Every few years, the politicians in Town Hall ask us for permission to extend the length of a supervisor’s term from two years to four. Let me give you three good reasons why the Riverhead Town Democratic Committee feels that’s a bad idea — and why you should vote no on Proposition Two this Election Day.
One: Government should be readily responsive to the people. If there’s one thing both parties can agree upon in this tumultuous election year, it is that government needs to be kept on a short leash. We Democrats like the idea that the supervisor needs to come to the people regularly for a renewal of his or her term.
Two: The current system lets you change a majority of the Town Board when you see fit. Currently, the way the supervisor term currently coincides with those of other board members, if you don’t like what’s happening at Town Hall you can replace the majority of the Town Board. Don’t like what the Republicans are doing? You can change the board. Democrats doing a poor job? Change the board. If you give the supervisor a new four-year term, you cannot easily flip the majority at Town Hall of either party if they aren’t meeting the needs of the people.
Three: the very suspicious timing. Town Supervisor Sean Walter has run Town Hall for seven years. His party has controlled the majority for decades. For all those years, Republicans have been against a four-year supervisor term. Why is the supervisor suddenly for it? We Democrats believe it’s more about the supervisor seeking the comfort of a lifetime pension and health benefits than it is about good government.
Supervisor Walter stands at the edge of receiving accelerated lifetime benefits if he can accrue four more years of service in Town Hall. He faced a tough re-election last year. We Democrats see this four-year power grab as suspiciously timed to guarantee the supervisor a personal stream of income and benefits for life. We believe that’s not the way to make public policy.
Remember, Sean Walter has been supervisor since 2010 and Riverhead is the East End’s highest-taxed town. We are the county’s most indebted town and we own Suffolk’s lowest bond rating. Despite the supervisor’s soothing words, there is still no subdivision at the Enterprise Park at Calverton — only pipe dream plans. While the supervisor talks up grand ambitions for downtown, the vacancy rate is growing on his watch. This year, Mr. Walter’s budget once again gallops well past the rate of inflation. We have no money to repair parks and the Water District is a mess. Perhaps that’s why 60 percent of the public voted against Mr. Walter last year in a three-candidate race.
We Democrats believe these are strong reasons why Mr. Walter should not be rewarded with the lavish comfort of a four-year term. We believe the best government is the government most responsive to the will of the people.
We believe in regularly giving people their free choice of supervisor every two years. We like the comfort of knowing that if either party isn’t doing the job, they can be turned out of office. That’s government that is responsive to the people and that’s the way to govern Riverhead.
We urge you to vote no on Proposition Two.
The author is chair of the Riverhead Town Democratic Committee.