Tag Archive | "conversation with"

Laurie Barone-Schaefer

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Laurie Barone-Schaefer has lived in Sag Harbor for the past eight years. A professional photographer by trade, Ms. Barone-Schaefer has became a dedicated Cub Scout den mother—a job that she pours her heart into, she says. She discusses the importance of scouting and the upcoming Soap Box Derby, which will take place on Sunday, June 8. 

By Mara Certic

How did you become involved in the Cub Scouts in Sag Harbor?

Well, I have three little boys. And the organization is just absolutely wonderful for our children to be involved in, and I feel very strongly about that. And because of that I inquired about having my children join, and there was no leader available for my middle son’s age group, so I pretty much stepped up and became a leader.

Why is it that you felt so strongly about your sons joining the Scouts?

I was a Girl Scout and my brother was a Boy Scout and this is something that I just wanted my boys to be exposed to. They learn so much about the outdoors. We go on nature hikes; we go on adventures. The bonding and the lifelong friendships that are formed through the different things that we do is so amazing to see. You see them grow right before your eyes. They all have this bond that is something you can’t force, it just happens naturally. I really think that being part of the organization is a huge part of that.

 Last year’s Soap Box Derby was the first Sag Harbor had seen since the 1950s. Why did you bring it back?

Growing up, you have a lot of fond memories of your childhood, and things have changed so much even from when I was a child. All the community kids congregated outside and played and we wouldn’t go inside until the sun started to go down and it was dinnertime. And as a parent now you sit back and you see what’s going on and everything is cyber this, or cyber that. So I said, you know what? We need to get these kids back to basics. And we need to get them experiencing things outside; not driving virtual cars. We need them in those cars and experiencing it firsthand.

Who is participating in this year’s race?

Last year we had approximately 34 racers, and this year we have 42, so we have quite a substantial increase this year, which is absolutely wonderful. We’re very excited about that. Racers who did race last year are able to use their cars from last year. I know some of them are probably revamping them and giving them a fresh look, a new update. We have involved all the Scouts in Sag Harbor: Girl, Boy and Cub. We wanted to invite all the Scouts together into the event. There are two divisions this year, the Mustang division (the driver and car combined can weigh up to 150 pounds) and the Thunder Road division (for the older kids, 225 pounds combined weight).

 Are there different rules for the two divisions?

This year, the Thunder Road division don’t need to use the kit part wheels; it gives them more of an opportunity to use their creativity and have a little more fun with things. They do have a safety requirement that they need to meet, of course.

 What exactly is going to happen on June 8?

This year, we’re doing something a little different, we’re having our safety inspections and registrations down over by the Elementary School gym on Saturday, June 7, and we are going to be impounding the cars there. On Sunday, we’re starting with a parade down Main Street at 1 p.m. with the fire department, local vintage cars, trailers trailering the derby cars, and then we’ll make our way to High Street for the race. This year it is our honor to dedicate the race to Katy Stewart, whose brother is a member of Troop 455.

 How has the local community responded to the Soap Box Derby?

There’s been an outpouring of support from the community, and we just want to thank all of them. The Scouts are being embraced by their community in such a loving way. This is what they’re going to take with them when they get older, and this is what being part of a community really means. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

James Larocca

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James Larocca.

James Larocca.

James Larocca, who spent a career in public service, including stints as a member of the New York State Public Service Commission, the board of the Long Island Power Authority, and as dean of Southampton College, reflects on his service in Vietnam with the U.S. Navy, his concerns about the plight of American veterans and his upcoming speech at Sag Harbor’s Memorial Day observance this Monday morning at the American Legion on Bay Street.

By Stephen J. Kotz


Let’s start with your naval career. What did you do in Vietnam?

I spent almost all of the calendar year 1967 in Vietnam. I was the operations officer of a mobile river patrol unit for 35-foot fiberglass gunboats. We were actually stationed on a 325-foot converted World War II LST.  In my second tour, I was on a salvage tug.


