Editorial: Gold Stars and Dunce Caps

Sag Harbor Express Online

Gold Star – To Bridgehampton School officials, for letting the Bees buzz one last time in their hive. Look, it’s understandable that there was some concern about fielding a varsity basketball team made up largely of young, inexperienced players who just barely fill out a roster. Unlike football, however, there isn’t nearly the risk that overmatched players face any real threat to their safety — only to their egos. But the decision shouldn’t simply be about winning and losing. Sports at schools are meant to teach, and a losing team can learn just as much as a winner, perhaps even more. Killer Bees supporters should spend the final season cheering their lungs out in the Bee Hive for a team of plucky upstarts who might just provide a few highlights while they learn a whole lot about character.

Gold Star – To the Sag Harbor Village Board, for taking a “wait-and-see” approach to the planning of Sag Harbor’s John Steinbeck Waterfront Park. Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy has made it clear that it will be residents — and visitors — who ultimately will dictate how this park is used, and will be integral in its planning moving forward. This kind of inclusive government is exactly what Sag Harbor needs right now.

Gold Star – To Sag Harbor Village government, for thinking ahead. We hate to pile too much praise on any government body, but kudos to the Village Board in Sag Harbor for embarking on a new series of work sessions with a dedicated session to long-term planning. Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy is not just looking at urban planning but asking residents and business owners for a vision for Sag Harbor’s future five, 10, 20  years out. It is a visioning long overdue, since the last deep dive from 2007 to 2009. Making new realities is hard, but it’s impossible if you don’t know what you hope to accomplish.

Dunce Cap – To Southampton Village, particularly the police department, for acting before thinking. The issue of who gets to surf, and where, is a spicy one in the surfing community, not surprisingly. While there are legitimate issues to discuss when it comes to unofficial “surf schools” and instructors taking over breaks, and a need to keep bathers and surfers safe where they might interact, it was silly and heavy-handed for the police, earlier this month, to threaten surfers with fines. The new mayor, Jesse Warren, swept in for a quick fix, which may or may not resolve the many aspects of the conflict for the long term. But it’s a situation that calls for a lighter touch. When in doubt, let them surf.

Dunce Cap – To reckless summer drivers — you know who you are — who have wreaked havoc on roads this summer, and on the infrastructure as well. Some accidents have taken out utility poles, knocking out electric service to entire neighborhoods. The region is a summer playground, but it doesn’t mean that everyone should act like an excitable 10-year-old boy when they get behind the wheel.

Gold Star – To the Town of East Hampton, for exploring the idea of installing a much-needed roundabout at the intersection of Stephen Hands Path and Long Lane. The rotary traffic control measures have a long history of being the most effective way of keeping traffic flowing, and doing it safely. That’s a perfect spot for a new one. Now, about that traffic light at Route 114 and Stephen Hands Path …

Dunce Cap – For most of the 2020 presidential candidates — including President Donald Trump — for seeing the South Fork as nothing more than an ATM. Let’s exclude Joe Biden, the current Democratic front-runner, who was at Saturday night’s Blue Dream Gala at the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons in Shinnecock Hills; tickets were $400, but they benefited Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and the church’s charitable mission, not a political campaign. How refreshing would it be to have seen any of the candidates coming out this August for campaign events— the president, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris — take a little side trip to actually chat with real people, in a coffee shop, at a local fire department or with a walk along Main Street, rather than restricting access to those willing to pay big bucks for it. What do Iowa and New Hampshire have that we don’t?

Dunce Cap – To the late David Koch. Is it impolite to give a “dunce cap” to someone who has just died? Sometimes decorum should be set aside for candor. When the longtime Southampton billionaire died on Friday here, it was tempting to focus on the 79-year-old’s charitable contributions, which were plentiful. But, as New York magazine noted posthumously, his legacy is “weaponized philanthropy”: For all the positive things his billions did for cancer research and cultural institutions, he spent lavishly on establishing a network of influential organizations that keep climate change denial alive to this day. “His motivation wasn’t a mystery: He did it because he was greedy,” the magazine noted, pointing out that moves to combat pollution cost his family money. It’s not considered polite to speak ill of the dead, but facts are facts, and they outlive us all.