Shelter Island Reporter Editorial: Cool heads and common sense

A new, rapidly spreading virus rages through communities, killing more than 100,000 people, and overwhelming our health care system. Millions are out of work, businesses are shut down. Mass protests spring up with pockets of violence within them.

These new waves of sometimes frightening eruptions in our daily lives test the stability of institutions and the moral and ethical resources we use to stay together as communities.

Crowds of people coming to Shelter Island to spend a day fishing and picnicking on the beach at Bootleggers Alley, with some using bushes as toilets and parking helter skelter on Island streets, can be taken by some as comical worries after looking at the national news.

But there’s nothing funny about legitimate concerns for peace, quiet and public sanitation, or xenophobic attitudes seasoned with racism.

When it was reported by a Town Board member that the majority of people using the beach on weekends were Spanish-speaking, the racism issue arose. Some people chided this newspaper for mentioning it when, of course, we simply reported what was said.

In a crisis, all citizens are tested, but elected officials are particularly challenged. The situation at Bootleggers Alley is in no way a crisis — except for those who insist on making it one. The Town Board, working with the Police Department, took action by installing portable toilets, changing and clarifying parking rules, putting up bilingual signs noting rules and regulations, and instituting police patrols, with an interpreter to tell the visitors to use the toilets, practice social distancing and respect the Island’s laws.

Reports from the police and the Town Board were that it was an uneventful weekend, and people were cooperative.

We salute Supervisor Gerry Siller, who made a remarkable statement at Tuesday’s Town Board work session about the state of the country, the Island and Bootleggers Alley, calling for tolerance. As with the professional, well-thought out strategy of containing the COVID-19 pandemic here, Mr. Siller, along with the Town Board and Police Chief Jim Read and his department, deserve our appreciation for their hard work, cool heads and progressive thinking to make an evenhanded response to a situation that had the possibility of getting truly ugly.


Three candidates are running for Board Of Education seats. The district is lucky to have such qualified candidates interested enough in quality education to throw their hats in the ring (see page 6).

Tracy McCarthy, who has served on the board for three years, is running for a second term and deserves the support of the community for her dedication and commitment to helping the Island’s students and for her preparedness in discussing and ultimately making decisions.

Dawn Hedberg is a local businesswoman who knows how to balance bottom lines and has seen her child progress through the Shelter Island School system.

Andrew Strauss is a retired educator and school administrator who will bring expertise and knowledge to the board.

All candidates are excellent choices to serve the school district and Shelter Island.