Election 2013: Solid Contest Needed

The town Republican committee would do well to take its time before settling on a candidate

   An announcement Monday by Suffolk Legislator Jay Schneiderman that he will not be a candidate for East Hampton Town supervisor comes as something of a disappointment. Knowing the headaches of the job all too well from his two terms in the post before winning a county seat, Mr. Schneiderman may well have been shrewd to opt out of a bid for the Republican nomination. This apparently leaves the local G.O.P. without an obvious choice since the incumbent supervisor, Bill Wilkinson, has not been screened by the committee and, in any event, appears unelectable, having only narrowly regained the post last year — by 15 votes — and then proceeded to continue his scorched-earth policies as if he had all the mandate in the world.
    It is likely that Mr. Schneiderman would have given the presumptive Democratic committee choice, Larry Cantwell, a meaningful challenge. Mr. Cantwell, a former town councilman and 30-year East Hampton Village administrator, has a far longer record of public service than Mr. Schneiderman. But Mr. Schneiderman, whose Town Hall years were distinguished by the absence of controversy, has no doubt gained experience and savvy in his six terms as a legislator. The exchange of ideas in a campaign between the men is likely to have been civil and at a level of credibility not seen recently.
    Either candidate, if victorious in November, would likely have been able to right the badly listing ship that is East Hampton Town government. A further example of how dysfunctional things have become emerged this week when the Suffolk Planning Commission cautioned those backing a harebrained scheme to change from residential to business the Cyril’s Fish House property and an adjacent vacant parcel on Napeague. The commission bluntly said that the shift would be illegal “spot zoning.” Making things worse, the vacant parcel is on the town’s preservation want-list and has a protected environmental classification. This echoes an ongoing controversy in which the town improperly dug a drainage pit on property in open defiance of the fact that the development rights had been bought by the county years ago. If nothing else, the outcome of a contest between Mr. Cantwell and Mr. Schneiderman would have been one in which steady competency was assured and these kind of debacles averted
    Faced with no obvious fall-back person, the town Republican committee would do well to take its time before settling on a candidate. As we have said in previous editorials, the challenges facing the next generation of men and women in Town Hall may be the greatest ever arrayed. These include coping with rising sea level, assuring groundwater and environmental protections, controlling development, managing growth, and reducing political influence on appointed boards. Oh, and don’t forget the public nuisance that East Hampton Airport continues to be.
    Only the best qualified people should be considered by the respective nominating committees. This very special place we call home deserves no less.