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Jun 5, 2017 10:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

At Monday's Debate, Protesters Have Their Say; Valerie Smith Apologizes Again For Use Of Slur

A protest was held prior to the Southampton Village Trustees and Mayoral debate at the Southampton Arts Center on Monday evening.    DANA SHAW
Jun 7, 2017 11:08 AM

After a candidate for the Southampton Village Board acknowledged using a racial slur to address a group of men outside of her home in the Hillcrest neighborhood last year, and in a recorded call to police, protesters packed a debate at the Southampton Arts Center on Monday night.

Before the debate, people from throughout the East End stood together in front of the Arts Center in a silent protest, holding signs decrying candidate Valerie Smith’s actions. Ms. Smith apologized in a Facebook post on Friday, and again several times at Monday’s debate.

David Campbell, 53, like Ms. Smith a resident of the Hillcrest neighborhood, said he was there to speak out against racism.

“We don’t like the racist remark that was said,” he said. “Racism needs to stop. I, myself, accept her apology—but I won’t forget it. Even though she apologized, it’s still in her.”

“I’m here to support this movement against hate,” said Dyani Brown, a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. “I’m glad to see we are all united here. White, black and native. This is just not what our community is about. It’s really great to see there’s still a segment of the community that respects that.”

During the debate, Ms. Smith addressed issues such as affordable housing, sewage treatment, garbage—and her use of the “n-word.”

Though she issued an apology on Facebook, Ms. Smith said when she was given an opportunity to apologize to her neighbors last week—during a community meeting on Thursday, June 1, at a park in Hillcrest—she said wasn’t ready to do it then, because she wanted her neighbors to understand her reasons for using the derogatory term.

Last Thursday, the meeting was put together by Hillcrest community members—including Bonnie Cannon, who grew up in the neighborhood—in response to the story in The Press on June 1 about Ms. Smith’s use of the slur in a call to police, which was captured on a recording. When asked about the call, Ms. Smith acknowledged directing the slur at a man who was in front of her house on the night she called police, and also used it in a recorded call to Southampton Village Police in connection with the incident in August 2016.

Members of the Hillcrest community circulated fliers and held the meeting on Thursday afternoon. Ms. Smith said she was leaving her house on Thursday when she saw the crowd and decided to see what it was about.

For 30 minutes—an exchange captured on cellphone video and shared via Facebook—residents of the neighborhood challenged Ms. Smith to apologize and to explain why she used the slur. Ms. Smith, who is white, engaged with her neighbors at the meeting, but she declined several opportunities to apologize for her use of the word.

That changed at the debate on Monday night.

“I would like to apologize to the crowd right now and the community right now,” Ms. Smith said at the Arts Center debate, which was sponsored by The Press, speaking to a crowd made up largely of Hillcrest neighbors.

“I was very angry with what I was going through in my community, with the youth of my community,” she continued. “Over five years, I had been subject to a lot of discrimination toward me, of having moved into that community. So, I am so sorry that I caused anybody any pain with the words that I said. They were directed at the young people that had been bothering me in my house for a long time. They were not directed for an entire race of people. So my apology is to everybody that I caused any pain to, or any embarrassment to. I’m sorry.”

Incumbent Village Board member Nancy McGann, who is running for reelection—there are three candidates for two seats, with the incumbents, Ms. McGann and Bill Hattrick, both seeking reelection—addressed the issue at the debate, saying she was emotionally upset over Ms. Smith’s sse of the word and even felt the need to apologize herself for Ms. Smith’s actions.

Mr. Hattrick also said he was shocked that someone running for public office would use the term. “I was astonished and aghast that anyone would say this and then dare to run for public office,” he said. “After this event, if I lose and Nancy loses, either one of us loses, I’m going to shoot myself.”

Deputy Mayor Richard Yastrzemski and Village Trustee Michael Irving, both running for mayor, took part in a debate immediately following the village trustee debate, and both were asked about Ms. Smith’s recent actions.

“She’s divided the community,” Mr. Irving said. “When you pull a trigger, you can’t wish it back.”

Mr. Yastrzemski agreed that Ms. Smith divided the community, but he said her actions and the reaction to them has also brought people together. “There were people at this debate that weren’t here before,” he said. “It brought unity to this community.”

