Yes, William W. Dickinson Jr. does have a stubborn streak. Yes, his resistance to installing more technology at Town Hall does seem odd — maybe even misguided — to those of us who use the Internet every day. Yes, you could say that he’s out of step with the times.
But this technophobia is a foible, not a fatal flaw. You might even say it’s part of his charm. Mr. Dickinson, Wallingford’s Republican mayor, seems to be a parsimonious, old-school Yankee. Deep down, he suspects that adding tech will cost the town money, one way or another, and he’s just too tight-fisted to let that happen on his watch.
And, let’s be honest, that suspicion is not without merit. Anyone who works in a fully wired office knows that lots of people spend some part of every day Facebooking or Googling or Tweeting. It may not be a big problem, but it happens, and it happens a fair amount.
Yes, Mr. Dickinson is cheap (excuse me: frugal), so frugal that you might even surmise that he blows out the candles on a birthday cake not to celebrate, but to save wax; so frugal that it’s hard to tell whether he fends off raises for himself mainly to save the taxpayers some money or mainly to dissuade the Democrats from trying harder to take the job away from him. Well, if that’s the plan, it isn’t working; Jason Zandri is waging the most serious campaign to unseat him in a long time.
But Wallingford is hardly “getting blown away by neighboring towns,” as Mr. Zandri claimed at a recent candidate forum. Not when Mr. Dickinson has kept property taxes so stable for so many years, and has maintained the town’s AAA credit rating, and not when Wallingford’s electric rates are the envy of those same neighboring towns. Nor is it likely that many residents have forgotten how quickly the Electric Division got them their power back after major storms, compared to the miserable performance of Northeast Utilities.
Stable taxes, a top credit rating — residents are satisfied with the status quo, and so are businesses, so it’s very hard to imagine how those neighboring towns are “going to eat our lunch,” as Mr. Zandri predicts. On second thought, it’s just about impossible to imagine.
As for Mr. Dickinson’s performance on other issues:
• Not having a drug drop box at police HQ: This is a problem? If this is such a big deal, then why have only 36 of the 128 police stations in this state (counting the various state police barracks) chosen to have such boxes? Anyone is free at any time to put such items in the trash, and they’ll be incinerated in due course.
• The King holiday: That again? In labor-management negotiations, everything is on the table, but nothing is given away free — ever. It’s all about give and take. If the town’s reputation suffered over this, it’s because various people and groups made a big stink about it. (At the time of the controversy, I called the sanitation workers’ union in Memphis — the very people for whom Rev. King gave his life — and learned that, yes, they did get King Day off, but the Wallingford workers got more paid holidays overall. Don’t you think the Memphis workers would have swapped?)
• Wooding-Caplan: Everybody’s tired of hearing about Wooding-Caplan.
• The former American Legion building: Everybody’s tired of that, too.
• The Simpson Court parking lot: Ditto.
• The dumping of street sweepings in an aquifer: Now you’re talking; that was bad, and had better not happen again. It’s a legitimate complaint against the mayor’s management.
But it’s only one.
Reach Glenn Richter at firstname.lastname@example.org.