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Eric Cotton

Time for a change

When Wallingford’s animal control officer was fired and two other workers in the department resigned as part of the same personal dispute, Assistant Animal Control Officer Rachel Amenta found herself with a problem. She was suddenly the only employee left in the department and the number of dogs and cats in need of adoption wasn’t letting up. So she did what must have seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

She started a Facebook page.

Amenta posts photos of the animals and a description of their circumstances. In just a few months, the page has gained more than 1,600 followers and attracted interest nationally, not just in Wallingford, as she told the R-J for a recent article.

It’s the perfect marriage between a traditional municipal function and social media and has undoubtedly increased productivity. But while many cities and towns are making similarly effective use of social media, Amenta’s department is the only one doing that in Wallingford for one simple reason.

She didn’t ask for permission.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s aversion to technology is well known. Most town departments lack Internet access and email so employees are forced to find work-arounds using fax machines and their own personal Internet connections and email accounts. It’s a ridiculous situation that has gone on for far too long. The mayor insults the intelligence of constituents by claiming to prefer the “personal touch” of the telephone or an in-person visit. Even if that were true, it wouldn’t be worth unfairly burdening town staff, inconveniencing residents and wasting public resources.

The underlying problem is the mayor’s unwillingness to compromise on that issue and countless others.

He doesn’t like to use outside contractors, for example, which made Wallingford’s recovery from last February’s blizzard more difficult and ultimately more costly than it needed to be. It’s why town projects like the Wooding-Caplan parking lot have taken longer than they should and likely also the reason Public Works was found illegally dumping oily waste material in a town aquifer.

Dickinson demonstrated his resistance to compromise years ago by refusing to grant town workers the day off for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The state eventually passed a law forcing all municipalities to do so, but the damage to the town’s reputation had been done.

The mayor’s approach hasn’t changed.

After the town experienced a rash of drug overdoses among young people, several still-grieving family members mobilized to fight the issue. They approached the town about installing a drop-box for the safe disposal of unused medication at the police department. Dickinson and the police chief callously insisted it would tax police resources, even though that hasn’t been the case in other towns. They took what should have been a simple step and made it controversial. The town still doesn’t have a drop-box much to the frustration of those families.

A student recently asked Dickinson what he thought about the government shutdown and the standoff in Congress. The mayor called it “a failure of leadership.”

By refusing time and again to compromise, he’s been guilty of the very same thing.

Reach Eric Cotton at (203) 317-2344 or Follow him on Twitter @ecotton3.

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