Roe and Joe Czulada
and Friends of John Dunleavy

Villains among us?
The torturous 10-year-saga of the proposed Rivercatwalk Hotel along the Peconic River in Riverside has come to a horrific, maddening end. The 20-acre site is to be lost to preservation by Suffolk County.
With the exception of McDonald’s and a handful of small business properties, the entire five-plus mile Riverside Riverfront is off the taxrolls as preserved land. Every other waterfront hamlet on the East End enjoys a healthy waterfront taxbase, except Riverside. The local residents who can least afford it must carry the burden of preservation forever.
Consider these 10 questions as we look back at the destruction of this project:
1. Did our politicians know that by preserving this land they were also embalming a living community?
2. With his $250,000 grant in hand to study a new sewer system for the area, why did County Legislator Jay Schneiderman shepherd the removal of the key Rivercatwalk property?
3. Why is the county spending $3.5 million to preserve the entire 20-acre site when the developer was willing to preserve all the environmentally sensitive land at no cost?
4. How can the state DEC justify allowing new multistory construction projects across the Peconic in Riverhead, yet deny the same in Riverside?
5. Why didn’t Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst find the guts to scratch and fight for her constituents in their desperate hour instead of throwing under the bus her town attorney, claiming he advised her “not to interfere with the deal?”
6. Where was land management director Jeff Murphree to help guide this needed project toward sensible planning?
7. When Ms. Throne-Holst said the “Community Preservation Fund wasn’t interested in preserving only a part of the property,” just where is that money being spent? And for what better purpose than this?
8. Was the CPF decision deliberate in order to force the developer to sell all her land to Suffolk County? And does the fact that the fund’s director, Mary Wilson — married to Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, who would prefer to see no Rivercatwalk at all —come into play in her decision? Pillow talk?
9. Why wasn’t the entire Town Board informed of this Riverside crisis? Who is in charge, the elected officials or the career bureaucrats?
10. Why didn’t FRNCA (Flanders, Riverside Northampton Community Association) president Brad Bender share what he knew after a clandestine meeting with the supervisor and developer in Fall 2010, when there was still time to steer Rivercatwalk to a safe port? Or was Mr. Bender’s political future with Ms.Throne-Holst blinding his duty to his neighbors facing monster tax hikes and rent hikes as the result of his inaction?
Chris Sheldon

Soviet no more
I recently filed legislation to allow Suffolk County contract agencies, such as Cornell Cooperative Extension, to respond to inquiries from the media. As the News-Review and The Suffolk Times pointed out in their editorials last week, the county has a little-known contract provision that forbids contract agencies and not-for-profits from discussing their programs with the media without approval from the county.
No agency should be prohibited from speaking to the media or be required to have their message pre-approved by the county. This attempt to manage the news is nothing less than censorship!
That’s why my legislation would prohibit the county from requiring contract agencies to get approval before speaking with the media. The receipt of public money should not limit free speech in this country.
Edward Romaine
Suffolk County Legislator, 1st District

More spending, but on what?
It’s interesting to note that in 1970 the student-to-teacher ratio was 22:1, while today it has dropped to 16:1 even while there was an increase in school spending of 123 percent during the same period of time.
With $4.35 billion of federal stimulus money being spent in the competitive “Race to the Top” grants, the United States still ranked 21st in science literacy and 25th out of 30 developed countries in math literacy even while ranking fifth in spending, per student, between kindergarten and the 12th grade.
In 2009, 69 percent of eighth-graders scored below proficient in reading while 68 percent of them scored below proficient in math. Classes are smaller, per-pupil spending has increased dramatically, and yet student performance has still not improved one bit among 17-year-olds in a recent national test for reading.
Yet with the statistics showing that increased spending and decreased class size has done nothing to improve our children’s education, come school budget time you can be sure to hear the same old refrain that we’ve heard for years on end: “Approve the budget. After all, it’s for our children.”
Is it really for our children or will the money once again go to generous salaries, pensions, medical benefits, and most of all, bloated support staffs?
Thomas W. Smith

SWR schools should retain Dr. Copel
In light of upcoming financial cuts to education, the impending tax cap and an impending cap on superintendent salaries, I am disturbed at the present situation in Shoreham-Wading River.  The Board of Education has hired an outside firm to analyze the needs and preferences of this community, search for and interview potential candidates and use additional funding to advertise for the superintendent position.
Community input has been minimal, which leads me to the conclusion that the majority of the public was either happy with the current superintendent or indifferent.  The number of candidates is low, and this district’s financial situation is a mess. With the kind of salary we can offer, our choices are going to be slim.
It is my opinion that it is a huge mistake for the board to have accepted the resignation of Superintendent Harriet Copel.  Even with her faults, she has infinitely more experience than any candidate who is going to be brought forward by the outside firm, at least considering the nuanced issues that affect Shoreham-Wading River.  Additionally, the high educational standards to which she’s shown herself to be committed match the standards of many community members (the search firm pointed to this community’s commitment to high educational standards).  
Finally, her commitment to communication with the public was outstanding — another point made at a recent community forum. From the very start of her tenure in SWR, Dr. Copel showed up at PTA meetings, civic meetings and even church coffee hours to reach out and speak to community members.  This commitment has been completely overlooked in recent years, when it was perceived that our superintendent was “not listening” to the public at board meetings.  Many of these voices were loud and rude, yet Dr. Copel remained gracious and attentive to their words. In the end she and the board made certain executive decisions that were based on her level of experience, not noisy, sometimes panicked, dissension.
I sincerely hope that the Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education will reconsider their choice to let Dr. Copel go, or consider her as a candidate for the new superintendent’s position.  
Nicole Fanelli-Burke

An assault on seniors
I am addressing this to anyone who has a trust fund to protect their assets. This applies to many senior citizens.
Last week, I had a few questions about my trust fund, so I went to see my lawyer. A number of years ago, I attended many seminars on elder law and opted for an irrevocable trust to protect my assets, mainly my home. After answering my questions, my lawyer informed me that Governor Cuomo has a proposal in his new budget terminating all trusts.
Why haven’t we seen this publicized? He is targeting all senior citizens and his proposals will impoverish the elderly. We worked very hard and struggled to put this money together to buy a home and to save money for our old age. We also would like to leave something to our children so they can have a better life. Is this fair of Governor Cuomo, to change this law?
I paid $4,000 to have my trust fund put together. I spent many sleepless nights wondering if I made the right decision. How can he do this to our senior citizens?
We’re already feeling discomfort from not getting our annual cost-of-living raise from Social Security for the last two years. Gas prices have risen, food prices have risen and, if you haven’t noticed, packaging has gotten smaller in our foods.
Please call or write your representative to defeat the state budget with this proposal in it. It will cause chaos among senior citizens.
Dora DiFrancesco
I would like to thank Fire Marshal Scott W. Davonski and his staff for all their help.
Mary Gatz