Brightwaters board votes down term limits

Brightwaters Village Hall, shown on Aug. 4, 2012,

Brightwaters Village Hall, shown on Aug. 4, 2012, houses the village court, board of trustees meetings, vehicle and traffic department, and more. (Credit: Brittany Wait)

The Brightwaters village board kicked off the new year by defeating proposed resolutions that would have set term limits for the mayor and trustees, specifying benefits for nonunion employees and enacting financial controls on large contracts.

The proposals were touted by backers as a way to bring greater transparency to village policies.

Voters on Long Island are divided on the usefulness of term limits, said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.


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"Not everybody thinks term limits are the answer," he said. "Not everybody wants to deny voters the right to vote for anyone they want."

Brightwaters trustees Jack Riordan and Joe McDermott last week proposed the resolutions, which were defeated by a coalition of Mayor Joseph McNulty, Deputy Mayor Denise Gibson and trustee John Lawlor.

The proposed restrictions would have limited the mayor and trustees to three consecutive two-year terms starting with this year's elections.

McNulty, who has been mayor for almost two decades, said he thinks elections act as a form of term limits. "We have limits in our system," he said after the vote at last Monday's board meeting. The mayor's position, like all village board seats, is unpaid.

Brightwaters resident Joan Manahan questioned why term limits were voted down. "It discourages other people, new people from the village, from coming in" and running for office, she said. "I'm very disappointed."

McDermott, who introduced the term limits proposal, said after the vote that he expected failure. "I knew it was a tough sell," he said. "Maybe come election time, we have to speak with our voices."

McNulty, Gibson and Lawlor also voted down resolutions to clarify vacation benefits for full-time, nonunion employees; to require current and future employees to pay 25 percent of their health care benefit costs; and to require board votes on any contract costing more than 5 percent of the village's budgeted revenue.

The split voting reflects the continued divide between McNulty, who maintains that Brightwaters is in good financial shape, and Riordan and McDermott, who say they are pushing for reforms and greater transparency in village governance.

The board also unanimously approved a contract with the Bay Shore Fire District to cover the village, as well as a new law limiting driveway space for village residents.

"This is to keep people from turning their front lawns into parking lots," Lawlor said.

Some residents pointed out that large families often have multiple cars, which must be parked in driveways because the village doesn't allow street parking. Lawlor said existing driveways will be grandfathered in.

The new limit prohibits driveways from covering more than 35 percent of residents' front lawns.

"It's not intended to be a penalty," Lawlor said. "It's really intended to maintain the aesthetics of the village."

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