Tag Archive | "Ken Dorph"

Ken Dorph

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Sag Harbor’s Ken Dorph will discuss his experiences in the Arab world as both a business consultant and interested observer at the Bay Street Theatre’s inaugural “With My Eyes” series, sponsored with the John Jermain Memorial Library, on Thursday, April 10, at 7 p.m.

By Stephen J. Kotz

You will be speaking at the Bay Street Theatre tonight on your experiences in the Arab world. Can you give us an overview about what your talk will cover?

The title of my talk is “An Evening with my Friends, the Arabs,” and that sort of sums it up, with a heavy emphasis on friends. I have spent a good chunk of my life in the Arab world, and I have a passion for it. I think the Arab world is the most misunderstood part of the world on the part of Americans and I feel it is my responsibility to do something about it.

We know you have a background in banking and are now a consultant. Can you tell us a bit about your career and how it led to your work in the Middle East?

I was actually pre-med and I switched to anthropology—a real useful major—and I went on a junior year abroad to Morocco and later was in the Peace Corps in Tunisia. I went to graduate school at Ann Arbor, which is a great place for Arabic, and went on a Fulbright to Damascus while at Michigan…. I decided that I did not want to work for the U.S. government. I started to look around to see who was doing interesting stuff and it was business. I worked for Citibank, Smith Barney and the World Bank and then became a consultant.

I happened to be in China on September 11. I was planning on coming home on September 12…. I was so hoping somehow by some miracle the Americans would respond intelligently, so, of course, we invaded Iraq. I just decided as I was sitting in China, I wanted to come back to the Arab world.

What kind of work have you been doing lately?

I have been working with the World Bank to help the Tunisian government restructure their banks after the revolution. I’ve been working with USA ID [The United States Agency for International Development] helping the Libyans extend political power and services to local governments, and that has been extremely interesting because you have to go out in the countryside. I’ve also been working in Morocco with the World Bank to encourage investment, Saudi Arabia to get small business financing, and to set up a [agricultural] bank in Egypt.

You obviously don’t think Americans have good reason to be suspicious of the Arab world. Why is that?

I don’t see things the way I see things portrayed by the American media. It’s not my experience. I’m on their side. I work with them, I’m trying to help I’m not the enemy.

Fundamentalism is a problem, but that’s everywhere—Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Christian. There is nothing inherent about Muslims that is any worse than Christians. I’m none of the above, I was raised a Universalist. I don’t have a dog in the fight, but I do think there is a lot of unfairness.

Yet, there does seem to be plenty of Arab animosity directed at the west. Is that a misconception?

The Muslim world has grown more Muslim because of what the rest of the world has done to it. In the 1960s, most of the Arab leaders were secular…. Do you know who Mossaddegh was? He was the democratically elected president of Iran who was overthrown because he wanted to nationalize the oil fields. The shah was put in power and he was extremely ruthless. The Iranian revolution took on a fundamentalist flavor. Then Saudi Arabia had to crack down and become more fundamentalist. People are not any more crazy in Yemen than they are in California.

What I see in the Arab world are normal people trying to live normal lives and do their best, loving their children and going to work. I think it is important to try to have a bigger heart. I tend to be an optimist. It is my nature to believe that humans are rationale. I think it is in our interest to work together.

Sag Harbor Residents Call on School District to Reexamine Bond Parking Lot Projects

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Projected view of the asphalt impact on Pierson Middle/High School in 2014, if the group's suggestions to scale back the size are not made. (Image provided by Ken Dorph).

Projected view of the asphalt impact on Pierson Middle/High School in 2014, if the group’s suggestions to scale back the size are not made. (Image provided by Ken Dorph).

By Tessa Raebeck

Prior to the November 13 vote when the community passed two bond propositions set forth by the Sag Harbor School District, school officials promised voters all capital project plans were “conceptual schematics” and the community would have ample opportunities for input concerning the final design plans before construction started.

At Monday’s board of education (BOE) meeting, Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent of schools, made good on that promise, inviting members of the community to attend a bond implementation project designs group meeting on January 8, 2014.

Overwhelmingly approved by voters, the first proposition includes renovations and enhancements to the Pierson Middle/High School auditorium, reconfiguration of the Pierson shop and kitchen areas, construction of additional gymnasium storage at Sag Harbor Elementary School and the reconstruction of the Hampton Street parking lot at the elementary school and the Jermain Avenue and bus parking lots at Pierson. It also covers repairs and improvements to the air conditioning, heating, ventilation and plumbing and drainage systems.

