Small Town Politics

The third and final rumination before I return from vacation…

You can always tell when the campaign season begins in Fairfield. Just check the letters to the editor in the two local papers.

People write in either castigating the opponent or praising their guy. They usually pick some recent comment or issue and use it as a platform. And they’re so obvious about it. However, they get column inches and people read it and most nod in agreement regardless of what’s being said.

As I’ve stated previously, I’m appalled at how people glean their local news on the issues that directly affect them not from the page one stories but from these letters. Some are so regular in their writing, usually one-note cranks with too much time on their hands and I suspect readers finally twig on to the fact and screen those out. But the other letters, those may make or break an election.

Our current incumbent actually lost his first re-election bid because the weekend before the election a mass mailing from the Republicans grossly distorted quotes and facts. Rather than ferret out the facts, these people seemed to believe the clearly political mailing and it swayed the vote. The winner that year lasted a mere one term and was last seen arrested on DWI charges (no kidding).

I remain amazed and appalled at the levels people will stoop to get their message out. You think the national campaigns are ugly? Try small town politics. A few years ago, a member of our Board of Ed sent out anonymous e-mails to the Republican candidate for First Selectman. These were nasty and sent anonymously. The candidate, seeing a potential threat, turned the e-mails over to the police. The police, in turn, contacted AOL and asked the identity of the e-mail account. The results outed the Board of Ed jerk and he slunk off, out of the spotlight. But not entirely. He struck back, suing the town for revealing his name. The multiple count case, it was ruled last week, may go to trial because it appears the police made some mistakes. One of them was faxing an unsigned search warrant to AOL, which AOL honored. So, he’s now the hurt party but I can only hope Dick Saxl, the town’s nattily-attired attorney, will remind the court that this Board of Ed member hid behind a false name to viciously attack someone else. No guts.

It’d be nice if people discussed the issues calmly, rationally, using 27 8×10 color, glossy photographs with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. And then, it’d be nice if the electorate bothered to read up on the issues, the candidates and paid more than a passing interest in what’s happening in town. All too often they remain in a fog until something directly affects them and suddenly the NIMBY crowd forms from the ether and they get loud and annoying.

I can always dream.

2 comments

  • gormuu

    “So, he’s now the hurt party but I can only hope Dick Saxl, the town’s nattily-attired attorney, will remind the court that this Board of Ed member hid behind a false name to viciously attack someone else. No guts.”

    That about tells you all you need to know about a guy like that!

    Good luck, Bob. Politics on even the small level can get dispiriting. My dad tried to make a small career in politics when I was a wee lad. He was, like you, more civic minded about his pursuit than having any career goal. And even in our small town, at the time less than a few thousand people, there was soul-numbing politicking going on. One of this favorite stories is when he was trying to get a little league park going; he got an anonymous call from someone associated with someone who knew someone who was involved with out-of-town land developers who wanted his vote on a certain project. They said “you want that ball field? it’ll get built if you just say yes.”

    Well, let’s just say he said something very impolite to them in refusal. He voted his conscience, eventually got the ballfield built under its own steam, and eventually got weeded out of the political game because he wasn’t the kind of guy who would “play ball.”

  • I think that we may be inspired by this to remember a favourite Spock’s World about the Vulcan-Standard word for “idiot” being derived from an older word meaning “one who refuses to participate in civic affairs”.

    Gormuu: I’m glad your Dad got the ballpark built on his own, honourable terms. May we have more politicians of his calibre in the decades ahead.

    Yours,

    Dwight