Column: Codger hits the Island’s roads


Cruising the Island at 30 miles an hour was Police Chief Jim Read’s idea, not Codger’s.

At a recent Town Board meeting, after the chief presented the results of 14 years of traffic studies on New York Avenue and St. Mary’s Road, Councilwoman Chris Lewis asked about lowering speed limits.

Chief Read suggested that concerned residents might “drive around at 30, get a feel for it.”

So Codger, with Cur riding shotgun, began a series of road trips. He drove 30 mph in 35 mph zones and 35 in 40 zones. His conclusions were these: he made no friends among other drivers, especially those who use the Island as a plank between ferries as they shuttle between what Codger calls the Wine Side and the Fine Side. However, he sensed that deer, turkeys and dog walkers were appreciative.

Driving at 30, except, of course, on New York Avenue, where he drops to 20 for tailgaters, provides a different perspective. It requires more concentration, at first to avoid speedometer creep, but after awhile you can relax and enjoy the view.

Not all the view. The shuttering of Schmidt’s, which seemed to have happened in the course of a drive-by, has added to the haunted house holdings of Dan Calabro. How long has the former In Between been between tenants? Could that be a site for what is now called community housing? Whatever happened to eminent domain?

One day while cruising, Codger took a lunch break at Bella Vita, a one-time Calabro tenant that had to move from the Center to Route 114 after briefly leaving the Island altogether after a rent squabble. Codger told a counterman that the pizza had improved since the move.

He was rewarded with a belly-shaking laugh. “Well, sure, we’re happier now.” Who would have thought that the dough knows?

Codger began to understand why St. Mary’s residents fear the big trucks that prefer their street to the turns on 114. Codger took a certain pleasure in slowing some of the trucks while Cur barked back at the truck drivers. How would Chief Read feel about this as an ongoing tactic?

Codger usually slows down in summer to avoid mowing down heedless bikers and strollers, but with deer now loitering in their place it’s still a good idea. Most deer are heavier than most “tourons” and can do more damage to a car. It is certainly no way to cull the herd.

Cruising at 30 also gave Codger more time to avoid the landscape trucks that seem to be parking on the road lately instead of their employers’ driveways. Maybe they are trying to avoid running over the political signs.

At 30, Codger has more time to notice the lack of party affiliation on the signs this election season. Is this a good thing, promising more bipartisanship, or is it acknowledging that identifying as a Dembo or a Repug these days is a call to a brawl?

On the Island, affiliation doesn’t seem to be a policy signifier. At the recent candidates forum, Codger was unable to pinpoint a hard-line Republican or Democrat stand on ticks, short-term rentals or the aquifer. Ah, water. Codger was reminded that we are surrounded by it, dependent on it, and are polluting it.

Last Saturday, at a fascinating forum with Jeremy Samuelson, the new Mashomack director; Mark Mobius, chair of the Water Quality Improvement Program Advisory Board and John Cronin, Jr., the former Town Engineer, Codger came to learn that we are digging for our drinking water under our own outhouses.

That’s a simplistic recap of a terrific event sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and the Daniel Gale Sotheby’s realtors. Codger finally began to realize the urgent need to address — on a long-term basis — the issues of septic systems on an island that is in the process of poisoning itself. It will cost, it was said, at least $40 million to upgrade all Island septic systems.

Improving our water supply and reducing the danger from tick-borne diseases involve taxes and long-term planning. As the campaign for supervisor accelerates into the final lap between the incumbent, Jim Dougherty, who is trying to replace himself for the fifth time, and first-time candidate Gary Gerth, their strategies for the future need to be compared.

Neither has offered a detailed 10-year plan. Mr. Gerth has said he will be “more prudent” than Mr. Dougherty on water issues and “more aggressive” on ticks. Mr. Dougherty has emphasized the need for “consistency” in the government with Ms. Lewis, Mr. Cronin and Town Attorney Laury Dowd all leaving.

Codger wants more information for this critical race. He feels like he has one foot on the brake, one on the accelerator. Should he keep cruising at 30 or mash the gas to drive into the future?