Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Years after Nine-Eleven

I was just starting my senior year of high school, and was a month and a day from the age of seventeen. It was third period, which at this particular point meant I had a free period that deserved to be spent in blissful sleep in the cafeteria. I can still remember my chagrin – three years after the fact – at the new and less-comfortable style of seating in the FHS food spot. I woke up, and was on my way to my fourth period class as if it were any other day in the history of the United States – or, at least, my high school career. That's when my friend Mike found me, and he looked worried. “They fucking hit us,” he said. I rubbed my eyes, found out I wasn't dreaming (or having a nightmare), and when I was given clarification on exactly what “hit” meant, my blood ran cold.


(Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, USCGC Eagle)


September 11, 2001. I could talk in great depth about my feelings that day – in my young mind, it was just the opening gambit by a “greater power” such as Russia or China, one that had planned it as a distraction for our armed forces so that they could launch a follow-up strike while our guard was down. To a young me, the truth really was just too simple, and there were just too few facts available at that point. It was just so much easier to imagine a cast of nefarious characters similar to James Bond's SMERSH (SPECTRE in the movies) – invisible, omnipotent, and dedicated to our destruction. For a budding fiction writer, I guess it made sense.

But like I said, I'm not here to talk about my feelings on that day. As powerful as they were, so many others suffered so much more that mine are virtually irrelevant. Just the same, its hard to be critical of anyone's opinion on the aftermath of the atrocity that took place – with so much loss and lifelong trauma, I get a nasty feeling in my gut when I tell myself that, in spite of the horror, the best thing we can do - what we have to do - is to approach its lingering effects on our country from an impartial angle; one as distant from emotion as possible, one whose responsibility isn't to people's feelings as much as the code of conduct that we as American citizens have agreed to abide by.

Over the last few months there has been an incredibly un-American backlash against Muslim citizens in the United States. While ludicrous “book-burnings” may be off the table, the biggest issue I'm finding myself at odds with folks I otherwise agree with is, of course, the “Ground-Zero Mosque.” It is, naturally, not at Ground-Zero at all, but instead a few blocks away. It also is not operated by a terrorist organization; Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was selected by the Bush Administration to serve as a special envoy to Islamic countries as early as 2007 - far from a radical. It isn't even just a mosque – Park 51 is an entire community center which happens to be organized primarily by Muslim-Americans, but which will feature a 9/11 memorial as well as interfaith resources. In short, the entire concept of a "Ground Zero Mosque" no longer has few, if any holds on reality.

I say “no longer” because according to a recent New York Times article, the actual “Ground-Zero Mosque” was a prayer center that was destroyed during the 9/11 attacks; and this underscores the true sadness of this entire issue. The terrorists who murdered three thousand American citizens nine years ago didn't care if they were Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Wiccan, or even fellow Muslims – they only believed themselves to be killing “the enemy,” regardless of the enemy's creed, ethnicity, gender, orientation or age. They had a perverse religious and political philosophy that justified spending their own lives to end those of others – and the logic there is sick, twisted, and another example of the depths that humanity is capable of.

The depraved actions of these murderers were, of course, off-set by an example of the very best of humanity on behalf of the heroes of 9/11; the ones so often held up as both pillars of our society and, sadly, political footballs. It is, after all, their memories that are being invoked the most powerfully by those who have lost – and in cases like these its just not fair to say its all a matter of politics. Most people are so hurt that when someone claims that an action would harm the memory of their loved ones, they instinctively agree. Its so hard to find fault with them, because even when they are wrong they are wrong for the right reasons, and there's nobility in that.

But there are always those pied pipers, the ones who couldn't give a damn less about those who lost that day – the ones that see them as Machiavellian pawns in the struggle between political left and right. The ones that either latch onto a racist agenda or onto the fact that there is a lovely vehicle for ambition called the “Tea Party” - a movement that has, as a small but powerful portion of its membership, a number of true lunatics that would see the country reduced to a theocratic dictatorship.

So I'm going to come out and say it – so many of you, you who have never stopped suffering since the heinous attack on our country, are being deceived. You are being told to sacrifice your freedoms in order to gain some sense of security; and, as demonstrated by Jason James Lee's terrorist takeover of the Discovery Channel's headquarters, such things are impossible. Yes, this man was yet another “home-grown” terrorist. The sort of man that our present administration, under President Obama, has decided is worth fighting for the abominable cause of "extreme rendition" over.

