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OPINION: Mulling the Meriden council race, and others

OPINION: Mulling the Meriden council race, and others

I went to the candidate forum at Washington Middle School the other night. I was there to ask questions, so I asked Bob Williams Jr. what his motivation was.

Williams is running for City Council with a twist, which is that he is already on the City Council. I told him we’d been getting letters to the editor about what the deal was with that. He said they could have just asked him, a good answer that had me envisioning getting on the phone with 29,000 registered voters, one by one. Good thing there are newspapers.

Williams has a simple reason for running: Walt Shamock asked him. At 89, Shamock has decided being on the council is now something he can do without, and I figure when you’re near 90 you ought to have a say in these things. Years ago I wrote a profile of Shamock, headlined “‘Mr. No’ is also ‘Mr. Know,’” and have had admiration ever since.

I can do OK when it comes to basic addition and subtraction, so I figure if Williams wins that means he’s been elected to two four-year terms. He’s already served two years, so that would leave six, right?

Not right. I didn’t have Robert’s Rules of Order sitting around anywhere, but I did have an explanation by reporter Matt Zabierek about what will go down with a Williams victory Tuesday. Someday, probably sooner than we think, we’ll be able to clone ourselves, but for the time being Williams can’t be two places at once, so he’ll have to decide which City Council term he wants to fill. Filling the other will be up to his political party.

The political party is We the People, and some have seen a diabolical master plan for world domination, I mean greater influence on the council, at play. That’s because the party has 32 members, amid nearly 30,000 voters, and at the moment 3 members on the 9 member council.

I don’t know. I view We the People as a state of mind as much as a political party, as in Republicanism on steroids, like the Tea Party, and I suspect people know what they’re doing when they vote for someone with WTP affiliations. And though you can be cross-endorsed, what I don’t get is how you can not be, as in what makes you good enough to be a Republican but not good enough to be a We the People Republican?

Moving on. Lois DeMayo, the We the People party chairwoman, has told the R-J she already has a few people in mind to fill in whatever spot Williams decides he doesn’t want should he prevail (what a fun sentence this is!) and since this is Halloween, let’s indulge for a moment in imagining the hand-rubbing scheming behind all this: bwahaha!

I should point out, here, that this is serious stuff. The City Council in Meriden is where it’s at. Every two years half the council is up for election. This is called staggered terms. It’s more fun over in Wallingford, where the whole kit and caboodle is up every two years, a routine opportunity to throw the bums out.

For some reason, equivalence sticks in my thinking, and I have to remind myself that in Wallingford the council is far less powerful. It’s an interesting thought experiment to consider the systems switching: Would Meriden be better off with a strong mayoral form of government, and Wallingford with a stronger council? Add a dash of Southington, with its strong town manager absent a mayor system, just for fun.

Every time it comes around we hear a lot about how important a municipal election is, and yet it turns out to be a disappointment when it comes to voter turnout. I don’t get this. It wasn’t exactly as exciting as getting my driver’s license, but voting is something I did as soon as I was old enough to do it (getting rid of Richard Nixon may have had something to do with this). I actually like voting. I like going into this place you only go to once a year, handing over your license and seeing your name checked off a list, heading into a little booth and taking what seems like a very short SAT, but instead of aptitude questions you fill in the circle for a candidate. Then you come out, the form gets sucked into a machine and a nice person hands you a sticker that says “I voted today.”

Then, if you do what I do, you get to watch the results roll in. One of the things I like best is the photographs, of the candidates and others, winning or losing. There’s something about them that lets you consider that democracy may actually be working. At least it’s nice to think so.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or