On November 5, Vote To Keep The Trustees Strong

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An open letter to the Southampton Town bay constables and East Hampton Town Marine Patrol:There is such a thing as “no harm, no foul.” We’re a community of our own here on the South Fork, and the fact that someone drew a line down the middle, splitting it into East Hampton and Southampton towns, should not shatter that connection to such an extent that we need to turn a cold shoulder to our closest neighbors.

Attorneys for Southampton Town told the Trustees in Southampton a few years ago that they may be jeopardizing the verbiage of their easement, which was being assailed by wealthy homeowners desperate to get trucks off “their” beach, if they continued to let non-residents purchase permits for town beaches. For attorneys who know the conniving and ability to bastardize every turn of phrase of their brethren this was probably a prudent direction to give.

But this is why life has unspoken rules. I would think that on the sand beaches, especially during the fishing season, we could offer the courtesy of commonality and let the rule of law slide a bit if there is an East Hampton 4×4 sticker on a Southampton beach, and vice versa. There are more than enough vehicles clearly not from anywhere near our shores to fill ticket books—we should not be preventing closest friends from being able to fish together on these days just because they reside a few miles apart.

To the Trustees, who direct these constables and officers (well, not in East Hampton anymore), I wish you good luck and Godspeed in Tuesday’s elections and for the weeks, months and years ahead.

These are hard times for the Trustees. Particularly so in Southampton, but as Southampton goes, so will East Hampton soon enough, because the aforementioned lawyers know no bounds and will bring their implements of battle wherever they go.

And so it is of utmost importance that we outdoorsmen, and outdoorswomen, and our spouses, take the election of our Trustees seriously, and account for the Trustees when we cast our votes in other races as well.

The Trustees of both towns are facing challenges to their authority over our beaches. In Southampton Town, the battle has reached a new milestone where attorneys and consultants have taken the challenge to a new level. Rather than fighting with the Trustees over what the rules should be in their zone of jurisdiction, the attorneys and consultants have taken to simply choosing to move what they perceive that zone of jurisdiction and eviscerate the spirit of law through and through.

In other stretches, there are those who would like to see the Trustees done away with entirely. They are incensed by this unique form of authority, thus far immune to political arm-twisting and the legalized bribery we call campaign financing in this country.

At a recent meeting of the Southampton Association for Beach Access, its president, James McLauchlen, presciently warned its members that there are those in the community and within town government who would like to do away with the Town Trustees, as they have in most other towns, and fold those authorities into the (more easily influenced) town boards. The candidates for Southampton Town Trustees who were there that night made the right case, each pledging that their own official duties would be directed at strengthening the independence and assertiveness of the ancient Board of Trustees.

There are some who believe this year’s politically charged and influence-riddled Trustees race could bring in the first Trustees willing to advocate for softening the stance of control over certain territories. That should be so abhorrent to all of our citizenry that even the whiff of it should bring a swift and merciless political death sentence, regardless of other beliefs and abilities, for both Trustees candidates and Town Board candidates.

I will advocate for no candidates here, and I, as a reporter who has covered the town boards of both towns, will add that I have not seen evidence of such a goal in any of our elected officials. Yet. The pressure is there, and it is well-funded, and it is passionate, as self-interest always is.

If you haven’t done so, in the next five days, seek out your candidates and assure them that you are paying attention, and that threats to the strength of the Town Trustee in either Southampton or East Hampton will not be tolerated. And on November 5—vote!

As an aside, Mr. McLauchlen stepped down as the president of SABA, the crusading organization he founded in 2005, and he should be applauded. Few groups have mustered the sort of organization and clear political power that SABA has under Jim Sr.’s watch. Earlier this month, the group voted for Tim Behringer to step into Mr. McLauchlen’s shoes. Good luck to him and also to SABA’s other newly elected officers: John Kosciusko, Lauren D’Italia, Tony D’Italia and Jon Archer. Keep up the good work, SABA.

Striper fishing has been spectacular for the last week. Blackfishing is doing its part to keep pace as well. Friday is opening day of the pheasant hunting season, if you know where there’s still a wild pheasant on the South Fork.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

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