Those who initially founded this country with cries like “Give me liberty or give me death” knew the price of freedom, and that price is that people will die in its name. Tomorrow a terrorist could strike again, or a year from now, and people will shout that there should have been stricter security – freedom be damned, Thomas Jefferson's advice on the trade between freedom and safety be damned.

The political leaders that promise these things are, at best, victims of this same emotional trauma themselves. At worst, they aren't even interested in their own power – they are driven by a religious or political philosophy that is far more destructive to America as the ones that caused the tragedy in the first place. Sharron Angle, for example, once hinted that if "Congress keeps going the way it it," people might resort to “Second-Amendment solutions” - and followed it up by suggesting that someone "take out" her opponent in a coming election, Harry Reid. Once, I saw on a Facebook group on about own Village of Freeport that a man called for “One good Marine with one good bullet” to “take care of” our Mayor – this abysmal post was deleted from the page in question, thankfully.

This isn't a joke, and this isn't a jest – this is the state of radicalization that our country has entered into, that political assassinations of duly elected officials are rational solutions, and it should never be considered a part of “normal” American discourse. Its nothing short of a political elite feeding on the pain and sorrow that their fellow citizen is suffering, and using it to transform the country into their ideal – whatever it might be. To leave it at a fine point, when called out on his hypocrisy on family values by the ex-wife he cheated on, Newt Gingrich remarked that it didn't really matter what he lived - he just needed to say what he said.

Whaddya say we tell people like him that their time is at an end? See if they listen to us, for a change, when we say that the memories of our heroes are only sullied by those who use them for political ends?

Goddess watch those that fell that day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Freeport MCs Nice and Ill win the “Faces in the Crowd” Showcase!

Aside from being a home for both athletes and writers, Freeport has a history steeped deeply in the art of music. From Guy Lombardo to Lou Reed, musicians have been born in this Village and gone on to great things. Three of Freeport's younger musicians, collectively known as "Nice and Ill," took one step closer to greatness on Wednesday, July 20th, when they won the “Faces in the Crowd” Showcase, in Times Square.

Chris Mills, Joey Jack, and Jason Yarde form this powerful rapping trio. Chris Mills has already been interviewed in depth by a friend of mine, Amanda Stevens, but in light of this stunning victory I was able to sit down with Joey and Chris and get their thoughts on the victory.




"The thing that made us stand out was stage presence," Mills said of their performance. Their song, "She's smokin'," wowwed the crowd quickly. The rappers claimed the support of sixty of their fans, including the vital "beautiful girls wearing Nice and Ill shirts" demographic, was essential in pushing them to the top.

"I thought we were gonna come in Third," Joey said, acknowledging the competition was fierce. By winning the competition, Nice and Ill has the opportunity to join the ranks of rappers like Maino, lyricists who also won this contest. They'll have a huge chunk of help from Reality, the Universal Records worker who will be helping to produce their next track. They're also going to be featured on Digiwax, a world-wide disk jockey network with over sixty thousand DJ's, each of which can listen to and sample their tunes. They also get free studio time to work on their next single, and will be headlining the next competition. They'll lastly be on the "What's Hood" DVD that will be in Best Buy and other stores nationwide.


Overall, Chris summed it up best with a classic line: “No drama, Nice and Ill, all fun.” You can grab their contest-winning track, "She's smokin'," at ITunes, or at www.niceandill.com.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Assemblywoman Hooper Endorses the Incinerator

As reported yesterday by The Weekly Freeporter, I was contacted by our Mayor Andrew Hardwick, himself. He informed me, unequivocally, "No matter what is posted and said online, I am confirming that there will be no waste to energy facility in the Village of Freeport." Residents rejoiced that the dreaded incinerator thesis was reduced to ash.

And then, as reported and circulated by multiple Facebook groups, a Freeport resident received a Assemblywoman Earlene Hooper. The Weekly Freeporter has obtained her permission to reprint the letter, but as a preface - today is Monday, meaning the letter was sent well before Mr. Hardwick's letter to me was received. What follows are scans of those letters - click on them and they will appear full-size.







