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Opinion: In Wallingford, let’s play clean

By Lorraine Connelly

Earlier this month the legendary Chicago Bear linebacker and NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus passed away at the age of 80. A fierce and competitive player, in his NFL career with the Bears (1965-73), he intercepted 22 passes and recovered 27 fumbles. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year of eligibility. According to his obituary in the New York Times, in his Hall of Fame speech he was quoted as saying, “When I went out on the field to warm up, I would manufacture things to make me mad.” “If someone on the other team was laughing, I’d pretend he was laughing at me or the Bears. It always worked for me.”

Crushing one’s opponent and the “fear-inducing mindset” may have made Butkus an exceptional player on the gridiron, but it doesn’t work for all fields of play. For instance, in today’s world of conflicted politics, there is no need to “manufacture things to make one mad” — there are enough real things to make us mad.

With three weeks before Wallingford’s mayoral election, and the first real opportunity to have a different chief executive in 40 years, both parties are overreaching to deploy an “October surprise.” Who can forget 2016? With only 11 days before the presidential election, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress, announcing that he was reopening his investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of an unsecured email server. Many, including Secretary Clinton, believe that this “surprise” cost Democrats the presidency.

So here we are in 2023, with the town’s Democratic and Republican parties both desperately searching for some event that may turn the tide of the November election. Unfortunately, social media has gone wild with manufactured “truths” — claims of Republican campaign donation violations and stealth assignations with the Democratic Socialists of America.

A warning to political “truth seekers” — there’s no guaranteed truth on the Internet. And untruthful social mediacan certainly impair decision-making. According to a new study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions,, the average user currently spends 2 hours or more on social networking sites each day. This excessive exposure, studies indicate, affects peoples’ ability to make value-based decisions; and this type of decision making will be critical in Wallingford’s upcoming election.

The mayoral candidates’ values were made clear in two informative profiles in the CT Examiner. Robert Storace writes: “Aiming to become the state’s youngest mayor, 27-year-old Democratic candidate Riley O’Connell says his campaign will highlight finances, infrastructure, education and term limits.”

A word on term limits: the need to codify term limits in the Town’s Charter will hardly be necessary. In this fast-paced world, Wallingford will never again see a 40-year mayoral reign of any one individual. If O’Connell is successful and is elected for two terms, will he be positioning himself for higher office? If so, who will carry out his 15-year infrastructure plan? Overpromising and underdelivering is a risky maneuver in both business and politics. Freezing the town’s mill rate without a tax increase? That’s not likely to happen. But there is one truth that needs no verification by social media, the Town has long suffered the consequences of a complacent administration.

Vinny Cervoni’s profile states that he is a proponent of fiscal stability, updated town hall technology, and making the necessary public safety infrastructure improvements to attract new businesses. He supports creating the long-needed position of Director of Information Technology. While maintaining affordability is key, this is not Cervoni’s first rodeo; he knows how budgets work and won’t promise improvements can be achieved without raising taxes.

This election, it seems, will offer Wallingford a choice between idealism and realism, youth versus experience. There is some clarity here, but what voters will need to avoid, at all costs, is the obfuscation of social media.

Social media, like football can thrive on the thirst for high scores and big hits. But even the bruising pro-footballer Dick Butkus’ view of the game evolved in his later years. Butkus strove to leave a legacy of fair play. So concerned was he that young athletes were influenced by social media to take banned substances to enhance performance, that he started a nonprofit for high school and college athletes called “I Play Clean” to raise awareness about the dangers of performance enhancing drugs. Playing clean, not only protected the health of athletes, but, perhaps more importantly for Butkus, it preserved the integrity of the sport.

Wallingford’s voters now have the opportunity to wean themselves off of the drug of social media, and make a value-based decision that maintains the integrity of the electoral process: Who is truly the best candidate to lead Wallingford forward?

Lorraine Connelly is a writer and former member of Wallingford’s Democratic Town Committee.


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