As town elections approach, much is at stake for all of us 

“Democracy is the worst form of government — except for all the others that have been tried.” — Winston Churchill

As we go full-bore into election season for Southold and Riverhead towns, our papers will begin running paid political advertisements for parties and candidates as well as letters to the editor from candidates explaining why they are seeking public office.

We are glad to do this. It is part of the function of a community newspaper. An informed public is at the very core of a democratic system of government. While the “media” — whatever it may include, big and small — has been attacked by certain public figures in recent years, newspapers continue to play a critical role in society.

This week’s editions of the Riverhead News-Review and The Suffolk Times are good examples of how we inform the public. Take a few minutes to read the two guest columns in today’s Suffolk Times and the letters in both newspapers. 

This evening, Sept. 21, Greenport Village will hold its final public hearing on proposed code changes relating to a variety of issues, including what remains of its working waterfront. It is no exaggeration to say the future of the village is topic number one on the elected government’s table. Much is at stake there.

One of this week’s columns is written by former Greenport mayor David Kapell, who makes clear his concerns about these proposed changes. The second column is by current village Mayor Kevin Stuessi, who speaks to his vision of what the village should be going forward as it deals with development and financial pressures.

No place on the North Fork faces more intense pressures than Greenport, so these pieces are very timely. Depending on your point of view, the pressures at work are either part of the natural give-and-take of business in a free-market system regulated by public officials, or they profoundly threaten the culture and nature of a historic village that is like no other anywhere on Long Island. Attend the hearing tonight and make your case. Speak out.

We do think that, while nostalgia is not an effective form of planning, neither is giving in to the new moneyed class on whatever it is they fancy that is now part of the North Fork’s landscape. 

One issue that — directly, at least — won’t be on the November ballots in Riverhead or Southold is climate change and the damage it will wreak on the North Fork as sea levels continue to rise, the ocean continues to warm and storms become more intense. 

While there is no line on the ballot marked “climate change,” voters should act as if it is there, and study the issues to see which candidates even bother to list it among their concerns or priorities. Candidates who don’t speak to steps that must be taken now to strengthen and protect the North Fork should be called out.

Moody’s Analytics recently published a paper titled “The Impact of Climate Change on U.S. Subnational Economies.” Chart No. 3 in that paper lists 10 places that are at “chronic physical risk” as the climate warms.

New York City is third on that list; Long Island is fourth. This narrow, bony finger sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean, where Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay are but yards apart in some places, is the nation’s fourth most imperiled “physical” place for climate change. 

Also in The Suffolk Times is a “why I am running” letter from Anne Smith, a candidate for Southold Town Board, and a letter urging officials to study consolidation of Southold school districts to lower costs and improve educational opportunities.

In the News-Review is a letter from a community activist John McAuliff, calling out officials over their handling of the town’s Anti-Bias Task Force.

As the elections approach, we will continue to do our best to keep you, our readers, informed. And for letters to the editor, please keep them at 350 words. Thank you.