Now, as the letter is pretty long, I'm not going to provide a cut-and-paste copy. I will, however, highlight a few key notes before I provide an assessment of the proceedings.


One: The letter is un-dated - a rather unprofessional fact! However, it references the BP oil spill, which began on April 20th. Therefore, this letter clearly does not date back before that. A hand-written note at the end offers an apology for a delay in the letter's dispatching, meaning that there is some room for the information within it to be outdated.

Two: The letter is does not speak on behalf of Andrew Hardwick, although the Assemblywoman makes an effort to tell the recipient that they may call the Mayor at will, and that Channel 18 will provide more information on this issue. She also states that Mayor Hardwick "will" take certain steps to make progress on this issue, but more on that...Now:

Three: Most notably, the Assemblywoman does not mention any concrete steps that have been taken to construct an incinerator thusfar, but -does- mention the ones "will be" taking. "The Mayor will be appointing a community advisory team to assist in the plans, ideas, and suggestions as he moves toward a Request for Proposal (RFP) to assure tax-payer input. He will also include the Board of Trustees in any and all decisions pursuant to this matter."



Why is three the most important segment of this letter? Without attempting to psychoanalyze what Mrs. Hooper expects others to do and what she "really" knows is going on, it states the current progress on this issue - there is, still, no proposal for an incinerator. There has not even been a request for one, and Trustee Kennedy made very clear that without a proposal there is only speculation.

More to the point: With the proposal comes technical documents, and with that comes on-the-record specifications about what a plant will and will not do. This information can be analyzed by independent specialists and laymen alike, including the administration itself and administrations from other political entities (Rockville Center, Merrick, etc). Once analyzed, the health and environmental impacts can be determined far more accurately, and a logical judgment about whether or not this project is "safe" can be made. Until there is a proposal, there is no way to know precisely what will be employed - although it is entirely fair to use other, comparable facilities the world over as a general guideline.


Now, The Weekly Freeporter has no objections to virtually any business coming in and making a proposal. If a chemical corporation wishes to propose a facility in the Industrial area, or if a small-business entrepreneur wishes to build an indoor paintball arena (Hint, hint...), that is perfectly fine with this publication. There is no reason not to propose something, because to say an idea is "off limits" is fundamentally unsound. Who decides what is off limits? Why? What -isn't- off limits? All of these questions and more make it impossible for us to state that nobody should make a proposal.

Here's the rub: With residents clearly opposed to even the thought of a waste-to-energy project in Freeport, why would anyone produce the RFP that Assemblywoman Hooper seems to believe the Mayor will? He has not, as of yet; and, based solely on the face-value of his letter to this publication yesterday, he will not be doing so. The simple answer is that Assemblywoman Hooper has failed to do her research - there are entire civic organizations in Freeport (The "Protecting Freeport Coalition" being only one) opposed to this idea. There are more complicated hypothesis floating around, but speculation about this issue is pointless until there is hard evidence to discuss.

In reality, submitting a RFP would be the worst thing the Mayor could do for a number of reasons, each of which builds into the others...

First: Assuming Trustee Kennedy's opinion (stated April 7th) about any company producing such a proposal is followed through upon, he would (paraphrasing) not provide any companies with a dime - they would spend their money on ecologists to study the impact, engineers to produce plans, and even on the Village's efforts to provide technical (road, waterway) data to them. In short - it should cost these companies a great deal of effort and money even to come up with a proposal. It should never be incumbent upon the Village taxpayer.

Second: Mr. Kennedy also outlined a number of governmental agencies that must approve the plan. Residents fear that patronage will push this bill through, however an open proposal that can be judged by the public will leave that notion vitally vulnerable: If even a whiff of corruption seeps from the incinerator plans, residents will almost certainly have the grounds and resources to sue everyone involved to kingdom come: Company, politician, and governing entity alike. This will bog the process down immensely, costing those involved both years of time (Enough time for my next point to kick in...) and a bucketload of cash.

