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Lisa Scott

Caroline Parker Mountpleasant, a Haudenosaunee woman from the Seneca people, in traditional dress circa 1850. Courtesy of the Rochester Museum & Science Center

By Lisa Scott

November for most of us is a time to celebrate our democracy by voting. And later that month we conjure Pilgrims and Indians celebrating harvest plentitude in peace, as we similarly gather with friends and family to feast and give thanks. But today when vocal individuals and groups are arguing that history and culture are controversial subjects, it’s important to remind us all that there is much more about Native Americans that we can learn from and that should be shared. 

American Indian Day was first celebrated in New York 107 years ago — after Red Fox James (a member of the Blackfoot Nation) rode across our country seeking approval from 24 state governments to have a day to honor  American Indians. But it wasn’t until 1990 that Pres. George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating November “National American Indian Heritage Month.”

The U.S. Census Bureau conducted population surveys which were released as part of their 2020 census:  the U.S. American Indian and Alaska Native population (9.7 million in 2020) is one of the six major race categories defined by the US Office of Management and Budget. There were 1.5 million people who identified as Cherokee. That group has a tragic history, since they and the other “Five Civilized Tribes” of what’s referred to now as the American Deep South were subject to Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830 leading to the “Trail of Tears.”

This was an effort to forcibly relocate tribes/sovereign nations to Oklahoma and for the federal and state governments to dissolve their tribal boundaries and annex their lands. In today’s world, it can be termed “ethnic cleansing” and it anticipated the U.S. Indian reservation system. And the fighting over Indian lands was not only a 19th century blot on our history. 

Killers of the Flower Moon (book by David Grann, as well as the recent film) recounts the true story of how a white businessman and self-proclaimed “true friend” of the Osage Nation orchestrated the brutal murders of numerous members of the tribe in early 1920s Oklahoma after big oil deposits were discovered beneath their land. 

The ”Trail of Tears” tragedy and the legacy of government disregard (in spite of court decisions supporting tribal land sovereignty and finding against federal and state land seizures) continues to the current day. For example, the Shinnecock Nation continue their efforts to regain control over their ancestral land. The Shinnecock Indian Nation is one of the oldest self-governing tribes in the State of New York and was formally recognized by the United States federal government as the 565th federally recognized tribe on October 1, 2010. 

But Governor Hochul recently vetoed the Montaukett tribe’s state-recognition bill, which had passed the NYS legislature unanimously early in 2023, citing a 1910 judicial decision which claimed that the Montaukett community no longer functioned as a governmental unit in the state. Historian John Strong called those 1910 rulings “racist.” In 1998, a Newsday investigation unearthed documents that appear to be “deceit, likes and possible forgery” in deals that wrested tribal lands from the Montauketts and the Shinnecock Indian Nation. 

Women’s Suffrage leaders in upstate New York in the mid-19th century were strongly influenced by the Native Americans — specifically the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) whose tribal government  was organized to maintain a balance of equality between men and women. There was a wide range of information in local newspapers like the Syracuse Standard, creating a sophisticated understanding of Haudenosaunee culture and tribal government. Also there was a great deal of personal interaction; friendship and visiting were commonplace activities. 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage, as major theoreticians of the woman’s rights movement, claimed that the society in which they lived was based on the oppression of women. However, their neighbors, Haudenosaunee society, was organized to maintain a balance of equality between women and men; women had decisive political power, control of their bodies, control of their own property. custody of the children they bore, the power to initiate divorce, satisfying work, and a society generally free of rape and domestic violence. Women chose their chief, held key political offices, and decision making was by consensus. Thus those early feminists believed women’s liberation was possible because they knew liberated women who possessed rights beyond their wildest imagination — Haudenosaunee women.

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https//my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county.

METRO photo

By Lisa Scott

The League of Women Voters is nonpartisan; we don’t support or oppose candidates or parties. We have a strong commitment to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government. We run debates, seek community input on issues, and via the phone and email, serve voters who are looking for information. LWVUS and state and local Leagues run the national Vote411.org voting information website (which encourages candidates to answer questions on issues of importance to their constituents).

