Elected officials say plastering their names on municipal signs tells residents whom to hold accountable. If that were so, those names would be displayed near the locations of frequent traffic jams, potholes, pedestrian deaths and zombie homes. Heck, even their Facebook pages would invite residents to call out shortcomings.
But that is not the case.
In the municipalities where advertising the names of officials is common, such signs appear most often at facilities people enjoy, like parks and beaches. The upshot is that taxpayers pay for the privilege of knowing that these pleasant places and amenities supported by their dollars are under the control of someone they could reward on Election Day.
All this obvious self-promotion by the officials is increasingly irritating to residents. On Long Island, at least a few localities are ending the practice, and that’s a fine trend.
On Thursday, Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen announced the town replaced almost all signs that showed elected officials’ names with ones that do not, to reduce the stench of self-promotion and save money in the future. Gillen said 107 signs have been replaced. While the move cost $4,600, it will save the $3,000 that would have been spent each time the roster of electeds changed in the future.
Newly elected Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim wants to do the same and will soon propose the change to the town board, where he appears to have some support. Wehrheim says a no-name policy on as many as 400 town signs could save $5,000 per election cycle.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is creating signs that won’t feature politicians’ names. Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke says he will, too. And Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith did not update the town’s signs with her name after she was elected.
Some municipalities simply haven’t plastered the names of electeds all over the place. Those that do ought to stop.
In Oyster Bay, former Supervisor John Venditto put his name and those of other officials on anything that didn’t move. Supervisor Joseph Saladino, who took office when Venditto resigned, and then was elected in November, has replaced Venditto’s name with his own on many signs. The town says putting Saladino’s name on signs was done with materials on hand because the signs were designed for interchangeable names. But those names could just as easily have been replaced with blanks.
And Saladino has taken self-promotion in another direction. He’s axed the town’s official social media accounts and now communicates town business to residents via accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter under his own name. On the Facebook page, negative comments are deleted and some political opponents are blocked from posting. This is a misuse of power and a bad strategy. Name recognition doesn’t help when the emotion it sparks is fury. — The editorial board