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Do the Right Thing, Letter to the Editor

This Letter to the Editor appears in The Southampton Press, July 27 edition.

Seventeen of the 24 Long Island association libraries allow trustee elections.  Westhampton’s board members intentionally deny taxpayers their right to vote [“Library Trustees Cap Term Limits,” July 20].

What’s the magic number of community activists necessary, self-appointed President Tom Moore, for this diversity-lacking private club of friends, comprising three teachers, three lawyers and one insurance agent, to grant local taxpayers their American right to vote? Is it 43? 87?

Many reasonable and fair self-appointed association library boards decided on their own that trustee elections were right and democratic, and amended their bylaws to allow elections—no “great numbers” of community activists necessary. Shelter Island’s library board did just that, in 2011, for example.

Dozens of taxpayers attended monthly board meetings nearly two years ago, but this self-appointed board never allowed the elected board issue to be on the agenda via an open, welcoming community discussion. There’s only so much we can do for so long, and this issue isn’t as visceral as viewing monster telephone poles or worrying if contaminated groundwater is compromising our family’s health.

Why must we cajole and convince the board to do the right thing in democratic America anyway? This isn’t authoritarian Turkey. Well, it is at the Westhampton-Not-Free-For-Taxpayers Library.

An 1897 charter grants the library private corporation power, though multimillions of tax dollars fund the library’s annual operations. Women and African-Americans couldn’t vote in 1897. Now, in 2017, why do unelected individuals alone determine who has the “right motives”? Are we taxpayers too stupid to vote for a library trustee? We’re the same taxpayers who elected your wife village mayor, Mr. Moore.

In this recent village trustee election, the two incumbents ran unopposed. We still conducted a fair-and-square democratic election.

Allow library elections. What are you afraid of? What are you hiding? Why the need to maintain absolute power? Elections provide accountability and transparency.

Didn’t you have to resign in 2010 from the Westhampton Beach Village Zoning Board of Appeals, three years before your term was set to expire, due to lack of transparency, Mr. Moore? Newly appointed library trustee Steve Wisnoski made two unsuccessful bids for the Westhampton Beach Board of Education in the past three years.

Democracy is dead at the Westhampton Library. America is founded on representation with our taxation. If the school, village or fire boards said, “No more elections, the current boards will self-select who can serve next,” taxpayers would be furious.

The library is a private club that my family pays nearly $600 to annually. Every taxpayer pays to fund the club, but only the self-appointed, unelected trustees have voting rights.

It’s wrong.

Sabina Trager

Westhampton Beach

Ms. Trager is a former library

administrative assistant at the

Westhampton Free Library—Ed.

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Local Taxpayers: Do The Math

Local taxpayers:  do the math.  Millions of tax dollars–Village and Library–are being spent on capital projects without democratic voting.  This Letter to the Editor, below, is in the June 15 edition of The Southampton Press. Continue reading “Local Taxpayers: Do The Math”

Send a Message to the Unelected Westhampton Library Board with your Vote of NO

Election Update: The Westhampton Free Library budget passed 360-185. The school budget passed as well, 448-99.

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The Westhampton Free Library budget increase vote is Tuesday, 5/16. Every vote counts!

I will be VOTING NO. Continue reading “Send a Message to the Unelected Westhampton Library Board with your Vote of NO”

Westhampton Free Library Budget Vote Portrayed as a False Choice

In my opinion, the self-appointed, unelected Westhampton Free Library board is being disingenuous and deceitful in framing this budget increase as strictly a yes or no for employee wage increases. It’s a false, unfair choice. Continue reading “Westhampton Free Library Budget Vote Portrayed as a False Choice”

A No-Win Budget Vote at the Westhampton Free Library

It’s great to see democracy alive and well at the Westhampton Beach School District!  Lawn signs are sprinkled about town as three candidates vie for one open Board of Education spot.

Guess what?  There is still an open trustee vacancy at our Westhampton Free Library, since November 2016. At least three eligible taxpayers have submitted “trustee applications,” but the six SELF-APPOINTED trustees don’t want them in the private club.

17 of 24 Long Island association libraries already permit trustee elections.  The Westhampton trustees are in the unique minority simply by refusing to allow trustee elections.

The self-appointed library trustees—Tom Moore, Susan Rosenberg, Barbara Matros, Robert Santucci, Mary Anne Yutes and Mitchell Schechter—are collecting over $3 million in taxes for the library’s annual operating budget (the $2.2 figure above does not include the revenue collected from the contract districts)—on top of the already $4 MILLION IN CASH sitting in the bank accounts.