Third, and finally: Lets assume it gets all the way through to the Trustees. At this point, a great deal of cash has been spent on the project, in accordance with Mr. Kennedy's view on how the proposal process should be treated. The Village has helped guide this proposal through multiple agencies, and has either done so with no legal violations or after some extent of lawsuits about it. Finally, its at the Trustees: They will have to decide if its worth risking their careers over. By this point, if the process has been bogged down at all, the proposing company may not be dealing with the same trustees (or Mayor) at all. The process may even have been set back to square one due to this fact. And it all comes down to a majority vote - The Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and Trustees. Five votes. First to three wins.


Is a company -really- going to risk all of this time and effort just to be told no? Bearing in mind all of the cost, all of the opposition? Having hopefully done their homework and having read this very blog, and having undoubtedly seen that Mayor Hardwick himself has said it will not happen? Especially in light of BP making clear the need for real "green energy," and not "green paint?" All it takes is the screams of "NO!" to the very concept, roared by the irritated populace of the Village all at once, to answer this question.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Final Nail in the Incinerator's Coffin?

First of all, I want to state how pleasantly surprised I am with the overwhelming support I've gotten from the Freeport community for my last article. Lots of people have been talking on Facebook about it, but what isn't as broadly known is that a lot of them have been helping to provide story leads for issues such as these. Today's spawned a new, more interesting development.




As you can see, I received a letter today from the Mayor, himself. And before I go further, thank you for the prompt response! In the event that the tiny print cannot be read, allow me to cut and paste his response:

"Statement of Mayor Andrew Hardwick:

When I was sworn into office in April 2009 I pledged to represent the residents of the Village of Freeport. Over the past few months the residents have told me that they do not want a waste to energy facility within the Village of Freeport. While I looked at various technologies, the residents have spoken in a united voice and I understand, respect, and have and will continue to honor their concerns.

No matter what is posted and said online, I am confirming that there will be no waste to energy facility in the Village of Freeport.

Thank you,
Mayor Andrew Hardwick"




So there you have it. Mr. Hardwick, I am assuming that there is nobody so crass as to impersonate you and issue false statements on your behalf - and, thus, I thank you again for your prompt and pointed response. Folks, you heard it here, first - Mayor Hardwick is on record that this plan is confirmed dead. "There will be no waste to energy facility in the Village of Freeport." His confirmation is given, his word is public.

Presuming this document stands, this day marks the end of a massive struggle between community activists and the perceived lack of acknowledgment provided from the Mayor's office on this issue. It ends not with a bang, nor with a whimper, but simply with a public statement of intent (or the lack thereof) - as it should be. I suspect there shall be some celebration, tonight, as this conflict comes to an end.

Tomorrow's a Monday, however, and there's always more work to be done on Mondays...

Friday, June 11, 2010

New Round of Worries About an Incinerator

As most folks who follow Freeport know, one of the major controversies that has surrounded the Village is the notion that a Waste-To-Energy plant would be constructed. While The Weekly Freeporter is all-but-unconditionally open to seeing business proposals in Freeport, it is not-nearly-unconditionally supportive of those proposals being approved - and an incinerator proposal would, obviously, be subject to vast scrutiny.

And herein lies the rub: Residents have for a long time complained that the Hardwick Administration has made an accurate assessment of the situation all but impossible.

As early as February, rumors began to circulate that the Village may construct an incinerator. On April 7th, a meeting was held wherein Trustee Robert Kennedy outlined the facts: No proposal had been submitted, it would have to be approved by a myriad of governmental agencies including the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, and would be subject to a final vote by the Board of Trustees assuming said proposal - which was yet to be made - satisfied these agencies' criteria for a safely operating facility.

According to this article from The Business Council of Westchester by Laura Rivera, "Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) had agreed to supply the $60,000" spent by the administration on trips to China and Germany, home to Zhong-De Waste Technology. The disbursement of these funds have become a thorn in the side of Freeport residents who feel this money has now been wasted; but, there is a level of responsibility placed upon those who promised the money, one that could be argued to justify the expenditure. Its easy to say, "hey, I was told the money was coming - blame them." And "they" would rightly take the lions' share of the blame. And this was an article written in April about problems dating back to the previous September.

Next, however, is this LI Herald article by Scott Brinton on the Incinerator's status, dated May 13th. In spite of multiple denials of such a proposal existing or a project being under consideration, nobody who Mr. Brinton spoke to could confirm that the idea of an incinerator was completely trashed, to use a small pun. Still, there was little proof of any goings-on; just that the Mayor insisted it wouldn't happen.




