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Letters September 24, 2009

Posted on 25 September 2009

Not Hitler

Dear Bryan,

As the daughter of a World War II veteran, it is revolting and offensive to learn that people stand at our local post offices with posters portraying President Obama as Hitler.

My father, William Mulvihill, along with countless others, many not as fortunate as he, risked his life day and night fighting in Germany, liberating Europe from Naziism. The evil of that regime cannot be overstated. My father fought against those who killed two million Poles, half a million Gypsies, six million Jews, countless Russians. They exterminated millions of innocent people because of race, or because they were handicapped, gay or members of the clergy. Children of “mixed parentage” were arrested and sterilized, if not killed. There is no viler insult than to compare another human being to this monster.

Whether or not we agree with his policies, President Obama is trying to make moral choices to end discrimination, provide health care to the poor, protect the environment, reach out to all nations. He has encouraged our students to study hard, stay in school and make their own future, regardless of their situation. He is working to end U.S. sponsored torture, restore science to its rightful place in our society and end the immoral practices of insurance companies refusing care for pre-existing conditions. He is a beacon of tolerance and a champion of the underprivileged.

It is extremely sad that the political conversation in this country has sunk so low and has been hijacked by ignorance and lies. These extremists insult the memory of all who fought in WWII.

Mary Ann Mulvihill-Decker

Sag Harbor

Question Court

Dear Bryan,

I write this Letter to the Editor to oppose your recent editorial suggesting that the Village “pursue” a Village Justice Court.  I believe that in these difficult economic times, the Village taxpayers should not be burdened with additional taxes for expensive, unnecessary and duplicative justice court operations.  The “East Hampton side” taxpayers recently financed a beautiful new East Hampton Town Justice Court, just eight miles away from us. In a similar way, “Southampton Town side” taxpayers and our own village officials should do everything in their power to encourage Southampton Town to create a satellite justice court somewhere on town property along the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike (e.g., at the community center) in order to better serve the Sag Harbor, Sagaponack, Bridgehampton, and Noyac communities once the Southampton Town Justice Court “eventually” moves to its location in Hampton Bays. As far as I know, none of our village officials have seriously explored that idea with the current set of Southampton Town legislators or justices, even though the “Southampton Town side” taxpayers are already paying substantial monies to support the Southampton Town Justice Court system.

If there were a satellite court on the turnpike, criminal arraignments could be done very efficiently because (as it so happens) three of the four Southampton Town Justices actually live closer to the turnpike than Hampton Bays.  Sag Harbor Village could also set up a schedule to have all of its traffic, parking, and code enforcement cases heard on the same day, once a week. This is a Southampton Town responsibility and something that Southampton Town must address because people in the eastern end of the town should be able to have their small claims matters and landlord-tenant matters filed and heard closer to their properties, without getting caught in the traffic congestion between here and Hampton Bays. This is an idea that the other community groups in those hamlets should be supporting. Our elected village officials should start that process right now. Perhaps by appointing a fact-finding committee.

Southampton Town has four elected justices. As far as I know, the job description does not call it a “part-time job.” GIven the annual salary that each Southampton Town justice receives (I have heard that it is nearly $70,000 annually) it is surely appropriate for that court’s workload to be rearranged so that each justice works more than one week per month (as they usually do now) and that the Village of Sag Harbor police officers always have a Southampton Town Justice available nearby to sign warrants and handle arraignments. Village residents also should have a nearby court where code enforcement violations (e.g., noise complaints) can be addressed expeditiously. Having a Southampton Town Justice Court satellite court on the turnpike might help to address the past delays that our village residents have suffered when the Southampton Town Justices have not been working “full-time” as Justices and have therefore granted numerous multiple week adjournments to suit their own “part-time” schedules.

Southampton Town legislators need to re-think their plan of four Southampton Town Justices, each working “part-time” (i.e., one week out of four) in Hampton Bays. Sag Harbor’s “Southampton side” voters should be asking the 2009 candidates what their vision for the Southampton Town Justice Court system is because, quite frankly, this Village cannot afford to create its own Village Justice Court that satisfies the Constitution’s Due Process Clause. If Southampton Town officials cannot be persuaded to accommodate Sag Harbor when it moves its only Town Justice Court miles further away from the village, then perhaps the New York State Office of Court Administration should be consulted for suggestions.

Bryan, your view of the financial reality also differs greatly from mine. First of all, your editorial supposes that the village is somehow getting shortchanged on the parking violations money because the ticket processing and adjudication is being handled by other courts or parking violations bureau. Not so. In New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law 1803-1(b)’s last sentence, it says that the village is to receive 100% of all fines paid for violations of the village’s “stopping, standing or parking” ordinances. So enforcement of those ordinances now costs the village nothing in terms of adjudication.

You also need to consider how much a court would really cost. Only $45 annually for paper was included in the last pseudo-budget proposed by the Village when it considered a justice court.  There was no money allocated for any electronic research system (i.e., Westlaw, LEXIS or Loislaw) so it would not be possible for the two justices and their law clerk/secretary to look up and read the cases that were cited by the attorneys. Even using the discount rate for government courts, over $3,600 should be added. As I recall, there was no provision for security or metal detectors or the court officer to operate that machine, which would make the courtroom as safe as those in the Town Courts.

The Village had  supposed that that Suffolk County would supply the court officer and thus omitted that cost, but that is highly unlikely because the County lacks the funds to do that.  We would likely be paying for a gun-toting police officer each time the court was in session. Even with all of that “under-estimating” of  the true costs, the pseudo-budget would have still been over $500,000 for a four-year court term, which is how long the court would be required to stay in operation given the fact that at least one official is elected to a four year term.  Because I am also skeptical that siting the court in the Municipal Building would pass the strict requirements of SEQRA due to the additional burdens on parking and sewage by creating a new usage (a “judicial branch of government”) in an old building of historical significance, the creation of a village justice court may likely entail some new construction or reconstruction elsewhere on other Village property.

Bryan, I hope that before you write another pro-Village Justice Court editorial, you will do some investigative reporting and find out from Chief Fabiano exactly how much money the Village has actually spent on the “police officer overtime traveling to, and waiting around at,  Southampton Town Justice Court” during the past four years and also exactly how much money in fines and penalties were collected by the Southampton Town Justice Court and how that money was disbursed. Without having access to those figures, I think it is difficult for the Sag Harbor Express to correctly analyze the financial ramifications of what passing a resolution in favor of the Justice Court would actually entail. I look forward to seeing some good investigative reporting (about the past history of police officer overtime and fines paid and received) in the Sag Harbor Express in the weeks to come, so that Sag Harbor Express readers can get a sense of what sort of financial commitment would be required if a resolution in favor of a Village Justice Court is passed.

Patricia Weiss

Attorney at Law

Sag Harbor

Did Not Die for Health Care

Dear Bryan,

I absolutely reject any notion that American soldiers have died so that we might have nationalized health care. They did not die for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, college tuition assistance, farm subsidies, stimulus bailouts, or any other government program. And they certainly did not die in order for our federal government to assume a greater role in our individual pursuits.

In fact, the truth is quite the opposite. They died so that we might live free lives. They died so that this great experiment in democracy might live on.

I believe that nationalized health care imperils our freedom and if not ours, then that of future generations. We are broke and this entitlement will only bring greater economic bondage to we the people. If you disagree, then I propose we let those who have given this nation their all decide the issue for us. Let us poll them with the question, “Did you die for entitlement programs or did you die so that we might be a free people?” 

Bill Jones

Hampton Bays

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