One of the basic principles of representative democracy is that the closer our elected officials are to their constituents, the better those constituents will be served. The Neighborhood Network has been working to bring town council members on Long Island closer to the people they represent. Our primary focus in town government reform has been in promoting the system of council districts, in which each board member is elected from a specific district in which he or she lives.
Due to the successful advocacy of concerned citizens and the thousands of Islip voters who signed petitions, the Islip Town Board approved a referendum for the ward system (council districts) for this Election Day (November 7, 2006). Unfortunately, a vote-no mailing, which contained no information on who was sending it, reached voters homes the weekend before election day with a dishonest claim that council districts would cost tax-payers millions of dollars. The coalition working for reform had no time to respond to this disinformation, and the referendum was defeated.
The Neighborhood Network working with local citizen organizations conducted two petition drives, which gathered a total of 7,788 signatures to place the referendum on the ballot. Click here for more details about the petition effort, and the voter education campaign.
Voters in the Town of North Hempstead approved council districts in a special election held on April 29, 2003. The Neighborhood Network urged its members and all North Hempstead residents to vote "Yes" and distributed informational flyers in that town explaining the benefits of council districts.
The Neighborhood Network, in partnership with a local Brookhaven civic organization, helped to organize a campaign to change an "at-large" system of electing Town Board members to one of council districts. Together, the two groups collected more than 20,000 signatures to put the question on a referendum. After considerable legal wrangling on the part of the Town Board, the residents of the town were given the opportunity to vote on this important reform, and chose to adopt council districts.
Currently we are working with a coalition of civic activists and community leaders in the Town of East Hampton to put the question of adopting council districts before the voters in that town. If you are registered to vote in East Hampton Township, find out how you can help.
Petition efforts are also underway the Towns of Babylon and Huntington.