Most Americans are fed up with the divisive mess they see in this country and believe the United States is on the wrong track. In particular, they want elected officials to work together to find solutions to the challenges and problems facing our nation’s citizens.
In my 23 years in public office, I have never seen things so broken. The national situation is both dispiriting and disheartening.
I believe much of this is due to the ironclad gridlock at all levels of government coupled to entrenched, bitter partisanship. (Some partisanship is, after all, part and parcel to the business of politics. But I believe this president has purposely elevated it to the point of divisiveness.)
And just when you think Trump can’t go lower, he does. He lies and distorts on both big and small matters, from maligning a grieving Gold Star widow to installing a fake Renoir painting in the White House and insisting it’s genuine.
The level of his ridiculousness is beyond belief. Yet he still has his steadfast base that is with him no matter what he says or does. (I often wonder: Who are these people that will support him, as he once boasted, even if he were to shoot someone in Times Square?)
On the local political scene, this past Monday I watched the mayor/council debate. Of the three candidates running for mayor (a petitioning candidate, a Republican candidate and independent candidate Kevin Scarpati), Scarpati was clearly the most articulate and focused.
His campaign theme of “Positively Meriden” was on full display as he spoke about the city’s progress and promise going forward. He noted the visible signs of a city finally coming out of stagnation due to downtown redevelopment and the two renovated high schools.
Scarpati’s Republican-endorsed opponent mostly agreed with Kevin Scarpati throughout the evening and had little new ideas to contribute. The Republican-backed candidate did note that, as city clerk, her department always came in under its minuscule budget, but failed to mention how well compensated she was in her position at a salary of $83,538 (and now collecting an annual pension from the city of $46,714 with additional medical benefits).
The major difference between the Democrats and Republicans was the issue of affordable housing. The Republican position against affordable housing would, in fact, keep the Mills in place -- proving they don’t have a grasp of this complex situation.
As Democrat candidate David Lowell pointed out to them, the federal government requires the city to provide one-to-one replacement units in the same general area before approving demolition.
Additionally, the Republicans stated that the new housing units under construction were the same old failed concept that was done originally when the Mills apartments were built three decades ago.
The Democrats corrected this misconception by pointing out the obvious: that the new housing units are scattered site, mixed income, privately managed, and all have first floor commercial and retail space.
This represents the modern approach to provide a mix of new housing stock in downtown Meriden and is a far cry from the old method.
At-large candidates incumbent Democrat David Lowell and Bruce Fontanella (the latter running for the first time) offered an inspired message, noting that Meriden has positive momentum that they wish to continue.
Republicans Manny Santos and Len Rich -- both Trump supporters -- recited the same old tired message of being against affordable housing and proposing no tax increases (all the current council Republicans voted for the city budget for the last three years that included tax increases). Both of these Republicans have a history of divisive politics and are inclined to indulge in acrimony.
Meriden is on the cusp of unprecedented growth. We don’t need more divisiveness. There has already been over $200 million of private investment in our city -- and with more on the way. The results are visible and obvious: Meriden is on the move.
You, the voter, can keep Meriden moving in the right direction. I urge you to vote for Democrats.
Vote positively, Meriden, and reject the Trump-like negative and divisive politics of the Republicans. This is your choice. Make your voice heard.
Michael S. Rohde is a former Meriden mayor and city councilor.