Ringing in the New Year

Tonight I celebrate the close of another chapter in my life.

Although I have been sober for 15 months, 2014 marks the first calendar year – since 1988 – that I was free from alcohol. As I reflect, I will celebrate 2014 as the year that I finally got to know the person inside of me and got to reconnect with him, after all these years. Yes, he has always been there, but his voice and true nature had become increasingly stifled by addiction.

This year was filled with great milestones - I married my best friend in April and, in September, I celebrated my 40th birthday. 

I am truly blessed. 

As I embark on the next chapter of my life, I recognize that my journey has just begun. The next year will be one of great challenges. I have set my sights on new milestones and I will harness the courage, the confidence, the love, and the positive energy that surrounds me, to help carry me down the winding road ahead. 

In 2015, I will need the continued support of my family and friends, both near and far, to help me achieve my goals.

Regardless of where the coming year takes me, I will honor each new day by listening to and following my heart. I will do what I believe is right and good. When I make a mistake, I will admit it. When I need help, I will ask. I will do my best to be helpful, respectful, and always remain humble. I will continue to work toward the betterment of my community through public service and leadership.
These are my New Year’s resolutions.

I wish each and every one of you a peaceful, prosperous, and exciting New Year!
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Posted by Damon Peter Rallis

A Birthday Message

Ten years ago today, my life changed immeasurably. As I held you in my arms for the first time, I realized that I had never truly known love until that very moment. The unconditional love that a parent feels for their child is something that can never be described in words. I hope that you have the opportunity, one day, to feel it as well.

Your birth was a gift to this world and especially to those of us closest to you. You were Nana and Pop's first great-grandchild and if there was anyone as joyful as your mother and I that day, it was them. I am so thankful that they had the opportunity to spend the time that they did with you. I know that they live on in your memory and are looking down with pride at the young man you have become.

So much has changed in the past ten years and I know that it hasn't always been easy for you. In your short life you have experienced loss and confusion, frustration and sadness. I know that I have made mistakes that have affected you.  The past is behind us now, baby boy, and the future is so bright. 

Through the light of your love, I have found the patience and strength to become the best man I can be and the father that you deserve. And you... although you can be a big old pain in my butt... you are a brilliant and beautiful, witty and charming, well-rounded guy, that any dad would be proud of. 

Our family dynamic has changed dramatically in the last ten years, but the one thing that has remained constant is my love and devotion to you, my sweet boy. You are blessed to be part of one big beautiful group of people... a big family of grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins, moms and dads... all of whom love you just as much as I do. This is a wonderful time, my love... enjoy it! 

Happy tenth birthday to you Lu-Dog!

May God bless you and watch over you for many more birthdays to come. 


Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Posted by Damon Peter Rallis
Tag : ,

Honesty... That Lonely Word

When I was nine, I wanted to be a baseball player. 

I was never on an organized team and, as an only child, I often found myself playing the game alone… with a tennis ball. 

It was me versus the garage door. 

Our two car garage featured doors with a Dutch barn motif - 16 square panels, topped with four equal size windows, creating 20 perfect squares. The design made the garage door a perfect backstop for pitching practice, with it's clearly defined strike zone. 

My grandparents didn’t like that game. They worried that I would chip the paint, crack the faux detail or worse, break a window. 

I thought they were crazy. 

My grandpa was always convinced that if you used something too often, or without taking the utmost care, it would break. 

“Stop changing the damn channel,” he’d say. “You’ll break the knob off.” 

The knob did eventually fall of and we upgraded to a digital television. Still, I think he was too neurotic about that stuff. I knew that I had a good enough arm to avoid broken windows. Though, the ball did get away from me sometimes. 

It was a bright spring Saturday, in the late afternoon. My pop was at work and my nana was washing dishes. Through the kitchen window, she had the best seat in the house for my game. She even engaged the pitcher in friendly banter from the stands, warning him that if his grandfather catches him throwing that “damn ball against the garage, he’s gonna get it.” 

It was the top of the ninth though, and my team was up 3-0. It was a full count, with two out and two men on (second and third). All I had to do was catch it off the garage and get it over to first base and I would win. 

Maybe it was nana’s yelling, or maybe it had just been a long game, but something happened and my inside slider got away from me and hit one of the garage windows. 