When it came to other issues facing the village, Mr. Hattrick and Ms. McGann saw nearly eye-to-eye, while Ms. Smith disagreed with them on some matters.

When asked how each candidate will ensure that every village voter’s voice will be heard, Ms. McGann said she has been available to speak with anyone who comes to her, whether it was about the traffic, beach access, the business district, tax issues or even the schools. “I’m always available and I’m always willing to help in any which way I can,” she said.

Mr. Hattrick pointed to concerns about gentrification, citing declining statistics in the numbers of full-time residents, both white and black, over the past 10 years; the number of black full-time residents has fallen more precipitously. He blamed the increasing size of new houses being built, saying it was squeezing out many of the full-time residents, making it unaffordable.

Spending was another hot topic. Each candidate was asked about the proposed budget for 2017-18 of $29.4 million, a nearly 5-percent increase from this year’s budget, and an almost 60-percent increase in the $18.4 million village budget 10 years ago.

Ms. Smith pointed out that although taxes are relatively low in the village, the board needs to look at how much it spends on employees, including how much goes into each employee’s pension.

Ms. McGann said the problem with that is the state requires the village to put a certain amount into retirement plans. She also said the budget is higher because the operational and supply costs have gone up over the past several years.

“I want to work with legislators to see if we can come up with something, because we are losing our local population,” Ms. McGann said. “If the taxes continue to rise, people on fixed incomes can’t live here. Our youth can’t live here either.”

All five board members watch every dime that is spent, according to Mr. Hattrick, and his biggest concern is the cost of a sewage treatment system. He said if village officials follow through with a plan to install a sewage treatment system, it will be cost more money than the board has ever spent on anything.

Regarding affordable housing, there’s a deeper issue, the candidates said, and it comes down to the cost of everything in the village.

“Look at how expensive our land is within this community,” Ms. McGann said, adding that there is a definite need for affordable housing because the Village Police, volunteer paramedics and teachers need housing closer to where they work.

Mr. Hattrick agreed that more needs to be done with affordable housing, as did Ms. Smith.

Another issue of inquiry at the debate was the number of empty storefronts in the village. High rent was partly to blame, Mr. Hattrick said, noting that one restaurant pays $30,000 per month to rent, and adding that if a business does not own its building, it will have a tough time surviving throughout the year.

Keeping the area clean and ensuring codes are enforced are also important issues, according to Ms. Smith. She said her biggest issue is litter, and she wants to ensure the beauty of the East End remains.

Ms. Smith said she began noticing a lot of litter in the village and wanted to find out where it was coming from and what could be done to stop it. Ms. Smith went around to various Dumpsters and took pictures to show the crowd and her opponents. One of them was in a parking lot behind Starbucks on Hampton Road.

That Dumpster, Mr. Hattrick said, is on private property, so the village does not have much say in the matter. He said three businesses share the lot, and the business owners wrote a letter saying they would work to keep the area clean after they were approached by village officials—prompted by Ms. Smith’s complaints.

In the debate involving the two candidates for mayor, Mr. Irving said the upcoming election is about the community and making sure the village makes the best use of its resources.

The candidates had different views on a few issues. Affordable housing, Mr. Yastrzemski said, would be better on town land rather than in the village, because it’s more affordable, though he acknowledged the need for more affordable housing in general.

Mr. Irving also said there is a need, but he said the use of state-of-the-art septic systems that both protect the environment and allow for more housing units would have to be implemented to make it work. He also said there is a need for more rental units and affordable rental units.

He also said the village needs to make an effort to make Southampton more attractive for seniors and youth, possibly creating a senior center that could share duties as a youth center.

Mr. Yastrzemski agreed that the use of sewer systems, instead of septic tanks, is needed to protect Lake Agawam and the environment in general, and Mr. Irving said the board needs to look at properties along key stretches, like those on Meadow Lane with green lawns, and find a way to address the damage they are doing to the wetlands.

The increase in the budget was also discussed, and Mr. Yastrzemski noted that even though spending has increased over the years, village tax bills have not.

In his closing statements, Mr. Yastrzemski said more attention needs to be put toward the local full-time base. He also said he’s the best candidate because of the countless hours he’s put into being the deputy mayor.

Although Mr. Irving works a full-time job operating the New Suffolk Shipyard and the Cutchogue Harbor Marina that sometimes forces him to work seven days a week—he said he’s ready because there are a number of employees of the village who will help him get the work done.

