Editorial: No November surprises

With this week’s edition of the Southington Observer, all of the candidates for town council, board of education, board of finance, and the planning and zoning commission have had an opportunity to speak directly to voters about what they’ve done right, what they’ve done wrong, what they’ll continue to do, and what they’ll do differently. The deadline has passed for election letters to the editor. Any controversial ones have already been printed, and we’ll make every effort to run the rest of them before Election Day. Next week, we’ll make sure that we wrap up our coverage with everything voters need to know about polling places, the ballot, and any other stuff about the municipal election on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

We don’t expect any November surprises, and that’s a good thing. As far as we see it, the issues have been pretty well-discussed  by candidates, voters, and us. Sure, it was emotional at times, ugly at times, and conflicting, but open government means that everything has to be out in the open—good and bad.

This year’s referendum is pretty straight forward. Voters will decide if they want to purchase the municipal center or continue to rent it. There are some in the community that like the building, the parking it adds to the downtown, and the mix of school and town government that didn’t exist before. There are others that think that councilors have backed voters into a corner with a string of backdoor deals and a lack of effort to find other options. Then there are some that see the building as an acceptable compromise. All sides have presented their opinions. Everybody has had an opportunity to discuss it at public forums or in the pages of this paper. If you feel strongly one way or another, show up and vote.

As for the town boards, don’t expect too much to change. With 12 candidates running for BOE and council—and all but three earning seats—there isn’t bound to be much turnover. On the other hand, we were glad we asked pointed questions to BOE and council candidates because we’ve been hearing grumblings against the status quo for the past few elections.

There has been a strong outcry from one segment of the community that the BOE hasn’t been the best stewards of public money. There were public demonstrations against cuts to programs and athletics. There were social media campaigns—and editorials—charging that BOE members haven’t tightened their belts as much as the general government during this financial crisis, but there are others that believe the BOE has done a great job managing rising costs while state funding dries up. We were happy to see candidates speak directly about this. Some were thoughtful. Some were defensive. Some spoke like politicians, and others offered new perspectives. Even though it’s sometimes uncomfortable to have these conversations, we think many added to the discussion. We didn’t see a lot of neighboring towns embracing these important talks, so it’s good to see this town take the lead. We urge voters to read the responses closely and choose the ones that will best represent you over the next two years.

We are also glad we asked pointed questions to the council candidates. Over recent years, the council has been riddled with problems, from charges that officials ignored conflicts of interests (Columbus statue and the budget) to complaints of political hirings, illegal meetings, and overstepping authority using bully tactics with Bradley hospital. We were glad to see some candidates address these issues thoughtfully. Whether we agree or disagree doesn’t matter. It’s what voters think that matters. We were happy to see everyone finally talking about it openly, and we hope that continues after Election Day.

To comment on this editorial or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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