Greenwich Gossip

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Curtis Beats Caldwell 99-99

Just as Harvard "beat" Yale in the famous 29-29 come-from-behind-with-only-42-seconds-remaining-on-the-clock accrual of 16 points to tie The Game, and thus the Ivy League championship, so underdog Paul Curtis "beat" odds-on favorite Joan Caldwell by accruing an amazing 99 votes in his quest to become Moderator Pro Tempore at the January 18th RTM meeting. Equally amazing, Joan herself pulled 99 votes as well.

At the time, this little bit of "Ripley's Believe It or Not" Greenwich history was known to only four people: the three officals from the Town Clerk's office who tallied the votes, and the Moderator of the RTM, Tom Byrne. Tom, himself a duly-elected RTM delegate, then did something he had done, by his own account, only three times before in his 14-year tenure as Moderator: he voted.

But--and it's a big but--he didn't tell this to the body. He merely announced the vote total as Paul Curtis 99, Joan Caldwell 100.

There was an audible reaction throughout the auditorium. No one, including Paul Curtis, had expected the vote to be so close. No doubt many members had second thoughts about the way they'd cast their ballots. But the vote was the vote, or so we all believed at the time.

When it later came out that the Moderator had intervened to break the tie, quite a furor began to erupt. Traditionally, Tom Byrne, like his predecessors, had merely voted "present" so as not to affect the outcome of the RTM's voting procedures. But now he had broken with tradition, in order to do exactly that.

Does Tom have the right to vote? Well, as an elected member of the RTM, he presumably does. Does he have the right to vote in a manner different from the rest of us, which is to say not with his district, like everyone else, but only after all the other votes have been cast, and the district cards have been signed and certified by the district chairmen? That, dear reader, is the question.

Tom himself now acknowledges that if he could do things over, he would have been more open with the RTM about what he had done. Presumably, he would have said something like, "We have a tie vote of 99 for Mr. Curtis and 99 for Ms. Caldwell. As an elected member of this body, I have the right to vote on this issue. I therefore cast my vote for my colleague of fourteen years' standing, Ms. Caldwell."

There would have probably been some catcalls and boos, and no doubt even some applause at this point. But at least the voting process would have been transparent and open. Which it was not.

One of our local rags, the Greenwich (Dumb as a) Post, has written an editorial today calling for a do-over. While it is not your scribe's favorite journalistic outlet, perhaps it has a point. Right now there is a bad taste in many people's mouths. Let's have a second vote, as perhaps we should have done on the 18th, to break the tie. The thirty members absent on the 18th would thus have a chance to have their say. And Tom Byrne should certainly be allowed to vote as well, perhaps asking Town Clerk Carmella Budkins to act as Moderator Pro Tem while he joins his district for the voting process.

This is, it would seem, the best and fairest way to clear the air. Even Popes and Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal Church are not usually elected on the first ballot. Surely we can manage to take a few minutes at the next RTM meeting to take a second vote that will lay to rest this controversy.

Unless, of course, the March vote turns out to be 115-115. Well, if it does, your scribe will offer a motion on the floor that the two candidates share the office, perhaps alternating on a month-by-month basis. This would allow Mr. Curtis to gain some familiarity with the job, while allowing Ms. Caldwell a chance to share her fourteen years of experience with him. Everyone would be a winner, not least the Town of Greenwich.

UPDATE 1/30/10:

Check out the "comments" section for more on the above post.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In Which Your Scribe Gets a Letter from the Secretary of the State

The Honorable Susan Bysiewicz, Secretary of the State of Connecticut, has taken time out of her busy schedule to write a letter to your scribe felicitating him on his recent reelection to the Greenwich Rrepresentative Town Meeting. "Congratulations," she says, "on your recent election victory! Thank you for your willingness to serve Greenwich and your fellow citizens as an elected official."

How sweet of her to take the time to do this! And what a beautiful letter it is: individually addressed to him, and typed (well, word-processed) on heavy cream paper embossed with a colorful blue and gold seal at the top. Wow! This letter, sent via first class mail, probably cost quite a bit to produce, including Susan's time to pen her thoughtful words, a battery of secretaries' time to see it through the word-processing department and affix the lifelike autopen signature, and a bevy of mail room clerks to run it through the postage meters and get it to the post office.

Your scribe feels very flattered to be the object of all this high-level attention. But wait...if he got this letter, so, too, no doubt, did the rest of the members of the Greenwich RTM as well. Not to mention the winners of every other municipal election in the State of Connecticut. Let's see: there are 169 different municipalities in the State, and presumably these letters all had to be personalized not only with the recipients' names and addresses, but with the names of their local communities as well. Quite an ambitious project, wouldn't you say, dear reader?

So what's up with this letter? Well, the State deficit, for one thing. These costly missives probably represent an expenditure of some tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money for what your scribe would tend to categorize as an unnecessary expense. Surely Ms. B. could have sent us all an email instead?

Oh, wait. The penny drops. Ms. B. seems to be running for a higher office. Is it Governor? Attorney General? Whatever, the raison d'etre of this lovely communication now becomes clear: it is, it would appear, a thinly-disguised campaign piece, designed to bring the designing Ms. B. to our attention as a person of obvious good taste and great concern for our communities, including "the young people in our state, a group that continues to participate [in voting] at very low rates." What compassion! What vision! How statesmanlike! Just the kind of person we need in State government (now that we know who she is).

Ms. B. concludes, "Once again, congratulations and thank you for your service to the citizens of [insert town here] Greenwich. I look forward to working with you." Your scribe is awed and humbled.

And somewhat annoyed as well. Does Ms. B. think he is a nincompoop? Does she think he really believes that Ms. B. "looks forward to working with him" personally? And that he is impressed by her colorful letterhead?

Well, let it be said that he is none of the above. The fact that the letter is dated December 21 of last year, and arrived on January 13 of this year, bespeaks the fact that Ms. B. and her staff are not the most efficient of State workers. Does she really expect to garner votes by this type of mechanism?

Well, whatever her expectations, she is pursuing them at our expense, and of that of our State budget. Your scribe takes umbrage at this, and would like to suggest that State Reps Livvy Floren and Fred Camillo look into this use of taxpayer funds for a fairly obvious personal agenda. Are you out there, Livvy? Are you reading this, Fred? Please consider this post your official request to have you and your fellow lawmakers scrutinize this rather suspicious mass mailing. Thank you!


Your scribe chanced to see former State Rep Janet Lockton on Greenwich Avenue this morning, and told her about Ms. B's letter. Janet was astounded. "Has she ever done this before?" she asked. "Never," replied your scribe. "Then it's clearly a campaign piece, created and sent out at taxpayer expense, and a violation of the State's ethics rules," Janet proclaimed. begins to wonder if it's more than a mere ethics violation. Is it also illegal? Just askin', is all....