This wasn’t the first time I had hit a garage window, but it was the first time I heard glass shatter and the scream of what I imagined a banshee might sound like. It was just Nana who was now standing at the screen door, wooden spoon in hand, screaming about how my pop was going to be home soon and that I was sure to get a spanking. 

I probably wasn’t spanked as often as I should have been, but the thought of a spanking from my grandfather still sent waves of fear through my skinny little body. 

I sat at the end of the driveway, panicked. 

I thought of one million stories I could tell to avoid blame, but I knew none would work because nana saw the deal go down. 

I thought that, perhaps, I could sully her name… call her a liar. I would have to convince my grandfather that my nana, his wife, a person that he had clearly known longer than he had known me, was living a life of deception. It was then that I saw grandpa’s pick up driving up the street toward our house. 

There would be no time for me to formulate such a grand a story. My only choice was to tell the truth. 

Instinctively, I knew that I had to tell my grandfather the truth before he noticed what had happened or, worse yet, before my grandmother told him. So, I raced up the driveway and planted myself in front of the garage door with the broken window. 

As he slowly made the turn into our driveway, I started to cry hysterically at thevisions of grandpa’s belt on my behind. He barely had the truck in park when I started pleading. 

“Please poppa. I’m sorry. I broke the garage window.” 

I was sobbing. 

“I was playing bayyyy ace buh uh all… and, and, and… I’m suh uh reeeeeee… ee… ee…” 

He climbed out of his truck, looked up at the broken window, and then down at me. He smiled. 

“We’ll fix it pal,” he said as he turned and walked toward the screen door. 

The seeds of a valuable lesson were planted at that very moment. 

Years later, as I look back on this and similar encounters, I realize that no matter what “good excuse” you have, no matter what “believable story” you can get away with, or no matter how easily you can shift blame, the best possible outcome in any situation can only be achieved by remaining open and honest. 

Don’t mistake this for some “cherry tree” story. I have been mired in some form of deception more often than I would like to admit. 

It is human nature to feel the urge to deceive. This is understandable because it is scary to think about how vulnerable we become when we are honest. 

It is only recently that I have started to dedicate my life to living honestly and openly. This means being honest about who I am and what I believe in. This means being open about my mistakes and my transgressions. This means being the first to hold myself accountable and never trying to avoid responsibility. 

It isn’t an easy thing to do and I am far from mastering the art. 

My recent comments regarding an alleged theft inside town hall, both here on my own website and in various online forums, have been met with mixed reviews… particularly from my biggest critic of all; myself. 

Do I really believe that if someone else were in power that this would have been prevented? 

Do I really believe that there could have been some measure, in hindsight, that we could have taken to prevent this alleged theft? 

No, I don’t and you certainly can’t fault a government for trying to pick up the pieces and at least attempt to come up with a solution to fix such problems. 

What bothers me is the stream of information that comes out of town hall. Sometimes it is contradictory, sometimes it is inaccurate, and sometimes it doesn’t come at all. 

When you begin a conscious attempt to live honestly, you begin to tune in on a different level. You listen to and digest information more carefully and you become more aware. You also begin to demand honesty from the people around you, though it comes naturally when we let our guard down. 

I know that I have become more critical of my government in recent months, but it is because I recognize the success and the light that honesty, openness, and transparency can bring. Therefore, it troubles me to think that something so simple as being honest about our mistakes, our weaknesses, or our own responsibilities can be so out of reach, particularly in government. 

After all, without these ingredients, can leadership really exist?
Sunday, April 27, 2014
Posted by Damon Peter Rallis

Who's Zoomin' Who?

Like many here in Southold, I have closely followed the ongoing media coverage of an alleged theft inside Southold Town’s justice court. However, as the story has unfolded, I’ve become increasingly concerned about the inaccuracy of the information that the public has received.

While some people are quick to blame the media for these inconsistencies, they fail to recognize that much of this information has come straight from town hall. Even the town supervisor, in an piece that that he recently penned for the Suffolk Times, lays blame on the publication. 

He writes, “An editorial published in the April 10 issue of The Suffolk Times, which seeks to hold people accountable for the recent revelations with bail accounts and the Southold Town Justice Court, fails to consider several facts. Primarily, it is simply impossible to include facts that are not yet known.” (Source

This would be a fair statement had all of the facts and the finger pointing not come from the supervisor himself. 

