On one hand, people engaged in political and policy arguments at higher levels of government seem likely to have more experience engaging with people who disagree with them. On the other hand, one would think folks would be more hesitant to play political cards like black-and-white “my opponent is just evil” games when they’re dealing with neighbors they see around town on a regular basis.
So much for expectations about how people would act.
Earlier this week, I published a commentary that went through the history of Tiverton Budget Committee elections and argued that, if the new Town Council does not appoint the next-highest vote getter from the Budget Committee election to fill a vacancy, it would be a divisive, precedent-setting move.
Until 2002, Budget Committees were elected biannually at the financial town meeting, and any vacancies were automatically filled in order of their totals from the previous votes. Since then, it has only happened once before that a Budget Committee member won an election to Town Council and had to be replaced immediately after the election. In that case, the Council unanimously appointed the next-highest vote getter, even though she was from another faction in town than arguably a majority of the Council.
I acknowledged that the same Town Council had not appointed the next next-highest vote getter to fill vacancies the following year. However, time had passed, and she doesn’t appear to have expressed interest in the job.
In the current situation, if the next-highest vote getter (from the slate of candidates whom I supported) is passed over for somebody more in step with the Town Council majority (from the slate of candidates whom I opposed), it would be a sign that endorsees from Tiverton 1st and the Tiverton Democratic Town Committee don’t really believe that stuff they say about “uniting the town” and “working together.”
The chairman of the Democratic Town Committee, Michael Burk, responded to my argument in the local Sakonnet Times. Actually, he didn’t really respond. It’s more like he took the opportunity to attack me as a villain. It’s Saul Alinsky for locals.
I responded on the merits, here, but didn’t really convey how disappointing Burk’s response is. It’s clear that there will be no arguing in good faith. Whoever started town politics on this nasty path (I’d say it’s obviously them; they’d say the opposite), there’s no hope for bringing down the temperature when one side makes an argument supported by facts and the other side replies as Burk did.