Having Parties in Tiverton
Although it’s not online, a letter of mine encouraging my fellow residents of Tiverton to ask the Charter Review Commission to reopen the question of partisan elections is in the current issue of The Sakonnet Times:
To the editor:
At the latest Charter Review Commission meeting, member Frank Marshall made a successful motion to strike from the commission’s to-do list consideration of a ballot question that would bring party labels back to Tiverton elections. We don’t need them, he asserted; everybody who gets involved in local government is there simply to work hard for and do right by the town. Even taking his assertion as a given, however, it is immaterial to the question of whether the political parties to which those well-intentioned citizens belong ought to be publicly known.
Despite the implication of arguments for nonpartisan town government, being openly affiliated is not unseemly. Exactly what it means to “do right by the town” is not a matter of clear and objectively identifiable decisions; it’s a matter of subjective preference and ideology. A candidate’s party affiliation will tell citizens something about what his or her approach and priorities will be.
School Committee member Leonard Wright is the Tiverton Democratic Committee Vice Chair. Is he governing less as a Democrat because the school committee is nonpartisan? Town Council President Louise Durfee has run for governor as a Democrat, a Democrat governor’s director of the DEM, and contributes to Democrat candidates for higher office. In what way is she nonpartisan? Four members of the Charter Review Commission — Cecil Leonard, Frank Joslin, Raymond Medeiros, and Stanley Zeramby — were publicly endorsed by the Democratic Committee, which offered voters rides to voting locations, and of which they are all members. How, exactly, was their election nonpartisan?
These revelations aren’t meant to imply inappropriate behavior on these folks’ part, but with all of the care and concern that interested citizens will observe among elected and appointed members of the Tiverton government when it comes to observing open meetings laws, avoiding quorums for non-meeting events, and so on, this deliberate omission seems incongruous. I’ll confess to the hair-trigger on my suspicions, but when people in government (politicians all, ultimately), throw a blanket over a particular appurtenance, I can’t help but worry about the allowances of secrecy.
The commission meets again on Wednesday, November 28, at 7:00p.m. at the town hall, and its policy is to listen to the open-mic suggestions of the public. Whichever party it may benefit, the people of Tiverton are better served by truth in labeling than by a pleasant illusion of nonpartisanism, and all we need do is ask.