Say, You Want a Revolution?

Regardless of the outcome of today’s recount in the County Council race for District 3, a seat that appeared to outside observers and amateur political strategists in the local newspaper industry as the single most secure seat for any incumbent in any race in the nation, the results of Tuesday’s election is clear. For if a seat such as District 3, a secure, stone-cold, lead-pipe lock in a district populated largely by friends and family members of the incumbent, a district whose voters have been inundated by the incumbent with the kind of campaign carrion that one may well classify as race-baiting, fear mongering propaganda – so desperate, yet often so effective in clouding even the most rational mind in the voting booth – if such a seat can be driven to the brink, to a mandatory recount, then no matter which candidate emerges victorious later today, the message is crystal: The Fairfield County Revolution has begun, and everyone is invited.

Out is the long-serving Council Chairman from District 5, and with him his Vice Chairman from District 1. District 3 is, at press time, too close to call, while District 7, being vacated after 32 years by a retiring David Brown, will be filled by a 24-year-old up-and-comer with an agenda of reform. Change, it would seem, is not only in the air, it is manifest.

For the last 16 months or more County Council meetings have become remarkably unpleasant events to attend. Public participation has increased, which is almost always never a bad thing, but so also has a cycle of poor behavior and bad manners, among Council members and their critics, in a vicious circle, one feeding off the other until insults are hurled or someone gets threatened or someone gets escorted to the parking lot by deputies. And no one’s to blame because everyone is to blame.

Those days, we hope, are over.

The days of working together for the common good of Fairfield County, we hope, are about to begin.

Mr. Billy Smith, the Councilman Elect for District 7, has already put forward a few ambitious benchmarks for his agenda, and we hope the full Council gives them honest consideration moving forward. Paying Council members based on attendance seems like such a no-brainer it is difficult to understand why the current Council did not put it in place when they revamped their bylaws last year. Mr. Smith looks to give it a shot, and wish him success.

Smith’s plan to end as well mileage reimbursements for travel to and from meetings is not a terribly draconian measure, and while its fiscal impact may be decidedly minor it certainly sends the right message to voters. Ending the policy of home internet and cell phone service paid for by the County and reducing Council’s salaries may also amount to a financial drop in the bucket, and while the idea may come with the best of intentions – attracting candidates who are in it for the service and not the perks – it may also have the unintended consequence of eliminating otherwise good and viable candidates who could not otherwise afford such services, services that are virtually a requirement in order to best serve the public, creating by accident a ruling class of moneyed elite.

Smith’s notions of reforming the way Council does business are, nevertheless, welcome and refreshing, and he will have at least two – perhaps even three – allies come January.

Tuesday night’s revolution is not, however, the end of the road. For the public that has been riding County Council for the last year and a half like a rented donkey, your ride is not over. Now, perhaps more than ever, is the time to continue your watch over the watchmen, to ensure the Council doesn’t lapse into the so sadly familiar syndrome of Meet the New Boss – Same as the Old Boss.

Fairfield County has been issued new marching orders as of Tuesday night. New direction. New life. New opportunity.

Don’t waste it.