Crossed the Line
February 1, 2021
There has recently been traffic in your Letters to the Editor section from opponents of the incorporation of Wainscott that has crossed the line from sarcasm and denigration to threats and voter intimidation. It is becoming, frankly, unhinged. The leaders of East Hampton, whether in the press or the government, should take immediate action to condemn and stop this behavior before it goes any further.
The bulk of the threats appear to come from or on behalf of an organization called Wainscott United; an ironic title for an organization that seeks to divide our community based on how many years your family has lived in Wainscott or whether one also has a home in New York City. Recent examples in their published letters to you include: “Blast your horns as you pass the homes of the C.P.W. who were saving Beach Lane,” self-absorbed “cidiots,” “court jester jackass,” “squash you like a bug,” “why is there no picketing in front of their homes,” “now we know [their names] (To be continued next week),” and “[we] know just who they are and where they say they live.”
Those sound more like vilification and intimidation than robust political debate, particularly as individuals’ names are called out. Their actions may even violate state and federal laws on voter intimidation, which specifically restrict dissemination of individuals’ names and addresses or “doxing” in an effort to vilify those individuals. One can understand there are strong passions on these issues: Some are fanatical about this issue because they have unfounded fears for Georgica Pond. Others have concerns about higher taxes and others just resent their neighbors who haven’t lived here as long as they have or year round. And a few are just bored and found some meaning in their lives by finally finding a cause for which to sacrifice everything.
None of it justifies bullying that purposely targets private individuals with the intention of degrading or shaming them. It doesn’t meet Facebook’s community standards or those of East Hampton. For the sake of decency, these individuals should take a deep breath and reflect on their behavior.
Democracy in Action
February 8, 2021
Seeing that a third of all registered voters signed a petition to create the village of Wainscott was wonderful. Beyond the absolute number and high percent of the population, it was heartening to see from the public petition the cross-section of neighbors who believe this is the right thing to do. What stood out for me the most was:
Eight of the eight members of the town-appointed Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee who live in the village signed. These are citizens who work so hard on behalf of our community (many for decades) and were appointed by the town supervisor himself because they are respected leaders. These are our neighbors who have the greatest perspective on the benefits of incorporating. (I applaud the ninth member, Chairwoman Carolyn Logan Gluck, who has remained impartial and abstained from any position on the matter. She has moderated the W.C.A.C. meetings like a pro. Way to go, Carolyn!)
A wide range of community members signed the petition: The defining characteristic of the signers was their diversity – North and South of the highway; modest homes and not-so modest homes; old and young; year-round and seasonal; neighbors who are concerned about traffic, airport noise, water contamination, over-development, industrialization of the community starting with the South Fork Wind Farm export cable. The opposition’s ad hominem and personal attacks are small-minded and counter-productive to good faith debate.
The energy to create a democratically elected representative government: Many petitions struggle to gather signatures in the first place, but the organizers did it in a few weeks during a pandemic. We can take great comfort that so many neighbors ventured out to sign the petition in a socially distanced way during these times (let alone over the busy holidays).
The outpouring of interest in signing the petition — otherwise getting involved — reflects the greater civic-mindedness of our community. Ever since Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott was founded and better connected our community, attendance at the W.C.A.C. meetings the first Saturday of the month have skyrocketed. Multiple W.C.A.C. chairs have remarked at the ‘standing-room only’ meetings and more than 100 community members joining. Also, if you look at the Suffolk County voter rolls you can see that 253 new voters have registered since Jan. 1, 2019, increasing the number of voters by 60 percent, to 673. Incredible.
Willingness to be informed: I have been impressed with the petition signer’s ability to be educated voters. They sought out and requested information, clarified their questions (e.g., like this has no impact on the school district) and saw through the misinformation opposition has on their website. Without any shame spread false rumors (like taxes will skyrocket – not true just look at the report; Community Preservation Funds will no longer be available to us – not true, just look at the town laws that explicitly say it is for villages). They are the ones promoting lack of unity (e.g., litmus test of how long you have been here, personal threats against community organizers, name-calling, shameful and uncontrolled yelling on last Saturday’s W.C.A.C. video).
Democracy at work locally is incredible.
February 15, 2021
In the annals of community politics, there probably has never been a more ironic title for an organization than Wainscott United. Robust political debate and challenging positions are welcome and necessary, but our neighbors in Wainscott United have forgotten that we all live together and will live together regardless of the outcome of a vote on incorporation.
The statements from Wainscott United are divisive, nasty, and mean-spirited. A sampler from your own Letter to the Editor submissions: “narcissistic entitlement,” “immoral,” “selfish,” “scheme,” and “a village they own.” The latter claim of inside dealing is particularly ridiculous as the proponents of incorporation will no more own the village for themselves than the proponents of Sagaponack [will] the Village of Sagaponack. Their divisiveness is not limited to print and unfortunately pervades meetings as well.
If the supporters of Wainscott United truly want a united Wainscott, they should start by being civil with those with whom they disagree.