Channeling the ghost of Martin Luther, East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson figuratively tacked 14 agenda items to the Town Hall door last week, in a grand gesture intended to draw attention to important decisions left hanging, and actions not taken, by a board that is increasingly deadlocked.
But the list was more theater than anything. Let’s break it down.
Several of the agenda items could fairly be called important, yes — but none is a Code Red emergency. Some, indeed, are already on the way to resolution. Others are much ado about nothing.
Work on a number of the more complex among them is already ongoing (if slowly). Of these, the fate of the Springs-Fireplace Road sewage treatment plant and deer management are certainly priorities — but life in East Hampton won’t come grinding to a halt in the meanwhile. Others on the list are duplicative; for example, entertainment permits for bars and restaurants and outdoor gatherings, for which potential solutions can be found in the existing town code and in penal law (if only the will were there to enforce them).
Mr. Wilkinson, himself, has drawn into the conversation the reorganization of the Natural Resources Department and other town functions. There has been no public call to rearrange these particular deck chairs. Likewise, only lukewarm interest has met his latest pet effort: to outsource the town’s Information Technology Department. It’s not clear who but him considers that one a do-or-die matter.
Septic waste at the Three Mile Harbor trailer park has been a longstanding problem that may or may not be solved by throwing $600,000 at it as the supervisor would like to do, in lieu of a comprehensive study of what to do about waste townwide. The lighting code was never actually broken; in fact, it is a well-considered plan — that just became an annoyance for a handful of business owners who did not want to spend the money to comply after they had been given three years to do so. And the hold-up over a new audit committee could be ended in a jiffy, with the removal of a caustic Wilkinson ally from the list of potential members.
This latest drama points to an interesting question about East Hampton Town government, which is: Does the town board meet too much?
Though we jest — to a degree — we honestly have begun to wonder. Time and again, board meetings have devolved into acrimony among members, which has been met with mounting public disgust. A little less of this and a bit more letting the town’s competent and professional staffers just do their jobs might go a long way toward increasing efficiency.
No doubt it is maddening sometimes for those leading it, but good government works at a deliberative pace. Puffed-up lists and put-on petulance while the cameras are rolling will not make the wheels turn faster, and they certainly won’t improve outcomes.