December 17th, 2008
RUMORS & LIES—FAIR AND BALANCED IN THE HAMPTONS: THE RAZZLE DAZZLE.by Jack Torrance
Andrea Schiavoni and Sally Pope.
By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell — and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.
–Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf
What most people don’t realize about the Hamptons is that it was one of the few locations that voted for Herbert Hoover. Residents of Villages and Towns, which are now Republican bastions, were busy wringing their hands over the incursion made by candidates who they perceived as riding Obama’s coattails to victory. Stealing the Obama signs apparently didn’t work. Of course, the faulty logic in that mind game is that African- Americans or Latinos are not supposed to win anywhere. But, Sally Pope, a Democratic candidate for Town Board in Southampton Town, edged out a hand-picked Republican. Linda Kabot selected Dan Russo, on the instructions of the Republican Party after a real Primary, which ejected Skip Heaney as Supervisor last year.
Although Anna Throne-Holst is a Democrat, holding hands with Russo was more than a romantic problem. The supposed changes after Throne-Holst became the lone Democrat amounted to little more than misinformed press pieces given to that stellar media source Hamptons.com and a misguided attempt at a “Green Law,” which was just another route for the Code Enforcement Police to get into your bedroom to check for illegal immigrants. Most of what Code Enforcement does is geared towards investigating people rather than correcting problems. If that were not the case, there would be a system in place to notify owners of problems needing to be corrected.
Contrary to popular belief, having a search warrant issued by the Justice Court and breaking into property at 5 a.m. to check for smoke detectors is more reminiscent of the NKVD in the Soviet Union than a building inspection. But, under the rules initiated by former Supervisor Skip Heaney and carried out by Fire Marshal Cheryl Kraft—the overlord of Code Enforcement—this is how Latinos, Blacks, New Yorkers and political enemies are targeted in the Town.
The Razzle Dazzle was a card game made famous in Cuba when Fidel was still in the Sierra Maestra Mountains and Fulgencio Batista was hobnobbing with Santo Trafficante and Meyer Lansky in Havana. It is a game that counts on suckers who believe that they are facing a dealer with a full deck and ever-increasing chances of winning. It’s a lot like the game played on the voters facing Republican ideology in the Hamptons. It’s never overtly racist or anti-Semitic—but the ante is constantly raised when things don’t go according to plan.
The real name of the game in places like Southampton Town, Southampton Village and Westhampton Beach Village is corruption. This corruption, under the guise of a Republican ideological agenda and its sympathizers who ostensibly want to protect residents – is in fact a form of political corruption that is anti-New Yorker, anti-landlord, anti-Black, anti-Latino, and anti-Semitic. It also is the big threat of political targeting for those who don’t fall in line and buy the big lie. The police and prosecutors, from the Town Attorneys to the Village Attorneys to the Suffolk County D.A. are the enforcers. It’s the political Razzle-Dazzle with teeth. And, in this last Town election, many people were watching the Obama-effect after many years of trying to make voters aware that the anti-immigration policies that is really the Code Enforcement “Terror.” These early dawn raids on immigrant women and children under the guise of searching for missing smoke detectors—replete with warrants and guns drawn—were reminiscent of Stalin’s NKVD in the Soviet Union. That these raids were really politicians trying to protect visiting workers from faulty smoke detectors—and, that the objections to the Eruv in Westhampton Beach Village is really a “separation of Church and State issue”—belies the corruption of these governments.
Donald Kauth, the head Code Enforcement cop, along with the Southampton Town Fire Marshal and Town Attorney Joe Lombardo were recently in court over one of these early morning anti-Latino raids. It was clear that they had been instructed to find a phony basis for their illegal and unconstitutional acts. The chain of command is Skip Heaney, the Republican Party, Linda Kabot, Dan Russo, Chris Nuzzi, Cheryl Kraft and all of the boys and girls who blindly and obediently break the law to target opponents: Latinos, Jews, New Yorkers and the Democrats. Only now, with a Democrat in the White House and control of Albany, it’s not the Suffolk County D.A. but the U.S. Attorney’s Office that may have an interest in their activities.
