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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor: March 28, 2024


To the Editor:

In your editorial of March 21, 2024, you are attempting to rewrite history.

Why were there primary challenges in 2023? Gerry Siller announced he was not running. The Democratic Chair intended to let Amber Brach-Williams run unopposed. Just as in 2021, the Republican Committee did not run anyone against Gerry, and the Democratic Committee did not run anyone against Amber. Is that what you call democracy, or is that party bosses making deals behind closed doors? And after the 2023 primary — the Democratic Chair did not recognize the winning candidates. Is that Shelter Island’s form of democracy?

Have you forgotten how unhappy everyone was with the previous Town Board and its inability to listen to the public? You wrote editorials about it. People wanted to have a voice. A Better Island for All (ABIFA) attracted both Democrats and Republicans — we fundraised for three candidates. We attracted the same money that went to the Democratic party in the past as well as some that would have gone to the Republican party. ABIFA campaign contributions were carefully monitored and accurately reported according to strict guidelines — can you say the same about the other groups? 

You can’t check the Democrats’ history because the finances have been mishandled for the last 10 years and they had to return 2023 fundraiser donations. Did you analyze the fundraising of the Republican Committee — including the individual candidate’s accounts? 

Who are you to say what the “organized” groups believe? The groups I see out there are very vocal — they say what they mean, and you have no right to infer anything else. No one is “battling the Comprehensive Plan Committee” — people are asking meaningful questions — we need to get it right —the plan is our future.

Your biases are very evident.


Disturbing aspects

To the Editor:

It was disappointing to read the editorial in the last issue of the Reporter. Regardless of intent, the editorial unfortunately continued the destructive and divisive “Us vs. Them” narrative when we should be encouraging respectful, honest disagreements and dialogue, and avoiding false implications.

As regards the “civil war” in the Democratic Party, it is simple. There are seven of us seeking one of the eight positions on the Democratic Committee. Four of the so-called “rebels” are current members of the Committee and one other (myself) is a recent former member. We are running to restore transparent and appropriate democratic governance where all voices are heard and considered.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the editorial is the implication, via discussion and positioning, that the rebels, “whether they openly say it or not” are opposed to affordable housing. 

Please! We all strongly support affordable housing, and three of us “rebels,” including myself, serve on the Community Housing Board and have been staunch public supporters. Additionally, you would be hard pressed to find a stronger advocate who has done more to move the needle on community housing than “rebel” Liz Hanley.

Related false implications also apply to A Better Island for All (ABIA) — first that ABIA is opposed to affordable housing (absolutely false) and that the split in the Democratic Party was spurred by ABIA. Although the “rebels” share many of the aspirations of ABIA and were not happy with the way ABIA was treated by the Democratic Committee chair, we are not acting as ABIA.

ABIA was not part of the decision to proceed with our challenge. Our challenge is rooted in process and governance, and we invite anyone to come discuss this with us at our meet and greet on March 30.

BILL MASTRO, Shelter Island

New Island politics

To the Editor:

I am writing to respond to your recent editorial (“The New Island Politics,” March 21, 2024), the aim of which I found unfair. Granted, something is up with the “new” Island politics. Indeed, what is up seems down, and down up.

For example, on the one hand, you have local Republicans — a party not known for supporting wildly-leftist policies — urging the Island taxpayers to fund public housing, normally a favorite of well-intentioned, but misguided liberals.

On the other, local Democrats — at least the wealthy or elite ones who have been making hefty campaign donations from their oversized waterfront mansions — have been fighting tooth and nail against any kind of over-development, including public housing. Indeed, if they had their way, every vacant lot on the Island would now be government-owned “open space” lined with hiking trails.

The difference is, as you observed, some of those opposed to public housing have been taking the fight to the Comprehensive Plan debates without publicly saying so. If you are looking for a reason for their discretion, look to your editorial — shamelessly doxing William Derrough and Jan Sudol while delivering by comparison a backhanded compliment to me. (“One wishes there was some honesty in their public stances. We’re thinking of Bob Kohn…”).

