Minority representation continues to be an issue in Southington, with the Town Council recently rejecting two members proposed by Democrats for the Board of Fire Commissioners . Republicans control the council, and have been exercising that control, in a way that’s comparable to the Town Council in Wallingford, where Republicans have also used their majority to reject Democratic nominees.
In this case, the goal was to replace Democrat Christine Stanley-Buck, whose term ended in November but is waiting for an appointment to replace her. Republicans also have a grip on the fire board, with four of the five members.
Democrats nominated Bethany Solury and John Moise, who is a former member of the fire board. Republicans rejected both.
As the Record-Journa’s Jesse Buchanan reported, there was just one comment during the meeting, from Paul Chaplinsky, the council’s vice chairman. “We have to make sure the people that we’re nominating are vetted and that we have people who are going to be able to operate and work in a positive environment,” he said. ”These are very important boards and they have personnel attached to them as well. It’s imperative that we get these right.”
It would be hard to argue with that point of view, but what seemed lacking was any explanation of how those sentiments applied to the two rejected nominees. It certainly elicited Democratic objection.
“What you’re saying is that the people we’ve nominated will not work in a collaborative manner?” asked Val DePaolo, a Democratic councilor. “We’re nominating qualified people to these positions... We do believe they’ll work in a collaborative manner.”
Part of the issue is how the two parties approach the question of minority representation. There’s a limit to how much of a majority there can be, but Republicans say that majority can fill boards and commissions with unaffiliated residents. Democrats suggest they should be given more consideration. A charter revision commission last year did not make a recommendation to change minority representation rules. That commission was controlled by Republicans.
It would be nice to see people try to get along better. Incessant squabbling between political parties is one of the reasons voters become frustrated with government in Washington, D.C. There’s little reason to expect them to respond more positively to it at the local level. What’s being cultivated is hard feelings, and all town residents deserve better than that.