The second proposition includes the installation of a synthetic turf athletic field and two-lane walking track behind Pierson, as well as a new scoreboard and concrete seating pavilion.

Interested parties can attend any or all of seven scheduled 45 minute workshops during the course of the school day, from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Residents will have an opportunity to review the plans, provide input and ask questions. Larry Salvesen, the district architect, and other representatives from the construction projects will be on hand, as will Dr. Bonuso and school administrators.

Each session will take place on site in the area it is covering, i.e. the auditorium conversation will take place in the auditorium.  The complete schedule is available on the district website, sagharborschools.org.

“Whether we agree or disagree,” Dr. Bonuso said Monday, “people who love their community inevitably come up with what is right for everybody because they’re so driven to do the right thing.”

Mary Anne Miller, a member of the BOE, expressed the need for school administrators to be involved in the final design conversations.

“We’ve been communicating constantly back and forth,” Dr. Bonuso replied. “None of this would be headlines or new to our administration…literally [the bond projects are] a product of touching base with the administration and staff. All we’re saying is our effort is going to be in having an inclusive conversation — and that includes the staff without a doubt and our administration very pointedly.”

A group of village residents concerned about preserving green space and encouraging alternative modes of transportation aside from cars came forward prior to the bond vote with concerns regarding the proposed parking lot reconfigurations.

Parent Ken Dorph said the group was unhappy with the 2009 bond proposal, which did not pass — in large part, Dorph thinks, because of the parking plans.

The original parking plans included in the 2013 propositions were exactly the same as those proposed in 2009. Upon realizing this similarity, Dorph and others raised their concerns at a bond presentation October 21. Following that meeting, Dr. Bonuso — who was “amazing,” according to Dorph — reached out to the group and promised they would work together in finalizing the parking plans. Dr. Bonuso repeatedly said the parking lot reconfigurations were about improving health and safety, not creating more parking spaces.

At Monday’s meeting, Carol Williams presented photos to the board outlining, “what the hill looked like in 2001, what it looks like now and what it would look like unless we’re careful.”

An aerial view of Pierson Hill in 2001. (Image provided by Ken Dorph).

An aerial view of Pierson Hill in 2001. (Image provided by Ken Dorph).

In the aerial view of Pierson Hill from 2001, the parking lot along Division Street is significantly smaller. In the proposed plans from 2009 and 2013, originally, the Jermain Street parking lot is also expanded, which if enacted would result in significant loss of green space from 2001 to 2014.

“In Sag Harbor,” Dorph said, “we have fallen behind Riverhead, East Hampton and Tuckahoe in getting people out of their cars. We have fewer kids walking, biking than when I started [as a district parent] — which is so depressing to me.”

“There’s lots of fine-tuning things we can do,” said community member John Shaka. “I look forward to doing them with you.”

 

Marriage Equality Bill Passes, East End Celebrates

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Gay Pride-1

By Claire Walla

Ken Dorph remembers being here 32 years ago. It was 1969, just after the Stonewall riots which sparked the beginning of the gay pride movement in the United States. Back then, Dorph said the Gay Pride Parade drew just a few dozen participants.

This year, it was much different.

Last Sunday, June 26 at the annual Gay Pride Parade in New York City, Dorph stood among hundreds of people at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 37th Street next to his partner of three decades, Stuart Lowrie, and their two children, Darius and Leyla, both 10. Wearing a white cowboy hat and a perpetual smile, Dorph held up a sign: “2 Dads, 30 years, 2 Kids, 1 Mortgage, A Marriage. I [heart] NY.”

Several excitable parade participants stopped mid-procession to take a picture with the Sag Harbor resident and his hand-crafted sign, and many more paused a moment to photograph Leyla, who — eyes fixated on the parade — propped her arms and head atop a handmade sign of her own: “I [heart] My Two Dads.”

This is the first time in nearly 20 years Dorph has decided to attend the parade. And he’s done so for good reason.
Just two days earlier, on June 24, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Marriage Equality Bill, making New York the sixth state in the nation to legalize same sex marriage, giving same-sex partners the same legal benefits as heterosexual couples.

Dozens of people held signs Sunday afternoon thanking Governor Cuomo for his effort to pass the bill: “A promise kept,” they read.

The New York City Police Department estimates at least two million people eventually congregated in West Greenwich Village on Christopher Street, just outside the Stonewall Inn.