Throughout Suffolk County, voters are electing a new County Executive (the incumbent has served three 4-year terms, thus 12 years, which is the term permitted), as well as electing the 18 County Legislators (they serve 2-year terms, also limited to 12  years)

In Suffolk’s 10 Townships, there are a variety of offices on the ballot in 2023 such as Supervisor, Council Members, Receiver of Taxes, Town Clerk, Superintendent of Highways, Assessors and Town Justices and District Court Judges. Each Town has their own rules about term length and (if any) term limits. Village, library and school elections are managed separately —  they do not appear on the General Election ballot.

Candidates represent different points of view on many issues. On a county level, voters should consider water quality, which has significantly deteriorated in recent years. Voters have not been given the opportunity to vote on a ballot referendum involving a proposed .0825% sales tax increase and making state and federal funding available for sewers and septic systems. It was recessed (not moved forward) in August by the majority party of the Suffolk County Legislature. (Stay tuned — there may be a special election for the referendum in 2024. Because it would be a single issue ballot, it would incur significant cost, and voter turnout is generally very poor when only one issue or office is on a ballot). 

Other critical county issues include public safety, opioid and mental health crises, waste disposal, affordable senior and workforce housing, and campaign finance. The last refers to campaign contributions from public service unions or contractors, and elected officials voting on contracts for organizations from which they receive campaign contributions. Each Town also has its own hyperlocal issues as well — check your local media for debates and articles to become familiar with your local concerns, races and candidates.

All Suffolk voters should be sure to turn over the ballot to vote on two New York State proposals for NYS Constitution updates. The wording on the ballot, and an explanation for each is below.

PROPOSAL NUMBER 1: Removal of Small City School Districts From Special Constitutional Debt Limitation

Description of Proposal: The State Constitution limits how much debt a small city (a city with less than 125,000 people) school district, can incur. State law says their debt cannot be greater than five percent of the value of taxable real property; all other school districts’ debt cannot be greater than ten percent. If this Constitutional Amendment passes, small city school districts would be eligible to have the same debt limit as other school districts as determined by state law.

Question as it will appear on the Ballot: The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 4 of the Constitution removes the special constitutional debt limitation now placed on small city school districts, so they will be treated the same as all other school districts. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

PROPOSAL NUMBER 2: Extending Sewage Project Debt Exclusion From Debt Limit

Description of Proposal: The State Constitution limits the debt counties, cities, towns, and villages can incur. This debt limit has an exception to not include debt for sewage treatment and disposal construction projects. The current sewer debt exception expires on January 1, 2024. This amendment extends the sewer debt exception for ten more years until January 1, 2034.

Question as it will appear on the Ballot: The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 5 of the Constitution extends for ten years the authority of counties, cities, towns, and villages to remove from their constitutional debt limits debt for the construction of sewage facilities. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

Vote by Absentee ballot, Early Voting Oct. 28 to Nov. 5, or on Election Day Nov. 7. To register (by Oct. 28), check your registration, apply for an absentee ballot, or find your polling place, visit https://www.elections.ny.gov/. To find out who and what is on your ballot, visit Vote411.org 4 weeks before Election Day.

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https//my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county.

Pixabay photo

By Lisa Scott

Election Day 2023 is Tuesday, November 7 — In about 10 weeks. You won’t see the president, senators, congress, or governor on your ballot so you may decide to “skip this one.” And we’re already surrounded by incessant media reports anticipating the 2024 presidential election. 

However, ignoring the candidates and issues in 2023 local elections would be a big mistake. These elections matter — they affect your daily lives. And learning about local candidates is much harder than in federal races. We’ve all stood in a voting booth with no idea whom to choose for some local races (and may have even left some parts of the ballot blank).

The Harvard Political Review reports that a Johns Hopkins University study in 2018 demonstrated that many Americans lack civic knowledge as it pertains to jurisdictional issues;  about 25% of study participants did not know whether federal or state governments were in charge of law enforcement and about 30% delete not knowing which government creates and enforces zoning laws.

Local elections have real consequences. There is no level of government that is more directly responsible for serving your community than your local elected officials. Whether it is the guarantee of having healthy drinking water or the benefits of maintained streets, infrastructure is a concern that should remain on the forefront of voters’ minds as they consider the candidates of a local election.

In Suffolk County this year, you’ll be able to vote for a new County Executive (CE); there are term limits for CE as well as all 18 Suffolk County Legislature members (who are also on your ballot in 2023). Many of Suffolk’s 10 Towns have Supervisor races, and also Town Board/Council seats and other local offices and some judges. 