The Southampton Village election will be held on Friday, June 16, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Hall on Pond Lane.

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What party is Ms. Smith running under, it always seems to be missing from every article? Just curious.
By Preliator Lives (360), Obamavillie on Jun 6, 17 6:58 AM
Democrat
By even flow (808), East Hampton on Jun 6, 17 8:13 AM
Even flow, that's all wrong. Candidates in Southampton Village elections run without party affiliation -- not Democratic, not Republican, not anything. I'd like to think your post was a mistake by an East Hampton resident and not an outright lie.
By Turkey Bridge (1906), Quiogue on Jun 6, 17 9:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
We know all about it and don't you worry where I'm from. She is a democrat and a racist. Just like Mr & Mrs Clinton with their "colored people time" and their "super predators all hopped up on crack" and Maher with his houseni88er and the abuse and usury of a voting population you and your ilk have lied to for eons.
By even flow (808), East Hampton on Jun 7, 17 3:42 AM
1 member liked this comment
"Don't you worry where I'm from"? Really, even flow? But we do worry, that's a rule on this site, you have to put where you're from, even Preliator Lives, with his ridiculous "Obamaville," just demonstrating his regressive juvenile mind. Of course, he may only be 14 years old, I don't know.

Speaking of Preliator, it was his question that started this, and his question was "What party is Ms. Smith running under . . .?" Not what party is she registered with, but what party is she running ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1906), Quiogue on Jun 7, 17 4:50 PM
No. They don't support you anymore. In the autopsy of the 2016 you lost profound numbers of the very people you smarmily take for granted. The democrats are the party that decided that needy black people=votes. You have ZERO incentive to authentically help anyone because your unwritten party platform is to keep people down and make them depend on you. You need the media because you can't run on the truth. Trump has 7 years and 8 mos left and we have just scratched the surface of the violent, hate ...more
Jun 9, 17 6:48 AM appended by even flow
Hey Turkey, the only person around here mentioning ''Stupid'' and Black People'' in the same sentence is you. My comment, in fact, reflects that they are smarter than you as they are no longer buying what you got cookin'. But that's what you libs do nowadays...manufacture.
By even flow (808), East Hampton on Jun 9, 17 6:48 AM
1 member liked this comment
OK, you just did what I invited you to do, that is, you called the African-Americans and others who support us -- almost 3 million more than supported Trump, by the 2016 popular vote -- stupid for supporting the Democrats. Thank you.
By Turkey Bridge (1906), Quiogue on Jun 9, 17 11:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 9:29 AM
No mention of the debate??? Beach access, zoning etc...
By knitter (1604), Southampton on Jun 6, 17 7:12 AM
1 member liked this comment
Maybe the black community should lead by example and stop using the N word themselves.
By Babyboo (257), Hampton Bays on Jun 6, 17 7:56 AM
Oh the PC 27 East staff are going to be very upset with you as soon as they get in this morning, they may spill their lattes all over the place.
By Preliator Lives (360), Obamavillie on Jun 6, 17 8:05 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 9:38 AM
I'd be interested in the name of the real estate agent who told Valerie Smith to buy the house because the neighborhood was on the verge of being gentrified.
By even flow (808), East Hampton on Jun 6, 17 8:14 AM
I was never told it was being gentrified.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 9:44 AM
There is a clear double standard playing out here.

Male Liberal uses the n word on tv - unscathed

Female Liberal uses the n word on tape - ruined
Female Liberal poses with photo of fake head - ruined

