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Editorial: Four-year terms a smarter way for Brookhaven

New Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine has asked the

New Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine has asked the town board for suggestions on altering the rules and procedures of council meetings. In this file photo, former county legislator Romaine speaks during a meeting of the Suffolk Legislature, Health Committee at the William H. Rogers Legislature building in Hauppauge. (May 3, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Brookhaven Town Board members would likely be better able to serve the community if their terms lasted four years instead of two.

A referendum under consideration by the board for the November ballot would double the terms to four years. It makes sense. Elected officials who have to spend too much time persuading their constituents to vote for them don't have as much time to actually serve those constituents. Worse, if elections come up too often, those officials are under constant pressure to make decisions that please voters in the short term, rather than supporting less popular choices on taxes and spending that might be better in the long run. And it's hard to create a stable, prudent plan of government when the people running the show can change so often.

Brookhaven, which held elections for all seven of its town board seats last November, is also out of step with other communities. It is the only one of the 13 towns on Long Island where council terms are not four years. The longer terms make more sense.

But another issue the town is considering putting up for referendum, term limits of 12 years for the town board, isn't as good an idea. Some Brookhaven Town Board races have been competitive enough in the past that they aren't appointments for life. And the races aren't so expensive to run that it's impossible for challengers to take a shot.

Creating term limits takes away the option of re-electing officials voters prefer. Voters already have a way to impose term limits: They can vote incumbents out. Brookhaven voters should only have to pick their town board members once every four years, but they should be allowed to keep picking those members for as many terms as they choose.