Debates and interviews in the next 10 weeks should bring out important issues and allow voters to hear  candidates’ positions. One example of a critical issue is water quality, which has significantly deteriorated in recent years. 

According to Dr. Christopher J. Gobler of Stony Brook University, “Presently, more than 360,000 homes are discharging wastewater into our aquifer, and this practice has exacted a serious toll on our waters. For example, the level of nitrate in our aquifer has steadily risen to 3.8 milligrams per liter, a concentration that has been shown to be epidemiologically associated with a greater risk of gastrointestinal cancers and birth defects.”

“This level of nitrate is also 100 times greater than the amount in surface waters, and more than two decades of research has demonstrated that the discharge of this pollution has had cascading negative effects — stimulating the occurrence of harmful algae blooms that have destroyed our most prized shellfisheries, shading out seagrasses that are critical habitats for fish, and promoting fish kills.”

Our NYS Legislature (not up for election in 2023) had passed a bill as part of the state budget that would empower the voters of Suffolk County to decide whether an increase of 1/8 cent in the county sales tax should be dedicated to protecting water resources by installing sewers and clean water septic systems, while attracting and matching state and federal infrastructure funding — via a referendum on the November 2023 ballot. 

However the county legislation (IR1573) needed to place this referendum on the ballot was not moved forward on a timely basis by a majority of the Suffolk County Legislature before the required deadline for referendums and thus the future of the matching state and federal funds in unclear. The proposed Suffolk County Water Quality Restoration Act, if the proposition had been allowed to appear on the 2023 ballot, would have provided a dedicated and recurring countywide funding source to transform this plan into action. In a democracy, Suffolk voters would have been able to exercise their voice and approve or defeat this plan directly. 

So vote in our 2023 elections — by absentee ballot, early voting from Oct. 28 to Nov. 5, or on Election Day, Nov. 7. To register, check your registration, apply for an absentee ballot, find your polling place, and learn your district numbers visit https://www.elections.ny.gov/. To find out what’s on your ballot, visit Vote411.org 4 weeks before Election Day. 

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https//my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county. 

METRO photo

By Lisa Scott

Tucked away on the Ammerman Campus of Suffolk County Community College is a remarkable entity most residents are unaware of: The Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding, home of New York metropolitan region’s largest collection of Holocaust artifacts.

In a three-room museum, over one hundred original objects are displayed and viewed by hundreds of students every year since its inception in 2003. The collection of photographs, documents, uniforms, and historic newspapers tell the story of the Holocaust, beginning with Hitler’s rise to power and ending with the horrific images captured by liberators at the end of the war. The collection is both impressive and moving. The Center also maintains two smaller collections of artifacts- one dedicated to documenting the transatlantic slave trade and another dedicated to the life and legacy of Jackie Robinson. 

In support of their mission to educate the community on historical events, and to promote cultural understanding and respect for human dignity, the Center hosts academic programs for students at the College and the public. In the last academic year, programs were dedicated to a wide range of topics; one focused on human rights abuses exposed during the World Cup, another on the story of an enslaved woman on Long Island during the American Revolution. Ultimately, all of the work is anchored in the lessons of the Holocaust and the need to acknowledge all lives as valuable. 

This approach is also taken in the support the Center provides students at the College. Center staff is integral in the work of several task forces focused on the needs of students from marginalized communities. These include LGBTQ+, undocumented, and those facing basic needs insecurities. The Center serves as a landing place for these students often connecting them with the resources and assistance they need. 

The latest endeavor of the Center is By Design: The History of Oppression on Long Island, a documentary series focused on the untold stories of the region’s past and how they impact residents today. Episodes highlight stories such as the influence of the KKK in the development of Suffolk County’s landscape, the Nazi camp in Yaphank during the 1930s, and the existence of migrant labor camps on the East End among many others. The project is a collaboration of the Center and the Radio and Television Production Program at the College. Suffolk County Community College students help produce each of the episodes which are being shared with college faculty and the broader community in order to stimulate dialogue and create meaningful change in our communities. 

The Center aims to achieve those same goals with high school students. Annually, the Center hosts Unity Day, a gathering of several hundred students who come together for a day focused on empowerment and leadership. Students hear a keynote speaker, work together in breakout sessions, and meet with community organizations who can offer them valuable resources. This October, Unity Day will feature Kane Smego, an international spoken word poet and artist, who will energize and inspire students from schools across the island. In addition to Unity Day, middle school and high school students visit the center for field trips that include a presentation from a Holocaust survivor, guided tour of the collection, and workshops. 

