For Town Board

Voters will be asked on Tuesday to select two people to serve four-year terms on the East Hampton Town Board. The job involves setting the town’s spending priorities, overseeing land-use policy, protecting water and the environment, appointing members of the planning, zoning, and architectural review boards, and the hiring and firing of many town personnel. They will earn $68,000 next year, plus benefits. Board members sit in on advisory committees and each is assigned as a point person on a portfolio of town departments and issues. 

Only one incumbent is in this year’s race, Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who has been a steady and dedicated presence on the board and distinguished herself by taking on the noise problems stemming from East Hampton Airport. The others are first-time candidates: Jeffrey Bragman, Paul Giardina, and Gerard Larsen. Should Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc (whom The Star has endorsed) win as supervisor, there will be a one-seat vacancy on the town board next year. More on that later.

Considering many years of involvement with environmental matters, Mr. Bragman has more experience with East Hampton government than any other candidate, including Ms. Burke-Gonzalez and Mr. Van Scoyoc. When one considers the ins and outs that he has had to understand to advocate as a lawyer for clients against some of the worst missteps by officials, Mr. Bragman has time and again demonstrated his commitment to upholding the town code, particularly on environmental and neighborhood concerns. Over his career, he has shown willingness to take on entrenched powerbrokers, including working on behalf of Save Sag Harbor and on the problems at the town airport. We see Mr. Bragman as continuing in the long tradition of Democratic board members of putting community and the environment first and crafting an effective town code to protect them.

Mr. Giardina is a relatively new arrival on the local political scene. He popped up a little over a year ago as a critic of the then-proposed use of the community preservation fund for water improvement projects, calling it “a bit of a political issue, to say the least.” While he has positioned himself as a groundwater expert in his campaign, this is not supported by his education as a nuclear engineer who spent years running an Environmental Protection Agency office dealing with radiation and indoor air pollution. 

This is not to say he should not have offered an opinion on water issues nor does it disqualify him as a serious candidate for local office, but it was disingenuous to sell himself as the water guy when his expertise was in another field. Mr. Giardina is full of other good ideas, however, on opioid use and affordable housing, for example, making him worthy of consideration for the town board. Like many other Republicans, he has expressed doubts about sea-based wind power.

Mr. Larsen’s main pitch for town board, if there was one that could be discerned, was that he was East Hampton Village police chief, retiring earlier this year. He has correctly pointed to issues on which current and past town boards have failed to follow through, but since he has scarcely made an effort in the campaign, judging how he might do things differently is impossible. One thing about Mr. Larsen that would not change if he were elected, he has said, is his ownership of a private security business, which he started on the side while he was police chief and among whose largest accounts is the billionaire Georgica Pond-front property owner Ronald Perelman. 

Mr. Larsen is suing the Village of East Hampton, his former employer, alleging unfair competition because the mayor and one of the village trustees tried to force him out of the security business while they themselves took on similar outside work. East Hampton Town Hall does not need this kind of ethical circus, and voters would do well to steer in the another direction.

Our endorsements are for Ms. Burke-Gonzalez and Mr. Bragman, based on their unquestionably superior experience. However, the effort that Mr. Giardina put in during his campaign suggests that he could be a valuable public servant. With a win by Mr. Van Scoyoc as supervisor, the resulting Democratic majority on the board should appoint him to the open seat, thereby avoiding one-party rule and demonstrating to the community that they would welcome the full airing of opposing views.