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Editorial

Hempstead board must allow election debate

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One Republican Town Board member endorsed and another offered support for Laura Gillen, a Democrat, when she was elected Hempstead supervisor last November, so she — and most voters — were hoping for a new era of bipartisanship in the town.

Last week, cross-party cooperation was nowhere in evidence. For the third time since taking office, Gillen tried to debate how the town fills board vacancies between elections, and for the third time she was shot down. She proposed that posts be filled by special election rather than by board appointment. Council members voted along party lines to table the discussion indefinitely.

Unlike the previous two occasions, though, the Republican majority passed an additional resolution prohibiting reopening debate on tabled issues unless authorized by a majority vote.

That was a mean-spirited way to shut down the democratic process, though probably to be expected. All five Republican board members owe their seats to appointments. Only Gillen and Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby came to the board through the

ballot box.

Republican Councilman Dennis Dunne said he worried about the cost of special elections. We have no idea what the cost would be, however, because the measure never reached the debate stage.

Moreover, GOP council members have long made it a practice to retire before completing their terms, thus allowing the board, which has been controlled by Republicans for a century, to appoint other Republicans, giving them an incumbency advantage in general elections. There has traditionally been no special reason they have retired early. They have inexplicably relinquished their posts, no questions asked.

If Republicans made it a habit of finishing their terms before retiring, the cost of special elections wouldn’t be the concern that it apparently is.

Make no mistake: The Republican council members’ recent procedural maneuvering was a power play. Gillen was elected to bring change to the Town of Hempstead. If Republican council members are unwilling to carry out their duties in bipartisan fashion, then voters must elect lawmakers who will.