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September 29th, 2003

Hampton’s Politics

by D. Clark MacPherson

“Fair & Balanced”Let’s see, we have an economy fueled by $200 million in Hamptons property taxes from people who can’t vote in local elections. Make sure that no one interferes with how we can use this money! Right?

After we make sure that the School Districts have the School Board elections in May or vote on a bond issue for $30 million during the winter when those taxpayers aren’t around, let’s then again pretend to have an election for Southampton Town Supervisor. Skip Heaney’s the current Republican and he’s pretty well known. He’s one of the boys. His father’s hardware store and his mother’s restaurant, Heidi’s Hideaway, were Hampton Bays fixtures. Good East End stock. The “share house” guys and girls ate there a lot on weekends because Hampton Bays was the cheapest Hampton. Too bad the Town now wants to arrest those people for renting a share house.

Even the locals used to call the hamlet (Hampton Bays) that was originally called Good Ground, “low Bays.” Heaney the father, who is now deceased, was a Town Councilman. The son, “Skip” Heaney, following in his footsteps, has been described as a chain-smoking, hard drinking, Queens Democrat who is hiding out in the Hamptons pretending to be a Republican. His own (step)mother, Heidi, according to one source, said of Skip that “that son of a bitch is not worthy to sit in his father’s seat.” He’s the Southampton Town Supervisor, unopposed in the November Election. Figures.

So Vince Cannuscio, the former two-term Supervisor tried to come back again. He ran in 1997 and 1999 but did not mount a campaign for re-election in ’01 because he reportedly did not have the money. As a real estate professional, he knew where some of the bones were buried and where the tax base is located. Right under his feet. He ran for office on a slate claiming that he had a long successful business background after stints as Chairman of the Planning Board in Southampton. However, sources indicate that he also was a rep for a telecom company. The Republican party cast him aside because he didn’t have his petitions in order. (Not that Heaney did either). But the local landscaper, Marcus Stinchi, currently Chairman of the Republican Party and who is reportedly coming out soon, has a job that no one really wants-and he got a chance to actually do something. He supported Heaney.

The Primary mud slinging between the two Republican contenders dates back to the Federal investigation and indictment of a telecom site scout named Ferrara who claimed to have left a certain $15,000 envelope in the front seat of Councilman Steve Halsey’s car a few years back. Both Cannuscio and Heaney were “wired” when they talked to each other and were both reporting separately to the Feds when the cash was being “attributed.” Seems Vertical Broadcasting (a telecom company) was trying to get a cell phone tower placed and needed Town Council votes to get on with it. To spice up the important current community issues that the Republicans have been working on, it seems that they all want to have their hands in the casino deal-while opposing it for public consumption. We have Heaney opposing it while reportedly making visits with Thiele and Lavalle to get the scoop from the Foxwood people who failed to stop the Connecticut casino – getting info on how to oppose the project publicly while assuring that they FAIL to do so. Yes, so that they adequately understand how to properly fail to stop it! Can’t just let Ong, the Shinnecock’s promoter guy fronting the money (who took a plea for essentially selling plaster as baby milk to third world countries), have it all! The Republicans are entitled to make a few bucks too, aren’t they? But, no one should know. Of course, guys!

Part of the attitude problem toward the casino has as its roots in the anti-black, anti-civil rights history of Southampton and its leaders. The fact is that the Shinnecock Indian Tribe is of mostly African-American ancestry. And this is one of the worst kept secrets in Hamptons media. Not one local newspaper will touch this issue because racism runs deep.White politicians would like to deal with this casino issue the same way Hamptons Bays residents in the 50’s and 60’s used to deal with blacks-burn them out. Now, however, they actually have to deal with the “tribe” or figure out how to make a buck off of this new sinecure. So, Rangers, we are definitely going to get what we have paid for with our tax dollars! We have the Katzenjammer Kids planning to play craps with our money, pretending to protest as the bulldozers clear the land.

Bet you are wondering why the Democrats haven’t been mentioned. Well, that IS another story.

There aren’t many!

We wondered why, too. Seems that a political operative named Hal Ross has been wending his way through the political raindrops for at least the last decade, pretending to be switching from one party to the other. He is referred to as a Republican leader in various local publications. He worked on Democrat DiPirro’s campaign (’87-’89) for Supervisor of Southampton Town and managed to aggravate the relationship between DiPirro and Council Member Pat Newman (who was also a Democrat), so much so that DiPirro was dead meat even during her two years in office. She and Newman and the Town Council had a rancorous time and it was played up incessantly in the Southampton Press – in case any voters were missing it. Ross reportedly spent DiPirro’s campaign money on anti-development “bulldozer” ads while DiPirro had wanted the advertising money to focus on fiscal responsibility. Ross did what he felt like doing until it was too late for DiPirro and the Democrats, and she lost easily.

Ross moved on to help Fred Thiele in 1991, and Thiele became Supervisor as a Republican. Then Thiele, wanting to be assured of being re-elected, met with the Democrats to gain their support as a fusion candidate. He agreed to switch to the Democratic Party if he were to win. Thiele was re-elected but he never switched parties. He reneged on the deal, then moved on to the State Assembly and, during his incumbency, played the same trick on the State Democratic Party. That’s where you can find Thiele today, the State Assembly.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Democrats floated a local doctor for Supervisor in 1997. Good old Hal Ross was back working on, or for, the Democratic Party. And true to form, their candidate dropped out of the race due to the hassles and conflicts attributed to, guess who?

