As the candidates running in Sag Harbor Village for mayor and the board of trustees talk about the need for better communications with the public, there are good examples all around us of public entities that do a pretty good job at it.
One is the Southampton Town Board, the operation of which is transparent and easily followed by the public. A major aspect of that transparency is the board’s regular schedule of work sessions, at which the key players on various issues and projects — town staff and community members — come before the board to present the facts, describe the options and recommend actions for the board to take.
Because so much of the town’s business is aired at work sessions, there are few surprises when the Town Board holds its official meetings to introduce new legislation to its residents or make decisions by casting votes.
The East Hampton Town Board has a similar schedule, hosting regular work sessions along with its more formal bi-monthly meetings, including a work session in Montauk in an effort to ensure residents from that hamlet have a venue to discuss issues with their elected officials closer to home.
In Sag Harbor, the board of trustees operates on a different schedule, some of it born out of the fact that virtually everyone is a volunteer, despite the heavy lifting that can come with the responsibility one takes on when they run for elected office. The village’s work sessions are extremely rare. Things instead seem to appear on the official agenda of monthly meetings out of thin air, as far as the public knows. When the village began moving forward, swiftly, with plans for an impound lot on the edge of the Long Pond Greenbelt, there was not a public discussion prior to what seemed like fait accompli where the need for that lot was explained. As plans move forward to address important projects like Havens Beach, Long Wharf and even the celebrated John Steinbeck Waterfront Park, there are very few moments where the board of trustees discusses the issue earnestly, amongst each other, in public session where community members can also share their thoughts.
It appears everyone running for office, including incumbents, at a Meet the Candidates forum last weekend at the John Jermain Memorial Library supported increasing communication with the residents of Sag Harbor. Whoever wins the village elections on June 18, they should pledge to seek regular work sessions on key topics and projects, as much like the towns of East Hampton and Southampton as the village’s more limited staffing and resources will allow.