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Shelter Island Reporter editorial: State of the Town

There are many wonderful cliches on the subject of change, which all adhere to the essential requirement of the form that they not only be ubiquitous, but they must be true.

Here are a couple: There is nothing as constant as change. If someone lives their whole life in one place, they become a stranger in their own hometown.

This last has become truer with a cultural environment that is ever accelerating. It used to be a generational change. Now it changes year to year.

One doesn’t have to live a whole life in one place to begin to feel like a stranger. Even the last decade on Shelter Island has seen enormous shifts in the physical makeup of the town along with the attitudes of many residents.

Supervisor Gerry Siller, in his State of the Town report at the library on May 13, noted these sudden shifts. With rapid change happening on several fronts, Mr. Siller said something significant to meet the challenge: “We’re going to walk through this, and not run.”

The evening at the library was notable — for the most part — for its atmosphere of civility and respect. There were sharp questions, but no ad hominem attacks. If only this attitude of honest debate and respectful disagreement could carry over to other forums.

For example, we at the Reporter are being accused of printing propaganda. At least we haven’t been called “an enemy of the people.” Yet.

Being called names might be OK. What’s the cliché? Water off a duck’s … But being called willfully dishonest takes debate a rhetorical bridge too far.

In a hyper-partisan era, with name-calling employed by prominent politicians becoming normal public discourse, all is fair it seems, including questioning someone’s integrity by accusing them of using propaganda to influence public opinion.

The Reporter is not in anyone’s pocket, has no ax to grind, no secret agenda and is not in the business of publishing “fake news” or “alternative facts.”

Which is not to say we haven’t made mistakes. As New York Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens has written: “Journalism is a human enterprise, so it’s inevitably a flawed one …” Our mistakes are honest ones, and quickly corrected.

We hope the debate on the rapid changes on Shelter Island can be open, informative, respectful and productive in order to ensure a prosperous, civil and healthy future for the island we all love.