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July 1st, 2003

Hamptons Politics: Freedom of the Southhampton Press

by D. Clark MacPherson

Unfortunately, Dennis Susskind, a member of the Southampton Town Board and a former New Yorker and a businessman, has decided not to run for Supervisor. In a recent article he refers to the current Supervisor, Patrick Heaney, as “Napoleonic.” But while there have been many differing opinions of Napoleon, he was always thought to be intelligent, until he paid a visit to Russia in 1812. Frankly, the only similarity that appears to be obvious about the comparison between the old boy Republican and the French Emperor are elevator shoes. Though Heaney comes from solid Hampton Bays hardware store roots, he and the highest paid police in the country now have control of all of the property tax receipts from New Yorkers that fund the Town. In a future issue we will begin to unravel the extent of that lucrative real estate-driven tax base.

George Guldi, the current Democratic Suffolk County Legislator, is running again for office this Fall. He is the closest thing that New Yorkers have to what we need (until we begin to control the voting process) to affect change in the political structure in the Hamptons. He has been sensitive to environmental issues and is responsive to non-residents seeking to gain access to Town process. While we have sought to urge the Town of Southampton to appoint a Hamptons Advocate, George has done a magnificent job of fulfilling that need. We urge you to contribute to his campaign for re-election and if you wish to reach him, contact his office at 631-288-3737.

Carolyn Zenk is leaving the Town Board. The sad part of this is that we lose a Democrat, and potential balance in this Republican controlled government. The good part of this change is that Zenk is going back into private practice as an attorney.?Ǭ Based upon her performance in the Town Board and her anti-New York, anti-Property owner views (as they played out with her pushing through fines against homeowners who are found to have harbored a group rental) we think she should hang out her shingle in Wildwood, New Jersey. Her erratic behavior and lack of comprehension of where the money which paid her salary comes from, welcomes her move. Hopefully, it will first be to a halfway house.

Equal Rights and Republican?ɬcontrolled Southampton Town continue to be antithetical concepts. Take a stroll through the corridors of the Town Hall and see if there are many black faces not holding a mop. It is a rare occurrence. Even in Sag Harbor, part of Easthampton Town, where the Lesbian Mayor has come out, the rhetoric is so toned down as to be downright apologetic.

All of this might be considered charming if the anti-gay, anti-Latino, anti-African-American, and anti-Semetic rhetoric (translated into policy and behavior) were really understood by the Republicans in the Hamptons. But in fact, the police and their political handlers ?ɬ or is it the politicians and their police handlers ?ɬ do not really understand that they are teetering over a dangerous precipice. You can’t take the tax receipts from all of those non-resident taxpaying homeowners, deprive them of their right to vote in local elections, and then expect to spit on them without repercussions.

So far, two very obvious but important incidents have taken place this year in the Hamptons.?Ǭ The first occurred this Winter when a part time Suffolk County Sheriff’s Deputy, moonlighting as a Quogue Police Officer shot and killed a Guatemalen landscaper. The officer, with no witnesses, stopped the poor soul, whom he suspected of driving while under the influence. Apparently, concerned that with no witnesses around, he might be in jeopardy facing a local cop with a gun and a less than tolerant view of the third world ?ɬ the guy attempted to flee. Makes sense to me.

Now think about this. The officer’s story was that he was attacked with a branch from a tree. Now there’s mortal danger for the cop! So, here’s a landscaper that’s half in the bag, alone, about to be arrested or further humiliated by a cop in the Hamptons ?ɬ and he attacks the cop — with a tree branch. Frankly, there is no question at all that this is good cause to pump three bullets into the poor guy. And, one in the back! Here, take that! He probably forgot about whipping the cop with flowers. Funny, though, there were no witnesses and this was all accepted by the Town and Quogue Village as totally understandable. Reminds us of the bar fight where various police officers from the East End beat the Hell out of a Southampton man. The D.A. chose to indict but, wonder of wonders, the Judge dismissed the case. Now, how do you think that could have happened?

Okay, so how about this
?
One of the richest men in America, Ira Rennert, decides to build a really, really, really big house. He can afford it, but his neighbors don’t like it. Worse, the Town really doesn’t have a great track record with anti-Semitism. It’s one of those subjects that no one admits to in the press, at least in intellectual society, but is clearly close to the surface in politics, police, and social circles. In fact, in the Hamptons (especially in Southampton) it is barely controlled among the inbred political elite. Not the same, mind you, as intellectual elite.

Enter the Town Trustees, not the Town Board, but the Trustees. Here you have a group of guys that make the decisions about the waterfront. Basically, they’re like the Longshoreman’s Union but without the intelligence or grace. They are elected in the Town and?Ǭ have a long history in the Hamptons, passed down from generation to generation in family lines. Calling a Trustee a redneck would be an insult to rednecks. Let’s just say that if you were seeking to move into the 21st Century and you were a politician, you might want to back away from the Trustee’s mindset. Not in Southampton though.

And then, also bear in mind that the Southampton Press is not only just as anti-civil rights, anti-New Yorker as the politicians running the show ?ɬ but functions as the Republican Town house organ. It leads in to the news, immediately on page two with its printing?Ǭ of the DWI’s and Justice Court cases. This “gossip” is?Ǭ there to embarrass local politicians who do not get with the program and to keep people in line — and ends with editorials that basically tell people what to think and how to act in this Best of All Possible Towns (where the money flows into Town coffers and is used against those who pay). A former reporter for “On the Beat” didn’t deny that some people were left out of this section if they “had a problem.” He explained that it wasn’t the Southampton Press who left it out but that the police filtered the names to be exposed. That’s like the rat accusing the cat of stealing his cheese. It still stinks!

So here’s what happened. Southampton Town Trustee Scott Strough visited the site of Ira Rennert’s 63 acre property, where he and his very religious entourage have been building. Dunes were apparently disturbed in the process of doing work for which he had permits. The visit by Strough resulted in his remarking that with regard to Rennert, Strough was “going to recommend that we nail him to the cross.” The question becomes, how many Jews are we going to nail to that particular cross. And, what does that make Strough and his little group? Strough begrudgingly apologized ?ɬ for being caught, no doubt.

But, the coup de grace is really the most telling piece. The response to that anti-semitic remark by the Southampton Press, the House Organ of the Southampton Town Republican old-boy network, and the Hampton Police State, is telling. In it’s defense of the Trustees, the Louchheims (first Donald, now Joseph as publisher) responded in a recent editorial which defends the remarks made about Rennert with the editorial heading “No Apologies.”

Apparently Trent Lott can lose national office as one of the most powerful politicians in the country for his lapse. But, in Southampton, nailing him “to the cross” is merely “an unfortunate choice of phrase, given Mr. Rennert’s Jewish heritage.”

You think so, Mr. Louchheim?

Now, that’s journalism! And this newspaper has won many awards – but from whom, the Gestapo?

Or, is it really a response at having being caught expressing true feelings and being angry at having to explain away the remark. It is the ugly reality of what the anti-Semitic truth is in much of the government and Press in Southampton Town and much of the East End as well.

-D. Clark MacPherson

Filed Under: Articles | Politics | the Hamptons

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