ABOUT TOWN: Democracy

We’ve been hearing a lot about our form of government lately.

On a national level, parties claim to be the real deal — Democrats and Republicans both. I don’t know if it is the balloons or perhaps the platforms, but there is a lot of hot air going around.

For myself, I don’t think politics is any different than it ever was. Growing up in an outer borough of New York City, I cannot recall knowing anyone who was not a registered Democrat. From kindergarten through graduate school I led a very sheltered life.

Only when I moved to Connecticut, for professional reasons, did I realize that there was a world out there totally unlike the one I previously knew. Living in a big city, you never knew political leaders personally. There was a separation between voters and what went on in government, that was altogether different than what happens in our state.

While working in Norwalk initially, I was struck by how decisions were made. It was my first experience speaking directly to those in power. Later, serving on Norwalk’s appointed Planning and Zoning Commission, I had the opportunity to interact with fellow commissioners of the other party. They were conservatives, but to my surprise they were still very open to my ideas about what made for good planning and fair zoning.

Then I moved to Weston. Town Meeting government was a revelation! Here was “power to the people,” exemplified!

I was impressed by how citizens stood up and spoke for their rights, without fear.

Even more impressive was how volunteers perform most of the functions of local government. Not only as members of boards and commissions, but saving lives and property as EMTs and members of the Volunteer Fire Department.

I’ve long felt that one of the nicest things about Weston is that it is often hard to tell the Democrats from the Republicans, especially on local issues. I think Weston’s secret is its homogeneity. As one of the wealthiest communities in the state, and also the best educated, we have an almost bottomless well of talent to draw upon in choosing our volunteer government.

Select

Our volunteers are indeed select, even in an adverbial sense. When special tasks require individuals of special talents, for limited periods, Weston uses the device of appointing “select” committees. The very first select committees examined school planning and alternatives to sewers.

This Board of Selectmen continues the tradition. Last week, I attended meetings of two such bodies.

The Select Committee on Legal Review is revived! Their charge: Review Town Attorney performance for the years 2008 through 2011. The Committee met for the second time on Monday, Aug. 27. This is the second such committee that I can recall.

While the Board of Selectmen’s majority party gets to choose a town attorney for a two-year term, in 2007, the minority selectman asked to have town attorney performance reviewed by an impartial body. Her wish was accommodated.

That is how Westonites have come to volunteer in yet another way. The first such committee, seven members strong, evaluated perhaps seven years worth of performance on contracts, lawsuits, and general advice. Ultimately, the town attorney was rehired after this review.

And, Wednesday, Aug. 29, was the second meeting of the Select Committee for Oversight of Lachat! They are hard at work drawing up plans for reuse of the homestead.

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