OPINION: Making the decision to seat a new councilor in Wallingford

By Christina Tatta

At the risk of belaboring a much discussed topic in these pages, I hope to clear up some inaccuracies, and to fill in some blanks, regarding my decision to seat Town Councilor Jason Zandri upon the resignation of Councilor Gina Morgenstein.  Simply put, with two nominations presented, I needed to make a judgment on whether I thought more Wallingford residents would support Jason Zandri or Alexa Tomassi. There were valid arguments for both choices. But the valid points were clouded with some inaccuracies that should be clarified.

Probably the most inaccurate claim of all was that party politics was given preference over the will of the people. In Mr. (Stephen) Knight’s op-ed on January 21, there was one detail with which I can concur:  that the six Republican councilors rarely agree on anything.  That is true. There are nine councilors for this very reason: the robust exchange of opinions, thoughts, and arguments. The Republican Town Committee is made up of an array of diverse opinions. I have never once been told by anyone in our party to vote a certain way. In fact, the RTC chairman has been known to say that he will never tell an elected official how to vote; that’s just not how we operate as a party.  We discuss, debate, sometimes agree, sometimes disagree, but we are all free to make our decisions and vote how each individual sees fit.  The fact that all six of us individually saw Mr. Zandri as the best choice was not partisan politics. Conversely, if we had done what the Democrat Town Committee asked as opposed to what we all individually thought the will of the people was, would not that have been putting the wishes of a political party above the will of the people?

Some mentioned that the Republicans, at the onset of the meeting, came out together, from behind closed doors, a united front. In reality, where we emerged from was the Town Council office, having just finished a contract and pension negotiations gathering with the Town Human Resources director and mayor, which no Democrat, though invited, decided to attend. If memory serves me correctly, during my time on the council, no Democrat has ever attended any of those valuable gatherings, except Councilor Zandri.  So, yes, we came out together … from a Human Resources gathering, to which all councilors were invited.  Had the Democrat councilors attended, they too, would have walked out together with us “from behind closed doors.”

The anger that some of us “sat silently” should also be addressed.  While I was prepared to voice my feelings that night, after two Republican councilors did so and were unable to be heard over the yelling and gaveling, I decided it would be better to listen than to talk.  For frequent viewers of town meetings, I do not think they would see it as out of character for me to not speak on an agenda item; I simply value listening over talking.  However, I did feel that I owed Ms. Tomassi an explanation of my vote, which I provided to her via email several days after the meeting.

Another important fact to consider is that not everyone is comfortable voicing his/her opinion publicly or on the record. Prior to the meeting, I had multiple conversations with people, many of them Democrats, supporting Jason Zandri.  Year after year, Wallingford supports Jason Zandri as a Democrat on the Town Council.

Although the Charter does not make any mention of election results in the appointment of an open seat, the 2021 municipal election results have been brought up.  Twelve candidates ran.  Three did not win.  That could show that the will of the people was to not have the 3 candidates who lost serve as elected officials.  (I say this not in a disparaging way, but with all due respect to the votes that they did receive.)  There was an argument that Jason Zandri received zero votes, so he is irrelevant.  Had Jason Zandri not had a near-death medical emergency that left him in a coma during the exact time that the deadline to collect signatures passed, he surely would have obtained the signatures, been on the ballot, and won his seat.  Of that, I am confident.  Wallingford repeatedly supports Jason Zandri in Town Council elections.

Agree or disagree, it is important to see both sides of a debate. I did not take the decision to seat a new councilor lightly. I weighed all of the information and opinions and decided on what I felt Wallingford wanted.  I decided on Jason Zandri.  …and in that decision, there is hope to move forward and work together for the betterment of our town. 

Republican Christina Tatta is a Wallingford town councilor.


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