Guest Column: We missed an opportunity to govern better

Let me first say that the last few months have been an extraordinary time of stress and sadness for all of us. This must be particularly true for our town supervisor, Scott Russell, who had to deal, daily, with a situation that no one in our town has ever had to go through, listening daily to the increasing number of town residents passing from a virus that didn’t exist a year ago. He did a good job dealing with the ever changing challenges coming from the experts at the state. For that, I commend him.

Unfortunately, other matters of importance in the town didn’t stop and the lack of communication between the supervisor and Town Board members hurt the community. 

Speaking for myself, I learned of most of the pronouncements coming from the supervisor through press releases. The line in the supervisor’s COVID-19 announcement is true; he has been working with everyone to solve problems — with the exception of the Town Board. For instance, there was no discussion about allowing the drive-in-movie at Strawberry Fields. I had some serious questions concerning the use of public land that may or may not have been answered to my satisfaction in executive session, but unfortunately neither I nor any other member of the Town Board was afforded that opportunity.

The lack of enthusiasm for adopting a platform to allow the public to participate in any meetings is another example of failure of the board. We had a duty to be informed and inform the public and we failed, unlike the Village of Greenport, which did a great job communicating with each other and the public.

In my opinion, we lost valuable time because of our lack of communication. Our time should have been spent in open, public discussion with the business community to discuss the problems that they see and then discuss among the board to see how the town can help, including code changes if necessary. This should have been an ongoing public discussion. 

My suggestion to allow our tasting room businesses to partner with local restaurants that have food trucks was an attempt to help the local restaurants in town increase their social distancing by leveraging the open space we have in such abundance. It was a proposal that might have benefited a limited number of businesses in town but it was a step forward. I believe that our local economy will suffer greatly in the coming months and years. 

For an example, last year (2019) the town issued 80 special event permits for weddings. While the amount of actual weddings and money brought into the town can be disputed, the fact that we have only 32 approved events this year (2020) should be of concern to every business in town, from B&Bs to ice cream shops.

In my opinion, the solution is not having each Town Board member go out individually and gather information for the causes that concern them during this crisis. The solution is teamwork, gathering information as a board, in full public view. We missed that opportunity. For my part in that, I apologize. Stay well. 

Mr. Dinizio is a Southold Town Board member.