Sag Harbor voters will choose a mayor and two board members on Tuesday at a pivotal time for the village.
Four candidates are vying for mayor: the two-term incumbent, Brian Gilbride, Pierce Hance, who held the post in the 1990s, Sandra Schroeder, who was the village clerk for many years, and Bruce Tait, the chairman of the village’s harbor committee. For us, the choice comes down to Mr. Hance or Mr. Tait; Mr. Gilbride has been too divisive a figure to stay on.
The core issue is the police force and whether to keep it, eliminate it, or cut it back to a few officers backed by patrols from a neighboring town or county force. Shutting down the force has been among Mayor Gilbride’s top concerns, ostensibly over its cost to taxpayers and stalled contract deal. Mr. Hance has said his experience with a prior police negotiation over money would have avoided the present bitter stalemate. Mr. Tait has expressed support for the department, saying essentially it needs enough officers to do the job.
Another matter on which Mr. Hance has spoken out is open government. Under Mayor Gilbride’s watch (with the mute and puzzling acquiescence of State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who moonlights, inappropriately in our view, as the village attorney), meetings have repeatedly been held that violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the New York Open Meetings Law. This disdain for public process is unwelcome.
Four men are running for two places on the Village Board, including two who previously held village elected positions, Ed Deyermond and Bruce Stafford, and an incumbent, Ed Gregory. For their role in allowing the police matter to get out of hand and in excluding village residents from observing key decisions, Mr. Gregory and Mr. Stafford should not be returned. This leaves Mr. Deyermond, who has considerable government experience as a Southampton Town assessor and Sag Harbor mayor, among other roles, and Ken O’Donnell, a business owner, as better candidates.
The mayoral choice, between Mr. Hance and Mr. Tait, is a difficult one, but the edge goes to the latter for his nonconfrontational demeanor and longstanding interest in the environment, community, and waterfront.