In Southampton Village, the videotaped strip search and cavity search of a young woman brought into custody by the Village Police Department for having a roach and a twig in her truck seems to add misogyny to the Hamptons soup.
Stacy Hartline was confronted with a situation that Nancy Botwin (Weeds) would have played by embarrassing the cop into taking a walk. Ostensibly, the young woman was stopped for having a missing license plate but Officer Gallo, who stopped her and who had just returned to the job after beating a record of 18 job-related complaints, decided to call in the situation to his superior, Darren Gagnon. What Gallo may or may not have known until then was that Gagnon had put the make on Hartline the week before at the Publick House in Southampton and had been rejected. Cops with big guns don’t like to be turned down. So Gagnon arrives at the scene and Hartline is cuffed and dragged to the precinct.
Gagnon, Gallo and their female compatriot, Maria Donovan–described as having been the Village Police force’s personal favorite in a prior life–prepared the homecoming. For having some weed debris, Hartline was strip-searched in full view of a video camera that beamed the unwilling sex party for the boys throughout the station house. The rumor is that that strip search is still circulating among the personal video collection of the boys on the job.
In Westhampton Beach, where more unsolved robberies and break-ins have occurred on Main Street than in the South Bronx this year, the Eruv continues to be the big story. What started out as an anti-Semitic issue has now been transformed by Mayor Teller, the Village Board and a few functionaries into a Church and State issue.
The brouhaha is over affixing pieces of black plastic on telephone poles in order to guide religious Jews along paths on religious days. Of course, the subtext to all of this has nothing to do with anything as exalted as a constitutional issue. The objection to the Eruv is based upon a fear that the Jews will take over the Village and force businesses to close on Saturdays.
That fear is real to the extent that the Mayor and his Board have done nothing to protect local businesses from a crime wave (no arrests have been made and there are no suspects)—while a group of inept bureaucrats who prey on local businesses cannot find enough violations to keep them happy. Building Inspector Houlihan was booted out of the Town of Southampton for attracting 20 lawsuits and was located in this Village because Skip Heaney wanted a favor from former Mayor Strebel. The Code Enforcement agent affectionately known as Bitchit (Bridget) Napoli violates businesses for affixing impromptu signs to their businesses—while the Village Board takes a year to approve what they like. Local people like Barbara Ramsay, a recent Planning Board member who lives in the back rooms of her real estate office, use the police as her personal enforcers against Latinos who dare visit the Village. Dislike of Jews and Latinos is a favorite theme.
So, the long con used by Republican politicians and political reactionaries throughout the Hamptons is the claim that they represent the racist and anti-Semitic wishes of the residents who otherwise might live and let live. And the implicit threat is that any objection to their hold on the reigns of power, using the police and inbred Town Attorneys like Michael Sendlenski and Joe Lombardo, will result in trumped up criminal prosecutions. The fact that it is too expensive for most people to fight their illegal and unconstitutional methods has so far escaped observation. But that’s been the saving grace for politicians in the Hamptons for decades.
Well, what is on the way in this post-Bush/Republican, Obama/Democratic world will be an eye-opener. As the foreclosures mount; as the money from New Yorker property transfer taxes dwindle; as the possibility of the vote for nonresident, taxpaying property owners in local elections increases; as the forces of religious and racial repression and political targeting are more exposed; and, as the cost of an increasing number of lawsuits against these Villages and Towns startlingly raises local taxes–times WILL change. The election of Sally Pope, a Democrat in the Town of Southampton, is telling.
As we begin to show the rest of the world that America stands for something, the political games in the Hamptons will come back to haunt the bigots and racists. The possibility of a bankrupt town may also have a cleansing effect.