OPINION: Meriden’s mayor tries to restore dignity to divided City Council 

OPINION: Meriden’s mayor tries to restore dignity to divided City Council 

Meriden’s form of government grants limited power to its mayor, but Kevin Scarpati was able to use what he had to great influence Tuesday night.

The mayor removed two partisan censures from the City Council’s agenda, calling them inappropriate, but what he had to say about the whole situation was more damning:

“It’s unfortunate that I have to act on this or that any of us has to discuss this whether it is this item or the next,” he said. “The fact that we have stooped so low as a governing body to put forward resolutions like this is absolutely ridiculous.”

Residents crowded City Hall for the meeting, and removing the items from the agenda did little to stop discussion about the censures.

As for the actions that prompted the criticisms, I’ll leave it to you to decide.

One called for the censure of We the People Councilor Bob Williams. The claim was he’d violated the city’s sexual harassment policy in a reference to department heads by saying, “you gotta basically pat ‘em on the ass a little bit.” The censure resolution was brought by Democrats David Lowell, Larue Graham and Cathy Battista.

The other, brought by minority caucus members Dan Brunet, Joseph Carabetta III and Williams, alleged Democratic Councilor Miguel Castro had violated the city ethics code by pressuring the Council of Neighborhoods to remove his political opponent in last fall’s election from the head of the Westsiders association.

These were partisan censures, and if they showed anything it’s that the discord at City Hall has yet to be alleviated, despite the firing of City Manager Guy Scaife.

And this is true not just in council chambers. Earlier this month, an anonymous note was slipped under the door of two employees hired by Scaife the day after he was fired, stating “you two are next to go.”

Now, political infighting and gestures of mean-spiritedness, as illustrated by the anonymous note, are nothing new. Parties have been at each other since there have been political parties, but what seems to be different is the tone of the discord.

When state lawmakers were having an incredibly long and frustrating inability to come up with a state budget, I worried about what I called trickle-down uncertainty. Uncertainty about Connecticut’s budget led to uncertainty at town halls about funding — to uncertainty in school districts, to uncertainty among teachers and, even uncertainty among children.

These days it’s hard to not suspect trickle-down anxiety.

The last week has been one of the most remarkable I can remember when it comes to discourse at the national level, when newspapers and other news outlets were routinely employing a word I’m so tired of I don’t even want to type it (s***hole -- there, I used asterisks).

It’s not just the use of the word, prominent figures have talked naughty for a long time, and I guess it was inevitable that we’d graduate from the “explicative deleted” Nixon era to the expletive not deleted world of today.

But it’s not just the word, it’s also the casual making of the most outrageous comments and then walking them back, the continued, depressing evidence of politicians making decisions in the interests of their party and themselves instead of the American people, and yes, a president who demeans by actions and words and makes an unceasing appeal to the baser instincts of humanity.

Every day there’s a new battle, a new crisis, a new affront.

Supporters admire the president for not being a career politician, and find his boorishness, sent out incessantly in tweets, refreshingly candid. But you can also see it as the attention-grabbing need of the narcissist. The attention addiction can be exhausting, and nerve-wracking for the rest of us.

That’s not good leadership. The boorishness trickles down, and so does the anxiety, and what’s being lost is a sense of the value of dignity.

Now, what’s happening in Meriden (or Wallingford or Southington, or anywhere) may have nothing to do with any of this. But it’s hard not to wonder.

A return to dignity would be a refreshing change right about now, and that seems at least part of what Mayor Scarpati was getting at the other night.


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