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Jan 26, 2010 5:27 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

An opening salvo from the loyal opposition

Jan 26, 2010 5:27 PM

As the new Republican East Hampton Town administration settles into its offices at 159 Pantigo Road, active town Democrats have become regular attendees at town meetings that until January 1 of this year had been dry reminders that all but very involved Republicans had abandoned faith in their ability to be involved in town government.

Since January 1, the presence of Democrats, their ears tuned for the first missteps of the new administration, has spiced up the meetings. And at well attended party meetings, Democrats have begun to recover from the trouncing they received in November’s town elections.

Despite the fact that there are 50 percent more registered Democrats than Republicans in East Hampton Town, GOP Supervisor Bill Wilkinson captured 67 percent of the vote, riding a wave of public anger over the town’s financial state under former Town Supervisor Bill McGintee’s Democratic administration.

Democratic Party Chairman Bill Taylor said this week that the party is gearing up for a reorganization aimed at promoting elections for committee seats this coming September, involving more young people, and making sure party members are regular attendees at Town Board meetings, while Debra Foster, a former Democratic Town Board member who is not on the Democratic Committee, is planning group e-mails to provide public information to subscribers on a bi-weekly basis about the doings of town government.

Ms. Foster hosted a bipartisan series of seminars to create a financial action plan for the town last spring and gave copies of the completed plan to the candidates for town office in the fall.

“My role that I see now is to extend the commitment I made to the financial action committee and to monitor the board’s progress in instituting those recommendations and the recommendations of the town’s Budget Advisory Committee,” said Ms. Foster.

Ms. Foster is asking residents who are interested in signing up for the e-mail list to contact her at debbrodie@optonline.net. She said that she is preparing the e-mailings along with Jennifer Mulligan, a second-home owner who was a member of Ms. Foster’s committee last year. She expects the e-mailings to begin in mid-February.

“Many people are in shock about what happened. They opened their tax bill and saw what was going on. They don’t get to read the paper or watch LTV,” she said.

The new administration is also planning to hold work sessions on the fourth Saturday of every month, in the hopes of involving more second-home owners. The board will also hold a major public forum to hear residents’ concerns at the East Hampton High School auditorium on February 6 at 3 p.m.

During last year’s campaign, Ms. Foster sent out a controversial mailing accusing the Republicans of supporting several environmentally questionable actions, including a ferry to Connecticut from Montauk and a massive affordable housing complex and sewer system in Montauk. All of the Republican candidates have categorically denied her assertions.

Ms. Foster said this week that her new series of mailings will be factual, not partisan.

“Everybody’s welcome on board. It doesn’t matter how you’re registered, it won’t be biased. It will be facts,” she said.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party members have been filling vacancies on the party’s 38-member committee, which is comprised of two representatives from each of the town’s election districts.

Betty Mazur, an active town Democrat who served on last year’s screening committee, said that the party has filled most of the half dozen vacancies that it had as of November’s election.

Last year’s Democratic Town Board candidates—Ben Zwirn, John Whelan and Patti Leber—all became committee members last year, as did many Trustee candidates.

Ms. Mazur said that committee members who are being appointed now, and others who are interested in joining ,will need to carry petitions beginning in June for a formal committee election in September.

“On a temporary basis, we’ve filled the vacancies from people who were active during the most recent campaign and the Obama campaign. We’re getting some new blood going,” she said. “There might be some people who are interested in running but that doesn’t involve the formal election process yet.”

“There is a sense of starting over. A big part of that job is going to be as the loyal opposition. In order to be a loyal opposition, we’re going to be doing a lot to be informed and monitoring Town Board meetings.”

“We’re well into reorganizing internally and expanding our membership,” said Mr. Taylor. “If things get very partisan and they do things that we think are counterproductive for the town or just bad government, we’ll be out there yelling loud and clear,” he said. “The people’s anger at the prior administration is in no way a repudiation of Democratic values.”

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It seems the town has moved on without the E.H.Dems because they have been so closed for so long. They really need new leadership badly.
By montaukman (98), easthampton on Jan 27, 10 5:52 PM
EH Democrats - WHAT A JOKE!!! They're a bunch of whiny-ass losers. What - exactly - does Bill Taylor do as an employee of EH Town? He should quit and go home.
By MissusG (2), Chester on Feb 3, 10 10:22 PM