No Representation - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2234409

No Representation

December 16, 2023, marked the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. This was a protest by colonists against a tax on imported tea being imposed on the colonies by the British Parliament. The colonist argument against the tax was based on, among other factors, their lack of representation in the British Parliament. The chant of “no taxation without representation” was the rallying cry of the protest.

Two hundred and fifty years later, residents of the hamlets of Hampton Bays and Flanders are faced with the same lack of representation in their local government. The two hamlets, even with a large undercount of immigrants, represent over 40 percent of the year-round residents of the town. The current Town Board of Southampton, which is elected at large, has no members that live in either hamlet.

The Southampton Town governmental structure, of at-large representation, has caused the exclusion of both hamlets’ residents from government participation. This structural form of government was declared unconstitutional by federal courts in many southern cities, where it was used to prevent African Americans from gaining representation in local governments.

The January 11 Southampton Town Board work session demonstrated the flaws of the current government election structure of Southampton Town. It was very disconcerting to watch all nonresidents discuss the Hampton Bays downtown residential development plan. No one on the current board answers directly to the residents of Hampton Bays or Flanders.

Southampton Town should form a commission to reform its government structure. The town should be divided into council districts, each electing its own representative. Hampton Bays and Flanders should get districts proportional to their size. For example, if there are five districts, two of them must be allotted to Flanders and Hampton Bays. Both these hamlets have large Latino populations that currently have no representation.

The other structural change would be to check the power of the supervisor’s office. Currently, the supervisor is the chief executive of the town and the chief legislative officer. The supervisor should be removed from voting on the Town Board. The supervisor would have to approve and sign legislation. This arrangement would permit checks and balances on both the executive and legislative parts of the town government.

This reform should be done before a federal court declares the current arrangement unconstitutional and imposes its own changes on the current government structure of the Town of Southampton.

Ray D’Angelo

Hampton Bays