The work of the Center is timely and necessary. In a world where division and extremism are growing exponentially, there is a need for organizations like this to foster greater inclusivity among residents of Suffolk County. We encourage seniors, parents, students and elected officials to visit the Center at the Huntington Library, Suffolk County Community College, 533 College Road, Selden. Slowly read and observe, engage with staff and let the collection move you to a deeper grasp of the evils in our shared past. Visit the Center’s website at https://www.sunysuffolk.edu/experience-student-life/csjhu/ and learn how the Center promotes themes of coexistence, tolerance, and respect for differences.

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https//my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county.

METRO photo

By Lisa Scott

There is a presumed lack of engagement in civics of today’s youth: an inability to discern truth from hyperbole, ignorance of our nation’s history and disinterest in government. Yet the U.S. Supreme Court and 32 state supreme courts have explicitly stated that preparation for capable citizenship is a primary purpose of education, and programs in New York State and Suffolk County do bring together education and civics.

At a League of Women Voters’ program several weeks ago, a group of high school students from six western Suffolk districts participated in the League’s “Student Day at the Suffolk County Legislature.” This program, developed with the Suffolk County Legislature’s Presiding Officer, was initiated in 2015 but interrupted by COVID. Returning to Hauppauge this year, it was praised by the participants, teachers, and legislators. 

Students (selected by their schools) knew that they would be either supporting or opposing an “Introductory Resolution” (developed in advance): ”RESOLVED, that in order to make our Suffolk County schools as safe as possible, the Suffolk County Police Department is hereby authorized, empowered and directed to allow School Safety Officers and Suffolk County Police stationed at all Suffolk County schools to be armed, including concealed weapons, in order to protect our precious schoolchildren …” 

Upon arrival, they were greeted by representatives of the Legislature and the League, and then heard from elected officials about the responsibilities and role of a legislator. Three representatives of the Suffolk County Police Department with experience in the schools then educated the students about the role of school safety officers, procedures, etc. 

Students had numerous questions and the session was thorough and informative. They then caucused in their “pro” and “con” assigned groups to debate, exhort, and plan their words and actions for the Mock Legislature. They stated later that they needed much more time to fully explore and formulate their position(s). 

They finally convened in the legislative “horseshoe” chamber, with students taking on a variety of roles: 18 as legislators, and the remaining 13 representing the public and Suffolk County Legislature staff. The student acting as Presiding Officer had a herculean task managing the “legislators” and the “public” who vied for time to speak and convince. Finally there was a roll-call vote, and the Resolution was defeated. 

Students were insightful in their evaluations: “I learned that despite the different views of the public, a legislator has to look for a way to please both parties, which isn’t an easy job” and “In AP Gov’t I learned about the congressional/national level, but seeing the similarities and differences on a local/state level was interesting. I noticed how the debate was controlled similarly in Congress but one difference was that even if the moderator has his own side he did not use that against his opponents when choosing who would speak.”

Beyond this small group example of why we have faith and hope in our young people, there are other programs and collaborations such as the League’s “Students Inside Albany” held each May over 3 days. Also  the League has joined DemocracyReady NY— a statewide, nonpartisan, intergenerational coalition of organizations and individuals committed to preparing all students for civic participation. 

The League participated in a task force to create the New York State Education Department’s Seal of Civic Readiness which is a formal distinction on a high school transcript and diploma that a student has attained a high level of proficiency in terms of civic knowledge, civic skills, civic mindset, and civic experiences. In order to obtain the Seal of Civic Readiness, a student must complete all the requirements for a New York State local or Regents diploma and earn a total of six points with at least two points in Civic Knowledge and at least two points in Civic Participation. Students may also earn points by completing a middle school Capstone project or a high school Capstone project. Several hundred NYS schools are committed to this program in the coming school year. 

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county or call 631-862-6860.

Pixabay photo

By Lisa Scott

Government is a social compact, affecting our lives on many levels. Each of us bears responsibilities including  understanding issues, evaluating and deciding which matter most to us, and acting to influence those that do.

The League of Women Voters has chapters on local, county, state and national levels. We are a unique, multi-issue, nonpartisan, political organization, encouraging informed and active participation in government. We influence public policy through advocacy and education and seek positive solutions to the problems confronting our communities and our country. 

