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Jun 12, 2012 6:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Palmer Hopes Second Time Will Be Charm In Westhampton Beach Village Election

Jun 13, 2012 1:01 PM

Charlie Palmer, who came within a few dozen votes of winning a seat on the Westhampton Beach Village Board two years ago, has thrown his hat in the ring once again and said one of his main goals remains the same: to improve communication between the village and the residents it serves.

Mr. Palmer, 55, has lived in Westhampton Beach since 1965 and believes he would be an asset to the village in terms of crunching numbers and maintaining the budget. A senior accountant for the Suffolk County Police Department since 1989, Mr. Palmer has plenty of practice with multimillion-dollar budgets and said he knows how to trim the fat.

“As an accountant for 29 years now, I think I can bring something to the table,” said Mr. Palmer, who is running as a member of the Lightning Party. “I have a lot of insight into the government, and while I think all of the board members bring something to the table, I think I can complement what they bring.”

Mr. Palmer said another of his goals is to make the board more accountable for its spending by offering more transparency during the budget process. One way he thinks he can achieve that goal is by sharing figures throughout the process, and not just at the end when trustees are ready to adopt a spending plan. He said when taxpayers can see actual transactions, they can learn about the process and understand what government does.

“I feel that when people do see where the money is going, then people will be a little bit more careful and accountable,” he said. “Showing taxpayers where their money is going is good.”

Because he thinks fiscal responsibility is important, Mr. Palmer supports the new state tax cap that limits the amount of money a village can collect from taxpayers each year. After months of combing through the numbers, the board adopted a plan that came in just under the cap.

“This is a good place to start,” Mr. Palmer said. “The cap itself does give some exceptions to the rule, so maybe this will help us learn to stay within the budget.”

A key issue for Mr. Palmer remains improving communication, something he says is lacking throughout the village. He said board members need to be more open with one another, noting that transparency will improve relations. “We can restore a little bit of dignity back to the board with mutual respect for each other,” he said.

One idea he has to achieve that goal is expanding and updating the village’s website. According to Mr. Palmer, the site is underutilized and should feature more informative sections for residents, such as listing when the fall leaf and spring brush pickups are held.

“We can always do things a little bit better,” he said. “Certainly, things have calmed down since two years ago, but the primary goals are still the same: sharing all information with board members and restoring dignity to the board.”

In regards to the Jewish religious boundary, called an eruv, that has been proposed for and would encompass all of Westhampton Beach, Mr. Palmer said he is against the initiative, stating that it would show favoritism to one specific religion. “I believe in separation of church and state,” he said. “Westhampton Beach is a diverse community where we accept all religions and lifestyles ... There should not be a certain preference to a religious group and I don’t think that we should be getting involved in this.”

Another goal of Mr. Palmer is to improve communication between the board and the police department. He said it should not come as a surprise to trustees if there is a move to suspend or discipline an officer. Mr. Palmer describes his vision as “modest oversight, not micromanaging.” He added that the board should have the back of Westhampton Beach Police Chief Ray Dean.

“The chief having the support of all the trustees is a necessity for communication,” Mr. Palmer said. “I think that is the goal—a collective management body so that the public would know how the police are performing. I support the chief and his endeavors.”

He said he supports any endeavor that will attract additional foot traffic to Main Street, such as the Farmers Market hosted each Saturday morning by the Greater Westhampton Chamber of Commerce and the newly approved oyster festival that will be held Columbus Day weekend at the Village Marina.

Mr. Palmer also said the time has come for the board to assess whether it can afford—and residents would support—the creation of a sewer district. He said that, if financially feasible, such a district would allow more restaurants to open on Main Street and also protect local bays.

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