On March 27, 2014, just one week after the investigation was made public, The Suffolk Times reported on a town board vote to hire AVZ Certified Public Accountants to conduct an audit of all justice court accounts, as well as a vote to accept the resignation of the employee involved in the alleged theft. Most importantly, the story reveals the administration’s first public comments on the subject. 

Mr. Russell said that while AVZ also conducted the town’s most recent independent audit, the scope of that financial review did not include justice court receivables, which he said are audited each year by the New York State Office of Court Administration. 

Mr. Russell added that he believes the state court system will ultimately need to take preventative measures. 

“We’ll be having discussions with the court administration,” he said. “This rests with them and this town wants answers.” (Source

In the days that followed, information came to light contradicting the supervisor’s previous assertion that it was the job of the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) to audit and oversee the finances of the justice court. 

When SoutholdLocal pressed Mr. Russell on the issue, he responded, 

"The town has an annual audit done of each department, including the justice court. The audit consists of the general operational procedures of that office. The report has noted deficiencies and discrepancies each year for the past few years. We have brought these to the attention of the judges and have requested corrective action. To date, no such action has taken place." 

"The bail account is held in trust by the justice court. It is not part of the general allocations of Southold Town and not subject to our audit. The reports required by New York State's OCA are detailed and lengthy. At any time the OCA sees irregularities or discrepancies, it has the full authority to request an audit be performed by the New York State Comptroller’s Office." 

"In this instance we rely on our judges, who are monitored by OCA. We cannot make an elected official take action. We can only request it. It should be noted again that any accounts monitored by OCA, such as fines, etc., or any account held in trust by the justice court, such as bail, etc., are not part of the general allocations of the town and not subject to the audit performed. All reports filed with OCA are copied and sent to the town board. The OCA has oversight of these reports, not Southold Town." (Source

Mr. Russell further contradicts himself in a similar story published by the Suffolk Times: 

The town is now looking at ways to increase oversight of the same court system that the town’s external auditors found to have repeated “discrepancies and deficiencies” in record keeping over the past three years, said Supervisor Scott Russell. 

So far — despite meetings involving town officials, auditors and the justices — those previous audit findings have not been addressed by the judges, he said. 

“We rely on our justices to run our justice courts,” Mr. Russell said. “I can’t direct an elected official to do anything.”(Source

Later in the story: 

Mr. Russell also told The Suffolk Times that justice court receivables are audited each year by the New York State Office of Court Administration. 

But David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the state courts, said the state gives only “guidance and support” and has no authority to review or audit town courts unless it is asked to. 

“If they alert us that they’d like us to come in and do an audit we will, but these courts are under their watch,” Mr. Bookstaver said. 

Mr. Russell said Tuesday that he had been told by the justices that OCA was receiving monthly reports they would use for an audit, and relayed that to The Suffolk Times in a March 26 interview. 

“That might have been a misstatement on my part, but again, I’m not an attorney,” he said. “I have to rely on the judges to present the information to me.”(Source

Still later in the story: 

Still, Mr. Russell said, audits conducted in 2010, 2011 and 2012 by AVZ Certified Public Accountants — the town’s external auditors — uncovered numerous and repeated examples of “poor record-keeping” within the courts. 

Those audits had not focused on the justice court specifically, but instead examined compliance and procedures in all town departments. 

But AVZ did identify some court-specific issues, including outstanding checks that were more than a year old, as well as monthly reports to the state that were late, according to copies of the audit provided to The Suffolk Times. Mr. Russell said these issues have been noted by auditors for years. (Source). 

The conflicting information contained above begs the questions: 

  • If the second incarnation of this story is true, why was Mr. Russell so quick to blame the OCA? 
  • Why was there no mention in the earlier stories about these alleged “inconsistencies” found by the independent auditing firm? 
  • More importantly, are we really expected to believe that the current administration has no power in managing a town office (justice court)? Isn’t it staffed by union employees who essentially answer to the town board? Doesn’t the town board and town comptroller manage the justice court’s budget? Are we really to believe that the town board has no power in holding other elected officials accountable? 

