Tuesday, December 12, 2006

RTM Meeting Post-Mortem

Okay, I know some of my devoted readership could care less about the politics of this burg, but I feel a duty to memorialize a modicum of the goings-on for future, as yet unborn, generations of avid blog readers. How's that for a thought to rock your socks: that these blogs we so blithely create and fling out into cyberspace may still be floating around 50 or 100 years from now? Gives a whole new meaning to the term space junk, doesn't it?

I can image some imaginatively-challenged Ph.D. candidate at Yale in the year 2106 coming up with a dissertation proposal entitled "Early Twenty-First-Century Politics in Greenwich, Connecticut as Exemplified Through Contemporary Blogs," or some such. And of course "Greenwich Gossip" will be a primary source for the poor chump, who I hope is turning red with embarassment as he reads these words. But none of us will be around to witness it, dear reader; we'll let the future bury its dead, shall we?

Speaking of dead, Jimmy Lash's third attempt to cram a charter change down the RTM's throat was DOA, even if no one was certain of it in advance. Since a charter change, even one of dubious legality like the present offering, requires a majority of the full membership of the RTM to pass, the magic number for Jimmy and his minions was 115. But since nearly 20% of the 229 membership is usually absent - and last night was no exception - that means a proposal has to garner about 60% of the tally of those present and voting. Abstentions count as a "no" vote, as, of course, does a "no" vote itself.

Jimmy should have known he was in trouble when the committee reports gave him some rough sledding based on the pre-meetings last week. My committee, Legislative & Rules, offered an amendment that would bar the proposed town administrator position from being available to chauffeur the First Selectman's wife (or husband, as the case may be); the draft that Jimmy sent us would have made this perfectly legal had we not in our wisdom forestalled the possibility. Other committees were downright negative on the whole idea, given that Jimmy is supposed to run the town, not some highly-paid administrator.

The problem, dear reader (and dear Ph.D. candidate of 2106), is that the town charter already states that the First Selectman is supposed to be a full-time public official who runs this town; and this, unfortunately, conflicts with Jimmy's lifestyle, which takes him away from the job about one-third of the time, per the Local Rag (LR for short). Aha! Jimmy must have thought to himself: if I wish to be out of town as often as I do, why don't I get the RTM to give me a town administrator who can then do the job that I was elected to do? Problem solved. But some of us viewed his brilliant idea as less than an ideal way to correct his ongoing violation of the charter's proviso that he spend his full time on his job, and said so.

The vote came down to a question of whether Jimmy's lock-step minions could muster the necessary strength, and in the end they fell far short. So far, in fact, that the proposal (which had at least garnered a positive vote in prior attempts, though just short of the required 115) went down in flames by a vote of 91 for, 97 against, and 4 abstentions (which had the same effect as a "no" vote, as you now know). I think Jimmy probably realizes by now that he has made so many enemies in his first two terms as First Selectman that he would be unwise to try to seek a third.

So that, dear reader, is an evening in the life of your scribe, and of the political history of our town. On the spectrum which runs from watching the paint dry to watching the grass grow, RTM meetings fall somewhere in the middle, and last night was no exception. But at least the forces of light and reason prevailed against those who would turn the town into ever more of an imperial fiefdom, with a charter-protected grand vizier to run the government. Yes, Viriginia, we still have democracy in Greenwich; but for a while last night some of us were holding our breath.


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