Manorhaven residents can decide whether to double the mayoral term length from two to four years at an upcoming referendum.
The Oct. 3 referendum follows an Aug. 24 decision by the village board of trustees to adopt a four-year mayoral term if it is approved by a community vote.
The change would take effect with the mayoral election on June 19, 2018. Village officials did not respond to inquiries about whether Mayor James M. Avena will seek re-election.
In a statement posted on the village website, Avena touted the benefits of extending the term, such as facilitating greater commitment to long-term projects, attracting and maintaining quality staff, and enabling continuity in both planning and budgeting.
“The entire board is in favor of this change. . . . Every time a new mayor comes in, everything stops in its tracks,” Avena wrote. “Voters still have trustees as a system of checks and balances if they don’t like how things are being run.”
Trustee term lengths will remain fixed at two years.
Avena, who was elected in June 2016, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Village Clerk-Treasurer Sharon Natalie Abramski said Monday that “the mayor has been busy and unavailable.”
The majority of mayors and trustees in North Hempstead Town’s 30 incorporated villages fill two-year terms. Less than a dozen municipalities within the town have adopted four-year terms for mayors and trustees.
“Local villages have various terms,” said Manorhaven Village Attorney Steven Leventhal. “It’s [four-year terms] not a universal practice, but there is no universal practice.”
The Oct. 3 referendum follows multiple previous efforts by the village to double the term. On June 22, the village board passed a resolution to increase the term, subject to a permissive referendum, which would take place if 20 percent of the village’s registered voters signed a petition to hold a vote. On July 27, the board rescinded that resolution after an incorrect public notice was published. The board also wanted to give residents a greater voice by officially holding a referendum, Leventhal said.
One month later, the board voted again in favor of the four-year term and to set a date for the referendum.
Some villagers firmly oppose the measure, saying that it eliminates residents’ ability to hold officials accountable.
“If mayors are worthy of our votes, they would be re-elected in two years very easily,” said former Deputy Mayor Lucretia Steele, 68, who served on the board from 2012 to 2015. “There’s only one person it will benefit, and that is the mayor.”
Others added that they are concerned about voter turnout, and questioned why the village did not hold the referendum during the June general election.
“What happens if the person is less than qualified? There’s so much damage that could be done to a little village,” said resident Rudy Santo, 84. “The risk is the unknown.”
Residents can vote from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Village Hall, 33 Manorhaven Blvd. in Port Washington.
10 villages, 4 years
The North Hempstead incorporated villages with four-year mayoral terms:
- East Hills
- East Williston
- New Hyde Park
- North Hills
- Old Westbury
- Roslyn Harbor
- Williston Park