The real insult to injury here is the “Equal Time” piece I quote in my first paragraph, in which Mr. Russell complains that The Suffolk Times “seeks to hold people accountable for the recent revelations with bail accounts and the Southold Town Justice Court…” 

I would argue that the only person who has made a clear effort to place blame is Mr. Russell. In the end, the local media has simply attempted to get straight answers to some very simple questions that have nothing to do with “an active investigation.” 

In the end, it really doesn’t matter whether this administration’s failure to communicate simple facts is the result of some cover-up, or its inability to understand the responsibility it has to the public. Either way, we’re in trouble - because the only thing more dangerous than a crooked government is an inept one.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Posted by Damon Peter Rallis

Finding Inner Peace Through Present Parenting

I read a gut-wrenching story shared on Facebook this morning and the moral of the story was quite compelling.  In the short piece, a young boy saves up enough money to match his busy father’s hourly pay and asks to “buy” an hour of his time so that they may spend it together. The persuasive message that kids need their parents to be present in their lives was enough to make this old softie cry – especially since I could relate.

When it comes to spending the quality time that my children need, on the face of it, there are two strikes against me. As the non-custodial parent of my boys, my time with them is bound by a divorce agreement. On top of that, I’m a workaholic. In addition to my full-time government job, I have a pretty good gig as a freelancer doing online marketing and content work. That side job, though lucrative, eats up a lot of time that would otherwise be “free.”

Then again, I have no one to blame for lost time but myself.

You see, I have a near-obsessive, deep-rooted work ethic, thanks to the influence of my grandpa who ran a 24-hour business like he was Superman. Even after all of my work is finished, I always hear a little voice telling me that more work needs to be done. That’s when I find myself organizing the closet or cleaning out the garage, when I should be taking a break.

Lately, I have managed to keep that busy-work obsession in check. The upside to being the non-custodial parent is that I know exactly when I will be with my children and I have managed to balance, through thoughtful scheduling, my work-life and my family-life. As a result, I am able to meet my deadlines and get my work accomplished, without letting my professional life get in the way of my relationship with my children. In fact, mastering that was easy - but separating the two, mentally, has been more challenging.

Before I got sober, Joanna points out that I was never really “there” when my kids were around. She describes the earlier version of me as someone who always seemed to be lost inside his own head. As I now have the clarity to look back on those days and recognize the truth in her words, I find myself making a concerted effort to become “present” in the lives of my children.

You see, it isn’t enough to be a scout leader, to attend school events, or share a meal with your kids, if that time is spent thinking about “business,” or worrying about what might happen at tomorrow’s big meeting, or obsessing over how you are going to attain that big promotion. It isn’t enough to think about anything really, unless it is rooted in that very moment you are sharing with people you love.

It hasn’t been an easy task and I am a long way from mastering the technique, but when I am in the presence of my boys, I now take certain steps to turn the rest of the world “off.” This is a big deal for me, because it has been historically impossible to turn ANYTHING off, especially inside my head. For the sake of my family, and for my wellbeing too, I have been learning to do exactly that.

The first step has been to turn off my phone and avoid my computer whenever my children are around, or whenever I believe that Joanna and I could use each other’s attention. Hell, sometimes I do it because I know that I need to give MYSELF a break.

Six months ago this sort of “live in the moment” attitude was foreign to me and I would have deemed it “counterproductive,” but in those moments where I have been able to get in touch with my inner peace and spend quality time with Jo and the kids, all of my troubles seem to melt away. Sort of like meditation, these moments bless me with a clarity and a sharpness of mind that has become so valuable when it is finally time to take care of business. Everything seems to fall into place… and I realize that there were never really any troubles there to begin with.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Posted by Damon Peter Rallis

The Southold Historic District and A Proposed Cell Tower: Putting It Into Perspective

I recently wrote about proposed amendments to Chapter 280-75 of the Southold Town Code, which pertains to wireless communications facilities (cell towers) in Southold Town.

My previous post focused on what I believe was a lack of transparency and a failure in due process, when the town board voted to enter into an agreement with AT&T to locate a cell tower behind Southold Town Hall, where such towers are currently prohibited.

In this post, I wish to offer my own perspective on why the proposed amendments signal a lack of respect for Southold’s rich history, a misunderstanding of its unique character, and a failure to protect our town for future generations. 

