The victory Tuesday of Sarah Amaden and Carrie Doyle in the East Hampton Village trustee election cements Mayor Jerry Larsen’s NewTown Party’s hold on the village board. It also reflects a new political reality.
The 2022 vote came out heavily by absentee ballot for Ms. Amaden and Ms. Doyle, though Trustee Arthur Graham won the most in-person votes. In perhaps the most important sign of change, the mailed-in ballots made up by far the most votes cast. This follows Mr. Larsen’s 2020 victory in a three-way race in which absentees made the difference. Part of the genius then, as now, was that the NewTown Party paid attention to part-timers who own property in the village and asked for their vote.
The early breakdown was fascinating. After the polls closed at 9 p.m. Tuesday and the counting began, Mr. Graham had a huge lead, with Ms. Amaden and Ms. Doyle trailing badly in votes cast at the Emergency Services Building. However, as the village clerk opened the mailed ballots, the newcomers pulled ahead. When all were counted, Ms. Amaden and Ms. Doyle were tied with 316 votes. Mr. Graham, with 180 votes, was left only to congratulate the winners.
For Mr. Larsen, the outcome was personally validating. His first term as mayor has featured a more business-friendly approach than in the old Village Hall. He has also made the message clear that property owners should be allowed to do more of what they want in terms of building and expansion. But he has also turned village affairs into what appears to be a one-man show, eschewing open discussion in favor of closed meetings with the unelected heads of the several village departments. At the same time, he has slow-walked freedom of information requests from the press, as well as concerned residents, to put it mildly.
Ms. Amaden and Ms. Doyle have both called for the return of monthly “work session” meetings, in which new ideas and changes to law were traditionally hashed out in public. This is even more important now that Mr. Larsen and his allies will occupy all five seats on the village board. It is in the public interest that Ms. Amaden and Ms. Doyle raise the question of openness at their very first session as new trustees.
On the direction of village government, both have make public statements that could be seen as favoring private interests and commercial endeavors. They both have appeared to conflate economic expansion with the interests of actual residents, even though much of the money spent here flows outward to faraway landlords and corporations, rather than stay in the community.
A word of caution: Growth of the sort they might envision inevitably creates additional demand for services, more traffic, and pressure on the environment. We believe that the people who live here — and their quality of life — should come first, not the other way around. We take Ms. Amaden and Ms. Doyle at their word that they will remain mindful of that.