Codger Column: Boo? Vote!

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Republican candidate Amber Brach-Williams, left, is challenging Democratic Councilwoman Mary Dudley for a seat on the Town Board this November.
Republican candidate Amber Brach-Williams, left, is challenging Democratic Councilwoman Mary Dudley for a seat on the Town Board November 8.

The next two holidays on Codger’s calendar are Halloween and Election Day. Both feature a giant pumpkin head. Only one is scary.

Codger has hated Halloween since childhood when his parents forbade him from trick or treating because more candy would only make him fatter. Later, in high school, while collecting canned goods for starving children overseas, he decided that middle-class kids shouldn’t go out begging for treats when millions of poor kids were hungry.

But he has always loved Election Day and the privilege to vote in a world where so many are under the control of tyrants. How could a citizen not vote if given the chance? Codger thinks he is uniquely qualified to vote this year because he has been endorsed and demeaned by both sides. Hillary’s people have depicted Trump supporters as dumb old white men while Trump’s people call Hillary supporters arrogant, elitist prigs. Codger has been portrayed as fitting both descriptions, sometimes in the same comment.

The importance of this election was vivified on Shelter Island over last weekend by three meaningful events. On Friday night, the library co-sponsored a documentary film, “Equal Means Equal,” that went far beyond the usual discussion of gender rights and income equality to bring home in an uncompromising style how lack of a Constitutional Equal Rights Amendment leaves women legally unprotected and abets rape, domestic abuse and sex trafficking.

It was a tough film for a tough time, with a rising tide of misogyny stimulated by the increasingly nasty campaign between the first female presidential candidate from a major party and a maverick contender whose vile Trumpery is without bottom.

Meanwhile, on the Island, for the first time in recent memory, two women are vying for the same Town Board seat. In what turned out to be an amiable bi-partisan event, both Mary Dudley, a Democrat appointed a year ago to fill a vacated seat, and Amber Brach-Williams, a Republican, showed up on Saturday morning at a demonstration for free speech.

While Heather Reylek, the Democrat’s chair, originally organized the event to protest the stealing of Democrat campaign signs, Bob DeStefano, Jr., the Republican’s chair, who was also there, told Codger that of 30 Trump signs put out two weeks ago, 25 were stolen, many from the side streets of Hay Beach. That led him to believe it was the work of an organized hunting party, rather than kids or opportunistic stop and snatchers. No fingers were pointed. The First Amendment was supported by all.

On Sunday afternoon, in the school auditorium, Ms. Dudley and Ms. Brach-Williams met in the annual Election Forum co-sponsored by the Shelter Island Association. (Full Disclosure: both the forum and the film were co-sponsored by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, whose president is Codger’s wife, Crone.)

Unlike the presidential cage fights or the clashes between our local Congressional opponents, the Republican incumbent and Trumpist, Lee Zeldin, and Democrat Anna Throne-Holst, the Mary and Amber Show was so agreeable it was sometimes difficult to perceive their differences.

Which was a good thing. Of all the discouraging words we’ve heard this year, none were worse (so far) than Trump’s threats to ignore the will of the electorate and resist a decision that doesn’t go his way, promoting civic dissension after the election when we must work together.

Working together may be easier on these sweet 12 square miles of land than on the mainland, but Shelter Island has its own potentially divisive issues, which include short-term rentals and affordable housing, deer and tick management and water quality (a terrifically informative panel with John  Cronin, the town engineer, and BJ Ianfolla, chair of the Board of Assessors, followed Mary and Amber as a tutorial to the Community Preservation Fund referendum.)

The attempt to build several units of affordable housing on Hedges Road off Route 114 was apparently shot down at last week’s Town Board meeting in the face of a neighbor-generated protest and Island-wide petition. Yet most people do agree on the need for affordable housing. If it’s on to another backyard, some agreeableness will be crucial.

As for imposing bed and breakfast licensing and regulations on the casual moms-and-pops, it will take a board with a real will to deal with those long-time renters, all the people next door who hate even the possibility of noise and traffic and the commercializers of residential neighborhoods who buy houses as stealth hotels. Codger joins those who think we need a stinkin’ badge — a code enforcer.

Codger also thinks anything is possible if we stay as nice and on message as Amber and Mary did on Sunday. No tricks, no treats.

Codger will not be handing out candy next Monday, but he’ll be happy to see most of you on Election Day.