And then there's this: Today, while looking into a likely-unrelated issue, I discovered an un-dated, un-titled clip from an interview between New York State Assemblywoman Earlene Hooper and Mayor Hardwick. The clip in question is the second one down. What was the topic? The incinerator. Upon previous examinations of Ms. Hooper's page, no such video was found - this indicates that the video is relatively recent.

For reference, this is the same Earlene Hooper who sponsored New York State Bill A10034, referring to the hiring of police officers, and who has just sponsored legislation that would sell the New York State Armory at 63 Babylon Turnpike to the Village of Freeport for one dollar, Bill AA11379. The stated purpose of this purchase is for the Police Athletic League to provide athletic and educational opportunities to the village's children - and that is a noble endeavor!

However, there are rumors circulating that the Department of Public Works (DPW) could be relocated to this area, and that the immediate fall-out would be the opening of more Village land to ZhongDe's planners. This rumor is at best a theory, but reports have surfaced of ZhongDe planners visiting Power Plant Number Two, the DPW's current base of operations and presumed home of any unproposed incinerator. Additional reports place the Mayor at the armory itself - and being shooed out by Armory officials - just before the bill came to light. Will the mayor be purchasing an abandoned building to use for childrens' athletics, or will he be deceiving residents and using it as a dumping zone for a department in order to start taking in trash.

In truth, its impossible to say. The Mayor and Assemblywoman Hooper have, at best, a record of serious misunderstandings of where and how to acquire state resources, but there have been no corruption charges filed, let alone concretely proven. It is easy to assume the worst of people with a spotty record, but I'd rather hear it from the Village itself - as would the residents of Freeport who are concerned about this lingering inconsistency. There are two issues that The Weekly Freeporter would like to see answered:

The first is this new video we've discovered where our mayor is quite plainly discussing the logistics of a "new business" - in transporting and disposing of waste.

The second is the acquisition of a possibly (or possibly not) abandoned building for a tremendously low sum of one dollar (if its really one dollar), to be used to fund an important childrens' program (that residents are under the impression you've cut funding to (and have you cut funding to it?)). In short, what -exactly- is going on with this armory, now?


There is much for you to explain to your fellow residents, but rest assured that we want to hear your side of the story. We at The Weekly Freeporter are perfectly willing to accept, answer, and publish (un-edited, I might add) any letter of clarification provided to us by the Hardwick Administration. You may contact us at JPohlmanWriting@Gmail.com, either to send a written clarification or to arrange for an interview to address both this and other issues facing the Village. We hope very much to hear from you, so that you can balance out the record.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Freeport's Water Quality Assessment

So, upon arriving home from work today I found a publication in my mailbox entitled "Freeport Water 2009, Annual Water Quality Report." Presumably covering the year 2009, I opened it to see - happily, might I add! - that water tables on Long Island have allegedly risen up to two and a half feet over the last year, continuing a supposed trend observed since 2005. As a quick aside: For those who don't know me, I find water resources to be one of the most pressing issues facing the U.S.




Anyhow, this brochure details how Freeport obtains its water - "The Freeport Water Department draws its water from 11 drilled wells located in our service area," each of which is "between 500 and 70 feet deep." The water is drawn from the Magothy Aquifer, whican can be thought of as "a natural water filter that's about 1,000 feet thick and a hundred miles wide." The health of the Aquifer itself was assessed by the New York State Department of Health, and while there are always possible contaminants it turns out that Freeport does not have any current violations in terms of its water. The biggest risks listed were nitrate contamination possible, in part, through the over-fertilization of land, and a vulnerability to industrial solvents due to the proximity of transportation routes.

The brochure discussed regulations on lawn sprinkling, most importantly that there is never a time to irrigate from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM during sunny periods; this water will mostly evaporate, which is one of the worst forms of waste. The 2009 annual water charge was described as a $20.00 base fee, with the first 50,000 gallons used costing 1.90/thousand gallons. According to their examples, a consumer who averaged 150,000 gallons of water in this year was billed $365.00. Additionally, new water mains were installed on Summers Place and Gill Avenue, a sizable upgrade from 4'' to 8''.

