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Oct 26, 2017 5:20 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Governor Signs Into Law Measure Allowing Voters The Opportunity To Overrule East Hampton Taking FAA Grants

Oct 31, 2017 1:47 PM

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law this week legislation that gives East Hampton Town voters a chance to overrule any future Town Board that decides to accept federal grant money for work at East Hampton Airport.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, was approved by the legislature earlier this year. It allows for a “permissive referendum” in the event that the Town Board seeks funding assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration. Legislative actions tied to permissive referendums allow voters in the municipality to petition for a yea-or-nay vote on whether the legislative action should be allowed to go forward.

Should the Town Board vote to seek an FAA grant, a petition could be circulated asking for a vote. It would have to be signed by at least 5 percent of the number of residents who cast ballots in the most recent gubernatorial election. Should the petition meet the threshold, a special vote would be scheduled, in which a simple majority of votes cast would decide whether the legislation was approved or rejected.

“I am pleased the governor signed this measure, which puts the decision-making power regarding FAA funds back into the hands of the community,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement earlier this week. “Town Board members have terms that last only four years. Therefore, it’s important that voters also have a say on these agreements that will impact them for years to come.”

Grant funding from the FAA has been at the center of the conflagration over reining in aircraft noise at East Hampton Airport in recent years because federal grants come with mandatory assurances that prevent changes to airport policies for up to 20 years after the grants are issued. The grants also would prevent the municipality from closing the airport if assurances are in place.

The assurances tied to the last round of FAA grants accepted for East Hampton Airport will expire in 2021.

The current Town Board has pledged not to accept any further FAA funding and has said that if properly managed the airport can fund its own maintenance and operations without outside funding.

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A glimmer of light at the end of the long tunnel leading to a quieter airport . . .

" . . . of the people, by the people, and for the people . . . "

Well done Mssrs. Thiele and LaValle.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Oct 27, 17 12:50 PM
Yet when the same town board was asked to pass a resolution stating that any effort by the town board to close the airport was subject to a permissive referendum, and would require the residents of EH be allowed to vote on the airport’s closure...they refused. So much for of the idea people, by the people, for the people. Apparently it’s only applied when it benefits certain friends of the town board.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Oct 27, 17 3:28 PM
This was a bill passed by the State Assembly, not the Town Board. If voters can decide yes or no on federal grants, how is this not a "by the people" decision?
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Oct 27, 17 11:59 PM
It was a bill created at the direct request of the Town Board and falsely sold to the assembly as being just a small local issue. Instead it sets a precedent that any current government can pass a law preventing any future government (likely from the opposite political party) from changing their rules. Imagine if Trump had congress pass a law that required a permissive referendum to be held every time a future president wanted to overturn or negate one of his policies on immigration, taxation, the ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Oct 29, 17 12:23 PM
This IS for the people and by the people legislation. We have a choice. Isn't that what GOOD governance is? The Town Board had nothing to do with this legislation. It was co-sponsored by State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele. This directly impacts thousands of people and we should have a right to decide if we want to be subjected to the FAA for another 20 years. As long as the airport is managed properly, which it is by the current Town Board, but lacks in reasonable ...more
By scubasuzy (4), East Hampton on Oct 29, 17 7:49 PM