Only two members of the current Town of Hempstead Board were elected to their posts without first having been appointed to them. That’s it. Two.
They’re the two Democrats — Supervisor Laura Gillen and Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby. The others, all Republicans, received what, in political terms, can only be described as a gift. Their predecessors all retired from the board shortly before they were to run for re-election, and the GOP-controlled Town Board appointed their replacements, who were handpicked by the Nassau County Republican Party. The appointees were then able to run as incumbents when they were first up for election. That gave them a distinct advantage. In the months before the vote, they could present themselves as town representatives, able to effect change, pass legislation and hand out favors.
The practice dates back decades in the GOP-controlled town.
Now Gillen, elected last fall in a stunning victory, is seeking to reform the practice. She has proposed a measure that would require a special election when a member of the Town Board steps down, rather than allowing the council to appoint a replacement. It was little surprise that the board, still dominated by Republicans, last week stalled the proposal to end a practice that has so benefited their party over the years.
It’s time for the political nonsense to end. The board should vote for Gillen’s proposal in order to ensure electoral fairness. Republicans have controlled the town for a very long time –– since the early 20th century, in fact. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as elections are won fairly and honestly.
Allowing appointees to walk in with no say by the people is an antiquated practice that robs the electorate of the ability to decide on their representatives. It’s 2018. Such shenanigans are so last century.