The hours-long procession saw everything from the avant garde (people wearing pasties, Speedos, silver shoulder spikes, handmade stuffed-animal-pants and skin-tight baby-blue teddy bear suits); to the professional (teachers, firefighters, police officers and flight attendants); the recreational (volleyball players, mountain climbers, skiers and sprinters); and even the conventional (church groups and politicians, including Governor Cuomo).

“It’s like a slice of every corner of society!” Dorph exclaimed. “To come to something like this and see a million gay people in one place …” Dorph’s jaw dropped as he demonstrated his joy. “It’s like, anyone can be gay. And they’re all free.”

HOW IT HAPPENED

The Marriage Equality Bill passed in New York with a vote that came down to the wire, ultimately passing 33 to 29.

This week’s legislation comes just three years after Proposition 8 in California, which overturned a state supreme court ruling giving same-sex couples a right to marry. The comparison wasn’t lost on parade-goers, who held signs condemning the west-coast proposition: “I’ll see your Prop 8, and I raise you New York,” one read.
But it also comes just two years after former New York Governor David Paterson introduced legislation to legalize gay marriage in the state. It was shot down then, even though Democrats had a majority in the Senate.

“My sense is that two years ago, if you took politics out of it, there was a majority of senators who would have voted for it then,” said State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr.

But by Thiele’s account, the bill failed then because too many senators were not comfortable voting their convictions. For one thing, Thiele noted that the Senate votes alphabetically in a role-call procedure; he said too many swing voters were called to cast their votes in the beginning, and few were willing to be the first to come out in support of the legislation.

“Governor Cuomo was the difference maker on this,” Thiele continued. “His leadership created a climate by which more senators voted their convictions. He instilled them with the political courage to stand up for this.”
For Thiele, the fight for marriage equality is the continuation of a decades-long movement for civil rights.

“This the latest civil rights victory in a string of civil rights legislation that goes back to the ‘60s,” he explained. He evoked a phrase used by Martin Luther King, Jr., who said “the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.”

“This is a trend toward individual rights,” he stated. “I think Governor Cuomo said it right. People were focused on the first word of the bill, marriage, when the most important word was equality. To me what’s important is we as a state government treat people equally, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

MARRIAGE EQALITY ON THE EAST END

Back at the parade and surrounded by more rainbow-colored garb than you’d find at a Grateful Dead concert — there were at least 33 unique multi-colored articles of clothing and rainbow-print accessories, from flags, leis, boas and wigs, to paper roses, nail polish and neck ties — Dorph admitted the passage of the marriage equality act “is huge.”

Though he and Lowrie were legally married in Vancouver, he said they plan to marry in Dorph’s home state of New York some time next year.

Another Sag Harbor parent who came to the parade with her young daughter — she said she’s hesitant to have her name published because she works for the public school system — added that she will eventually marry her partner of over 16 years sometime next year, as well.

Though the law legalizing gay marriage will go into effect within a month, neither couple is eager to rush to the altar.

“I don’t want to just throw something together,” the woman said. “I want to really plan it.”

Here on the East End, Pastor Katrina Foster of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett and Incarnation Lutheran Church in Bridgehampton said she’s already received one request to perform a wedding ceremony for a lesbian couple since last week — a reality she’s incredibly excited about.

Foster herself made waves in the Christian community when — in 2002 — she officially came out to the congregation she was a part of in the Bronx. Later, in 2007, she came out on the floor of the church-wide assembly.

“It’s the highest legislative body in my denomination,” she said. “I really could have been defrocked at that moment.”

But, because of the strong support from the community immediately around her, she wasn’t. Foster has since moved to the East End where she’s brought her spirit of openness and unity to Amagansett, most recently leading the effort to establish St. Michaels as a Reconciling in Christ congregation: last month, the church officially adopted a public statement of welcome for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Like Dorph, she said the fight for equality is not over. But she hopes the Marriage Equality Act will begin to make it more comfortable for gay people, particularly those here on the East End, to come out — and not to be fearful of the consequences.

“It still is an act of courage to be out,” she said. “People are scared of losing their jobs. But the reality is, we have a lot of gay people on the East End and a lot of gay families living here full-time. Hopefully, as gay and lesbian weddings happen, people will look around and say, I’m not the only one.”

“I think courage is contagious,” she continued, “and I think this bill will help be part of that contagion.”