Guest Column: Playing dumb getting old in Town Hall

In my home, when the last chocolate chip cookie goes missing, or there isn’t an ice cube left in the tray, or the milk gets put back with nary a sip left, I call out to my daughters and ask, “Who did this?”

Invariably the response is: “Not me?”

When it comes to employing the “who me?” defense; my kids have nothing on the Riverhead Town Board.

Watching meetings and work sessions, I don’t know whether to be amused or sad as board members duck and cover. I shake my head with a smile and wonder “do these guys really believe what they are saying”? One clarification, I have to leave out John Dunleavy here, that guy gets things done for Riverhead. Otherwise, Channel 22 has become a bad movie you can’t stop watching but it isn’t as funny as it used to be.

A couple of months ago the matter of Calverton Manor came up at a gathering. For those who may not be following every twist and turn, Calverton Manor is the hamlet-changing project proposed for the quiet Calverton community. Houses, traffic and commerce. When residents protested and the media asked tough questions about this behemoth subdivision ready to pass without opposition, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio feigned shock and asked how could this be?

Who allowed this to happen?

Never mind that the good councilwoman has been on the Town Board for some three years plus. Never mind the reams of paperwork, meetings and memos that got us to this point. Jodi asked,”Who me?” How could this occur? She said she will investigate what happened. We are still waiting for her report.

More recently it was the Concordia Assisted Living facility. Like it or not, you have to admit the community proposed for Middle Road has been in the news a wee bit. Hearings at the county level and town level. Zoning changes, public input, testimony, committee meetings, work sessions, code changes. Lots of chatter, it’s all been going on about two years now. Concordia has been on the agenda at 200 Howell Avenue. Enter Councilwoman Giglio: She huffed and she puffed. Why wasn’t I informed? When did this happen? Who me? Concordia voted down, time and money wasted.

Perhaps the greatest responsibility board members have is passing the town budget.

The supervisor submitted his budget when required by state law. The council members did nothing with the document. No input, no new ideas, no nothing. Right before the vote is scheduled, like high school students cramming for the big exam, the board scribbles down a few ill thought out proposals. End result? A budget that spends more than the Supervisor called for and brings Riverhead the highest tax increase of any neighboring town. Ask the board about the tax increase…who me?

A new apartment complex proposed for West Main Street. Could be a game changer in our rebuilding downtown. Councilwoman Giglio: no one told me about this. I haven’t seen the renderings. That’s odd, they were drawn by that very able architect and the councilwoman’s business partner, Martin Sendlewksi. Who me?

Each week the Town Council members make their pilgrimage to WRIV radio to soak up attention and pat themselves on the back.  The board actually increased spending greater than what the supervisor’s budget called for? It did. Without warning the board publicly flogged and fired the town board coordinator?  It did. The ballfields at EPCAL remain gated and closed? They are. Another bad decision? Must be our attorney’s fault. Listen closely. The board members speak in the most bemused and detached way; as if they are observers not board members. As if these weren’t their decisions. “Who me”?

If you are going to serve in government take joy in the task. Take pride in doing the people’s business. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Take ownership of the job you do. Don’t blame others.This is a great town. We deserve a government as good as our people.  I think the thing I love most about Riverhead is our small town feel. The Blue Waves won. You’ll hear it at Pappa Nick’s. Did you see that overturned car? People were talking about it at “the Grind”.

What’s that building going up? Pull up a chair at Jamesport Country Kitchen and listen. With all due respect to the local media, if it happens in Riverhead you’ll hear about it quickly through our grapevine.

Seems everyone knows what’s going on in this town. Everyone but our town board that is.

Anthony Coates is a downtown resident seeking the Republican nomination to run for Town Council in November.

He is also a political adviser to Superivsor Sean Walter.