Editorial: Tough challenges for Edward Romaine in Brookhaven

Republican Edward Romaine waves to his supporters at Republican Edward Romaine waves to his supporters at Suffolk County Republican headquarters in Patchogue, NY after defeating Brian Beedenbender for Brookhaven Town supervisor. (Nov. 6, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

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Today Edward Romaine becomes supervisor of the Town of Brookhaven, and he has some big tasks in the one-year term he has won in a special election.

First, he has to put aside the mindset of a county legislator in the minority party and pivot into the role of a decision-maker. He's made decisions before, as county clerk, but that's a far less complex enterprise than this huge, politically combative town. The state's town law makes him and the other six members of the town board into a joint executive, and that is never easy sailing.

Second, he has to manage a budget proposed by former Supervisor Mark Lesko -- one that the town board declined to support. It goes into effect without them, and it includes unpleasant realities such as layoffs. It also still has a structural imbalance that needs fixing.

Third, he has to find a way to get the board to approve a plan to protect the Carmans River from overdevelopment that could pollute a healthy waterway. Lesko tried, but ran into stubborn, bipartisan pushback.

Fourth, he has to make a start toward planning for the day, 14 to 17 years from now, when the landfill in Yaphank runs out of room and stops producing revenue.

Fifth, and perhaps most important, now that the town again has a Republican supervisor, with four other Republicans on the board, he must restrain his party from using this strengthened control as an instrument to begin a disruptive purge just to give party members jobs.

Both Democrats and Republicans have a recent history of cleaning house in taking control. But the Republican penchant for blatant patronage is more deeply ingrained over decades. And it was under long GOP dominance that the town gained its label as "Crookhaven."

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Romaine is smart, decent and endowed with a sense of history. He's also independent, and he's determined to stay that way. Romaine can burnish his legacy of public service by steering his town in the right direction on several key fronts. If he maintains his independence and doesn't let his party sabotage him, he has the right stuff to get the job done.

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