Early voting is a month away in an important East Hampton Town Board election, and so far, the real issues have been difficult to sort out amid the noise. Personal grudges have a lot to do with it, in that two of the candidates for supervisor, Peter Van Scoyoc and Jeff Bragman, openly dislike each other, to put it mildly. This has clouded what should have already been a contrast of ideas. The other supervisor candidate, Ken Walles, appears to be a placeholder for the Republican side, which otherwise might not have fielded anyone for the post. But these men alone add up to a single town board seat. Unfortunately, the five people contesting two council members’ positions have also been mostly silent on what matters to voters so far.
But what does matter to East Hampton residents who will begin casting votes on Oct. 23 or preparing absentee ballots? Clearly, what happens with East Hampton Airport is of top concern; clear statements of position would benefit would-be voters for whom this is key. Other quality-of-life concerns, including noise, traffic, crowds, and litter, will also be important. Then there are what might be called the good-government issues, including ethics, spending, land use, redevelopment, and transparency. Also on the list is the jobs picture — many employers find it difficult to hire and retain staff. Regarding the environment, current groundwater regulations and incentives have proven to be inadequate by the town’s own admission and habitat loss continues at an alarming pace. East Hampton Town is at an inflection point, but one could hardly tell this from the candidates asking for votes this fall.
The local Democrats would like to retain their 5-to-0 lock on the town board, which, given the registration advantage they have, is theirs to lose. In their campaign messaging so far they have focused on past accomplishments, rather than describe with any clarity how they propose to meet the still-pressing challenges. This may be good strategy, but doesn’t feel like the kind of visionary leadership East Hampton really needs now. Mr. Bragman and his running mate for town board, John Whelan, as the Independence Party standard-bearers, could represent a meaningful contrast, but have not adequately articulated it yet.
As for the Republicans, the local G.O.P.’s interests now seem more about getting Lee Zeldin elected New York governor and bashing Democrats generally than what matters here on the ground; when we checked this week, even its website was defunct. There is still time for them — and the rest of the candidates this cycle — to make meaningful pitches to the voters. The clock is ticking, and the very real problems our community must solve are not going away on their own. The time to speak up about what matters right here is now.