As LWV, we anticipate taking significant action on key issues in the 2023 New York State Legislative Session (which ends in June). These issues include Election Reform, Good Government Reform, Healthcare, Judicial Issues, Natural Resources, State Finances and Education, Equality of Opportunity, Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking, and Rural Issues. Visit our website https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county to see our 2023 Legislative Agenda for more information on these key priorities. Beyond these broad categories, we also are gearing up for immediate advocacy related to needed additional funding in the 2023-2024 NYS budget:

Funding for State and County Boards of Elections: The League urges the Legislature to seriously consider the cost of new election improvements when introducing their proposed budgets and to consider setting up a yearly fund specifically for enhanced election reforms like early voting and absentee voting. It is not possible for boards of election to continue to expand voting access without funds devoted to the expansion of early voting poll sites, poll worker training, staffing, upgrading of old systems, and the establishment of new sites. The State Board of Elections and county Boards of Elections need a serious funding commitment to ensure that these progressive reforms are not unfunded mandates. 

Funding for Election Reform: The passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York was an historic moment in New York. It established rights of actions for denying or abridging the right of any member of a protected class to vote, assisted language-minority groups, required certain subdivisions to receive preclearance for potential violations of the law, and created civil liability for voter intimidation. This year, we expect to see the passage of a database bill that will support this bill. Additional funds should also be provided to counties to ensure compliance with all aspects of the law. 

In 2022, Governor Hochul signed legislation to reduce the 25-day statutory voter registration deadline to 10 days prior to the election. As many voters become engaged in the election close to election day, this legislation will allow for easier and more accessible voter engagement and participation in New York. This legislation allows for one “Golden Day” in which a voter can register to vote and vote on the same day. Since the law went into effect on January 1, 2023, it is essential that funds be appropriated to account for the increase in staff and training that will be essential for county boards to successfully implement this new procedure. 

Funding for Ethics Reforms: The League was glad to see the continued funding of New York’s new ethics body, the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government. We urge the Legislature to include this funding in their budget as continued support for a commission that holds public officials accountable. 

The executive budget has woefully underfunded the matching portion of the new public campaign financing program. This year is the first opportunity for New York to demonstrate a commitment to campaign finance reform and reducing the influence of big money in politics. During last year’s election, the 200 biggest donors outspent over 200,000 small donors in state races. 

The League applauds the Governor for including 14.5M in funding to support the administrative needs of the Public Campaign Finance Board. However, underfunding the matching portion of the program by $75M will not build the trust needed for candidates to opt into the program. Multiple studies done by the State Board of Elections indicate that by 2024 the program would need between $119M and $213M in matching funds to operate the program successfully. 

Fully funding the matching portion of this program would indicate a strong commitment to reform for New York voters and give candidates the confidence to buy into the program. The program will only see success if candidates participate. We urge the legislature to fully fund the requested $114.5 M for this program. 

You too can make your voice heard by becoming more informed, speaking out and contacting your elected officials; and consider joining your local LWV chapter. 

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county or call 631-862-6860. 

Photo by David Ackerman

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Maybe it sounds like I’m tooting our horn too much, but I have to say how proud I am of the columnists who write for our papers and website. They are clearly bright and offer the reader information and knowledge that aren’t usually found even in a big metro daily or a glossy magazine. They are, collectively and individually, one of the main reasons our hometown newspapers have managed to survive while so many of our colleagues, 25% of them in the nation, have had to shut their doors.

Readers want to learn from our regular columnists, who, by the way, are local residents. That’s not surprising, though, because the population we serve is exceptional, accomplished in their own right, and can be expected to harbor such talent. Let me explain.

The columnists are found in the second section of the newspaper, called Arts & Lifestyles. In the interest of full disclosure and without false modesty, I point out and salute my youngest son, Dr. David Dunaief. He is a physician totally committed to helping his patients, and the high regard is returned by them in equal measure, as testimonials about him confirm. In addition, he writes every week about current medical problems and brings readers up to date with the latest research and thinking regarding common ailments. I know him to be a voracious reader of medical journals and he footnotes his sources of expertise at the end of every “Medical Compass” column. 

