Doing the right thing is not always easy, nor always popular, but always necessary. I’ll be the first to say that my debut as a public official on December 2, 2013 was hardly a stellar performance, especially on stage in front of so many people. Many folks, as well as myself, try to make it clear that I am not a politician (nor a polished public speaker), but what I am is a concerned citizen that has sat on the sidelines for long enough. I have witnessed what seasoned politicians have done to my city, and to my state and country, for that matter.
More importantly, I won the last election (by a generous margin), campaigning for an end to one-party rule and to change the direction of our city. Amazingly, some vocal opponents (most in the Democrat party) just can’t accept the reality that the citizens of Meriden wanted the change I campaigned on. They continue to fight tooth and nail to prevent me from influencing the change necessary; the change the people voted for. To be fair, some in the political establishment have come around.
A city charter should be legible enough for an average citizen to read and understand. After all, isn’t the essence of a democracy the ability for anyone to run for any office? Is it beneficial to society that an attorney be required to interpret the foundation of our municipal government, the City Charter? What does it mean when the Charter says:
“The Mayor shall recommend any and all appointments to officers or positions within the appointing power of the City Council (except as to chairpersons of the standing committees to the City Council) for approval.”
— §C3-3J (within section describing the powers of the City Council)
Does the above really necessitate an interpretation by an attorney (or a judge, as a lawsuit is currently before the courts)? Have we become so reliant on the few to rule over the many? What happened to the government of the people by the people? Have we evolved into a society of illiterates? I hope not.
With respect to being able to work together, compromise and get things done; why is it that some think the mayor should compromise his beliefs in order to work with the council? Why should the council not compromise their beliefs in order to work with the mayor? We just might end up somewhere in the middle. The council and I are gradually moving in that direction, a welcoming shift, indeed.
In the last two months, the office of mayor has focused on improving how we handle complaints and resolve constituents’ issues. Some calls are relatively minor in nature, but for the constituent, it means the world that the city listens to them and takes action to resolve the problem. Some calls (and visits to my office) are of greater value to the overall betterment of Meriden and will require more time and cooperation from the various city officials.
I have made my office accessible to anyone who wants to talk with me, even those that disagree with my viewpoints. I continue to consult with everyone, not just a select few. Ultimately, every decision I make is mine alone, for the long-term betterment of Meriden.
My election as mayor of our city is the first time in 30 years that the ruling party (Democrats) has not had control of the city council and mayor’s office, so of course there are disagreements and arguments! For far too long there has been no opposition. For the political operatives to suggest there is no value to the various disagreements and opposition, they are simply naive at best. Democracy always involves opposing viewpoints.
Our job, as elected officials, is to convince the citizenry that our idea is better than the other person’s.
Manuel A. Santos is Mayor of Meriden.