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Glen Cove city government needs overhaul, new group says

From left, Jack Vilella, Philip Pidot and Drew

From left, Jack Vilella, Philip Pidot and Drew Lawrence, seen here on Friday, are members of Reboot Glen Cove, which is proposing ideas to overhaul Glen Cove's government. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

A new group of Glen Cove residents is proposing overhauls to city government including reducing mayoral power, hiring a city manager, imposing term limits and abolishing the tax-break-granting Industrial Development Agency.

Elections can change mayors and City Council members, but “the consistent bad decision-making and the bad results are more inherent to the actual structure of government,” said Philip Pidot, an unsuccessful 2015 Republican City Council candidate who is leading the effort.

He pointed to years of audits by the state comptroller’s office critical of the city’s financial practices and the approval by the IDA of large tax breaks — including more than $200 million for the Garvies Point development in 2016 — as examples of what he called unaccountable governance. The mayor appoints members of the Industrial Development Agency.

“The current system is broken,” said Drew Lawrence, a former member of the zoning board and Community Development Agency who speaks frequently at council meetings. The group, Reboot Glen Cove, formally launched May 9 after months of discussions . It also is proposing to abolish the CDA, which implements rehabilitation and revitalization programs.

Mayor Timothy Tenke said the city charter review commission is a better route for instituting major changes than what he called “knee-jerk reactions” to perceived problems. The commission has been analyzing the charter since 2015 and plans to place three referendums dealing with terms of elected office on the November ballot.

“They throw out these great big ideas of how to change things, but they may not be looking at the ramifications of doing so very clearly,” he said of the Reboot effort.

Former Democratic City Councilman Roderick Watson, who Pidot identified as one of the seven core members of Reboot, said he has not decided whether he supports all the proposals. But they should be put on the ballot because “the people of Glen Cove should be the ones to decide how they want their city governed,” Watson said.

Reboot proposes 10 changes to government and lists them on its website, rebootglencove.com. They include electing council members by district rather than at-large, requiring multiyear financial plans for the city and making city elections nonpartisan.

The group’s goal is to get the referendums on the November 2018 ballot, which means collecting 569 valid petition signatures by early July to start the process.

City Attorney Charles McQuair said some of the proposals, such as to abolish the IDA, may not be allowed through referendums. IDAs were established under state, not local, law.

And Tenke said officials are accountable to voters through elections.

“If they don’t like something the mayor does or the council does, their remedy is to vote them out,” he said.

REFERENDUM MEETING

Reboot Glen Cove, which is proposing overhauls to city government through referendums on the November 2018 ballot, is holding a town hall-style meeting to gather public input on the initiatives. It begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Glen Cove Public Library.

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