Dr. Matthew Kearns is a longtime popular veterinarian who writes “Ask the Vet,” keeping our beloved pets healthy. Michael E. Russell is a successful, retired financial professional who cannot cut the cord with Wall Street, and  shares his thoughts on the economy and suggesting current buys on the stock market. He will also throw in something irreverent, or even askance, to keep you tuned in. 

Also writing knowledgeably on the contemporary scene about finance and the economy is Michael Christodoulou, who is also an active financial advisor. Ever try to read your auto insurance policies? If I had trouble falling asleep, they would knock me out by the second paragraph. Enter A. Craig Purcell, a partner in a long-established local law firm, who is attempting to explain auto insurance coverage, a merciful endeavor, with his column. His words do not put me to sleep. Shannon Malone will alternate the writing for us. Michael Ardolino, a well-known realtor, somehow manages to make both ends of a real estate transaction, for buyers and sellers, sound promising at this time. 

Our lead movie and book reviewer is the highly talented Jeffrey Sanzel. In addition to being a terrific actor, he is a gifted writer and almost always feels the same way about what he is reviewing as I do. No wonder I think he is brilliant.  Father Frank has been writing for the papers for many years and always with great integrity and compassion. 

John Turner, famous naturalist and noted author and lecturer, keeps us apprised of challenges to nature. This is a niche for all residents near the shorelines of Long Island. He also writes “Living Lightly,” about being a responsible earth dweller. Bob Lipinski is the wine connoisseur who travels the world and keeps us aware of best wines and cheeses.

Lisa Scott and Nancy Marr of the Suffolk County League of Women Voters, keep us informed about upcoming elections, new laws and important propositions. Elder law attorney Nancy Burner tells us about Medicare, estate planning, wills gifting, trustees, trusts and other critical issues as we age.

The last columnist I will mention is Daniel Dunaief, who, like bookends for my salute, is also my son. Among several other articles, he writes “The Power of Three,” explaining some of the research that is performed at Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Labs and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He makes a deep dive into the science in such a way that layman readers can understand what is happening in the labs. He has been paid the ultimate compliment by the scientists for a journalist: they pick up the phone and willingly talk to him, unafraid that he will get the story wrong or misquote them. In fact, he has been told a rewarding number of times by the researchers that his questions for the articles have helped them further direct their work.

When my sons began writing for TBR News Media, a few readers accused me of nepotism. I haven’t heard that charge now in years.

P.S. Of course, we can’t forget Beverly C. Tyler and Kenneth Brady, stellar historians both.

The Setauket Mill Pond is being considered for an upcoming alewife study. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Lisa Scott

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) mission is to “conserve, improve and protect New York’s natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution…” 

Within the newly created Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park, the DEC Division of Marine Resources has a state-of-the-art headquarters and laboratory to pursue these goals and ensure the conservation of our local marine life and habitats. All are welcome to visit their public lobby equipped with aquariums of local species and learn more ways to get involved and help monitor and protect marine life locally.

Shellfish have been a resource for Indigenous inhabitants of Long Island for thousands of years for a myriad of uses. In spite of massive human development over the past 400 years, shellfish are still an important resource today. Monitoring threats to shellfish and working to restore their populations and habitat is an important part of DEC’s work.

DEC Marine Resources Shellfish Microbiology Laboratory operates the only FDA-evaluated laboratory in the State for processing water samples to certify approved shellfish harvest areas. The laboratory features advanced equipment for processing and analyzing plankton, shellfish, and water samples, ensuring that shellfish harvested legally from approved areas in New York’s marine waters are safe for consumers and supports the State’s commercially important shellfish industry.

Year-round, the DEC conducts water quality sampling of over one million acres of shellfish harvesting areas across Long Island and the lab analyzes approximately 13,000 water samples annually to monitor water quality trends. As a result of continuous testing, the DEC classifies shellfish harvest areas as open year-round, seasonally open, or closed year-round. Use the DEC’s Public Shellfish Mapper to learn about harvest area boundaries, seasonally open dates, and water quality sampling locations: https://on.ny.gov/shellfishmapper

Under the Long Island Shellfish Restoration Program (LISRP), the DEC in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension, Stony Brook University, and the Town of Huntington completed the stocking of 13.6 million juvenile (seed) clams and (spat-on-shell) oysters and 650,000 adult clams in Huntington Harbor in October 2020 to improve water quality and enhance shellfish populations. The LISRP completed four additional stocking efforts at sanctuary sites in Bellport Bay, Hempstead Bay, Shinnecock Bay, and South Oyster Bay.

