Letter: Let citizens be heard at RTM
Published 9:33 am, Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Any Fairfield concerned resident who wearily sat through the RTM's windy budget deliberations, going up to midnight on May 6, should be worried about two problems with the current body. The first is the precarious, inconstant and thin majority that emerges from cross-aisle agreement for the good of the town. The second is the arrogant, hobbling of public comment by Moderator, Jeffrey Steele and his irritating palm-phone stopwatch, with its extra-minutes tilt to some and calculated stinginess to others.
Evidently, we voters here in Fairfield may need to do a little housecleaning, come November, to build a stronger, bipartisan consensus that can more easily prevail in the balance of demonstrated service need with reasonably-measured taxation levy. The three attempts to cut the Pequot Library appropriation made this painfully obvious.
For moderate Republicans of long-time experience in civic affairs like me, we must purge our ranks of the Tea Party, budget-whacking zealots whose intractable behavior has become a national embarrassment, costing the party election-winning plurality and now appears of late to be present here in local government agencies.
As for the moderator's conduct, to be sure, Jeff Steele doesn't have it easy with a job requiring the utmost in equanimity, being all things to all people. However, he could do with some reorientation to basic civics. We, the public, elect our representatives. They serve at our convenience. When issues bring us out to engage, meaningful time must be given for us to give the body of representatives our input and for them to listen, not permit some of them to burn up nearly all the agenda time with all their long and repeated floor pontifications. No matter what the citizen turn-out is, the current, paltry time allotment of thirty seconds to a minute is an insulting joke.
Having been interrupted and cut-off twice in two weeks during delivery of remarks, prepared and timed five minutes max, over the library appropriation issue, all I could hold to as a more respectful treatment example was the more receptive meeting decorum during my own service on the RTM in the early 1970s. As it was then and should be now, public input should be first with respect to time allotment, with limit of no less than four minutes, no more than five or six and evenly administered.
We have a political act to tune up here in Fairfield and in bi-partisan spirit, let this old GOP hand recall for our representatives and officials the gentle chide FDR had for restrictive posturing around the people's needs. "It's time for you fellas to wake up and hear the birdies sing." And if he were living now, he wouldn't mean via Twitter.