I do not agree with taxation without representation. I believe the attic expansion and first floor re-design—on our BRAND NEW BUILDING— should go out for a community vote. I also believe the employees should come before the building and if the budget is voted down we taxpayers know there is plenty of money to keep them all employed and for the union to negotiate an objectively fair living wage.

Present library trustees are free to run for election and elections can be phased in, one or two trustees per year, to allow for board continuity.  Plenty of other association libraries have done just this, some decades ago.

Notice in the photo above—“Board of Education Trustee Elections” but no “Library Trustee Elections” though we taxpayers are voting on both budgets. I will be voting no to the library budget increase to send a message that I do not agree with taxation without representation.  It is wrong. If the board decides to start laying off employees, I hope our community will rally in support of those employees. It’s unfortunate that 6 self-appointed individuals put us in this no-win difficult spot.

Possible Conflict of Interest at the Westhampton Free Library?

After the latest Hampton Bays Library article on 27east.com concerning the two failed building bond referendums in less than ten months and what Plan C might be for the library, many comments consider conflicts of interest with the library trustees. Continue reading “Possible Conflict of Interest at the Westhampton Free Library?”

Un-Elected Trustees Don’t Know Meaning of Enough

Robbie Shell’s piece–“When ‘Enough’ Doesn’t Have to Mean ‘More'”–in Monday’s Wall Street Journal reminded me of our self-appointed trustees at the taxpayer-funded Westhampton Free Library as they endeavor to expand and redesign our brand new building without any community votes–be they for trustee representation or for capital projects. Continue reading “Un-Elected Trustees Don’t Know Meaning of Enough”

“Are Libraries Obsolete?,” Phil Keith asks in the 4/13/17 Press Edition

Referencing the two failed Hampton Bays Library bond referendums,  Phil Keith points out that “only about 10 percent of the registered voters in Hampton Bays bothered to  vote on the latest bond proposal, and barely 13 percent voted last June.”  Then he asks a great question:  “Does this mean that the vast majority of voters in Hampton Bays (a) don’t care about libraries, (b) aren’t that concerned about the tax impact of the potential bond issue, or, (c) both?” Continue reading ““Are Libraries Obsolete?,” Phil Keith asks in the 4/13/17 Press Edition”

Hampton Bays Taxpayers Vocal and United

4/15/17: Amazing!  Hampton Bays is vocal & united and still going strong!!  Hampton Bays Library bond rejection article still on both the Most Read (#3) and Most Commented (#1) lists on 27east.com. Two bond referendums fail in 10 months. Self-appointed, unelected library trustees are out of touch with the taxpayers. No more taxation without representation. NYS legislators need to step in and put an end to self-appointments at taxpayer funded association libraries.

***This is exactly what happened at Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton in 1996.  The new building bond referendum failed and taxpayers wanted representation with their taxation.  After a long battle, the Rogers Memorial Library self-appointed trustees voted to change their bylaws to allow for democratic elections.  Visit 27east.com’s Newspaper Archives in 1996 to learn about the history and process.***

HAMPTON BAYS LIBRARY second #TaxationWithoutRepresentation 4/4/17 BOND REFERENDUM for a new facility REJECTED by the taxpayers 571-336The first referendum in June last year also failed, 719-507.

Contrast the Hampton Bays’ process and the upcoming Westhampton Free Library expansion & renovation on a brand new building with The Sag Harbor Library’s Expansion that was Led by an Elected Board, Community Leaders and Residents.

The Hampton Bays Public Library is an association library that still maintains a self-appointed, unelected trustee board, like the Westhampton Free Library.  Only 6 of 19 Suffolk County association libraries still cling to this governing structure though it’s undemocratic and un-American to have zero elections at a taxpayer-funded institution.  Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.

Perhaps if the Hampton Bays Library had an elected board that represented the taxpayers these bond referendums would go more smoothly. Read the recent post, Tuesday’s Hampton Bays Bond Referendum for more information.  In addition, these posts were published just before and after last year’s first bond vote failed by a large margin: Hampton Bays Public Library has an Appointed Board, Too and Hampton Bays Library Dissenting Voice.

Tuesday’s Hampton Bays Library’s Bond Referendum

UPDATE: HAMPTON BAYS LIBRARY  #TaxationWithoutRepresentation 4/4/17 BOND REFERENDUM for a new facility REJECTED by the taxpayers 571-336

The Hampton Bays Public Library is an association library that still maintains a self-appointed trustee board, like the Westhampton Free Library.  Only 6 of 19 Suffolk County association libraries still cling to this governing structure though it’s undemocratic and un-American to have zero elections at a taxpayer-funded institution.  Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.

Continue reading “Tuesday’s Hampton Bays Library’s Bond Referendum”