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August 2nd, 2007

HAMPTONS POLITICS

by D. Clark MacPherson

As amazing as it may seem, the reigning Southampton Town Republican Party has dropped one of its stalwarts, Nancy Graboski, from their ticket. The Southampton Press has speculated that this was payback for not supporting Mr. Zizzi, a local builder, for the Planning Board post he had held for several years. For those of you who have never heard of the term Conflict of Interest, (a term which is unknown in Southampton) it refers to the concept that if you are involved in a branch of government which wields any power over a specific business in which you, yourself are engaged – you might inadvertently make decisions that could be compromised– and therefore, you should not seek or accept such an appointment. So, for example, a builder/developer, perhaps should not sit on a committee that votes on approvals for friends, associates, consultants or attorneys with whom he may do business indirectly – and especially if he were to do such business directly or has business which appears in front of that committee.

There are approvals for undersized lots, waivers for development projects, and zoning relief sought by or for political friends — all potential conflict of interest risks that deal in coin of realm. Especially in the Hamptons where the economy runs on the fuel of Real Estate.

Graboski and Dennis Suskind had apparently seen and heard enough bullshit and the “secret” had been outed to the point where they had to shout, “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it any more.” As a result, after being a loyal Republican, Graboski was canned by Marcus Stinchi, the Westhampton Beach landscaper who runs the Republican Party for Skip Heaney, the Supervisor. Neither of them appreciated losing Zizzi on the Planning Board, a major source of “fundraising” for the party.

But, lest we forget, the Southampton Republicans have never been shy about how they go about collecting money. Highway Supervisor Masterson is one of the biggest “sources” for the Party. While he may not donate much himself, when you are in charge of handling out paving contracts, you would be surprised at how many Republican converts there are who spread asphalt on the Towns highways after contract time comes around – and who would gratefully write a check to Donald Duck if they were told to do it. Hank Beck, a reputable guy, William Masterson’s last challenger, lost the race by less than 100 votes but couldn’t approach the war chest donated by the Town’s contract recipients.

Between the developers and the contractors, the Republicans have arranged to keep he coffers full.

However, that kind of “business as usual” could permanently end if Jim Henry, Heaney’s new opponent, were elected. He thinks the corruption is bad for the residents who work hard for their money and get little in return.

Heaney may also face an unheard of Primary challenge from Linda Kabot, one of his own Town Board members. Kabot was known to be thinking of running for Supervisor when Heaney’s last term is up two years from now but apparently the political smell has been hard for her to ignore as well. She is well respected by the local electorate but only time will tell whether this is a lover’s quarrel intended to extract support from Heaney and the party for her run in two years – or is the real thing intended to dislodge Heaney right now.

Jim Henry is a completely different kind of candidate, however. He’s neither weak-kneed, nor is he a Democrat. While he is running with Democratic support he is not a registered Democrat.

Henry is a journalist whose investigations in Panama helped bring Noriega down. His persistence located the offshore assets of Paraguay’s General Stroessner. His investigations disrupted a major drug smuggling ring in Brazil. And, he has been an investigative producer for ABC News. While it is true that he graduated from Harvard Law School with honors and has a Master’s Degree from Harvard in Economics – and is intelligent and articulate- he is down to earth and has a common sense approach to the problems of good government. And, he is appalled at the lack of ethics in Town Hall.

Those who are hoping that the game will change are rumored to see Henry as a sort of Elliot Ness character – someone who wants to clean things up for the residents and bring some respect back for local government and the Town’s residents. As a 20- year resident of Sag Harbor, he wants to see things change for him and his family as well.

Mark Epley, the Mayor of Southampton Village, has been taking some heat for the hiring hall concept, which may solve a number of pressing problems such as illegal or undocumented workers, anti- Latino discrimination, and the fallout from the failure of our national immigration policy. Epley has chosen the route of responsible politicians, who, like Tom Suozzi of Nassau County, has recognized that there are issues, which have become very emotional. Epley’s approach follows the trend of logical interim thinking, which deals with the reality of 12 million workers and their families who have a right to shelter, medical care and food.

So, Epley has made a difficult decision, not helped or supported by Heaney, to create a hiring hall for undocumented workers so they can move off of the 7-11 highway hiring site in Southampton and stop attracting demonstrators who object to the “shape-ups” on County Road 39. It should not be lost on any of us that demonstrations have a history of being “discouraged” by police in the Town of Southampton, but these little anti- Latino demonstrations were almost totally ignored by local cops.

Suddenly, Epley had demonstrators in front of his own house. And, his son was accosted at his own house – for which the anti-immigration protesters have been trying to prosecute him. The setup is obvious.

This is all occurring in a Town which never before tolerated demonstrations. This is occurring in a Town where Swat and ICE Teams have prearranged “busts” with reporters from the Southampton Press as they conveniently converge upon summer share houses and Latino immigrant rentals to “spontaneously” locate illegal occupants and housing violations. Recently, in fact, Officer Steve Frano and the rest of the small department of undereducated and overzealous Code Enforcement storm troopers descended upon a brand new house because the tenants had properly filed for the required rental permit – which was then used to identify and harass the unsuspecting summer tenants in pre-dawn and after dark raids. Constitutionality is an irrelevancy in this little Police State, and Kristalnacht is a well-respected event among local law enforcement. Incidentally, this still occurs in a Town where black families were systematically burned out of certain neighborhoods in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s (in Hampton Bays where Heaney, his family, and Code Enforcement Officers now live).

And, guess what? All of this top-heavy “law enforcement” is paid for by the pass-downs from Bush and Homeland Security aimed at stopping terrorism. Makes you wonder who the terrorists are in this Town, doesn’t it?

So, now when there were demonstrations against a Village Mayor seeking to implement a rational plan to deal with a failed national immigration policy – there were not even enough police to protect Mr. Epley’s son. Even at $100.000 a year, no uniforms in sight to protect his family.

The police can be used to implement an illegal and unconstitutional policy of harassment against summer tenants and immigrants directed by corrupt politicians like Heaney and Nuzzi (of Crookhaven fame) and will not even protect an elected official like Mayor Epley and his family when it is clearly orchestrated by Town Hall.

And they called Tammany Hall dirty.

Filed Under: Commentary | Community | Politics | the Hamptons

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