What is the Southold Historic District?

http://www.livingplaces.com/NY/Suffolk_County/Southold_Town/Southold_Historic_District_Map.htmlThe Southold Historic District runs along Main Road for approximately 3 ½ blocks on the western end of the hamlet of Southold. According to the National Registry of Historic Places, the district boasts 86 contributing buildings, one contributing site, and two contributing objects. The majority are residential buildings, built either with a heavy timber frame or balloon frame construction between 1656 and about 1938. The district also includes three prominent religious facilities, as well as Southold Town Hall. This is the same area where Southold’s first settlers divided in-town homestead lots. By 1656 all of the lots along Main Road (then called the Town Street) were allotted to the original settlers.

While this area is important to those of us with deep roots in Southold Town, its significance is evident both on a state and a national level as well. In 1997, the district not only became a state-recognized historic district, but a nationally recognized historic district and added to the National Registry of Historic Places. 

What is a National Historic District?

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of our country's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources. Of the more than one million properties on the National Register, 80,000 are listed individually, while the rest are located within historic districts.  

What’s the Big Deal? 

There is no doubt that there is a need for improved cell service in the hamlet of Southold. However, with ample privately-owned property available for lease within the hamlet, locating a free-standing cell tower inside of a National Historic District would show a deep lack of respect for our own history.

National Historic Districts typically come with no strings attached, at least from the federal and state government. Instead, with guidance, the feds let local municipalities craft laws to protect these national gems. One such law, which is similar to most throughout the country, is 280-75 of the Southold Town Code.

As currently written, our wireless communications law reflects the mission of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 to “protect America's historic and archeological resources.” The current code allows us to adapt to current technologies (by locating cell towers within existing buildings, for example) but prevents the desecration of our historic districts by prohibiting free-standing cell towers.

The proposed amendments to this existing code WILL result in the construction of a cell tower inside the borders of the Southold Historic District, an area developed hundreds of years ago by our early settlers.

In 2015, the Town of Southold will celebrate its 375th anniversary and we will, undoubtedly, celebrate the occasion by looking back on our rich history and giving thanks for how it helped to shape the town that we love so much. I am sure that there will be parades, speeches, and many special programs that year.

I hope that the sun is shining down on our volunteers, our young people, and our elected officials, as they march through the Southold Historic District to mark this momentous occasion.

If the amendments to Chapter 280-75 of the Southold Town Code are passed, however, they will be walking in the shadow of a cell tower that simply does not belong.

Please attend the public hearing regarding these proposed amendments on Tuesday, January 14, 2014, at 7:32 p.m. at Southold Town Hall and ask the town board to respect our very own national treasure, not defile it.
Monday, January 6, 2014
Posted by Damon Peter Rallis

Understanding The Proposed Amendments to Southold Town’s Existing Cell Tower Law

On January 14, 2014, the Town of Southold will hold a public hearing on proposed changes to Chapter 280-75 of the Southold Town Code. 

The purpose of this essay is to help the public understand what these changes mean, shed light on the process that brought us to this point, and make arguments for why we should take a stand against these proposed amendments. 

What Do the Proposed Amendments Mean? 

Currently, Chapter 280-75 reads as follows: 

“No wireless communication facility is allowed on any designated landmark property or district listed by federal, state or Town agencies, except as specified below, and subject to Chapter 170, Landmark Preservation: 

A. Any wireless communication facility located on or within an historic structure listed by federal, state or Town agencies shall not alter the character-defining features, distinctive construction methods or original materials of the building. 

B. Any alteration made to an historic structure to accommodate a wireless communication facility shall be fully reversible. 

C. Wireless communication facilities within an historic district listed by federal, state or Town agencies shall be concealed within or behind existing architectural features, so that they are not visible.” 

This section tells us that wireless communication facilities (cell towers) are prohibited on designated landmark properties or within historic districts. However, it offers an exemption. 

The cell tower is permitted if it is located on or within a landmark structure and meets certain requirements meant to protect the character of that structure. This exemption is also subject to the requirements of Chapter 170, "Historic Landmarks Preservation Law of Southold Town" and, therefore, requires approval from the Southold Town Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). 

Therefore, according to 280-75, a cell tower is not permitted on vacant land that is designated a “landmark.” 

Before we dissect the proposed amendments to 280-75, It is important to note that, if passed, the amendments will pave the way for AT&T to move forward with its application to erect a cell tower on designated landmark property currently owned by the Town. 