The river patrol idea in my judgment was as flawed from every possible point of view. They adapted a pleasure boat made up in the Puget Sound that used water jets like they use in a Jacuzzi. It was an example of a brilliant idea from the Pentagon that had no practical application in the Mekong Delta. They were unreliable, they were unsafe. The very concept of using this kind of craft to patrol tens of thousands of miles of water was not going to work. It was never tested until someone up in Seattle convinced the military to buy these boats.


You were involved in the planning for the county’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Brookhaven. How did that come about?

[Former Assemblyman] John Behan and I co-chaired the committee that built that. They wanted a Republican and a Democrat. I was the Democrat. County Executive Peter Cohalan told us we had $40,000 or $50,000 to work with. I guess they thought we were going to put up a plaque outside the county building. Subsequently we raised $1.5 million to make something worthy.


Before that, I had not been active in veterans’ affairs. I had put the war behind me. I was moving on. That experience brought me into the world of veterans’ affairs. It introduced me to the plight of a lot of people who were still not fully returned from the war, if you will, people who were still struggling with the V.A., still struggling with their experience. I came to understand that it’s important how a nation expresses its gratitude to those who serve and how it meets its obligations to those who serve.


Are we doing enough for veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Absolutely not, but we never do. Sometimes we do better than at other times, but even though we have public events, public monuments, public expressions, we also miss the day-to-day struggles, the day-to-day needs of those who serve. I think that has never been truer than it is now.


The people who serve now are serving in a war that is detached for most Americans because there is no draft, [a war] that is not understood very well by most Americans and, absolutely critically, involves multiple deployments. The nation is not hostile, or particularly indifferent. People are just not involved. The longest war in the nation’s history involves 2 percent of the population. The reality is it doesn’t touch most people.


What do you plan to talk about at next week’s observance?

I’ll ask what it means to memorialize, to honor. These are words we use authentically and honestly, but I think we have to ask what it is that those of this generation who are serving now need—and what they deserve. The answer is a lot. Their lives are interrupted repeatedly, the wounds they suffer are serious, and the circumstances of their deployment are often terrible. How are we, as a grateful, caring nation going to respond? A name on a plaque is not enough.

Conversation with Kathy Cunningham

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Kathy Cunningham, chair of the Quiet Skies Coalition.

Kathy Cunningham, chair of the Quiet Skies Coalition.

By Kathryn G. Menu

The chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition talks about the changing of the guard on the East Hampton Town Board, the finances at the airport and her hopes for quieter skies in 2015


This year has brought a number of changes regarding the East Hampton Airport, chief amongst those the election of a new majority on the East Hampton Town Board and the appointment of Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez as airport liaison. What impact has that had in discussing noise abatement at the airport?

We have already seen a positive impact. Kathee has my full confidence. She is smart, she gets it, she is equitable and she is really a public servant. She is not a politician so I think that really helps motivate her to do something that this community has been in desperate need of for a long time.


A subcommittee BFAC has been charged with looking at airport finances in an effort to complete a full audit of airport expenses and revenues. What does QSC hope this accounting will lead to?

It has already discovered revenue streams at the airport that have been unreported until now. Our hope is that the airport can be financially self-sustaining, which would free us from FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) grant assurances for maintenance and capital improvements there that are necessary. If we can pay for them ourselves we don’t have to keep the airport open 365 days a year for 24 hours a day, which is just one access limitation we could legally impose once we are out from under the grant assurances. That will actually happen as of January 1, 2015, a date I thought I would never live to see, quite frankly.


What are some of the other access limitations QSC would like to see the town consider?

Well, limits to helicopter traffic, enforceable curfews. We don’t have a specific base of information from which to make recommendations about how much that should be limited but early indications show 70 percent of noise can be addressed by an enforceable curfew and limiting helicopter traffic and I think that would go a long way towards mitigating noise on the East End, not just in East Hampton.


An Airport Planning Committee—made up of two subcommittees including those in the noise affected community and those in the aviation community—has also been appointed by the town board to look at both noise abatement and capital projects. What do you hope they can accomplish?

