October 31, 2007
ENDORSEMENTS FOR EAST HAMPTON TOWN
Bill Wilkinson (R)
It is rare an executive with Wilkinson's résumé becomes available for public office in local government. Wilkinson has dealt with thousands of employees, weighing benefits against the bottom line of some of the world's largest corporations.
His opponent accuses him of "flying in from L.A." yet Wilkinson lived here going back to the sixties and thus experienced what it is we really do want to preserve. His mother was a church organist in Montauk for 30 years.
Bill McGintee, his opponent, who came here in the early eighties, has no idea of what old East Hampton was. His vision of paradise was crafted after the town had already turned for the worse. He's Disco; Wilkinson is Classic Rock.
The Republican candidate is refreshingly down to earth and informal. His training has taught him to listen to the people; a human resources director is by definition a people-person, an advocate for the working class.
Men like Wilkinson rise to high-paying, high-level positions in the corporate world because of their talent and expertise. To suggest a man with his résumé couldn't run this town but an ex-cop can is ludicrous.
He comes to us unencumbered; unlike his opponent, who lives in the shadow of Party Boss David Gruber, Wilkinson is beholden to no one. He is the kind of candidate for public office that comes along once in a very long while.
We need to set this town back on course before we sink hopelessly into an abyss of patronage and red ink.
This is not a partisan issue: we must all vote for what is best for the beleaguered working people of this town regardless of political affiliation, and that person is clearly Bill Wilkinson.
Bill McGintee (D)
The incumbent, McGintee, has emptied the town coffers to the point the town has borrowed money just to pay its bills.
He has presided over what could be the biggest building fiasco in town history – though the Town Hall project is coming on fast – the courthouse that is built backwards with its leaky roof, substandard foundation, and ornamental front lobby that faces an alleyway.
McGintee criticized his opponent, a highly placed major executive with Disney and other world-class firms, claiming Wilkinson didn't have a background in financial management. But McGintee's first budget was such a disaster it had to be withdrawn less than 24 hours later because it contained literally hundreds of errors. McGintee has no formal financial or management training of any kind on his résumé, and his full court press to become police chief was adamantly rebuked by all concerned.
The supervisor overruled an Ethics Board recommendation that elected officials should not join Political Action Committees even though he was the founding member of The East Hampton Conservators, a shell group for Democratic operatives. By law, he should have recused himself from the town board's discussion. Better still, he should have broken ties with the group.
Bill McGintee is the first and only Town Supervisor in any of the five towns to raid the Community Preservation Fund to artificially lower the tax rate. By listing the money as a revenue without a corresponding expense, McGintee will likely draw the ire of the State Comptroller. He has repeatedly said publicly that The Independent misrepresented statements made by Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney and Assemblyman Fred Thiele on the matter.
For the record, both Mr. Thiele and Supervisor Heaney reiterated this week that the quotes given to this newspaper were 100 percent factual and that they understood perfectly the issue at hand. But making public misstatements or stating untruths is neither a new nor infrequent occurrence for Bill McGintee.
He announced to robust applause at a recent Montauk debate that through his efforts he had gotten Montauk included in an Army Corps of Engineers erosion study – except Montauk was always included in it.
He fabricated a quote from the local town union head, released it in a press release praising himself, and never retracted it.
McGintee claims to have created "hundreds of housing opportunities." Translated, it means about 20 one-family houses scattered around the town, some plopped down in the middle of residential neighborhoods like eyesores. A couple dozen "middle-class" apartments built by the town are priced so high the town can't even rent them out. The Green Hollow affordable housing project was a Republican Party initiative 10 years ago. It was blocked by the Democrats and it still hasn't even broken ground. It's another deliberate deception.
Freedom of Information requests are denied or ignored. As we report in this week's paper, a group of workers who were being spied on have demanded the town release the audio and video tapes: the town now claims they are blank. Town Hall workers are in open revolt.
These are the kinds of games McGintee plays, and it shows contempt for the public, as if we are too stupid to see through these childish charades.
McGintee asked his opponent about the "LWRP," correctly guessing Wilkinson didn't know much about it. But it came across as a cheesy trick; we suspect Wilkinson, with his extensive record of academic excellence, could pose many a question the supervisor wouldn't be able to answer.
Bill McGintee is a control freak who is manipulative and vindictive and this community deserves better.
Brian Gilbride (R)
Gilbride has been elected to the Sag Harbor Village Board seven times. In a village that finicky, it says something about his ability to make rational decisions that benefit the public, not politicians. He's a no-frills guy; he'll roll up his sleeves, and he'll be the guy at the worksite at 6 a.m. checking the specs. He knows how municipal government works, and his experience will help come budget time, because the East Hampton Town budget is going to have to be completely revamped if we are to avoid a massive tax increase.
During the recent debates Gilbride emerged as the superior candidate by stating the facts, not what people want to hear. He said he would be in favor of an incorporated Montauk Village if that's what the people of Montauk want. And that's the right answer, because it is a local issue. Gilbride is also the only candidate who answered honestly that the Town of East Hampton would benefit from a reassessment, and he was correct: the folks in Springs and other middle class neighborhoods would likely receive significant tax decreases, because the south of the highway neighborhoods are undervalued, and the middle class is subsidizing them.
