Tag Archive | "Bill Hughes"

Southampton Town Proposes Political Party Ban for Committee Members

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By Tessa Raebeck

Hoping to stem what she sees as unbalanced Republican influence, Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming has again sponsored legislation to bar members of a political committee from also serving on the town’s land use boards.

After discovering last year that 10 out of the 21 members on the three influential boards, the planning board, the zoning board of appeals (ZBA) and the conservation board, were members of either the Republican or the Conservative Party committees, Fleming sponsored a resolution to ban members of such a committee from also serving on a board.

“I think,” Fleming said Monday, “it’s a really important measure to advance fairness in land use decisions and to make sure that people in the community feel that all voices are being heard and that land use decisions are being made in a fair and even handed way.”

Both East Hampton and Southold have similar legislation in effect. The resolution would require a political committee member who also wished to serve on a town board to resign from their political post for the time they serve as a board member.

Fleming believes the law would limit the “lopsided representation” of the current boards, noting out of seven members on the ZBA in 2013, five were Republican committee members and one was a Conservative committee member.

There are no members of the Democratic Committee on the town boards, Fleming said Monday

The law, she said, is “in order to open up public participation, so people feel that it’s not an insider’s game, that they can serve, that they can have their voices heard.”

“And,” she added, “in order to remove any conflict of interest that’s created when people are responsible both to the community and to their political parties.”

Fleming first introduced the bill last spring, but it was blocked from having a public hearing. She introduced it again this fall and although it was granted a public hearing, the bill was defeated September 24 by the then Republican-Conservative majority on the board.

At the public portion of the board’s meeting October 8, Mike Anthony of Westhampton, a member of the Democratic activist organization Organizing for America, spoke in support of the resolution, stating that many see government as an insider game and that people in Southampton cannot be part of local government without feeling they have to also be part of a political party.

Also at that meeting, George Lynch of Quogue said the Republican majority on public boards is trampling on proper procedures and stifling public discussion. Residents Dianne Rulnick, Mike Axelrad, Sally Pope and several others called on the board to have a public hearing on the ethics of removing political committee members from land use boards.

On Tuesday, the board hosted a public hearing on the proposal. While supporters voiced their concerns over lopsided legislation and perceived unfairness, opponents said the bill would discourage residents from participating in government and inhibit free speech.

Republican Party committee member Bill Hughes voiced his opposition to the bill at Tuesday’s hearing, saying it limited “freedom of association” and that being elected to a political party committee is a form of free speech.

Republican Councilwoman Christine Scalera has been vocal in her opposition to the bill since it was first introduced. Scalera has called the legislative intent offensive and questioned Fleming’s political motives behind introducing such a bill on Tuesday.

Despite Scalera’s opposition, Fleming is hopeful the bill will move forward and that it will be passed at the next town board meeting February 11.

Two Candidates Have a Conversation With Noyac

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web Fleming

By Bryan Boyhan

The two candidates for the vacant seat on the Southampton Town board visited the Noyac Civic Council on Tuesday night. While the event was billed as a conversation with the community, the two only spoke to each other briefly, to exchange hellos, and were only in the Old Noyac School House at the same time for a moment as one was just leaving as the other arrived.

Individually the two spoke to about forty members of the civic council in an informal introduction to themselves intended to demonstrate how they will handle themselves if elected.

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“At the end of every month my wife and I balance our checkbook, that is how I will balance your money,” Republican candidate Bill Hughes told the audience.

Hughes will be retiring from the Southampton Town Police Department in March as a lieutenant after 29 years on the force. A recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, he joined the US Air Force at the age of 19.

Much of the dialogue Hughes had with the councul members focused on his background wit the police force.

Civic council treasurer Nicholas Metz asked if Hughes agreed with former town supervisor Linda Kabot’s attempt to retire several officers as a cost saving measure because they had been in the department of more than 20 years.

“I don’t want to say yes or no,” said Hughes. “In concept it’s a good idea; but you have to look at the particular situation.”

Hughes mentioned that the officers selected by Kabot were officers who had a high rate of absence from service.

“You have to see if the reason was they were injured in the line of service. Is that fair,” he asked.

“But, as a matter of policy, to save money, you can replace them with younger officers,” countered Metz.

“You need experienced officers,” observed Hughes. “To axe someone just because they’ve hit 20? No.”

Resident Paul Bailey asked Hughes how he would control speed and conjestion on Noyac Road.

Hughes said the town should take ownership of the road, which is presently owned by Suffolk County.

“Then we can do what we want.”

He suggested straightening out the road in front of the Whalebone/ Cromers parking lot, and suggested rumble strips as a way slowing traffic.

“Enforcement, though, is the biggest deterrent,” he said.

Asked how else he would help the town, Hughes, who lives in Hampton Bays, said: “I have a common sense attitude. I’m not looking for a bigger agenda, I’m looking for a smaller agenda.”

Bridget Fleming, who is endorsed by the Democratic and Independence parties, told the council members she was happy to be home. In fact she lives down the street from where the meeting was being held in Pine Neck.

A former attorney in New York City District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office, Fleming currently has a practice on Main Street in Sag Harbor.

Asked if her practice would interfere with her council duties, Fleming said she would scale back her job, and focus more on the part of her practice that does not require court time.

Metz observed that current supervisor Anna Throne-Holst recently reversed a decision by her predecessor, giving many employees back their town cars.

“How do you feel about that,” asked Metz.

“I don’t think it makes sense to use town resources on personal time,” said Fleming; but she added that, for many town employees, it makes financial sense for them to have a car.

One man asked if the crowds of day laborers who currently gather in Southampton Village were to move into the town’s jurisdiction would Fleming champion the building of a hiring hall.

“I’m not sure the concern they will migrate is a real one,” said Fleming. “They’re right where the bus drops them. The current leaders put their heads in the sand and blame the federal government.”

Asked how she felt about the proposal for town cops to go on 12-hour shifts, Fleming observed “some have said it’s better for the police; it’s certainly better for their families. It’s a lot more likely cops will call in sick less.”