Before an alleged press release was sent out [by the aviation subcommittee regarding noise complaint data] I had hoped there would be an opportunity for the noise affected community to sit down with the aviation community and really express what our basic concerns are because I don’t think they have ever understood it from our point of view. I think the fear is that we want to close the airport, which is not what we want to do. Noise mitigation does not equal close the airport and if we just had a chance to sit down and discuss this it might help, but it has been so polarized.


What do you say to the noise affected as we go into a potentially sticky season when it comes to air traffic?

Well, this will be the last summer the town will not have the ability to limit access to its airport. As of January 1, 2015 they will be able to say, closed from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. or whatever curfew they demand and no one can come in unless it is an emergency or military operation. But this summer, we will not have those options.

What we really need the noise affected to do this summer is to call the noise complaint hotline (537-LOUD, 1-800-376-4817). Noise complaint data is a flawed concept because it implies without a noise complaint there was no noise event, which is untrue. We have not been able at this point to calculate complaint fatigue.

What we learned last summer in the court ruling that upheld the FAA’s ability to mandate routes based on noise complaints is that they matter—the complaints are data that matter. That was a precedent setting case.


So this summer more than ever, it’s important to call or log in with the town if you are affected by aircraft noise.

In terms of the complaint data, we are not raised to be complainers, and that is one of the reasons the data has shown a drop off. I know one person who logged 500 complaints before last year and just stopped. 500 complaints out of 3,000 for a summer is a huge percentage of that figure.

Part of our difficulty will be convincing those who used to call in to start calling in again. It takes a certain amount of dedication. But we really need this data. Recognize that this is a civic duty and you will really be contributing to an effort that will allow the Town of East Hampton to do something productive at the end of the calendar year.

Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

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web CONVO Headshot Thiele

By Kathryn G. Menu

The New York State Assemblyman and Sag Harbor Village Attorney talks about what state government must contend with in a dismal budget year and how Governor Andrew Cuomo will bring a sense of leadership to New York State government.

How has New York State government changed with the last election, including that of newly inaugurated Governor Andrew Cuomo?

I think the two biggest changes are the election of Governor Cuomo and the change in leadership in the New York State Senate from a Democratically controlled senate to one ruled by the Republicans. This is what will shape the coming year in Albany. With Governor Cuomo, the general consensus is Governor David Patterson was a nice guy, and people liked him, but he was not up to the challenges of being a governor and I believe there was a lack of leadership. Now we will have a new direction and a stronger leadership as we face some really difficult problems and I think we are already seeing some of the results of that leadership in some of the proposals Governor Cuomo has already made. The real property tax cap is really important for Long Island, and he is also talking about the kind of ethics reform needed to restore confidence and trust in Albany. The biggest issue, of course, is the state’s finances. In a sense, for Long Island, the change of power in the state senate is just as important as the election of the new governor. My interest isn’t who has power – Democrats or Republicans – as an Independent. My major concern is geography. In the last two years, state government has been dominated by interests from New York City at the expense of Long Island taxpayers. We will now have a greater voice for Long Island, from everything from school aid to aid for our local hospitals. We are going through a period with diminished resources and there are going to be cuts, but it is important the resources we do have are expended fairly and Long Island has gotten short shrift in the last two years.

Governor Cuomo has vowed to fight for a two percent cap on property tax growth, meaning, if passed, school districts and municipalities across the East End will be limited on any increases in spending. Do you support this measure?

I do. I also support a tax cap that limits that spending, but also gets state government off the backs of school districts and municipalities with unfunded state mandates. I believe we do need the tax cap, but we also need to give local governments more flexibility to allow them to be more efficiently run.

With a proposed property tax cap that low and with school districts seeing sometimes double digit increases in health insurance costs as well as employee benefits, could this have an impact on the quality of public education on the East End?