On that, I note two things. First, elite Democrats against public housing are prudent to conceal their true intentions. No doubt they would not fancy being called uncaring, uncharitable, or racist, the usual tropes hurled by Democrats against Republicans. To your credit, you didn’t go that route, but to suggest their approach lacked “honesty” (in the name of “democracy” no less) is unfair.

Second, I never suggested “If you can’t afford to live here, farewell and good luck.” What I did suggest was, “If you can’t afford to live here, don’t move here.”

BOB KOHN, Shelter Island

Real local paper

To the Editor:

Yes, an editorial is an opinion. However …

Gooding, Dickson and Dyett, registered Democrats, were chosen in a primary as Democratic candidates by registered Democrats. Voters, who I, as a life-long registered Democrat, think should be seen as the SIDC’s constituents. Some members of the SIDC have forgotten that and have stopped listening to their voters.

I keep repeating Democrat because of the Reporter’s constant implication that somehow the SI Democrats have been taken over by interlopers. Given the SIDC’s paltry donation to their duly nominated candidates, is it any wonder that the candidates formed their own fundraising organization?

The Reporter’s continued use of innuendo is distressing. Many false assumptions have been floating around the Island, most about “those people” against affordable housing.  Believe it or not:

— One can criticize the Comp Plan and be committed to affordable housing.

— One can be against the water treatment plant and be committed to affordable housing.

— One can dispute turning the Island over to Suffolk County Water and be committed to affordable housing.

— Affordable housing construction would already be further along if the previous Board hadn’t gotten so locked into certain solutions, refusing to look at other options.

This is not the first time that “big money” has been brought up in the Reporter. I’m curious as to who donated how much to the Republican campaign since this paper only seems concerned about Democratic money. People of both political parties are on both sides of the affordable housing issue and imperfections in the Comp Plan.

“Plans are in place and being followed to influence officials …”  Really? Tell us if you know something concrete. But the Reporter just keeps spouting innuendo. Too bad.  I hoped we had a real local paper.


Editor’s note: The total contribution to the Republican Party was listed in the editorial.

A Better Island

To the Editor:

Re:“The New Island Politics, Our View,” Editorial, March 21, 2024.

As Senator Moynihan once said, “You’re entitled to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” In this latest editorial, a lot is implied from a set of “half-facts.” It notes that in the last general election, 17 individuals “ponied up $1,000 or more,” for the Democratic /A Better Island for All (ABIFA) candidates. What was omitted is that 17 donors to the Republican Party candidates also “ponied up” the same — $1,000 apiece; 9 Republican supporters gave $500 or more.

So, if you want to call these individuals “deep-pocketed” go right ahead, but these donors gave to both parties, not just to the Democratic candidates. You conveniently left out half the story.

Finally, the Dems had 64 contributors and the Republicans 69. Interestingly, some of these donors gave to both parties. Pretty much an even score, no?  I’m not certain, what “… plans are in place to influence officials …”, but I can assure you and the voters that there are no conspiracies being hatched, however much your editorial and news reporting would try to make it so.

Most grievously, this editorial implies that the ABIFA candidates oppose affordable housing. Somehow mentioning Bobby Kohn’s opposition to affordable housing (a “deep-pocketed” Republican and a member of the Shelter Island Republican Committee) in pretty much the same breath as ABIFA candidates, your editorial narrative leaves readers with the impression that the ABIFA campaign held the same position.

It needs to be made clear that ABIFA candidates supported affordable housing and continue to do so as numerous print ads placed by the campaign in this very paper highlighted repeatedly this past year.

CATHY ANN KENNY Treasurer, A Better Island for All

False narrative

To the Editor:

Your editorial last week implied that our group, Friends of Coecles Harbor (FOCH), opposes “affordable housing.” This misinformation has been first pushed by the sponsors of the failed wastewater plant to try to intimidate its opponents, including us, and now the Reporter has recycled it. FOCH has never opposed Community Housing (CH) and we challenge you to prove otherwise.

You also chose to selectively publicize me, an officer of FOCH, as being a donor to A Better Island for All group (ABIFA), to support your “big money” anti-ABIFA false narrative. FOCH is not part of the ABIFA group, but I personally support ABIFA’s goals and initiatives which include CH, so how could it be that I support ABIFA while opposing CH?

