“…That’s not serious governing. It’s swampy politics.” U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), Dec. 31, 2020
And that is exactly what we are witnessing in Riverhead – swampy politics. As we attempt to fill a vacancy on our town board, the confusion about the process and the bold, partisan assumptions have placed us directly in the swamp, and we are sinking fast.
On Nov. 10, 2020, RiverheadLocal reported that the town board “intends to appoint someone to fill the vacancy…”, according to Supervisor Yvette Aguiar. “We will vote on the replacement.Names will be put forward. People will send in their desire. Interviews will take place and we will vote on an individual,” Aguiar said. “… We as a board will meet and we will vote on an individual- very simple,” Aguiar said.
Reading this, the public could assume that the town board had chosen to fill the vacancy by resolution, putting aside two other options – leaving the seat empty or seeking to hold a special election if circumstances required the latter. Further, it is expected that the town board would adopt a resolution embracing the option to appoint an individual to fill the vacancy, and such resolution would outline the procedure that would result in a resolution naming a candidate and followed by a vote to adopt. Very Simple, one would think.
But not so simple for the Town of Riverhead.
The town board never adopted a resolution regarding its intent on how to fill the vacancy, no procedure was clearly set out.It is rumored that the Supervisor’s office did create a news release, but where it got posted other than the town clerk’s office in unclear. There was no genuine effort by the Supervisor or the town board to act on the vacancy in a transparent, best foot forward manner.
We have Councilman Tim Hubbard stating that the appointee should be a Republican because the seat was filled by a Republican at when last elected. His decision and vote are already cast regardless of what qualified candidates step up for consideration.
Emerging from the swamp, the Town of Riverhead Republican Committee advertises in the local newspaper an open recruitment for interested individuals to apply and be screened by them. The effect, while not politically objectionable, was to have most of the town board abdicate their role and responsibility with regard to filling the vacant seat.It became the widely held assumption throughout the town that the Republican Committee would pick the candidate and the majority of the town board would lock step to the vote.
And then along comes Councilwoman Catherine Kent. Having done her homework and looking out for the good and benefit of the town residents, Councilwoman Kent proposed through resolution a candidate for the vacant seat.What courage, what boldness in the face of swampy politics. The name she put forward is an individual with a long history of successful civic engagement and who has no affiliation with any particular political party and ideology. The individual offered would open our Town Board to further diversity [lest we forget our current Town Supervisor is of Puerto Rican heritage] and would introduce an individual with more skin in the game than just towing a political party line. Councilwoman Kent’s action is not only correct, but demonstrates a genuine knowledge of just what good governance is all about. Hooray for her!
The reaction was swift and filled with the usual natterings we have come to expect and endure from members of the Town Republican Committee, including those serving on the Town Board.
“I don’t think that’s right,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said. Hubbard further stated to the RiverheadLocal reporter that he had already INFORMED Kent about the individual to be considered – this without any interviews, any vetting, nothing except the Republican Party recommendation. His blind adherence to politics and his obvious disregard for good governance stands in direct contrast to his sworn duty to work for all the town residents, not just registered republicans. Could his rumored bid for the supervisor’s seat in the 2021 elections be getting in the way of his duty and oath of office?
Supervisor Aguiar spoke to Riverhead Local about the field of candidates- she shared that so many good candidates had come forward. Perhaps true, but where was the town board interview process? Just how did Frank Beyrodt identify his top 3 candidates? Did the Republican town council people meet with the Republican Committee to make these decisions? Is this the way Riverhead residents are to expect decisions of this weight to be made- in the shadows and behind closed doors? We deserve better.
On Tuesday, Jan. 5, the Town of Riverhead may chose a replacement for the vacant town council seat.And whether or not this choice stands for the good and benefit of the entire Town will remain forever unknown, as the process for arriving at such a decision was usurped by swampy politics from the start and we the citizens have been robbed once again of our democratic heritage.
If you are available at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, ZOOM in and make your voices heard.Seek good government by raising your voice in opposition to back room decisions that are of no benefit to anyone other than the Republican Town Committee. Demand serious and transparent governing, decline to accept swampy politics.
Ms. DeVito is a member of the Riverhead Town Democratic Committee
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