Partisan bickering has tainted the election process in Southington. You don’t have to take a side in the brawl to observe that Southington ought to have an election debate more based on ideas and proposals as opposed to rancor, but that’s how elections go sometimes.
Republicans have been in control when it comes to elected representation in Southington, and there are voters who will feel satisfied continuing that situation, being pleased with how the party has handled taxes and development, among other issues. Yet others will note a kind of arrogance accompanying the political power, and the town would benefit were the GOP more accommodating to differing points of view.
One thing that is clear is that there will be new leadership on the Town Council. Chair Victoria Triano is not seeking re-election. In the past two elections, the Republican gained the most votes of any council candidate.
Along with Triano, Republican Councilor Tom Lombardi is stepping aside this election cycle, replaced on the GOP slate by Tony Morrison and Jennifer Clock, who each would bring a valuable skill set to the council. Morrison has a financial background as a business executive and is a member of the Board of Finance. Clock serves on the Planning & Zoning Commission and worked on the town's Plan of Conservation & Development.
But simply returning the Republican "super-majority" to the Town Council would likely not address real concerns Democrats have cited regarding a lack of consensus-building around important issues facing the town, most notably funding for education.
Incumbent Val DePaolo has pledged that under their control, the Democrats will govern as a “majority of nine,” meaning all councilors would have a voice. That pledge can be viewed optimistically in light of the addition of Ed Pocock III and David Zoni to an already experienced and pragmatic Democratic slate. Meanwhile, Democrat Jack Perry has continued to take an independent look at the issues and has offered constructive insights into potential improvements to the town's purchasing process.
Republicans have six of the nine council seats. Seeking re-election are Paul Chaplinsky, Michael DeSanto, Jim Morelli and Bill Dziedzic. Incumbent Democrats are Chris Palmieri, DePaolo and Perry.
Registered voters in Southington are split nearly evenly, with both Republicans and Democrats having about 9,000 each. Minority representation means a party can have no more than six members serving on the council. Chaplinsky and the two Republican newcomers are worth supporting, but the council would benefit from adding more Democrats and making it more likely alternative points of view are taken more seriously.
Democrats have a strong slate of school board candidates, with incumbents Terri Carmody and Zaya Oshana Jr. deserving re-election. Bob Brown, a former teacher at Southington High School and former teachers’ union president who previously served three terms on the BOE, would again be a welcome addition to the board.
On the Republican side, Ulysses ‘Cecil’ Whitehead is worth supporting as a new member of the school board.
Southington voters are facing difficult choices. One outcome worth supporting is a more accommodating approach when it comes to party politics, a willingness to listen to the other political side. The outcome Tuesday will yield a new leadership lineup, and a new opportunity to set divisions aside for the benefit of the town.