Nevertheless, according to this document a gallon of water costs less than one penny - 0.00185 cents. The brochure somewhat predictably encourages residents to use tap water instead of bottled water, and it makes a strongly compelling case to do just that. They even discuss how small bits of Iron, a naturally-occuring mineral in the Magothy Aquifer, are in fact essential nutrients for the body. Our water is additionally treated with Sodium Hydroxide (to raise the PH to optimal levels), Sodium Hexametaphosphate (to sequester this iron and keep water discolored), and finally Sodium Hypochlorite (for disinfection).

All of these perks, however, come at a cost. In a sidebar, Freeport's Mayor Andrew Hardwick reaffirms his administration's commitment to providing clean and safe water to residents in a reliable, inexpensive manner. At the same time, however, he reminds us that this aquatic infrastructure is aging and that the Village requires "its share of the funding" needed to make vital repairs to the system. He declares that "Government cannot continue to raise taxes and borrow money to replace these mains," and that he will "bring this message to our representatives." Taken at face value, these pledges reassure residents that one of our most important assets - our water system - will remain safe. I, for one, will celebrate by having a nice, tall, ice-filled glass of what can only be called Dihydrogen Monoxide.


In order to obtain a copy of this report, you may head to one of a number of locations:
- www.freeportny.com,
- Village Hall Water Billing Department at 46 North Ocean Avenue (Village Hall)
- DPW's Water Department office at 355 Albany Avenue
- The Freeport Public Library at 144 West Merrick Road,
- Or just call 516-377-2379

Friday, May 21, 2010

Interview with Michael Suchan and Jason Bass

Hello, Freeporters! First, a bit of bitter-sweet news: I got some extra vacation time this week, and I'm going to be heading on a small trip with my girlfriend. Unfortunately, I will not be able to cover the May 24th Board of Trustees meeting, myself. On the plus side, I'm hoping to have a guest-reporter step in, and maybe even more! We'll see, but I don't want to promise what I can't deliver. I do hope that as many of The Weekly Freeporter's readers as possible will make it; it'll be an interesting time, to be sure!


On that note, I'm happy to announce that The Weekly Freeporter has conducted its first interview. I sat down yesterday in lovely Cow Meadow Park with two of the three administrators of the “Keeping the Freeport Festival on the Nautical Mile” Facebook page, a political lightning rod which just prior to the interview hit 3,800 members. It was one of the first major Facebook pages to be formed about the Village of Freeport, and has attracted a tremendous following that helped rally the Village around political issues across the spectrum.

Michael Suchan, the founder of the group, described his reasons for creating the group to be “a little bit of both” concerns over the way Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick was handling the Nautical Mile Festival, and the rumors he was hearing about the location of the festival being changed, or of its outright cancellation. Jason Bass, a second administrator who joined shortly after the group's founding, added that he joined because he “wanted to find the truth on this” issue.

With so many issues and rumors floating around, Mr. Bass discovered to his chagrin that “nobody was recording the minutes” of Village Hall meetings; or, if they were, they were extremely hard to get hold of. They related to me how Village residents stood up and asked questions at Board of Trustee meetings, and how the answers they received only seemed to fuel the rumors, at first. As the movement grew, however, Village Hall had to take notice, and eventually they made clear what the situation for the Festival was. “One day in 2010, June fifth,” Mr. Suchan stated plainly, “with June Sixth as a rain-date.” On next year's Festival, however, they were more optimistic – their group has been working closely with Nautical Mile business owners, they stated, in order to make sure that the next year's festival would be “complete.”

As one of the first – and perhaps, still, the largest – Facebook pages discussing Freeport community activism, they've also fallen under fire from other community leaders for their way of doing things. Mr. Suchan didn't seem phased by this, offering the opinion that “We just keep with the movement we started, and keep trying to do the right thing.” Mr. Bass concurred, offering his well-wishes. “I'm proud that a lot of the followers of our site took a handle on other issues that [Mayor] Hardwick was dealing with,” he added.