I think that clearly it could. People simply don’t have the money so we have to spend less. We are not only looking at a cap in property taxes, but also less in the way of state aid for school districts, which is why we have to allow them the freedom to be more efficient in how they use their dollars. That means the need for things like pension reform and taking a closer look at health care costs. We can’t just look at one piece of the puzzle here. If you look at school districts, their expenditures have far outpaced inflation in the last 20 years, and we are not talking about a reduction, just a cap. It is long overdue. And we must tackle the issue of these state mandates, these fixed costs, which are not only strangling school districts and municipalities, but also the state. We did pass pension reform last year, but that is looking into the future. It does not help with 2011. The governor has also vowed to not raise taxes, citing the weak economy, meaning spending will have to be slashed on the state level. Where do you cut? First of all, I think we have made cuts already. We cut school aid last year, and Medicaid, and those things will be cut again this year. We also have to cut the size of our bureaucracy. That was not something Governor Patterson did well. We are asking local governments and school districts to consolidate services, and the state will have to do the same thing. Governor Cuomo announced this morning he will be taking a five percent cut in salary, so we do have to lead by example. I am not saying we are not going to make cuts and it is not going to be painful, but we do have to cut spending while also looking to the future. We need a strategic economic plan, that addresses issues like the college in Southampton. That is something that could generate the economy and jobs in the long run.

Where does higher learning at Stony Brook –Southampton stand?

One part is the legal side, and there is still a court case pending as to whether the second time Stony Brook voted to close the college was done in correct procedure, but that will not be the main event. The main event will be discussions (New York State) Senator Ken LaValle and I have with Stony Brook University during the state budget process. The Senator, myself and Congressman Tim Bishop are committed to reopening that college, but the question is how it is done. The changes in power at the state senate level are probably not more important to any one issue on the East End as the college. Senator LaValle has not been the chairman of the state’s higher education committee, but will most likely be appointed that position now as the ranking Republican. I think that will help a lot. Ultimately, the future of the college will be largely determined through the state budget process. The state college system has a lot it wants to ask of the legislature, and it will have a lot to ask of the state college system. Ethics reform is also at the top of the governor’s agenda. How necessary is ethics reform on the state level? What problems have we seen and how will this protect taxpayers? The biggest problem is that, until the last election, more members of the state legislature have left office through the criminal justice system then through the ballot box. For someone like myself, who has held town and county office, on the East End the public holds officials up to a high standard and if you violate that you are out. In Albany, it’s embarrassing. The biggest part is offering taxpayers full disclosure. I have no problem disclosing all of my sources of income, and releasing my tax information. This is about openness and transparency. But it is not just okay to have rules, you have to enforce them. There has been a feeling that we have the fox watching the chicken coop in Albany. There is no real enforcement, everyone just winks and nods. I believe that is something the governor will need to provide in his leadership. We need to set up an independent body to enforce this and not have a legislature responsible for enforcing its own code.

What are some of the initiatives you hope to take on this year as you continue to serve the East End in the New York State Assembly?

Certainly, locally, for me the biggest priority is the college. It is an integral part of life here on the East End, but it is also important for our economy. That is the biggest issue. The economy in general is something I will focus on. I would like to work with state government, with what every economic development programs arise, to apply those monies towards proposals like a commercial park at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. Infrastructure is also important. We may have done some patching, but we need to repave Route 27 from Southampton to Montauk. My job is about promoting some of the large issues, but most importantly, it is to ensure that state government works for our local communities

Max Moyer

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max for web

Max Moyer might look like a fresh-faced Pierson High School student, but underneath this youthful exterior is a political force to be reckoned with. As the budget process for the Sag Harbor School District’s 2010-2011 budget became increasingly contentious, Moyer became more involved and has helped move a legion of students to seek information on the budget and voice their opinions about the district.