It's this kind of plain, honest talk that keeps getting Gilbride elected. He keeps the politics out and puts the people before the political party. We enthusiastically endorse Brian Gilbride, a lifelong local who remembers what it is we are trying to save.
Bill Gardiner (R)
Gardiner, a lawyer and farmer, is the other Republican Party standard bearer. He has been at it now for a few years, monitoring town board proceedings and trying to keep a board comprised entirely of one party honest. This is no small task. He is a real local who remembers what the town used to be. He is dead-on about monitoring how our Community Preservation Funds are spent, or in some cases, misspent. We thought he handled himself well at the debates, especially in Montauk, where the Democrats had plants including Councilwomen Pat Mansir and Deb Foster, asking questions intended to embarrass him. The fact that on the one day the people of our community get to ask questions, the Democrats felt the need to orchestrate the proceedings, says it all about this election. Foster's performance was so over the top it was embarrassing to watch. The host of the debate was a Democrat who contributed deadpan looks and eye rolls on demand. The whole thing was an insult to the citizens of Montauk.
Bill Gardiner would never plan to deceive folks like that, nor would he mock others. He is a gentleman and he has class, and that alone places him a healthy cut above the incumbent board members. He deserves a chance to try and make a difference. He has earned the endorsement of The Independent.
Julia Prince (D)
Prince is bright and engaging and her generation deserves representation on the board. We hesitate, though: she was hand-picked by the party bosses and she might feel beholden to them. We cannot risk having the Democrats maintain control of the board, because they would block a needed independent audit and continue a pattern of fiscal incompetence.
Pete Hammerle (D)
Councilman Hammerle has been feeding from the public trough for two decades. He lives in an affordable house built by the town; his mother lives in an affordable apartment built by the town. He has funneled millions of dollars worth of contracts to an engineering firm though the resulting projects are oftentimes below par. He has used his position on the town board to line up jobs for friends and neighbors.
In one instance, a newly created land management position, the CSEA requirements called for a four-year degree in a related field or five years experience. One applicant had a master's degree in land management, worked 17 years for the Group for the South Fork, and authored scores of articles and books about the environment. The other left community college after managing to amass 12 credits, trained briefly to be a cop, then settled into a job at the building department. But he had one qualification the other applicant couldn't match: he was one of Pete Hammerle's best friends. He got the job at Hammerle's insistence. This is by no means an isolated incident. Now more than ever, working for the town is about who you know, not about how talented you are.
Hammerle lists preserving land as an accomplishment, but the town board has received over $100 million of CPF funds that can only be used to preserve land. Spending it is not an accomplishment – spending it wisely is.
Hammerle talks a good game, but catch phrases like "keeping our groundwater pure and our bays and harbors clean" are rhetoric and nothing more. Long ago, Town Hall became a place for Pete Hammerle to take care of Pete Hammerle. It's time to send him packing for good.
Lisa Rana (R)
Rana, the incumbent, with strong, local roots, has by all accounts run a fair courtroom, and has earned the respect of local attorneys and her co-workers. She has settled in nicely, and there is really no pressing reason to switch gears. The Independent endorses Lisa Rana.
Steve Tekulsky (D)
Tekulsky, the challenger, has years of community service and we like his idea about starting proceedings promptly and moving cases along quickly. Still, he doesn't bring any stated reforms or improvements to the table. He spent most of his time on the campaign trail explaining how the court system works. As an attorney we would expect him to know that. What was lacking was any ideas for true reform or a plan to make things better in the local courtroom.
This is one of those positions, like Town Assessor, that should be appointed, not elected. Put another way, it's conceivable a popular person who knows nothing about highways could get elected and have to deal with a multi-million dollar department. We are fortunate to have two excellent candidates to replace the retiring Chris Russo, who has been a fixture for many years.
Scott King (D)
King has the advantage of already working for the highway department. He has been criticized of late for over-trimming trees that grow onto town property, and we wish he had been a little more understanding and a little less authoritative to those who complained. People love trees more than tar, Scott, but The Independent supports Scott King.
Steve Lynch (R)
Lynch, the Republican challenger, has the pedigree to suggest he will be able to handle the job and, like King, has strong local roots. But King already works for the department, and with Russo gone we believe continuity is important.
This august body is charged with protecting our beaches and waterways, and it's not the place for politics. There is a wealth of candidates, and it's hard to whittle them down to nine choices.
Among the Republicans, Reg Cornelia, who has served this community in a lot of ways without looking for publicity or praise, stands out. So do Stephanie and Kayla Talmage, hopefully the vanguard of a new generation to guide East Hampton's future. Lynn Mendelman is extremely articulate and knows our waters; Norman Edwards is clear-headed and even-handed, and Diane McNally for decades has epitomized exactly what a good Trustee is supposed to be: her reelection is crucial to this community.
Joe Bloecker finds himself on the Independence line after a snafu cost him his place on the Republican ballot. He served before with distinction and we think he will do so again if elected.
On the Democratic side, Jacques Franey and John Gosman stand out among a solid group of candidates.
Bill Taylor, who has disintegrated into an attack puppet, has lost his bearings and now works for the Democratic party, not the people. There is no place on the Board of Trustees for a crude mudslinger who kowtows to party bosses. He would be an embarrassment for this august board.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: the town assessor should be an appointed position, and a permanent one, and it should go to the best candidate regardless of political affiliation. That person is Jeannie Nielson.