Monitoring of sanctuary sites is conducted by the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University to obtain biological and environmental information on shellfish growth, survival and spawning success, and to assess the effect on water quality, phytoplankton uptake and filtration and nitrogen cycling and removal. The results of the project will guide and support the success of future restoration efforts on Long Island.

Most Long Island tributaries once supported spring runs of returning alewife, a species of river herring native to Long Island. Like salmon, they split their life cycle between salt and freshwater. Alewife runs have been decimated by dams, habitat loss and declining water quality but remnant populations still exist in a few rivers and the public’s help is needed to learn more about their overall status across Long Island. 

Through the Long Island Volunteer Alewife Survey, volunteers help record observations of spawning alewife and documenting existing runs is an important step for restoration efforts. Monitoring efforts start mid-March and training workshops will be announced soon for Spring 2023. Suggested sites include: Frank Melville Memorial Park/Setauket Mill Pond in Setauket, Crab Meadow East Pond (Makamah Nature Preserve) in Fort Salonga, Stony Brook Grist Mill/Stony Brook Dam in Stony Brook, and Carlls River in Argyle Park, Babylon. Visit Seatuck’s website for workshop information and how to get involved: https://seatuck.org/volunteer-river-herring-survey/

The newly released Long Island Sound Marsh Migration Viewer is an online tool used to easily examine changes in marsh habitat along New York’s shores of the Long Island Sound watershed under various sea level rise scenarios over different time periods: http://warrenpinnacle.com/LIMaps.

New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), Long Island Sound Study (LISS), and DEC will be hosting virtual public workshops for community stakeholders to learn more about the Viewer in early 2023. These workshops will demonstrate how to use the Viewer and will highlight an additional 47 marsh complexes that are added to the Viewer.

Whether you want to get outside to observe alewife in local rivers, sit at your desk to see changes to  local marsh habitats with rising sea levels, or learn about shellfish monitoring, you have these and many other resources and opportunities available from our local DEC Marine Resources Headquarters. Check out more ways to get involved from DEC’s website: https://www.dec.ny.gov/ or contact them at 631 444-0450 or [email protected]. We all should be responsible, educated stewards of our beautiful island home. 

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county or call 631-862-6860.

METRO photo

By Lisa Scott

If you’re a news consumer you’ve heard a lot about how important these midterm elections are. Voter turnout is usually greatest in a presidential election year (66.8% in 2020 59.2% in 2016) but falls off at midterms (49% in 2018 and 36% in 2014). It shouldn’t, since the entire House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate is on the ballot along with many state governors and state legislatures. 

Also this is the first election after many states reapportioned their districts, which has been contentious due to extreme gerrymandering (resulting in court cases, re-drawn lines, and in New York State  a huge amount of confusion for voters who don’t know which congressional and state districts they now reside in). Whether you’re an occasional voter or a consistent one, what matters is that YOU VOTE. Be prepared: study the ballot and make a plan. Keep in mind the following:

• If you didn’t register to vote by Oct. 14, you cannot vote in this election.

• If you didn’t request an absentee ballot by Oct. 24, the only way you can get one now is to physically appear at the Board of Elections on or before Nov. 7 (and fill it in while you are there).

• If you’ve requested an absentee ballot, you can track it online at https://voterlookup.elections.ny.gov/ 

• Early voting is currently underway (from Oct. 29 through Nov. 6). You can vote early at any of the 27 early voting sites in Suffolk County. Hours do vary, so check before you go at https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections is still down as a result of the county’s IT department restoring systems after September’s hacking incident, but their phones are staffed. However you must vote at your assigned polling place on election day Nov. 8 — find it at https://voterlookup.elections.ny.gov/ 

Suffolk County Board of Elections trained poll workers staff the voting sites. Each position has a 2 workers — one a Republican and one a Democrat. An individual cannot unilaterally make a decision without the approval of the other party’s worker which provides balanced oversight. If you have any issue at the polls you can call the Election Protection hotline at (866) 390-2992, or the Suffolk County Board of Elections at 631-852-4500.

To find out what races and candidates are on YOUR ballot, visit the League of Women Voters’ www.Vote411.org. If you’re not familiar with the candidates you can refer to their answers to questions (which are unedited). 