You are a junior and switched to Pierson from the Ross School last March. How has your experience at Pierson differed from Ross?
Not too much. Pierson is like a small private public school. The class sizes are small. The teachers are extremely invested and dedicated. I get the same feeling while learning at Pierson as I did at Ross. I think the difference lies in the state requirements for testing and the applicability of the curriculum.
I think the aesthetics are the biggest difference. I don’t need the Nike statue [which is in front of the Ross high school building]. That is something I am paying to maintain as part of my tuition. I would rather see pupils’ artwork. Pierson is filled with student art. That shows character.

Last week, you obtained a copy of the contingency list, or a list of further cuts prepared by the administration for the board in March. Which items on the list surprised you?
The biggest thing that jumped out at me was number 18 [to leave a high school art position vacant] and then 20 [to eliminate three special education teachers by eliminating the inclusion model and hire three teaching assistants]. Then number 27 [to close the elementary school building at 3 p.m. and cut the security monitor position] directly coincides with number 21 [to reduce elementary school co-curricular clubs]. If they lock the elementary school at three o’ clock that means no clubs, no library. That is big for the elementary school. Being able to do your homework in the library after school is big. Some parents can’t get their kids that early. Nothing on this list takes priority over another thing. It is just some of these things are more shocking than others. Again, it has to be known that this is the recommended list. This hasn’t been finalized.
It also is dated March 21. I don’t know if there is another list. There could be another list.

For a Pierson student, you have become heavily involved in the budget process and helped found the student organization SOS (Save Our School). Why did you lead this student movement to help pass the budget?
What it all comes down to is the overall education at the school. I have to come here next year and I want to come back and take a full set of classes whether it be core classes or extra-curriculars. There are a lot of seniors who care about the education of their younger siblings and there are those who care about education. When I leave the school, the school isn’t done. There are years and years of kids who are going to pass through there. It isn’t fair for them to deal with mediocrity. It isn’t “C’est la vie.” We can get involved and change things.

What is the key to motivating your peers and other Pierson students?
There has been a lot of momentum lost in the last couple of weeks. The overwhelming amount of support petered out after the first board meeting. The kids I still do have that want to be involved and help are the ones who are really invested in their education.
When kids see this will directly affect them that is when they start caring. A lot of kids still come up to me and are not sure what is going on.
Based on what I know and what I am hearing from the board, it isn’t going to be pretty if we go to contingency. Kids involved in sport, when they hear a major part of their life will be impacted, they start to care and the community needs to be informed so they can be involved. I know this doesn’t sound great, but fear is a motivator.

The board has approved a budget to put before the voters on May 18, but it wasn’t without a few rancorous and contentious budget meetings. What do you make of this year’s budget process?
I feel like it has been painstaking for the board. I know that some people are going to disagree with this, but I don’t feel like the board is willing to back the budget they put up. Four out of seven members of the board have kids in the district but it doesn’t feel like the board is willing to support the budget in the same way they should and that sets the tone at the meetings. People are upset and they go to the meetings looking for information and it feels like a wall has been put up. There has been a certain amount of this [sentiment of] “this isn’t up to us.” I feel if the board was to support this budget, I think that would swing a lot of the votes in the community.

Do you think this budget will pass?
I think what people have to realize is that the tax rates have been artificially low. They should have been higher. People need to understand supporting a school comes back full circle for the community. Once you start accepting mediocrity and low standards then you can’t expect the good to come back to the community. I think the budget will pass as is because there is a large number of people who will choose simply not to vote. I am not even 18. I can’t vote and that means something to me. To get to 100 percent voter participation would be incredible. If enough people get involved this budget will pass as is. But it will be a community effort.

How have you and your organization been working to get out the vote?
I personally have been extending the opportunity for kids to sign up with SOS. There are flyers [with information on the budget] and I will have kids go door to door. I have been asking all of the kids to get their older siblings an absentee ballot. I met with [parents] Laura Avedon and Katharine Battle. On the day of the vote we will do phone banking mid-day. We have been using facebook as a resource to contact graduates who are away. I have been sending out absentee ballots in the last two weeks. I think I am going to do a radio ad with information on the budget. My goal still is and has been from this day is to hopefully educate the public.