With their involvement with the Nautical Mile Festival coming to an end, as both they and the Village itself are turning its future over to the area's businesses – a third incarnation of the Festival that is much closer to its original, business-sponsored format than today's Village-sponsored one – my interviewees offered both advice and possible next stops for their energies. “If we want Freeport to get better,” Mr. Bass counciled, “we must figure out, first, what changes we expected, and what will we do in order to work on these changes ourselves?”

For Mr. Suchan, his next stop might be an interesting one. “The incinerator issue is burned,” he mused, “maybe I'll focus on education.” He also advised that “we have to come together as a community to face these issues. We need to focus on local politics.” Mr. Bass's next endeavors were more concrete – literally. “The roads,” he simply stated, “and to educate people on local elections so this doesn't happen again.” He realized that the condition of Freeport's roads were a minor nuisance to many, but proposed that it was the issue that was most present in his daily life.

Both men, however, had one clear objective, one dictum that underscored their reasons for their involvement: “Its for the community.”

You can find the “Keeping the Freeport Festival on the Nautical Mile” Facebook group by clicking its name. And don't forget to visit the Nautical Festival on June 5th; with June 6th as its rain-date!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Freeport School District Budget Passes; Election Results

The challengers struck first, but the incumbents carried the day.

That is the only way to describe tonight's budget vote. When I arrived at Caroline G. Atkinson school, it was 9:00 sharp and the doors had closed to new voters. As late as 9:10, rumors circulated that there were still lines out of the door at Columbus Avenue School. The incredible number circulating, 5,000, swam through one's head as one considered just how many voters that figure actually amounted to.




Freeport High School Principal Ernest Kight had an explanation as to why so many people came out for the vote. "The Mayor got involved in the process. Its never happened before," he stated calmly. When the first numbers hit the projector, however, the budget's future looked secure in ways that the incumbents, Debra McQuillan and Michael Pomerico, did not: All three challengers had gained more votes from the Freeport Family Community Center than the incumbents.

As the night progressed, however, more schools were added to the list, and ultimately the incumbents struck back like this was the second Star Wars film. The final votes were as follows:


Proposition One - Freeport Union Free School District Budget
- 2847 votes in favor.
- 1460 votes against.

Proposition Two - Freeport Memorial Library Budget
- 2701 votes in favor.
- 1314 votes against.


On the passing of the budget, Trustee Ron Ellerbe declared jubilantly of residents that "They got it right!" But the most shocking figures were yet to come, as the final schools trickled in to reveal the outcome of the school board vote:

* Michael Pomerico: 3240 votes.
* Debra McQuillan: 3240 votes.
Fidel Abreu: 674 votes.
Thelma P. Lambert Watkins: 769
Sandra Richardson: 907
Other: 1

*: Incumbent
Bold: Winner





While this was anything but a dull race, the outcome was an impressive show of force from the community: 8831 total votes were recorded in the school board race, with each person being allowed two votes. This adds up to a staggering 4415.5 voters. As the incumbents were congratulated, Mrs. McQuillan offered me a simple, powerful observation on the community's show of support, the approval of the budget and even the tie she found herself in with Mr. Pomerico: "Very cool."

Monday, May 17, 2010

School Budget Protest at Village Hall

The first thing I noticed were the marchers as I drove by. The next thing, the thing that struck me the most, was the chant: "Hardwick no, Vote yes." Signs, including one that read "Cut Hardwick, Not Budget," were carried by children, teenagers and adults alike as they marched in front of Village Hall on Monday, May 17th. One day before the budget vote, Freeport residents worked together to express their opinion.



I spoke with Ellen Frey, President of the Freeport PTA Council. "This protest is about the fact that Mayor Hardwick wants to influence village residents to vote down the budget," she explained. As the Freeport School District and the Village of Freeport have separate organization structures, taxation authorities, and even different boundaries, the Village has no authority over how the School District proceeds with its budget. As Mrs. Frey put succinctly, "The mayor has no say."

As previously reported by News Twelve, Mayor Hardwick announced that the school board wants to give increase to the "Deputy Super-Intendent and Assistant Deputy Super-Intendent anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 raises." If true, in the face of a massive loss in state aid, it would be cause for alarm.

