The high turnout and the strikingly large margin of victory for mayor-elect Kathleen Mulcahy and two allied trustee candidates in Tuesday’s Sag Harbor Village election suggest that concern about village government has been running deep across all sectors of the electorate.
Although “us-versus-them” is unfortunately a common theme here, the numbers may show there is a broad majority of residents who have wanted to see changes in the way village government works. There were just too many votes cast for Ms. Mulcahy, Aidan Corish and Bob Plumb to attribute their victories to one group of voters or another.
That means Ms. Mulcahy and the trustees have a real chance to get past the us-versus-them thinking that has indeed marred village affairs at times over the past few years and may explain some of the current administration’s reluctance to fully vet its deliberations and decisions publicly. If opposition and debate from other constituencies is dreaded, things are going to happen behind the scenes and arrive on the board’s public agenda as surprise fait accompli.
The impound lot is one example of a plan that seemed to have been fully hatched before the board began taking procedural steps to implement it, sparking a firestorm of resistance when that project showed up on an agenda without any substantive public discussion about need and potential locations. A bid has been accepted, and bonding has been authorized, for the rehabilitation of Long Wharf, and yet the plans for it that have been aired publicly seemed to be works in progress, subject to possible change depending on available financing and final decisions. When did the board commit to all the details and decide on a final plan? And why were residents not included in that conversation, which could have been a simple, 20-minute presentation at a monthly meeting followed by a call for public input and testimony from engineering experts on the job.
Mayor-elect Mulcahy and the new board has a chance to clear the air by making village government inclusive of everyone — and it appears that is the core of their mission. As we have suggested before, one way to do that is by holding regular board work sessions under the requirements of the state’s open meetings law to have pending issues and projects fully vetted and aired. We also hope the trio holds fast to its campaign promise to return a moment for public comment to the beginning of the village board’s monthly meeting.
Ms. Mulcahy, Mr. Corish and Mr. Plumb have all called for a more transparent government in Sag Harbor. With a wide majority of the electorate behind them — and two committed, capable and talented board members in Thomas Gardella and James Larocca sitting next to them on the dais — they should be able to find a way to make it happen.