Furthermore, your editorial alleges that “… Plans are in place and being followed to influence officials.” Really? Is this journalism or just spreading conspiracy theories? FOCH has the same right to publicly voice concerns, raise objections and propose alternatives as anybody, including the advocates of various growth — and density-inducing initiatives, thinly disguised under various cover stories, which threaten the environment and character of the Island, the protection of which is our group’s charter.

Instead of pursuing an objective and unbiased journalism which presents issues and alternative points of views, this newspaper peddles hearsay and conspiracy theories, abusing the public trust position. Shelter Island deserves better reporting.

JAN SUDOL, Treasurer, Friends of Coecles Harbor, Inc.

Hidden agendas

To the Editor:

While I’ve not always agreed with this newspaper, I’ve never questioned its integrity. Today I do.

Your editorial suggesting certain ABIFA candidates are somehow beholden to “big money” donors because I gave $1,000 to three individual candidates for the primary and general elections is a disgrace.

Seventeen donations of $1,000 or more went to Republicans with no primary. But you don’t mention it nor accuse them of being beholden to “big money.” Where is the journalistic integrity? It’s publicly available information, yet you chose to not present the full picture, impugning my and others’ integrity.

Interestingly, I gave Gerry Siller’s 2019 Supervisor campaign $500 with no primary. Why wasn’t my money noteworthy then but today it is? Does the Reporter have a hidden agenda or is taking direction from hidden actors?

As for your slanderous allusion that I oppose affordable housing? You’ve never asked me. For the record, I support it — if done right. What I oppose are unprofessional, harebrained schemes, hidden agendas and cronyism.

Yes, I donated $1,000 to three candidates running as Democrats for each election in 2023 — because I was asked for support. Just like I was asked to support Mr. Siller in 2019.

Why did I support those candidates last year? Over the last couple of years, citizens engaged Town Board members on the Comprehensive Plan, wastewater, zoning, etc., raising many concerns. But the Board was like King George to the Colonies: dismissive of grievances and petitions.

So, since we can’t declare independence, people like me chose the next best path: support candidates like Gordon Gooding, whom you called “no better protector of preserved land on Shelter Island” in August 2022. Seemed like a good choice based on that. Thanks for the recommendation. I expect that retraction.

WILLIAM DERROUGH, President, Friends of Coecles Harbor, Treasurer, Democratic National Committee (2017-2021)

Dems primary

To the Editor:

Mark your calendars! Shelter Island Democrats have a Presidential Primary on Tuesday, April 2, 2024.

That’s a week from this Tuesday. Unfortunately, there is no early voting for Shelter Island for this vote. Voting in person is at the School gym, 33 North Ferry Road. Registered Democrats will choose between Joseph R. Biden Jr., Marianne Williamson, or Dean Phillips.

They will also select seven delegates to the Democratic National Convention (1st CD).

Now is the time to focus.

​HEATHER REYLEK Chair, Shelter Island Democratic Committee

Repair Café

To the Editor:

Have a beloved teddy bear that needs its arm sewn back on? Or a sweater with a moth hole?

Kyle Karen introduced the Repair Café to Shelter Island, which will pop up in different Island locations. On a rainy Saturday morning, I brought a lamp to the Shelter Island Library where the Repair Cafe was in full repair. My lamp has lots of sentimental value — filled with Florida shells collected when my now-grown son was small. Electrician Greg Raymond expertly fixed the lamp, explained what he was doing and Mark Lindemann went to the hardware store to buy the replacement piece.

Nearby, Belle, the doll, was undergoing expert surgery by Meg Larsen and her two assistants. Around the table, other women repaired holes in canvas bags and cashmere sweaters. The conversation was light and fun, neighbors helping neighbors, all volunteers. Kyle is always looking for volunteers with skill sets. Email her at [email protected].

My lamp, newly re-lit, and refilled with sharks’ teeth and sand dollars, sits on my bedroom dresser, reminding me of those Florida days.

JO ANN KIRKLAND, Shelter Island