In nine short days, Wallingford voters will head for the polls to select a chief executive for the town and nine members each for its Town Council and Board of Education. All of us have seen hundreds of campaign signs, read campaign material, perhaps viewed the televised forums, and read advertisements and articles in this newspaper.
But absolutely nothing else you have read or seen will be more illuminating as to the qualifications of those candidates to serve the Town of Wallingford than 1) viewing the discussion of Item 7 of last Tuesday’s Town Council meeting and 2) reading both of the articles concerning the mayoral candidates meeting with Sheehan High School students.
The Town Council meeting agenda item has been placed on YouTube at www.youtube.com/wlfdaxiom. Both newspaper articles are easily accessible on Myrecordjournal.com. Depending on your browser, just go to the site, click on MENU, then Wallingford, or go the home page and click on Wallingford News. The article on candidate Zandri headlined “Wallingford mayoral candidate Zandri speaks to Sheehan students” is on the first page and the article on Mayor Dickinson entitled “Wallingford mayor gives students civics lessons” is on the second.
Town Council Meeting: Two weeks ago, I ended my column in part by saying, “There is one more Town Council meeting before the election. Perhaps it would be instructive to watch it … ” I had no way of knowing how on-target that suggestion was until that meeting took place last Tuesday. You can read campaign literature until your eyes cross, but nothing can better help you decide who should serve on that body than watching them in action so that you can determine which of them deserves reelection and which of the new candidates should possibly replace some of those now sitting.
The topic was, of course, the storing of street sweepings and catch basin material by Public Works. Council leadership, having previously denied one councilor his request to make a Powerpoint presentation, had further considered the request and, apparently in the interest of transparency, placed the item on last Tuesday’s meeting agenda.
You have got to see this in its entirety, and certainly not just the presentation itself, which was but a prelude to a most illuminating discussion following it. I have been sworn to objectivity in this campaign season, but am confident that watching the YouTube video of the proceedings will speak for itself.
Sheehan High School presentations: Both Mayor Dickinson and challenger Jason Zandri spoke to a class of Sheehan High School students, and R-J articles on the 18th and 23rd recount those events. Read both of these and you will come away with a glimpse of the differences in temperament, priorities and focus of the two people asking you to give them the job as chief executive of the municipal government.
Carefully note whether the answers they give the students focus on the issues of the campaign or the personalities. The performances and remarks of each of these men speak volumes. I implore you to take the time to find and read these articles.
On November 5th, voters will tell us the answers to these questions: Who is best suited to be the chief executive of an enterprise with a budget exceeding $140 million? Which individuals will best perform as legislators who can work together in the best interests of the town? Which BOE candidates have the skills to manage all the changes that our education system is facing?
Ironically, the two websites to which I am directing you are relatively new technological tools that will help voters to look beyond the sound bites of a campaign in which there has been significant focus placed on the issue of technology. They will remind us that technology is but a tool and cannot substitute for or enhance the personal character, integrity, maturity and vision of those in public office who use it.
Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford Town Councilor.