The proposed amendment reads as follows: 

“No wireless communication facility is allowed on any designated landmark property or district listed by Federal, State or Town agencies, except as specified below: and subject to Chapter 170, Landmark Preservation. 

A. Any wireless communication facility located on or within an historic structure listed by Federal, State or Town agencies shall not alter the character-defining features, distinctive construction methods or original materials of the building and subject to the requirements of Chapter 170, Landmark Preservation. 

B. Any alteration made to an historic structure to accommodate a wireless communication facility shall be fully reversible and subject to the requirements of Chapter 170, Landmark Preservation. 

C. Wireless communication facilities within an historic district listed by Federal, State or Town agencies shall be concealed within or behind existing architectural features, so that they are not visible. 

D. Wireless communication facilities on vacant, commercially-zoned parcels with Landmark status and/or in a designated historic district, at the discretion of the Planning Board with a finding that potential impacts to any nearby historic landmarks or districts are mitigated. 

These amendments result in the following changes to the law: 

1.) An additional exemption is made allowing cell towers to be built on vacant, commercially-zoned parcels with Landmark status and/or in a designated historic district. 

2.) Removal of LPC oversight on any cell tower construction on a vacant, commercially-zoned parcel with landmark status and/or in a designated historic district. 

On the face of it, the code amendment is flawed. Although it gives the town’s Planning Board jurisdiction over properties described above (#2), it contradicts Chapter 170 of the code, which clearly gives the LPC jurisdiction over landmark properties. 

This contradiction, though worth noting, is not as important for the purpose of this story as is the process of how these amendments came to be and why. 

How Did We Get Here? 

News of AT&T’s application to erect a cell tower on town-owned land, and the town board’s support of the project, broke on December 2, 2013, when The Suffolk Times published a story entitled, “Town considers changing cell tower regulations; two new applications filed.” 

In the story, Supervisor Scott Russell acknowledges that town code would have to be amended for the cell tower to be approved and goes on to call the amendments, “small changes to the code.” 

He says, “There is a push to create more historic districts and for the most part many fire departments would be located in these historic corridors; so we are looking to make the code not be an encumbrance to fire departments that need to put these towers up for communication.” 

Chapter 280-75, as currently written, would not apply to any fire department in the Town of Southold that wishes to erect a communication tower, because none are located on a landmark property or within a historic district. Even if we are to believe that, as the Supervisor notes, more historic districts will be created in the near future (which there is no evidence of) the law could easily be changed to exempt fire departments from that section of the code. 

In the comments section of the same story, the supervisor refers to a “lease with AT&T, which has been pending for a year.” 

When a reader questioned the process that led to that lease agreement, he states, “Regarding transparency, we actually had a public hearing on this issue that was well publicized several months ago. I know this paper covered that meeting so I am quite certain that the town has been quite clear and transparent about our intentions to move forward with the agreement.” 

To date, the only other story referencing the issue was published by The Suffolk Times on February 13, 2013, entitled, “Southold Town considering 80-foot cell tower” and I have been unable to find any record of a public hearing held with regard to this issue. 

The five sentence story reports that the town’s cell tower consultant had suggested locating an 80-foot cell tower behind town hall. There is no mention of the town code prohibition, no mention of code restrictions hindering public safety, no mention of the need for town code amendments, and no discussion of a lease agreement with AT&T. 

What Happens Next? 

It is my hope that enough Southold residents will come forward and speak out against these amendments and that the town board will reverse its current course. 

As someone who spends a great deal of time in hamlet of Southold, I recognize the need for better cellular service in this area. While it is tempting to accept the Supervisor’s previous argument that AT&T will simply build the same tower just a few feet away and that, by changing the law, we can cash in on the revenue generated by this project, it is important to step back and take a look at the big picture. 

Based on all of the information above, as well as in the stories and documents linked within, we can gather all of the facts and ask some very important questions that should be answered before the amendments are passed. 

  • In February, 2013, the town board was informed that AT&T was interested in locating a cell tower on a vacant piece of land behind town hall. This information came from the town’s planning director on behalf of the town’s cell tower consultant.
  • Almost immediately, according to Mr. Russell’s previous statements, the town entered into a contract with AT&T to lease the land for the construction of a cell tower, pending approvals. 
  •  In December, 2013, AT&T makes an application to erect a cell tower on the site.
  • Soon after, the town board schedules a public hearing to make amendments to the wireless communications law, which would clear the way for construction that was previously prohibited. 

