To the Editor:
The rule of law, including its uniform enforcement and explicit consequences, is a fundamental principle of civil society. But respect for the rule of law is eroding, as these local examples illustrate.
Shelter Island’s Justice Court is in the habit of erratic and inconsistent enforcement of statutory law, proven by the number of cases in which infractions and their penalties are reduced to lesser degrees, lesser charges and lesser penalties.
Shelter Island’s town government has become accustomed to granting exceptions to its own codes, effectively making those codes arbitrary and capricious.
Shelter Island’s school has been taken to task by parents, both publicly and privately, for inconsistent and erratic application of its policies for discipline.
It should be no surprise that many of those growing to adulthood in such an environment no longer take the courts, government or school seriously. Those responsible adults who instruct their children regarding the rule of law and its consequences are seen to be liars in light of the evidence. The same things, and other comparable ones, might be said of a thousand other communities. But ours is the only one where we can make a difference. A community where kids don’t have reason to take grown ups and their institutions seriously will not for long be worth living in.
DAVID L. DRAPER, Shelter Island
As most Islanders are well aware by now, thanks to my late wife and others, May is mammogram awareness month. Having made it her mission to raise awareness and educate women on the dangers of breast cancer, Teresa handed out several dozen pink ribbons last August. I am asking the proud owners of those ribbons to please display them for the month of May to remind everyone how important screening is to find and fight this dreadful disease. Please ask your doctor for a copy of your mammogram report from the radiologist. Ask about whether you would benefit from additional screening if you have dense tissue as mammograms have trouble seeing cancer in dense tissue.
I look forward to seeing Teresa’s efforts continue on behalf of Island women.
I will be headed to Albany next week for a press conference on pending New York State legislation with regard to informing women about their dense tissue and screening for breast cancer.
Still fighting for Teresa’s cause! Thanks for caring,
TOWNY MONTANT, Shelter Island
To the Editor:
I just wanted to extend a big “thank you!” to the residents and visitors of Shelter Island for their contributions to our annual food drive this past Saturday. On April 21, Girl Scout troops from all over Suffolk County gathered outside of grocery stores to collect food and non-food items. Thanks to the generosity of our Island, our local community pantry received 198 items and $93.68.
Girl Scout Coordinator, Shelter Island
Shepherd is right
To the Editor:
I grew up in an Irish neighborhood in Upper Manhattan where many of my grammar school classmates went on to become policemen and firemen. I have great respect and admiration for them and the many others in uniform around the United States who make sacrifices and endure hardships in order to protect the rest of us. That respect and admiration, however, does not translate into worship and it does not ignore certain realities.
In the past two weeks, the Reporter has simultaneously covered two current stories that, in my mind, are directly related. First, it reported on April 12 that the PBA and the town had agreed to a three-year contract that provides for annual increases of 2 percent plus an additional 1 percent for “longevity pay.” When combined with the previous contract (3-percent annual increases for three years) that was settled by binding arbitration, the four-year increase between 2009 and 2012 would be just under 15 percent, significantly more than inflation or the Consumer Price Index.
In addition, the contract negotiations failed to include a provision where the PBA members would pay even 1 percent of their health care costs because, as the supervisor put it, “this is the Alamo for them.” Perhaps it should have been the Alamo for the rest of us.
The other issue, covered in the same April 12 edition, involved a disagreement between councilmen about the “fairness” of equal health care contributions versus the “fairness” of grandfathered criteria. Peter Reich justifies the fact that some town employees pay nothing for their health care benefits because they showed up earlier and are grandfathered in to their original cost, zero.
Grandfathering might be an acceptable concept when it applies to personal property but it is an irrational concept when applied to economics. I’m 68 years old and I’d like to pay 20 cents a gallon for gas as I did in 1966; I’d like to pay a sales tax of 3 percent; I’d like to ride the subway in New York for 15 cents just as I did in high school. Why can’t I? Because the laws of economics apply to everyone, even me.
The concept of grandfathering is a factor of power, nothing less. It has nothing to do with economics or fairness or good government. And Mr. Reich’s effort to justify his position by saying, “We live in a democracy and we are not all the same,” is also economically irrational. Let him go to a gas station, a grocery store, either ferry or a Mets game with Jim Dougherty and Paul Shepherd and see if he pays less than them. His ability to pay nothing for his health benefits is not a function of economics, just the power of the councilmen and women at the time who voted to force the “new guys” to pay a portion of their health benefits while they continued to pay nothing.
Taken together, however, the impact of no contributions or modest contributions to health care costs, and skyrocketing pension costs for government workers, is putting state and local governments on a path towards potential default or bankruptcy. In the same April 12 article, the Reporter quotes Supervisor Dougherty as saying that health care costs now represent 13 percent of the entire town budget. In this week’s (April 19) edition, he also states that the pension costs of the town “have increased by 770 percent in 10 years,” an absolutely unsustainable figure. Given the ability of some town employees to retire after only 20 years, and given the current life expectancy tables, the Shelter Island taxpayers could pay our employees for 20 years and then pay their pensions for another 40 years or longer.
I believe that Councilman Reich is wrong to view grandfathering as a legitimate part of employee contract negotiations. I believe that Supervisor Dougherty is correct and realistic when he says that “employees must be made to contribute more towards their health insurance costs” but he is wrong when he accepts a PBA contract with no contribution because “this is the Alamo for them.” Congress, our New York State Legislature and our Suffolk County government are creating obligations that will drown our children and grandchildren in debt. It is frustrating to watch our town government add to that future burden with foolish economic notions and weak negotiations. Councilman Shepherd might not be correct on every issue but he is absolutely on target on this one.
KEVIN BROOKS, Shelter Island