Choose One for ­Village Board

East Hampton Village residents will be asked Tuesday to select either Philip O’Connell or Arthur Graham as a trustee or member of the village board. The winner will face re-election in 2018. In recent interviews, the candidates differed little about how the village should be run, so making an endorsement is tricky, as it comes down to intangibles more than any one thing.

Mr. O’Connell holds a seat on the board now, having been appointed to replace Elbert Edwards, who died last year. He has been around village government for a long time, was chairman of its planning board at one time and now is a member of the village’s planning and zoning committee. He is a lawyer, works for Corcoran Group Real Estate, and is a member of the East Hampton Fire Department.

Mr. Graham’s community involvement here has been with nonprofits, in particular the East Hampton Historical Society and Thomas Moran Trust. He worked in finance in New York City before his retirement and is now a member of the village planning board.

Neither Mr. O’Connell nor Mr. Graham has anything very critical to say about current village affairs. Both seem to think the village is running smoothly and both favor a program that could include incentives for homeowners to replace outdated or failed septic systems to improve water quality in Hook and Georgica Ponds.

On noise pollution, Mr. Graham said he favored a slightly more restrictive stance, in an attempt to concentrate the annoyance to limited periods. For example, he suggested exploring zones in which leaf blowing and the like might be limited to specific days of the week. Mr. O’Con­nell is of the opinion that it would be an imposition on efficiency to adopt further restrictions on when and how landscaping companies operate within village limits.

Neither candidate has anything to offer about affordable housing. Instead, both seem content to pass the buck to the town, or other nearby communities, despite the significant proportion of jobs that come from private residences and businesses within the village. This is disappointing. At one time, most of the second floors on Main Street and Newtown Lane contained apartments; now, because they are used for offices and retail, they add to the problem. A suggestion during an interview that the Sea Spray Cottages, which buoy the village budget by more than $1 million a year, might be converted into housing for village-area employees elicited little more than blank stares.

Conversely, Mr. O’Connell and Mr. Graham both welcome a pending purchase of several acres of land to expand Herrick Park using $4.6 million from the town’s community preservation fund. Neither appeared to see a contradiction between buying land for low-key recreational use and not doing anything to make sure that low and middle-income village residents and young people just starting out can remain here. This is a serious oversight.

Both also seem content with the current effectiveness of the village’s residential zoning laws, though perhaps to differing degrees. Mr. O’Connell supported the recent changes in the village code, and most clearly appeared to oppose further restrictions in favor of what he called property rights.

Mr. Graham appeared somewhat more open-minded. He raised the question of too-big houses on small lots, citing several recent expansions on Mill Hill Lane as an example. On the other hand, he seemed to think the owners of the village’s larger properties should pretty much be allowed to build whatever they want. 

As we said at the outset, whoever prevails in Tuesday’s vote will have to stand for re-election in 2018, should he seek a full, four-year term. Mr. Graham suggested that he would give it another shot if Mr. O’Connell wins. 

Replacing Mr. O’Connell now would not appreciably change the politics and policies of the village board. Mr. Graham is more vocal about his views, perhaps, but that does not mean he would make a better elected official. For us, it has come down to each man’s local service record: Mr. O’Connell, who has been around village government for a long time and has been a part of the Fire Department for longer, has the edge by this measure, and he has earned our somewhat qualified endorsement.