County Executive Race

Both candidates should have made the South Fork a bigger part of their campaigns

County Executive Steve Bellone has, by our count, made two significant forays into East Hampton Town in the past year and a half. This is far too few, but it is more than have been made by James O’Connor, his opponent in the Nov. 3 election. Both should have made the South Fork a bigger part of their campaigns.

Mr. O’Connor has made fiscal reform the centerpiece of his campaign. Suffolk has faced a budget deficit for some time. This is not particularly of Mr. Bellone’s making, but his budgets have been in part based on wildly optimistic sales tax projections — guesses that have fallen short by nearly $52 million in 2015-16 alone. As a result, the county has given serious consideration to raiding a reserve sewer fund to make up the difference. Mr. O’Connor’s answers have been uninspiring. He has recommended a finance board to oversee cuts, but has not outlined what the tough steps might be.

Mr. Bellone has had four years to deal with the financial distress, and Mr. O’Connor has rightly said the situation is getting worse not better. He has not, however, made a sufficient case that he would be the better alternative. Mr. Bellone earns our endorsement, but with the caveats that he had better put East Hampton on his day planner more often and get Suffolk on a sound budgetary footing without resorting to one-shot revenue bumps, imaginary sales tax estimates, and bare-faced accounting tricks.