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Codger’s column: Grievances

A nice day came and Cur II took Codger for a walk on Wades Beach.

It had been a while. Soon enough Cur II will be banned from the sand lest he kick some of it on the little summer bratskis or eat their crustless sandwiches. Codger acknowledged the resentment in his voice, but claimed it was no hate crime.

He had felt the same hostility years ago toward the dog owners who allowed their pests to annoy his bratskis.

Cur II picked up the resentment, but understood it was just the kind of grievance that almost everybody is feeling these days. It’s why the pop pundits are calling this the age of grievance, the binaries of complaint.

People get cheesed off because they can’t drink their water or buy a house in the old neighborhood and they blame corrupt politicians or people who are either better off or worse off than they are.

Cur II has his own complaints. He just turned 12 years old, which is elderly for a big dog (he is a standard poodle) and he knows that old age always comes at a bad time. At the moment, he’s dealing with two kinds of cancer and arthritis advanced enough to make his back legs unreliable.

His coping mechanism includes chewing eyeglasses and hearing aids, since there are no grievance identity groups for dogs.

As we lurch toward an election, two issues that will cause controversy on the Island are affordable housing and drinkable water, both of which were given teach-ins last week. Codger left both somewhat disappointed at the lack of absolute answers to complex questions, but what else is new?

On the other hand, he was encouraged by the quality and hard work of the people struggling to make sense of it all, be they volunteer or town employee, from Liz Hanley, chair of the Community Housing Board (CHB) to town Engineer Joe Finora and Peter Grand, chairman of the Water Advisory Committee.

It’s hard enough to put in the hours but doing it under the sniper eyes of the skeptics has to be tough duty. The worst of the conspiracy theorists has clean water groups as the advance lobbyists for the dreaded Suffolk County Water Authority’s plot to seize the aquifer and parcel it out to developers while community housing is smeared as a feel-good diversion while the Island creaks under the added weight of hotels, restaurants and houses bigger than the Ritz.

Of course, conspiracy theories are hard to ignore because they are more entertaining than most streaming shows and paranoids are sometimes right. Neither the plans for affordable housing nor those for quality water are currently water-tight.

Codger was somewhat baffled by the renderings of possible affordable housing units displayed at the Center Firehouse. Most were for one-bedroom houses. Only one bedroom? Codger had thought the goal was to attract small, young families.

The explanation, which had to do with state and county grant rules, was not clear to Codger. 

Codger also wondered if there was a larger vision. As in: Who did the CHB imagine would be living in those bedrooms? If the idea of showing the pretty renderings was to assure Islanders that affordable housing didn’t mean four-story tenements, why wouldn’t they also depict the model tenants, the 20- and 30-something Islanders working here and eager to volunteer as firefighters?

Okay, so what about seniors? Is there any way to create a way for a live-alone meals-on-wheels resident to move into a CHB one-bedroom and turn their big old family house into some  affordable units? Too out-of-the-box?

Sorry. You just can’t invite Codger anywhere.

The Water Advisory Committee tutorial was also informative, encouraging in the sense that progress was being made by dedicated people, but ultimately frustrating for Codger who wants those instant answers.

The level of nitrates in the water of the so-called “Center Triangle” (Codger calls it the Dead Zone) is concerning, as are questions about prolonged exposure to lesser levels throughout the Island. But it’s not as if former town engineer John Cronin has not been sounding the alarm for years.

Finora was adamant about the need for homeowners to install filtration systems, and Codger had the growing sense from the discussion that a modern sewer system would be a very good idea for everybody.

A day later, in a highly symbolic moment, Codger ran into WAC President Peter Grand in the IGA pushing two giant bottles of drinking water in his cart. Codger would have enjoyed a chat about that but he needed to get home to Crone, suffering from doctor-grade ear and toe infections.

Unlike Codger, Crone is ever positive. She said she had learned from the experience to never put her toe in her ear.