The Noyac Civic Council invited Dr. John Gratto, the superintendent of the Sag Harbor School District, to speak at its March 10, 2009, meeting. Dr. Gratto presented the proposed 2009-2010 budget and answered a wide variety of questions dealing with the negotiations with the teachers union, the cost per pupil spending, the academic programs, school consolidation and state requirements. The tone of the meeting was established both by Superintendent Gratto and president of the NCC, Mr. Neuman. The participants were expected to remain civil and refrain from debating directly with other attendees.
The meeting was informative and fruitful. Even when a teacher explained that the teachers’ union wants a sizeable salary increase so they may afford to live in the area, the crowd remained respectful and refrained from launching any attacks. And then came an incendiary comment from a parent from North Haven. This young woman turned to an older gentleman and said, “I’m paying your social security.”
The uncivil and unkind comment is the divisive attitude that throws a wedge between both groups. This woman, this interloper, does not serve the children of the district with this attitude when both factions are striving to understand each other’s position.
This quarrelsome guest who made this malicious remark knows who she is. She is not invited to any other meetings of the Noyac Civic Council.
There is much confusion and ignorance, starting with the federal government itself, on the immigration (aka Hispanics or “illegals”) question. First, the notion that there are “illegals” (Hispanics) in the country. Second, that there is need for immigration reform. Hardly any connection between the two.
Anyone familiar with international economic relations should know that countries constituting a “free trade area” Europe of Six and of Seven or, by extension, USA-Canada-Mexico (North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA) or USA-Central America (Central American Free Trade Area or CAFTA) do not need visas for their citizens to travel between and among the constituent countries of the free trade area, only their national identity cards or drivers licenses, when they cross the borders.
Consequently, building a wall along the USA-Mexican border is a violation of the spirit of a free trade area agreement (why is there not a wall along the USA-Canada border?) and hounding Mexicans and Central Americans is a gross injustice and violation of their civil rights. Unfortunately, the governments of Mexico and Central America are, apparently, just as ignorant as the government in Washington and the implications and corresponding rights of a free trade area. (Adam Smith, the patron saint of American free trade liberalism would be turning in his grave at the obstruction of free movement of labor by US immigration authorities along the Mexican-USA border. A violation of free trade area doctrine and a form of protectionism.). A free trade area permits free movement of labor and capital across national borders within the area, without visa or passport; each partner country exporting its surplus output: capital from the USA, labor from Mexico and Central America.
The only “illegals” are citizens of countries with which the USA has no free trade agreement who enter the USA without the necessary visas and passports. All that is required in such cases is enforcement of the existing immigration laws, not immigration reform.
In short, if the US government does not want Mexicans and other free trade area citizens to enter the country freely without visas or passports, the solution is not to hound or kill them —Â as some cretins up-island do — but to stop signing “free trade” agreements with other countries and cancel existing ones.
The editorial, “Leave Rhetoric at the Door” regarding the immigration forum was disappointing. It missed the point of our recently created coalition and first forum.
The issue of immigration on the East End is both contentious and controversial. Just to our west, we have seen unspeakable violence based only upon the victim’s national origin. Here on the East End, we have seen unresolved public controversies regarding hiring halls, impacts to schools, health care and code enforcement policies. The issue is a tinderbox.
The approach of simply trying to impose solutions has failed. Immigration has become too polarized and emotional. It has been and will be a formula for failure.
For that reason, at the behest of the local clergy, I began the process of creating a coalition of government, education, business, health care and other civic leaders to create an action plan. Congressman Tim Bishop and Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst have been full partners in this endeavor. Our first step was last week’s forum.
It was clearly stated that the forum was only a first step. The purpose of the meeting was to bring the public together and begin the process of disseminating facts and information about the impacts of immigration on the East End. We had to start somewhere and providing very basic information about history, education and health care was a responsible way of beginning the process.
We will continue the dialogue begun last week with specific forums on issues such as the economics of immigration, education issues, health care issues, housing and community impacts. We will learn how to make each forum more effective. Out of these discussions, concrete actions will begin to emerge and we will do our best to foster public consensus around an action plan.
We approach the issue of immigration as realists, not idealists. There is no expectation that there will be a sudden “eureka” moment and everyone will begin singing “Cum Bya.” However, I have faith reasonable people can come together in our community to find a common sense and pragmatic approach to issues resulting from our changing demographics.
What was disappointing about the editorial is the fact that elected officials from across the country avoid the issue of immigration like it is the plague. To those who only look to the next election, there is nothing to be gained by tackling this issue. There is a reason why solutions are so elusive. In political parlance, it is a loser.
Thus, when Tim, Anna and I put aside politics to begin a process of dialogue that hopefully will end in broad consensus and real policy initiatives, it is disappointing to see it termed as nothing more than mere rhetoric. This will be a long and difficult process, but necessary. When elected officials step up to provide leadership, it shouldn’t be dismissed in such a cavalier fashion.
Fred W. Thiele, Jr.
Member of Assembly
Having just completed an exhausting move to Southern California I now have time to reflect on this momentous decision.
Sag Harbor was home to me since my marriage to Bill Bates in 1965 and our full time move there in 1970. The people and the community have been very good to me over the many years. Following Bill’s early death, the raising of my children and my many years with Allan Schneider and later Corcoran I feel badly that I didn’t get to say good-bye to so many acquaintances in the village before I departed. So, thought this a good opportunity to say so long to the many who said hello at the post office,., asked about my well being at Schiavonis, helped me when thereÂ was a storm or I expressed need for a hand or pumped my gas with a smile. The gentleman who tipped his hat to me on the street, the shopkeepers who wanted your purchase to be the best it could be. And of course the best pizza in the world!!! It is awful here! Much of this will be missed in my new never never land environment. It is glorious here, 1/4 mile to the Pacific…even have a peek view, and flowers blooming galore. Of course my three gorgeous grandchildren and being near my fantastic daughter are the reason for the move.
So a hearty good bye to Sag Harbor…I will keep you close to my heart…and thank you all for letting me be part of the experience of a wonderful town.
With fondest regards,
Dana Point, CA
All for Alex
The third Annual All for Alex Concert was a complete success! Wanted to thank Nina and John, Pete and Daisy Landi for their tireless work putting this event together. Each year it gets better and better. I would like to thank the Wiggleboys, and the Glazzies for putting on a great show. There were many special moments, and I can’t tell you how it touched our hearts. Most of all I want to thank all the businesses who contributed to this worthy cause. They are too numerous to fit in this email. Also want to thank with all our hearts all the people who came out to support, this community and this paper, who have helped us with all of our events. Thank you all again.
Lisa, Jim, Kaci, Kelly, Katy Koehne