When you’re at the polls, “flip” your ballot to see what propositions you are being asked to vote on. All NYS voters can vote yes or no on the “Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022”  proposition. (Bonds would be issued to provide moneys to make environmental improvements; these are not taxes.) The League of Women Voters supports this proposition. 

There is also a Suffolk County proposition on all ballots which updates the language in the County Charter with regard to terms limits for County Executive, County Legislator and County Comptroller. Because of vague language in the original Charter Law, voting yes to this proposition would make the language clearer; that the limit of years of service for those offices is 12 years, regardless of whether 12 years are served consecutively on non-consecutively. Voting no does NOT eliminate term limits for these offices. A no vote simply means that the original Charter Law language remains unchanged.

We live in challenging times and apathy on election day is not an option for any of us. And after you’ve voted, remain engaged: stay informed and active and communicate with your elected officials.

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county or call 631-862-6860. 

A sign in front of a rain garden at the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood. Facebook photo

By Lisa Scott

On 212 acres in western Suffolk, a small group of women continue to discern how to live authentically so their actions remain consistent with their mission. These are the Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ), who in their second century in Brentwood embrace and model sustainable practices bringing them ”into deeper union with the Holy One and the whole community of life.” 

The League of Women Voters recently met with them and toured their campus, and came away inspired and convinced that the Sisters live in a way that seeks “union with God and with the sacred community of life that includes all of creation — air, soil, plants and animals.”

In 1903, the Sisters, relocated from Flushing, NY to Brentwood on land that was originally inhabited by the Secatogue tribe, and established a school on fertile land referred to as “St. Joseph in the Pines.” Old stands of pitch pines, white pines and oak are preserved to this day. Over the years, a boarding school, convent,  chapel and nursing home were built while the surrounding area was developed and densely populated. 

A little more than thirty years ago, the Sisters formed an Earth Matters committee to better respond to the cries of the poor, the cries of Earth. Their mission of unity called for a response to heal a wounded world and dispel the illusion of separation. Through contemplation and study they sought to live with a deeper sense that they are a part of creation and not apart from it. 

Aware of the responsibility we all have for the health of Earth and in particular for the Long Island Bioregion the Sisters worked with the Peconic Land Trust and Suffolk County to preserve parcels of the Brentwood campus and return it to agricultural production — 28 acres of land are leased to several farmers, enabling mowed grass lawn to be restored to farming fields. 

The farmers are only permitted to use organic practices, and there is a farm stand for purchase of produce raised on the campus. SNAP coupons are accepted to encourage access to nutritious options raised locally. Island Harvest Food Bank has worked the land and hopes to harvest 10,000 lbs. of produce in 2022 while the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, an all-volunteer cooperative effort of over 30 non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, nursery professionals, and citizens works to  protect the genetic integrity and heritage of Long Island native plant populations and thus biodiversity from a landscape to genetic level in a greenhouse on the Brentwood grounds. The Sisters also raise chickens for eggs and harvest honey from their beehives, and have established a community sharing table on the grounds.

Waste is a natural aspect of life, so there is a commitment to composting organic materials and thus creating quality soil for agricultural use. Two alternative waste treatment systems have been built: one is a constructed wetland system to reduce nitrogen affecting our bays and waterways, the other designed for the needs of the nursing home to deal with medical waste in an innovative way.

With a strong commitment to clean energy, a 1 megawatt ground mounted solar array with 3192 solar panels was constructed on a 4 acre plot, which provides 63% of the energy used on campus. The ground cover surrounding the solar panels is also environmentally friendly with native meadows and plants attracting bees, butterflies and pollinators, avoiding the degraded land all too common in a solar field.

Native meadows inviting to pollinator insects and birds were planted and bloom throughout most of the summer. Work has been done to create rain gardens near roads and parking areas, to direct water back into the soil where native plants with their extensive long root systems assist with flood control and purify the water before filtering down into the aquifers.

The Sisters also engage in social justice issues and other community needs consistent with the practices of their founders. Their assessment of today is of a world that is bruised and broken from a lack of remembering who we are, where we come from and to whom we belong. We have forgotten that we are a part of one sacred community that began with a small yet potent spark 13.8 billion years ago that continues to connect and evolve our relationships. If healing is to happen for people it needs to happen for the planet as well. For more information, visit www.brentwoodcsj.org

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county or call 631-862-6860.