Liberal war on women continues.
By SlimeAlive (1102), Southampton on Jun 6, 17 8:20 AM
Valerie was clearly foolish to buy in the Hillcrest neighborhood. Her use of the n word is ridiculous. I don't care who lives there ... Black, white , purple or pink.. You don't have to be rich to keep your yard clean.. cars parked on lawns, garbage and broken furniture on curbs.. take pride in living here. sad.
By southampton15 (7), southampton on Jun 6, 17 8:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
Yes, you re correct. I had no idea how segregated and hateful this community is toward the white man.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 9:42 AM
Didn't ya know .... only white people are racist !!!
Got your back girl !!!!!!
By Sturgis (505), Southampton on Jun 14, 17 9:59 AM
Let me be more specific, the youth of this neighborhood have been hateful.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 10:08 AM
They need to familiarize themselves with Thomas Sowell
By Sturgis (505), Southampton on Jun 14, 17 10:28 AM
An amazing man Sowell.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 2:46 PM
Congratulations to J Shaw for animating the debate. Will he ever tell who from the current administration asked for the police tapes to be released ?
By Bigrod (1), Southampton on Jun 6, 17 9:05 AM
2 members liked this comment
The police tape was illegally copied last year.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 9:38 AM
The police do not have the tape, I tried to foil myself they wont give it to me. Because they do not have it. This has nothing to do with black it has to do with me not getting in the way of the corrupt government.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 9:40 AM
It seems she hasn't divided a community all. She actually has created much solidarity. Thank you, Ms Smith!
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Jun 6, 17 1:04 PM
Thank you! I said the same, I brought up what isn't spoken about and nobody wants to discuss it, we now have a conversation, lets talk about it.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 9:31 AM
True Knitter, the Press wrote the story as if there was a protest first and foremost, the debate was an afterthought . No mention of the Araskog lawsuit going forward, nothing about any of the serious issues debated. WEAK REPORTING
By bigfresh (4045), north sea on Jun 6, 17 1:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
Southampton Patchs article on this Debate states it will provide further info regarding the Mayoral Debate....hopefully it will include the serious issues most of us are concerned with....
By toes in the water (736), southampton on Jun 8, 17 6:26 AM
Criminally week reporting. Are you surprised? Someone left a KKK note at the Presbyterian Church over the weekend, has it been reported? No. Does anyone question the Mayor for allowing Bishops Pond condominiums with out any affordable housing, you should all be at Village Hall everyday raising hell until they do right by the Village and the people of the Village.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 10:21 AM
1 member liked this comment
Do you sit in front of r making yourself look like the fool that you are! To act as though you care about the community after what you've done....go away
By toes in the water (736), southampton on Jun 16, 17 6:40 AM
The black community is free of racism towards others, just peace and love. They set an example of understanding and empathy towards other people suffering and extend a helping hand to heal the wounds that divide.
By lirider (263), Hampton Bays on Jun 6, 17 10:02 PM
VERY FUNNY!! Thanks- nothing like a good joke to start the day!
By CaptainSig (700), Dutch Harbor on Jun 7, 17 6:53 AM
With HBO allowing the N-word on it's prime time programming it's hard to square the outrage here.
By SlimeAlive (1102), Southampton on Jun 8, 17 7:07 AM
They are executing a man in Pakistan for blasphemy, he wrote on Facebook something bad about Mohammed.
We are getting closer to this sort of thinking. It's a word. And I used it after 5 years of being targeted weekly by black youth. And the police and officials of this Village helped NOT if anything they encouraged it by not caring for this neighborhood with the same standards as the rest off the village.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 9:51 AM
Just saw this very appropriate quote: ‘Hatred contaminates the vessel that contains it.’
By GOTGOD (14), Southampton on Jun 8, 17 1:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Wait a second... Hattrick is going to "shoot himself"?! ok.
By Lets go mets (339), Southampton on Jun 8, 17 9:24 PM
HORRIBLE of you to say "ok"

SHAMEFUL of the SH PRESS to include that quote !
By toes in the water (736), southampton on Jun 9, 17 6:32 AM
I want to get in just for that.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 9:41 AM
Vote No for Valerie !!
By toes in the water (736), southampton on Jun 16, 17 6:29 AM
I'm not "ok" with it. I thought the quote was very inappropriate on these days.
By Lets go mets (339), Southampton on Jun 9, 17 6:40 AM
1 member liked this comment
Great. So you can vote for Valerie Smith. Makes sense for a met fan to not understand a winner
By SlimeAlive (1102), Southampton on Jun 10, 17 7:54 AM
If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today. Thomas Sowell
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 5:45 PM
"Gladiatrix in arena consilium capit."

~ Seneca
By Mr. Z (10900), North Sea on Jun 16, 17 6:47 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By simpleglamour (18), southatmpon on Jun 14, 17 2:55 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By toes in the water (736), southampton on Jun 14, 17 3:17 PM
That was fast !! LOL !!!
By toes in the water (736), southampton on Jun 14, 17 3:24 PM