This timeline does not jibe with what one would expect to be the normal course of business and, therefore, begs a number of questions. 

  • Prior to entering into this contract, was the town board aware that a cell tower was prohibited on this property?
  • If they were not made aware of the prohibition, whose responsibility was it to make them aware? The planning director? The cell tower consultant? 
  • If they were aware of the prohibition, why did they enter into a contract prior to amending the law? 
  • Did they consult the Town’s Code Committee and the Landmark Preservation Commission when they created the amendment? 
  • Why did they not amend the law prior to the AT&T application? 
  • How much revenue does the town expect to gain from this proposed cell tower and does it outweigh the precedent that will be set by this amendment? 

It is my belief that the town board was not aware of the prohibition until AT&T made an official application for the construction of a cell tower, long after the town entered into an agreement with AT&T. 

If this is the case, it signals a failure on the part of everyone involved in this process. 

If the town board was, in fact, aware of the prohibition, then all of the information that we have gathered to date, reveals a disturbing lack of transparency within our town government. 

I would argue that the town board wouldn’t even consider amending our cell tower law for the benefit of any property owner looking to avoid prohibition for the purpose of financial gain. If they did, the public would never let them get away with it. 

Why then, would we be willing to let the Town of Southold, in partnership with AT&T, get away with it?
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Posted by Damon Peter Rallis

Stage Fright

I think I'm funny, at least marginally enough to keep people interested. Though, after years of trying to hone my craft, I’ve found that my humor is sometimes misrepresented or, at the very least, misunderstood... even confusing to some. This is especially true when I interact with my children.

"Are you all set for today?"

I was nervous for Luca. Today he would participate in his first school play. Sure, he'd performed before, but only in choral concerts and, most recently, an orchestra concert. This was a play. With lines.


He wasn’t phased, nor has he been in the weeks leading up to the performance... not even when he informed me that he was to memorize 21 lines as the caterpillar in this modern day take on Alice In Wonderland and then, later, realized that he had another half dozen or so lines that he had to recite from “Jabberwocky.”

I suppose that my anxiety and the anxiety that I was looking for in him was simply some father-son form of projection… an instinctual need to seek out and destroy any fear inside of him, loosely based on long-forgotten childhood experiences buried deep inside my inner file cabinet.

In the last few days, most of my interrogations revolved around how he was feeling physically, since he had been up all night with a wicked cold on Saturday. He sounded so much better today and he seemed ready for his big debut, while daddy was still riddled with anxiety.

Wanting to hide the fact that I was nervous for him… that I wanted everything to be perfect for him… for the experience to be everything his little brain dreamed it would be, I tried to keep our morning conversation light… and funny.

“I'm not going to say good luck... because, you know… In theater they say, break a leg."

“I know.”

“Do you know WHY?”

“Um… no. Why?”

“Well, I actually don't KNOW why,” I replied. “I imagine that someone somewhere decided that saying good luck is actually bad luck. So, break a leg my leg, my love... but don't really break a leg... I'm just, you know, saying good luck in theater speak.”

“I know,” he said with a giggle.

“Yeah don’t break any body parts, for that matter… okay? Remember when I tried to carry you last week?”

“Yeah,” his voice became more serious. “You dropped me dad.”

“Sorry about that, by the way. Is your foot feeling better?”


“Okay. So that settles it. DON’T break anything, because clearly I can’t carry you anymore.”

“Okay dad, I get it.” He seemed annoyed.

“I do have a wheel barrow though… I mean…”

“Dad. Seriously?”

“Okay, you know what I’m trying to say?”

“Yes dad.”

“I love you.”

 “I love you too”

If only every audience could be so forgiving, I thought…

 Heck, maybe he’s part of the only audience that really matters.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Posted by Damon Peter Rallis

On Growing Up

My involvement in our family’s annual act of sending Christmas cards has always been minimal. Sometimes I have a say in the cards that we choose and other times I don’t. I’m often charged with organizing our official family photo, which was scrapped this year. As for the cards, Joanna designed them herself this year.

My only job was to provide the addresses. 