According to one member of the Freeport Board of Education, Ron Ellerbe, however, this is nothing more than the a simple case of "The Mayor misrepresented the facts." As he stated at a public town hall meeting recorded by Channel 18, "Inside Freeport," Mr. Ellerbe explains that the Superintendent is a new Super-Intendent, and is not getting a raise - he is, instead, under a brand new contract that places him at a salary level that is actually below that of the average for Nassau County.

About his encounter with the Mayor, Mr. Ellerbe simply explained that "if I hadn't spoken out to correct the record, it would have been false." Mr. Ellerbe Also went on to state that Mayor Hardwick is "actively campaigning against the budget. He's supporting two other candidates who are running for the board who are also opposed to the budget." School Board President Debra McQuillan added that "the budget has always been put out on a neutral level. The Mayor has tilted the scales."

Also countering the Mayor's claim that the budget is out of control and "needs to be rolled back," Mrs. McQuillan explained that "the Board of Education put up probably the most responsible budget possible given the loss of more than $4,000,000" Looking about at the one hundred and fifty protesters Mrs. Frey estimated were in attendance, the impressed School Board President calmly ruminated that "This is the beast woken up."

Resident Susan Lyons commented that "The Mayor put up two candidates who are unqualified," adding to Mr. Ellerbe's concern about the Mayor being too involved in this election. The Co-Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee, Jeremy Impellizeri added that he believes "its come to a point where the people are not going to take it," vowing "we're not letting him (Mayor Hardwick) touch our schools."

If tomorrow's Budget is rejected by voters, an alternative budget must be created and voted upon at a later date. If that fails, the consequences - known as "austerity" - are devastating. Freeport has been through such periods before, and they are periods with seriously reduced services - such as crippling cuts to music education and athletics. Layoffs and pay cuts are also potential consequences for an austerity spell.

While there may be something to be said for controlling spending, the protesters made clear that they don't believe it to be out-of-hand in the school district. Mrs. Frey had some impressive parting words; according to her, "the Mayor has increased his office's budget 92%." Her message for Mayor Hardwick was simple: "tell the Mayor to stay out of the school budget and roll back his own." Unfortunately, she missed her opportunity; immediately after taking this quote down, protesters began to claim that they had seen Mayor Hardwick leave through the back entrance, leading one to wonder what his response to the picketers might have been - they were certainly shouting loudly enough for him to hear them.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mission Statement

To our readers,

This Blog is being created as a venue for residents of the Village of Freeport, located on Long Island and within the state of New York, to receive as well as contribute information pertaining to our Village. This could be anything, ranging from the latest Board of Trustees Meeting to notices of elections and whatnot.

Business reviews, sporting events and even (hopefully!) interviews with Village Officials are the choice entrees of this verbal restaurant. But before we can get into the metaphorical main course, a little about myself; my name is Jesse Pohlman, and I've been a Resident for twenty five years. That's about as long as I could have been a Resident, since that is my age. Since I was sixteen, I've worked as a lifeguard for the Freeport Recreation Center. I hold a Masters Degree in Secondary Education as well as a BA in History from Adelphi University, and a BA in English from Queens College. I'm a writer, and my personal webpage can be found at www.jessepohlman.com for those who are interested in fiction or articles about more than just the Village.

I've been active in Village politics for a few months now, and hope to remain a vigilant, concerned citizen. Hopefully, I'll live up to my standards of personal honor - antiquated as that word might be! - and will be able to provide you all with concise, factual information that is gleaned through journalism and not simply through rumor. To that end, any suggestions that you might have are more than welcome; if something is worth looking into, or a business worth reviewing, I will be more than happy to do so upon your suggestion.

Since I've explained what this blog is for, allow me to explain what it is not. This blog is not a group effort. The name "The Weekly Freeporter" was chosen because I believe I can post once or twice a week, and will not necessarily be reporting about a million things every day. It is, similarly, not a partisan or politically-oriented effort: I might elect to write an op-ed piece now and again, but I will strive to avoid endorsing political candidates and will certainly not permit visitors to leave slanderous/deceptive sentiments behind. Finally, it is not something to be used to any one person's ends - I would like to believe we are all free-thinkers, and that we all form our own opinion. You may or may not disagree with me, and as with all journalism there are times when even the best informed people "get it wrong." Perfection is impossible, but I commit myself to pursuing it as close as I can get.

My warmest regards,
--Jesse Pohlman