Equal Time: Four-year terms = better government

In her recent News-Review column, Marjorie Acevedo made some good points when talking about a two-year versus four-year term for supervisor (“Supervisor terms should remain two years,” Oct. 27). She noted the importance of government being responsive to the people. She also noted that a shorter term allows for more rapid changes — not just of the supervisor, but of the members of the Town Board. Ms. Acevedo saw the ability to rapidly change who’s in charge, who leads, as something that would add to the supervisor’s accountability and make him or her a better leader. She made some good points. Unfortunately, she came to the wrong conclusion.

Ms. Acevedo talked on behalf of the town’s Democratic Committee. But truth be told, a two-year versus four-year term for supervisor is neither a Republican nor a Democrat issue. It’s a bipartisan issue that affects the health and growth of the municipality as a whole.

I agree that the public wants their supervisor to be accountable and to have a presence, but spending every other year campaigning doesn’t make for good government. The same is true of Town Board members. And if four-year terms have been working for council members, why wouldn’t the same logic be applied to the supervisor position? The people need to have the ability to change what isn’t working, but they should also understand that a certain amount of time is required for projects to gel and for government to work. There is a difference between accountability and rushing something to the point where it’s not functional. You can’t focus only on changing what doesn’t seem to be working at the moment. Good government needs to be stable. Good work often needs time. We’re not talking about an inordinate amount of time — just a realistic amount.

A two-year term simply does not allow enough time for follow-through. Without a realistic prospect of follow-through, the bureaucracy surrounding government is often uncooperative. There is no certainty that the person will be in office to see that projects are completed. Different branches of government, as well as contractors and vendors, may not have a sense of security and stability in a project when they know knowing the person leading it may soon be gone. Things don’t get started if people feel they can’t be completed.

How often have we seen the impact of a short election cycle? Just as things are starting to move forward with important work for the municipality, the election rolls around and the politician’s time is sidetracked by the need to campaign. His or her focus and attention is now diverted away from the important matter of working for the people and onto the necessity of getting re-elected to finish the job he or she started. A two-year term really only allows for a year and a half of work and then half a year of politicking. No doubt campaigning is important. It lets the people know where the politician stands. It is the time when change takes place, but let’s make this a realistic amount of time for work and an appropriate time to assess what changes are needed.

In conclusion, government must be responsive to the people. The people absolutely need to be able to change government when it is not working for them, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that the best government is the government that gets the job done! A two-year term is simply not a sufficient amount of time to let the supervisor get the job done. A more realistic period of time is a four-year term. This allows for a balance. It allows for change when needed and time to complete work that is started. A four-year term allows for good government that has the opportunity to work for the people who elected them.

The author lives in Wading River and has worked as a campaign manager for Supervisor Sean Walter.