Getting a call back from East Hampton Town Hall is a hit-or-miss proposition for the news media these days, which is why a flurry of responses to an editorial that appeared on this page last week was a surprise.
We had said the public interest would be better served if town board meeting agendas, as well as those of several other boards, were available with more lead time. Among the responses this engendered was an e-mail from Richard Myers, a member of the architectural review board, who mused, wrongly, that I did not consult The Star’s government calendar. As it turns out, I am the one who prepares that particular set of weekly listings, and as such, have been intimately aware of the deficit.
A.R.B. agendas are posted on Thursdays, a week before its meetings take place, which is too late for them to be included in East Hampton Town’s official newspaper until the day of the meeting itself. This is clearly too late for all but the die-hard government watchers, and utterly useless for our many subscribers who get their papers in New York City or beyond, and who learn of the agenda only after the meeting is over.
The reply from town officials, when I broached this in previous years, was that setting agendas any earlier would be unfair to applicants. Of course, the net effect is to shut the public out of the process, but that apparently does not matter. (I am loathe to say it may be something they prefer.)
To his credit, Fred Overton, the town clerk, who is running for a seat on the town board, was the first to phone, making the point that we incorrectly blamed him for the town board’s logjam. He then wrote a letter to the editor explaining how, from his perspective, things could be better. His ideas, which can be read in the pages that follow, can be summed up this way: The supervisor and members of the town board should have everything to the town clerk by the Friday before the following Thursday’s formal meeting so agendas can be posted on the town’s townclerk.com Web page.
From where I sit, the schedule Mr. Overton supports is a huge improvement on the status-quo information blackout. But it still makes it tough for the town’s print publications to announce what is to be under consideration with enough time for residents to be part of the process.