Pressure is mounting for meetings of the East Hampton Town Trustees to be aired on LTV, the town’s public access cable channel. This is a reasonable suggestion and should be explored.
The trustees are the only one of East Hampton’s important boards whose meetings are not televised and available for replay on demand on the LTV website. Town board meetings are shown live and archived online, as are other proceedings, including those of the planning, zoning, and architectural review boards. The sessions of the East Hampton Village Board and Z.B.A. are live as well and available for replay, as are those of the East Hampton School Board. But not the trustees, who gather twice a month. This should change.
To be fair, interest in watching trustees’ sessions started to rise only during a recent debate over a town board attempt to ban alcohol at Amagansett’s Indian Wells and Atlantic Avenue Beaches. Some residents who favored the ban were annoyed at the trustees’ opposition and seemed to think more people would share their outrage if they could see the panel’s future deliberations for themselves. But other trustee matters also merit broader public attention. The trustees have an important function in local government and greater public knowledge of their affairs would help dispel the sense that they operate in a vacuum.
Technical issues and cost might stand in the way of the immediate airing of trustee meetings, but this should not be the end of the matter. The Lamb Building, where the trustees gather, is not yet wired for videotaping, unlike other official town and village venues. The trustees could consider meeting in Town Hall, but the zoning board is already there at the same time on Tuesdays. As an interim measure, it might suffice if LTV could assign a single camera operator to tape trustee sessions. That way, even if live broadcasts were not immediately possible, the online version could be made available.
Seeing trustee meetings will go only part of the way toward getting them more in step with the town’s other agencies. Unfortunately, the trustees are elected in one massive, difficult-to-comprehend slate. Unlike all the other boards, which have staggered terms, all nine trustee seats come up simultaneously. Take it from us: It is extremely difficult to interview and assess the qualities of 18 trustee candidates from the two major political parties, and we are paid to do it. Because it is almost impossible for ordinary voters to make reasoned decisions among so many people, the contest becomes one of name recognition.
The trustees are also at a disadvantage because, unlike the boards that meet in Town Hall, they have a tiny staff and few resources to call on. Had the trustees been in the flow of government and the public eye, some of the tension that greeted the alcohol ban discussion might have been avoided. Promoting greater awareness among residents of the valuable work the trustees do, and how they do it, is a fine place to start.