We had to take a little time to decompress after the colorful discussion at the March 18 town council meeting with the ensuing vote to block a toll resolution. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a discussion that sparked so much passion in so many different town councilors. At times it was on point, and at times it was out of order. At times it got personal. At times it was thoughtful. At times it was ridiculous. At times it was meaningful, and at times it drew cheers.
After a week of introspection, we came away with two conclusions: 1) It was uncomfortable; and 2) It was beautiful.
From our perspective, we saw the town council doing what we elected them to do: accurately representing the community. Tolls are a “hot button” topic everywhere in the state, not just Southington. There are as many sides as there are people. There’s confusion, resentment, and fear—in the community… and also on the town council. The sometimes unruly debate truly reflected the conversation on the street. This was a great start to what we hope is an ongoing discussion.
Our favorite part was when Dawn Miceli (D) threw up her hands in frustration. “Is this what we’re going to do at every council meeting?” she asked and listed other topics she wanted to discuss. Mike Riccio (R) fired back. “Then bring it up. Let’s talk about it.” We couldn’t agree any more. We feel that the council should always talk, talk, talk. Now is the time with nothing looming. Then, when there’s nothing left to say or a decision needs to be made, take a well-informed vote.
As we reviewed the discussion and the disagreements, we found one thing that everyone seemed to agree upon. The state really has no plan about tolls—but neither does the Town of Southington. The biggest question we had after re-watching the council discussion was, “So…what’s next?”
On one side, Republicans proposed a knee-jerk reaction with a final resolution to end talks before they begin. On the other side, Democrats proposed a wait-and-see approach; let the state make the first move and do nothing until then. We have to think that there’s a non-political course somewhere between these two extremes that would best serve the town.
So…what’s next? We would like to see the council be our leaders. We think they should figure out what needs to be done and frame the conversation. Now’s the time. Let’s aim to avoid pandemonium and be prepared for anything that comes our way from Hartford. It seemed like every councilor brought up at least one point that should be explored further.
It’s what you’d expect from any new topic. We were left with more questions than answers. Here are a few:
- What exactly are the legal issues for the town to decide?
- What exactly is the town council’s authority on this issue or any of the many sub-issues?
- What exactly are the expectations? Should there be talk at every meeting, no discussion, or something in between?
- What exactly is local opinion about tolls? Do we need a community survey, or should we blindly assume that all the panic stricken, squeaky wheels speak for everyone?
- Should there be a public forum?
- Should we follow up with our state reps? What questions do we have for them? How do we compile those questions?
- Should we ask state officials to make presentations to the council like they offered? If so, when and how often?
- Would this be best handled by a Toll Committee open to the public with clear goals and guidelines?
The way we see it, the council has at least three options: 1) Do something now; 2) Wait until we’re under the gun; or 3) Do nothing and hope it goes away. So…what’s next?
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.