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Editorial: Three cheers for less political self-promotion

Town of Huntington Superintendent of Highways Peter S.

Town of Huntington Superintendent of Highways Peter S. Gunther pulls out and looks at signs inside the sign shop at the Town of Huntington highway yard in Elwood July 23, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

They're everywhere -- on public buildings and public works vehicles, parks signs and road signs, cultural event posters and truck mud flaps. We're talking about names of public officials and the custom of affixing them to all manner of municipal objects -- even the scorecard pencils at Nassau County's Eisenhower Park golf courses, which sport the name of the county executive.

It's self-promotion, usually at taxpayer expense.

Now some local leaders are bucking tradition and taking their names off signs. Let's hope their actions become a signature movement to restore common sense to government.

The instigator of the de-naming drive appears to be East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who announced when he took office in January that his name would be posted only at Town Hall. Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine is removing his name from town signs and substituting a town phone number to use for complaints. In Huntington, new Highway Superintendent Peter Gunther is replacing his predecessor's name with "Town of Huntington Hwy Dept."

His impeccable logic: "It's not my highway department. It's the Town of Huntington's."

Others argue the names are a way to hold officeholders accountable and that changing signs every time someone new is elected doesn't cost that much. But surely municipal employees have better things to do, and the replacement materials still must be purchased.

Brookhaven Town Board member Connie Kepert called the nascent trend "silly." She says names help distinguish between town, county and state facilities. As if "Town of Brookhaven" and "Suffolk County" aren't clear enough. Kepert also says names tell people whom to contact.

OK, so for every official who insists his or her name should be on signs and truck doors as a measure of accountability, let's make a deal: You get your name if you include your home phone number, too.