The Northern Westchester Examiner

Somers Town Supervisor Term’s Public Hearing Remains Open

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Somers Town Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy will abstain from voting on whether the proposed referendum moves forward.
Somers Town Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy will abstain from voting on whether the proposed referendum moves forward.

Somers residents will have another opportunity to verbalize how they feel about adding a referendum to November’s election ballot pertaining to the length of a town supervisor’s term.

The town board is mulling over whether to give its voters the opportunity to extend the position of town supervisor from a two-year term to a four-year term.  Before the councilmen vote on the resolution that would move the referendum to the ballot, another public hearing will be held at the next town board meeting, which is set for Thursday, Sept. 6.

Sitting town supervisor, Mary Beth Murphy, has said that she would abstain from the vote since the outcome affects the position she has held since 1998. Murphy has not ruled out running for re-election in 2014.

The initial public hearing was held during the Aug. 9 town board meeting. At that meeting only three residents spoke. Mark Appel of Purdys was the first person to speak at the lectern. He said that he was neither in favor of nor against the notion of expanding the term. Appel’s concern was on the process and questioned if having the referendum on the ballot for November was a good idea.

“I am not sure if there is enough time for people to consider [the referendum] properly,” he said. “I do not think there is enough time to have the discussion on this really excellent issue.”

Following Appel, Clifford Wolhberg, who lives in Heritage Hills, advocated not only for putting the referendum on the ballot, but increasing the term as well.

“Everyone I have spoken to in a social atmosphere is clearly in favor of the four –year term,” said Wolhberg. “It just does not make sense to make someone campaign hard and then as soon as they get into office they have to be out there hard campaigning again. This referendum needs to be on the ballot in November.”

Former town board member Maureen Devine spoke out against holding the referendum.  An opponent of increasing the length of the supervisor’s term, she gave a number of reasons for her dissention.

One reason was since the town supervisor does not hold veto power, three seats being up for vote every two years permits votes to have the opportunity to change the majority vote every two years, Devine said. Another, she said, was that the short term of the supervisor, may impact the individual who is running for re-election, but that it has no bearing on progress from the town.

After hearing the comments from the residents, the councilmen decided not to close the public hearing. While councilmen Tom Garrity and Rick Morrissey back holding the referendum, Councilman Richard Clinchy is still undecided in his vote. Councilman Richard Benedict, who was absent during the August meeting, has vocalized his opposition to the referendum in the past.

Clinchy said that he wanted to gather more information before casting his vote. Acknowledging that he sees the pros and cons of both sides of the argument, Clinchy said that he had called the New York Association of Towns and asked for the state’s reasoning behind having town supervisor’s term be only two years. According to Clinchy, he was told that the two-year term was set up so that during every town election there would be three seats open and the voters could determine the majority party bi-annually, rather than every four years.

It was requested by Clinchy that the public hearing remain open until the September meeting so he become more educated on the subject and that he could speak with more community members.

If the town board does not vote on the resolution during the Sept. 6 meeting, it will miss the deadline to add the referendum to the ballot.

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