Editorial: Back to business

By the time this paper reaches Southington mailboxes, the dust will have settled on another municipal election. Once again, there’s been a shakeup on local boards. After two years in the council minority, Republicans have regained a super-majority on three major boards, including the council.

Although they may still be celebrating, we hope that Republicans—and Democrats—recognize the strong message that voters have sent once again. In 2017, voters were sick of the backroom deals and partisan politics of the Republican majority, and that helped put Democrats on top. After two more years of party politics on the council, voters reversed it again. We hope that this election marks a turning point in the way that Southington conducts its business on local boards because voters aren’t afraid to weigh in on it.

We charge the new Republican majority to learn from past mistakes and remember that the council is a group of nine members, not a six-man majority or a group of individuals. Every councilor has a right to make decisions, participate, and voice opposition whether they are in the majority or the minority. We hope this next council works as a group and reaches decisions by careful thought, discussion and compromise rather than party politics and backdoor deals. If not, we are sure voters will speak out again at the next municipal election.

We hope that every board gets back to basics. We hope that the board of education continues to promote students and teachers, but we hope that this board is better able to make those tough decisions that the last board seemed incapable of making, especially with the budget. For two years, the general government has done a great job of tightening its belt to support the schools. It’s time that this board of education helps shoulder some of the town’s financial burden.

We also charge the new board of finance to speak up and play a bigger role in the budget process. According to the charter, these are the town’s financial experts. Set expectations at the start of the budget process. Give guidance if asked, and dig in your heels if you need to.

Finally, we remind all public officials that each position you’ve been elected to serve is bigger than you and it’s bigger than either political party. The position has to come before any personal or financial interests. Conflicts of interest are impossible to avoid in local government, but they have to be managed better than they have in recent years. Southington’s ethics code is clear on this. It says, “No Town official, member of a board, commission or agency or employee of the Town shall engage in any business or transaction or shall have a private, financial or personal interest, direct or indirect, which is in conflict with the proper discharge of his/her official duties in the public interest and would tend to impair his/her independence or judgment of action in the performance of his/her official duties.”

If there’s a conflict of interest, the code of ethics leaves no wiggle room. The official “shall disclose on the written records of such agency the true nature and extent of such interest and refrain from any comment or vote on the matter and remove himself/herself from the panel until the matter has been dispensed.”

We make no apologies for pointing out lapses in judgement when it comes to the code of ethics, and we will continue to make this a big priority. We urge all officials in both parties to consider any conflicts before jumping into the vote…or the discussion. We take our role seriously as watchdogs for government overreach, and we will continue to speak up.

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

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