Codger thought the election would provide Shelter Island with some sort of a mandate, but he had no idea what sort.
Codger doesn’t know everything.
He isn’t even sure at the moment who won, although it looks like Amber Brach-Williams edged Gordon Gooding, while Albert Dickson and Benjamin Dyett have seats on the next Town Board. But what does that really mean for the Island? Will we be getting a new shade of Amber, as promised, plus a couple of guys scrambling to do the bidding of their “financial masters,” as foretold by their opposition?
There are all sorts of mandates, of course, and part of the problem here is that the Island doesn’t seem to have a positive one; it’s mostly a consensus call to stop the downward slide into Hamptonization, which may have already happened since we don’t really know what that means.
After all, we have unaffordable housing, elite restaurants, $1,000 hotel rooms, and lush green lawns to die for (or at least be slightly poisoned).
Meanwhile, there are people in the Hamptons who are trying to claw back up to idealized Shelter Islandization. A group called Change-Hampton has begun a movement to fight the pesticidal lawn culture by creating pollinating gardens, leaving leaves to nourish the soil and going solar and electric, among other tactics.
It’s a first step toward engagement in the great war against climate change, which might be the ultimate Hamptonization.
Here on the Island, the indefatigable Lisa Shaw, a member of the Water Advisory Committee, has called meetings and organized a campaign to educate homeowners and landscapers on the one sure way we can cut back on nitrogen contamination, which is curtailing the use of fertilizers. Demand that landscapers be licensed, says Lisa. Will that make a big difference? Probably not, she says, but it can move the dial. There’s power in moving the dial, even a click or two, because if everyone does it, you could be fulfilling a mandate.
Isn’t that supposed to be Amber’s job? It’s a lot of pressure. Whether or not she’s the next supervisor, which looks likely, the weight is on Amber to steer the Island in a positive direction. She’s been promoting herself as new and improved, no longer the silent servant of supervisors.
So how should she raise her new-found voice? First, maybe tighten up the current vague and flabby Comprehensive Plan and then, in an Island first, create an engine of real enforcement. There are plenty of good rules on the books — check out irrigation, for example — but ignoring them has created a poisoning sense of cynicism and disrespect.
Gary Blados, chairman of the Republican Party here, thinks Amber can foster progress just by bringing a long absent civility to Town Hall. He also said that Dyett and Dickson “will serve their financial masters who live in giant mansions for a few weekends a year.”
He pointed out to Codger that Dyett was on course to be commodore of the yacht club, proof of the crowd he sails with.
Blados, like many, sorrowfully foresees the future as a gated community for the rich. Codger was amused at Blados’ positioning the Republican party as representatives of working people, especially locals. Blados responded that the goals of a local party shouldn’t be confused with those of the national party.
“We’re not arguing about abortion and guns here,” he said. “It’s about all-year-rounders having a voice.”
Good point. Codger recalled that the single smartest suggestion that emerged from last month’s candidates’ debate was Republican ex-cop Tom Cronin’s call to reach out to the Latin community, making them feel welcome to speak at meetings and join local groups.
That’s not only humane and inclusive, but a fresh source of energy and ideas. And maybe more new members for volunteer organizations, including the Emergency Medical Services and Fire departments.
Maybe the mandate isn’t going to come from the triumph of a candidate with a knockout plan, but from something small and specific, like that starter scheme to cut down on the chemicals soaking the lawn, then the aquifer, and then our drinking water.
The luxuriant greensward will become a symbol of those financial masters who just don’t care, maybe because they don’t have to, maybe because they have less than you’d think to show for their time on earth than that emblem of wealth and disregard, the rolling lawn.
It was Dickson, the only Town Board member with the courage to vote against a financial master monster house, who recently said: “A brown lawn is a badge of honor.”
Codger liked that, and while waiting for the final election tallies, dreamed of a team of Nitro Rangers exposing pesticide use and illegal sprinkler systems, moving the dial and thus perhaps helping to fulfill a mandate.