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Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Doing the work

It’s been an eventful 2022 at Town Hall, and we still have nine months to go.

Public discussion has been about (of course) transparency, or the lack of it, by elected officials. Sales and ownerships of mooring rights have been engulfed in controversy.

A new town attorney has been installed, replacing Bob DeStefano Jr., who was asked to leave, told by the supervisor only that the Town Board wanted to “go in a different direction.”

And now, a rejuvenated Ethics Board, with new members, created to make it “more robust and efficient,” as the resolution that created it states.

Obscured, perhaps, by all of the above, has been solid work the Town Board and several Town committees have done, work that will better Shelter Island for all of its residents.

That work includes an active Ethics Board, and it makes little difference why the Board decided this, seemingly out of the blue; it’s an excellent move. In the future, speculation on hiring, spending money and initiating policies can be reviewed independently.

The Board is also moving on cutting a break on property taxes for three groups of veterans — those who served during wartime, those who served in combat, and those with disabilities stemming from their time in uniform. This move is a practical benefit to those who served, and not mere lip service thanking them for their sacrifices.

The Board also recently streamlined the process of requesting Town documents under the Freedom of Information Law, with a portal on the town’s website that divides requests into three categories — general inquiries, those dealing with Building Department issues, and those dealing with the Police Department. Forms are online and the new system should decrease waiting time to get requested information.

Also, more documents are appearing on the website pertaining to ongoing issues, so those who want to access documents can find them either on the meetings tab if they are on agendas for the Town Board, or on specific pages for departments and committees.

This is the true meaning of transparency — giving information, quickly and efficiently to citizens, so the powers-that-be can be held accountable for actions taken in their constituents’ names.

The Board and committees are also looking long-term, with a push to have some kind of affordable housing on the Island move forward with pragmatic steps, such as organizing a public referendum on adding 0.5% to the existing 2% Community Preservation Fund tax on real estate transactions, which will go for affordable housing.

The committee in charge is also organizing an initiative to put information before the voters, clearing the weeds so they can make reasonable choices on one of the defining issues of our time.

We applaud the energy and forward thinking the Town Board has taken to enrich the lives of all Islanders.