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Long IslandPolitics

Huntington Town Board member seeks input on term limits law

Huntington Town Councilman Gene Cook on Tuesday, June

Huntington Town Councilman Gene Cook on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Huntington Town Board member Gene Cook says it’s time to institute term limits for elected officials in the town and he wants to hear what residents think.

Cook is asking for opinions around the town on the issue and is even encouraging all Long Islanders to weigh in. He said he is drafting legislation to schedule an informational public hearing in September to discuss the issue.

There has been discussion over the years about whether elected officials in the town should be limited to eight years or 12 in office, and whether elected officials who do not make policy — such as the town clerk, receiver of taxes and highway superintendent — should be subject to term limits.

“I want the honest truth about what the people want,” Cook said. “I want to come up with a good plan; if they say eight or 12 years, I’ll go with that; if they say it should only be the policy makers, I’ll go with that.”

Cook said he doesn’t want to publicly state his opinion on how long elected officials should serve because he wants the decision to be voter-driven. Terms are four years, and Cook was re-elected to his second term in 2015.

In 2013, Cook, an Independence Party member, introduced a resolution asking for a public hearing to consider term limits for members of the town board, but it did not get support from Democrats on the board.

“Let’s see what the public says,” said Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, who announced recently he won’t seek re-election after serving 22 years in the town’s top job. “I’m open-minded.”

Cook had considered running for town supervisor and has said he won’t seek a third term as a town board member.

Cook said he has discussed term limits with Petrone and town board member Tracey Edwards, a Democrat who is running to replace Petrone as supervisor.

Edwards said it is “very appropriate for Councilman Cook to seek input and feedback from our constituents.”

Paul Sabatino, the former Suffolk County legislative counsel who drafted the county’s term limit law in 1993, said 12 years in office is the right amount of time.

“An elected official needs a sufficient amount of time to get something accomplished,” said Sabatino, who is now in private practice in Huntington Station.

“Cream rises to the top. People who do well don’t have to worry because there is always going to be another office to run for because they will be able to run on a record of accomplishment,” Sabatino said. “In order to have a record of accomplishment you really need a minimum of eight years, but to me, 12 is the perfect balance.”

After hearing from the public, Cook said, he will draft a local law outlining the operational and legal procedures of term limits and hold another public hearing. Then the board would vote to create the law.

“Term limits are an important issue because things are always changing,” Cook said. “It’s a way to get new ideas from new people. It keeps politics more honest.”

To participate in a discussion about term limits for Huntington elected officials, answer the questions below and email Cook at ecook@huntingtonny.gov or send a letter to Councilman Eugene Cook, Huntington Town Hall, 100 Main St., Huntington, NY 11743.

  • Do you want term limits?
  • What elected offices within the Town of Huntington government should be term limited: town supervisor, town council, town clerk, receiver of taxes and highway superintendent?
  • How many four-year terms do you want?

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