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'No' on districts shows Huntington voters satisfied

The spokesman for the campaign that tried to carve Huntington into council districts said Wednesday that the voters' response shows unequivocally this is not the right time to make the change.

Town residents voted 16,657 to 3,834 Tuesday to turn back the proposal to elect town board members from individual districts

The spokesman for Concerned Citizens of Huntington, Mark Cronin - a writer and former health care executive from Huntington Bay - said that, in hindsight, it's clear the group could have done things differently:

"We could have raised more money," Cronin said. "We could have built a bigger base before we started collecting petitions. We could have done more education."

But Cronin, 51, conceded that, given the margin of defeat, those things might not have made a difference.

"There are no sour grapes," he said. "People in Huntington are satisfied enough with the current system that they don't have a strong desire to change. Also there weren't any galvanizing issues that really inspired people to say we want change."

The four town board members are elected by voters throughout the town. The Concerned Citizens campaign said districts would give residents better representation, lead to more public input and debate and reduce the costs of running for office.

The group succeeded in getting the proposal on the ballot by submitting petitions containing about 4,000 signatures.

But opponents pushed back, campaigning under the banner Keep Huntington Whole and emphasizing that districts would fracture a town that functions well.

Cronin said he got involved with the council district effort after his involvement with the local Barack Obama presidential campaign, which he helped organize. Among the campaign volunteers were advocates for council districts.

He said Wednesday he has no further political aspirations. "I honestly think council districts are good for the town," he said of his role in the campaign.

Town board member Mark Cuthbertson, who worked with other opponents of council districts, said Wednesday the campaign succeeded by staying focused on explaining to residents why council districts would not be good for Huntington.

"People heard what we had to say," Cuthbertson said. "And they came out and voted. I'm most overwhelmed by the turnout. It's terrific that people took that much of an interest."

Cronin said it was clear voters prefer the status quo. "A good idea alone is not enough to warrant change," he said.

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