Ross, a paid consultant for Heaney since he was “doing it anyway” was also ostensibly working with the Democrats on their current campaign for Supervisor. The Democratic candidate, Hank DeCillia, supported by Town Council candidates Steve Kenny and Fred Stelle, had until July 19th to drop out of the race-while still leaving the Democrats the option to replace him. A week after that date passed, DeCillia drops out. Essentially, as a result of dropping out after the date had passed,he left the party with no candidate for Supervisor-and left Heaney unopposed.

I’ll bet you can’t guess who received a call from the Southampton Press, asking him if he had had a fireside chat with Mr. DeCillia just before he dropped out? The “news” piece by the Press described Hal Ross as practically giggling over the matter. Hal Ross thought it was funny that his influence created a no-contest race for Southampton Town Supervisor. That’s three Supervisor elections in a row, folks, with no contest. That’s Hamptons Democracy in action!

And, not incidentally, while the Southampton Press felt that it was necessary to run a pedantic little editorial in the Ira Rennert/Southampton Trustees fiasco (in which they supported local anti-Semitic attitudes), they felt no compunction whatsoever to criticize the Republican Party for its underhanded antics. Instead, their editorial column, called “Opinions” took aim at property owners who are sick of governmental roadblocks and wish to form a new village on Dune Road.

Obviously, the Press stands for “Democracy as long as it’s Republican,” and “Freedom of the Press” as long as they get to pick the “news.” The weekly reporting of police and Justice Court actions, for example, is a Press hallmark. The police blotter reporting exists to embarrass, not inform. A former reporter once protested that the Southampton Press only reports what is in the police blotter. So, after the police,nudge, nudge, wink, wink, “lose” a specific entry that one wouldn’t want printed, there’s nothing to report. So, who would you guess that Hal Ross is working for? Andre Garabedian, the Chariman of the Democratic Party couldn’t be reached for comment. No calls were returned from the Southampton Press news staff. And Hal Ross couldn’t be reached for a comment. Southampton Press would not permit any news photos of theirs to be used by the Soho Journal.

We think our readers, who pay the taxes that pay for this government, understand what is happening here.While the Democratic Party rebuilds, formation of a PAC is in order. It is clearly time for the Heaney/Cannuscio/Ross/ Stinchi/Southampton Press games to be over, using your money. It is time that all of us demand real elections.And be a part of it! Suffolk County Legislator George Guldi is a study in contrast. His record of achievement has some relevance to our audience, whether it be local Hamptons residents and environmentalists or property owners from New York. He has been successful, through the Legislature, in setting aside open land for preservation. Space which is at least three times as large as Central Park has been set aside during his administration – space which can never be developed.

In addition, Guldi has worked to vigorously address a problem which has been ignored by Republican conservative administrations for decades-affordable housing. It has been the hidden anti-minority, anti-working class attitude that has defeated temporary housing in motels (which have been dying for decades in the Hamptons) and placed roadblocks in the path of any multiple family housing not geared to the “swells” from New York. Guldi has introduced legislation that would create an agency having autonomous powers to override local zoning, which has been one of the most difficult obstacles, used repeatedly in Suffolk County in general and Southampton in particular, to prevent affordable housing for middle class and working class residents. Currently there is a shortage of more than 95,000 housing units on Long Island-and is extremely bad in the fabulous Hamptons.

Recently, under Schneiderman (Easthampton Town Super-visor) the police have started emulating some of the anti-civil rights tricks of Southhampton Town. As with the “Nazi” tactics used to invade “share houses” using warrants and SWAT teams in Southampton, Easthampton Police have begun breaking into houses with “Quality of Life” warrants. Only this time, they are focusing on those pesky “Latinos” again. You know, those annoying people who do everyone’s lawns and clean their toilets for them? Maybe if they were paid what most Americans won’t work for they wouldn’t have to pack 14 people into a house in the Hamptons. By the way, this is a Constitutional issue. Oh, and just for the record, no one could find affordable alternative housing for these tenants. Just another opportunity for Hamptons politicians to milk the property owners with fines. By the way, the Easthampton Star refused to provide us with Schneiderman’s photo-while the landlord, Taul Forsberg Jr., has his face posted all over the internet on the newspaper’s website. It is interesting to note that the Star focuses on “exposing” the landlord and not the need for affordable housing for the “latinos.”

While we have been critical of the Justice Court in general and Justice Barbara Wilson in particular, known as Judge Judge (she sits on both Town and Village courts in Southampton),her perspective has improved. Sources have reported to us that she has actually begun to comment on the lack of evening sessions in the Town Justice Court and has pointed out that the Southampton Village Justice Court does in fact observe the rules of the Unified Court System (the Southampton Village Court provides evening sessions for Village residents). Her awareness of the inequity is instructive and may help pave the way for some changes at the Town level and benefit the local working stiff as well as New Yorkers who have to travel 100 miles to court.

-D. Clark MacPherson

Filed Under: Articles | Politics | the Hamptons

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