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DAN'S PAPERS, December 19, 2008 Page 20

EH Town Board to Local Biz People: “A Little Help?” By T.J. Clemente A major topic at East Hampton Town Board meetings for the last year has been the challenge of coping with a growing budget. Many believed the problem was the inability of the Board to grapple with the sophisticated realities of local government in the new economy. Others vilified Supervisor Bill McGintee to the point of signing petitions calling him everything from incompetent to dishonest. It was a tough year for McGintee and his staff. When revenues were growing, and property values rising at unprecedented rates, running the government was like riding a bike

down hill. Now, with all the problems of lower revenues, higher costs and the need to raise taxes, the comment most often heard by this reporter was, “Running the town and its almost $70 million budget was not like it use to be.” In a sign that they have heard that point of view, the East Hampton Town Board voted and consented to establishing a Budget Advisory Committee made up of local residents with business acumen to help advise them. The idea is to get established businesspeople involved in long term planning and solutions to town problems on the advisory level. Some think the idea is vital, since the Board has no intentions of

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replacing the University of Chicago-educated Nick Lynn, who came in at $150 per hour as a financial consultant. Lynn resigned just before he was terminated for writing a seemingly partisan political memo concerning how to handle the 2008 budget deficit. At the time of his dismissal, Lynn was about to start his personal audit of the CPF and its transactions. So, in place of a heavily credentialed consultant, the board created this advisory committee and has made its selections. Each board member was given one selection. McGintee chose Job Potter, a former councilman who has expertise in municipal budgets. Councilman Pete Hammerle chose Montauk entrepreneur Joe Gaviola. Councilwoman Pat Mansir chose hardware store owner Bernie Kiembok, who has also some valuable real estate holdings. Councilwoman Julia Prince chose attorney Robert Kaufman and Councilwoman Brad Loewen chose J.B. DeSantis, a local real estate agent. Lynn Ryan, an aide to McGintee, said that the group will begin monthly meetings in January, and that perhaps each will focus on an area of expertise. She said this was, in effect, a one-year experiment, with the Board having the right to terminate in a year. It was pointed out to her that there is an election this fall, which may result in a change of Board members. Reaction has been mixed. Some who know these business leaders seem to agree that they have stellar reputations. At Liar’s Saloon in Montauk, Gaviola received an accolade for being “a good guy.” But one vacation homeowner noted that there weren’t any women named, saying the selection was kind of “old boyish.” Another New York City businessman who comes to the East End to sail, asked, “What is their experience in dealing with a situation of collapsing revenues, rising cost, and bad public morale? Do any of them have experience with $70 million budgets in regard to negotiating with unions to reduce benefits and wages?” In reported comments and in discussions with the supervisor’s office, it was stressed that the Advisory Committee will have no other authority but to advise, report and suggest. They cannot vote to enact policy or force the town to take actions. Is this a public relations move by a Board whose budgets are being scrutinized by state officials, to reach out to popular citizens for support for unpopular policies? Who is to say? Is it realistic to ask such nominees to “Bust down the wall of bookkeeping,” as Mansir reportedly said? Prince reportedly said that naming an Advisory Committee is a step in the right direction and will promote real change. McGintee put the bright light on exactly what the Advisory Board will do when he reportedly said, “They’re not coming in to run town government … they are coming to advise the board on long-term spending.” With elections less than 11 months away perhaps the electorate of the Town of East Hampton will voice what they feel about longterm spending and how the town is being run when they vote. In the final hour, the voice of the people is the ultimate advisory committee.

Dan's Papers 2008 Holiday Issue  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...

Dan's Papers 2008 Holiday Issue  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...