You would think that this would be an easy job. With nearly forty years of life under my belt, as well as all of the technologies available to me, I should have a spreadsheet somewhere, or, at the very least, a comprehensive address book.

Sadly, I do not. 

I'm embarrassed to say that for the second year in a row I had to scramble to dig up the mailing addresses of friends and loved ones. I even had to contact some of them to confirm their address, including my mom and sister.

Until two years ago, gathering important information (such as a birth date or mailing address) was a simple task. 

I would call my Nana. 

To me, this is a clear indication of a relationship that prevented me from maturing. I relied on my grandmother to bail me out whenever I was in trouble. When I moved out of my marital home, she took me in. She even ironed and washed my clothes on occasion… Okay, she was my long-time personal laundress. 

My relationship with my grandmother and the "momma's boy" effect was really no one’s fault. It simply was. I was a spoiled child who never cut the cord long enough to become completely self-sufficient. 

I have been growing since the day that Nana left us, but progress has been slow. I have other, older mentors in my life today, but I recognize that personal responsibility is in my hands alone. 

I finally created that Christmas card list. 

I suppose that's a start.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Posted by Damon Peter Rallis

Weathering The Storm

Today, a church elder spoke of trees in a storm.

A tree that has been planted in sand, that has been corrupted in some way, or suffers from disease, has little chance of survival. It is a weak tree, he explained.

A strong tree, on the other hand, with it’s deep roots, reaching through good soil fed by crystal-clear waters, can weather a storm.\

I was once a tree planted in sand, held together by the words of the weak and the vulnerable. I was once a corrupt tree, a slave to gluttony and pride. I was once a diseased tree, afflicted with addictions and a penchant for self-loathing.

I’m not sure how I made it through the storm, but I did… and I was saved.

My roots are now firmly planted in virgin soil. My mind is as clear as the nearby brook, and my body is pure. I shall grow through faith, honesty, trust, goodness, and light. I will stretch my branches toward the sun from the strength of the love that surrounds me and I will weather any storm. 

What kind of tree are you?
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Posted by Damon Peter Rallis


“Dad, are we going to church tomorrow?”

“We sure are, pal.”

“Oh come on dad,” Luca, my oldest, continued. “I don’t wanna go to church.”

“Me neither,” his brother parroted. “I hate church.”

“Come on guys,” I pleaded. “I haven’t seen you in nearly a week and the only thing you can talk about is how much you hate going to church? How about, ‘Hey Dad, it’s great to see you. We’re looking forward to all of the great things that we’re going to do together this weekend,’ or, perhaps, ‘Dad, it’s good to see you. We appreciate spending time with you,’ or a simple, ‘Hey dad, I love you.’ 

As usual, he responded with a litany of reasons why he should not have to attend church. Most of his reasons were nonsensical, what with him being nine years old and all, and others made me downright angry, both as a parent and as an active member of our church. 

The old me would have shot back in anger, telling him that his opinions about God and the church are drivel and, furthermore, that he’s going to go to church whether he likes it or not.

Lately, I have been trying to take a new approach.

Although some of his words made me uncomfortable, I was sure to point out that I respect his position and value it. I explained that even though we don’t share the same opinion, certainly he and I could find a way to make the best of the situation.

I have also been trying to steer him away from what he perceives as a negative aspect of our family life and open his eyes to the positives.

“Speaking of church, we got a call yesterday and we’ve been invited to light the advent candles one Sunday before Christmas.”

“Really? That’s so cool.”

I proceeded to tell him why the holiday season is my favorite time of year to be part of a church community. I reminded him that Joanna and I were going to spend our Thanksgiving helping out at the church’s homeless shelter. I mused about how beautiful the church will soon look and the joyous music we will be hearing there, as Christmas approaches. I explained that even though I don’t always feel like attending church, I am actually excited about the upcoming holiday services.

“Dad, do they have a Christmas service?”

“You know they do, pal.”

“Will I be with you on Christmas?”

“You always are.”

“Can we go to church this year?”

“We sure can.”

He smiled. “I still hate church though.”

“You’re allowed to pal,” I replied

More than anything else, I’m proud of my son for standing up for what he believes - no matter how much I may disagree with him. Maybe I can change his mind by example... maybe I can’t… but, at least I can rest easy knowing that I taught him how to be respectful of the opinions of others.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Posted by Damon Peter Rallis

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