Letters to the Editor: Sept. 29, 2011


We can’t support this

Once again the Riverhead school system is looking to get a multimillion dollar bond issue passed by the taxpayers of the district in order to maintain and upgrade the schools. Over the years these same taxpayers voted for school budgets that were well in excess of $100 million, with rate increases sometimes higher than the rate of inflation.
Yet, with Long Island school teachers being the best paid in the state is there any doubt just where all this money went to? With the condition that our school buildings are in it’s a certainty that not enough money went to the infrastructure, but into the deep, deep pockets of the teachers and administrators as well as the various support staffs.
When the town’s entire middle class has packed their bags and left, who will be there to continue to pay some of the highest school taxes in the nation?
Thomas W. Smith


It’s about legacy

With his legacy in mind, I wish Supervisor Walter would get his priorities in order. The newly refurbished public rest rooms on Main Street, with state-of-the-art urinals and beautiful landscaping. Or put poor Tom from Farm Country Kitchen out of business. I vote that he flush the john and keep Tom. Anyway, without the restaurant we won’t need the rest rooms.
On another note, perhaps Mr. Walter could learn an innovative money-making idea from our former supervisor with respect to the Grumman property. That is, sign contracts with trusting and naive companies who don’t have a chance to succeed, and then  keep their deposit. Like taking candy from a baby.

Jim Dreeben


Time for update of ethics laws

Perhaps the single biggest issue facing Riverhead now is how it will work with developers to build at EPCAL and redevelop downtown. So that leads to a growing question that residents may find themselves asking: Does Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, in his private law practice, represent any developer with a current or future business interest in Riverhead?
It’s a legitimate question but one he refuses to answer. Sean Walter has refused to disclose his private law clients to Riverhead residents, so we’re left in the dark when it comes to knowing whether he may have actual conflicts of interests.
In a year when even lawmakers in Albany have agreed to disclose private business interests, including law clients, it’s just simply astounding that Sean Walter is carrying out an ethics policy that is now even weaker than that of state legislators. Riverhead is one of New York’s fastest-growing towns, and it deserves the most enlightened ethics and disclosure practices by our local officials.
Sean Walter’s disclosure practices are something out of the last century, and that should give everybody in Riverhead cause for concern. What is Mr. Walter hiding?

Vasso Patrikis

Riverhead Town Democratic Committee

Editor’s note: In a page 4 article in this edition, Mr. Walter defends himself against these charges, saying the redacted disclosures were from the 2010 report, which lists clients he had prior to taking office. He says the 2010 report shows he had no clients in 2009 with pending business in Town Hall.


This is a raid, plain and simple

Thanks for standing by your guns in the face of Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s first raiding funds from the voter-approved Drinking Water Protection Program and then lying about it. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
Mr. Levy says what he did was not a raid. Yet his measure would take tens of millions of dollars from drinking water protection to plug holes in the bloated county budget. Even legislators who approved the move admitted it was a raid.
Mr. Levy says he’s investing in sewers, but that’s just an excuse for taking the money in the first place. This ill-gotten money shows up in his own budget for next year, and besides, a recently-released draft report indicates that Long Island’s sewage treatment plants aren’t protecting our drinking water — the quality is down 40 to 200 percent since the last report.
A state legislative hearing on this problem is scheduled for this week.
Mr. Levy falsely claims that the Pine Barrens Society was alone among environmental groups in opposing the raid. He has named Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Group for the East End and The Nature Conservancy as supporters. None of these groups supports taking money from the Drinking Water Protection Program to plug holes in the budget and none believes that the program — approved by voters at referendum — can or should be altered without another referendum. They’ve all said this publicly.
Mr. Levy says it was okay for the county to filch the money without the public’s approval in a new referendum, despite the fact that the last referendum explicitly said that the program “may only be amended, modified, repealed or altered by enactment of an appropriate Charter Law subject to mandatory referendum in accordance with prevailing law.”
We’ll let the court be the judge of that.
The main thing is, the county executive seems to be saying that despite the fact that the public voted the money for drinking water protection, it’s perfectly okay for him and the county Legislature to say April Fool in September and rip-off the taxpayers’ money to balance the budget! The truth is that Mr. Levy can’t balance the budget and won’t tell the truth. Mr. Levy is behaving more and more like Richard Nixon did when he was forced from office. The fact is that Mr. Levy and the county Legislature stole money that the people of Suffolk directed to drinking water protection, and we’ve gone to court to get it back.

Richard Amper
executive director,
Long Island Pine Barrens Society


Mr. Levy is wrong

The Long Island Pine Barrens Society was right to challenge the reallocation of voter-authorized funds from the county’s drinking water protection program.
The adopted text of this voter-approved conservation program was unambiguous in requiring that any amendments need to be placed before the voters for their approval, and that did not happen here. In fact, it does not appear that this recent amendment to the program was even subjected to a formal public hearing by the legislature before it was approved.
Clearly, the latitude to redirect scarce and necessary conservation funds for other projects, or to patch budget holes without public approval or scrutiny, could easily invite future mischief by lawmakers and diminish the value of, and faith in, this fund over time.
Group for the East End was part of the wide coalition of environmental organizations that supported the Suffolk County drinking water protection program, as well as its specified allocation of funds between land and water preservation, sewer rate stabilization and tax relief. We also strongly supported the voters’ right to decide how the funds should be spent when changes are considered.
Contrary to statements attributed to County Executive Levy, Group for the East End had no role in authoring, reviewing, supporting, or advocating for the legislation that is now being challenged. I encourage the News-Review to ask Mr. Levy’s office for an explanation of the remarks attributed to him in your article, as they are completely incorrect.

Robert DeLuca
president, Group for the East End

Editor’s note: A spokesman for Mr. Levy said the executive’s statement incorrectly identified the Group for the East End as a co-author of the controversial legislation. The Nature Conservancy was the organization involved.


Now, on to the GOP

Primary day provided voters in the Democratic Party in Riverhead an opportunity to have their say about the future direction of our great town, and I am humbled by their faith in my candidacy and the strong support they showed.
My thanks to voters for their support also comes with my commitment to fighting for our party’s ideals of protecting taxpayer limits, fighting for transparency in government, and taking a long view of development in our beautiful neighborhoods. We can grow our economy while protecting our heritage, our culture and future. I look forward to debating my Republican opponents on these very issues.
Between now and Election Day on Nov. 8, I will continue to actively engage all voters in the Town of Riverhead, engaging in discussion and sharing our views in a productive and responsible way.

Matt Van Glad

candidate, Town Council


Let’s hear it for LaShika!

This year, 89 New York City children found out once again just how special summer is in eastern Suffolk. Fresh Air Fund hosts, volunteers and local supporters dedicated their time and effort to help these inner-city youngsters experience simple summertime pleasures, including afternoons of swimming, fishing at sunset and roasting s’mores over a campfire.
None of this would be possible without LaShika Walker, your local Fresh Air Fund volunteer leader, who works throughout the year to make sure host families and children have the opportunity to enjoy memorable summertime experiences together. I invite you to join LaShika Walker and the local Fresh Air Fund committee to help spread the word about the wonderful opportunity of hosting next summer.
The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations to over 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. For more information on how you can help to continue this wonderful tradition of volunteering, please call LaShika Walker at 1-800-367-0003 or visit freshair.org.

Jenny Morgenthau
executive director, Fresh Air Fund