It is early yet, with only one East Hampton Town Board meeting so far this year, but already it appears that the three-people-in-a-room way local government has been run may be coming to an abrupt end.
With two newly elected members of what might be considered the opposition party if this were the British Parliament, the town board is likely to cease being a panel where rushed and mysterious pieces of public policy are voted on with nary a peep from its minority members. This is a good thing; many of the embarrassments of the past two years have come from measures that were hatched without open discussion, such as an ill-fated rock festival apparently illegally approved for a residential site in Amagansett.
Of course, it would be a surprise if the Republican majority on the board — Bill Wilkinson, Theresa Quigley, and Dominick Stanzione — whose record took a drubbing in November, adopted a more inclusive approach in Town Hall. If nothing else, however, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, the Democratic board members who were sworn in on Tuesday, will play the role of question-askers, slowing down decisions so residents can learn more about what is being done in their name.
Two recent matters before the board make a strong case in point. For reasons unknown and at the behest of an unnamed buyer, the town board was in a race against the clock at the end of the year to get bids for the sale of seven office condominiums in which it houses a number of key departments. Then, in the last meeting before the Christmas holiday, the board quickly and without explanation decided to move toward selling a “drainage easement” off Hand Lane in Amagansett. Why and for whose benefit? Well, Mr. Stanzione and Mr. Wilkinson apparently know, but they weren’t saying. The way this was handled would be comical if we weren’t talking about the people’s business.
We expect that the new town board members will use their positions to insist on the clarity of purpose that residents expect — and deserve — from their town government.