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Opinion: Setting aside panel’s interest is a mistake in Meriden

By Jeffery Kurz

Two developments, one in Meriden and one in Southington, are worth following up on.

In Meriden the other day, Sonya Jelks, the City Council’s Democratic majority leader, tried to put the brakes on a plan to appoint a councilor to the Neighborhood Rehabilitation Advisory Board. The idea is to take a look at the proposal in context with similar commitments.

In a statement quoted in a recent Record-Journal story, Jelks said there were more than 19 vacancies involving 11 boards and commissions. “With over 24 boards and commissions with 11 having at least one City Council representative, I am asking for a review for consolidation before we assign yet another board for city councilors and staff to oversee,” she said.

To which you can say: absolutely. It does sound like it’s time to evaluate that structure.

But it’s bad timing. Members of the Neighborhood Rehabilitation Advisory Board had been waiting a long time for someone to pay attention to them. There was a sense of futility, talk of giving up on the job.

The committee’s task is to assist in the city’s well-being, you could say, by addressing trash and blighted property concerns. Heidi Boyd, one of the committee members, said recently that an election year should bring attention, and I supported the idea of elections helping in that regard in a Sept. 30 column.

But the panel’s interests would have been set aside by Jelk’s action — and you can’t help but agree with Boyd that the move was a “slap in the face.” You shouldn’t push a committee around like that, especially when members have been asking for help.

An encouraging boost had been provided by Republican Councilor Ray R. Ouellet, who saved the council the trouble of selecting a liaison by volunteering for the role. That could have been the end of that, and would have set Meriden on the way toward the support committee members were seeking.

Striking an item from the agenda is at the majority leader’s discretion, but I couldn’t find anybody in Christian Metzger’s recent story that supported the move. There was no point in punishing a committee dedicated to serving the city. Councilors ultimately voted to add the item back onto the agenda and referred it to committee. The council could take up approving a representative on Nov. 6, the day before Election Day.


In Southington, Democrats balked at the Southington Chamber of Commerce Town Council Candidate Forum, saying the event format was designed to “sabotage” Democratic candidates. Val DePaolo, a Democratic councilor seeking re-election, suggested a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters or the Record-Journal.

The R-J has stepped up to the plate, and will hold a Southington Town Council Candidate Forum on Tuesday, Oct. 24, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Kennedy Middle School. The event will be moderated by Richie Rathsack, digital news director. If you have questions for candidates, send them along to myrecordjournal.com/voices.

Republicans say they’ll participate, though in a statement criticized the R-J, saying the party isn’t given a fair shake, without getting specific about it. What counts is that there will be an open forum dedicated to the free expression of ideas that will serve voters as they prepare to make their decisions.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.



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