Monday, August 14, 2006

Primary Day: Mayor Picard in the Driver's Seat

John Picard, Mayor of West Haven, CT.

Let me say right off the bat; for the most part, I admit a generalized ignorance of local politics. It's nothing I'm proud of for sure; however, I do feel I can rationalize it somewhat. For the past six years, I have spent every waking, available moment, involving myself in national politics. Maybe you're thinking, "hey, that's no excuse" to which I'd say, "yeah, you're right" but truth be told, I was far more alarmed about the potential dangers to our country once the Supreme Court appointed a squatter to our White House vs. what might happen to the Saw Mill project. Thus, I claim full accountability for my failure to follow the political dynamics at the homestead. And since arrogance is considered a quality among politicians these days (yes, that means you, Joe Lieberman), I feel no shame in noting that my efforts paid off. Congratulations, Mr. Lamont. Onward to November!

When I got news several weeks ago of a petition floating around regarding the increase in taxes issue accompanied by a call to gather on the West Haven Green, I donned my peaceful protestor demeanor and headed out there on a sweltering Thursday just to see and observe what the ruckus was all about. The analysis of that event is for far greater minds than mine and besides, I've always hated math. I am not qualified to make a judgement on who's right and who's wrong but I will at least attempt to make what I consider a reasonable statement that applies to every single new, incoming administration whether it be local, state or federal. It takes time to assess the shenanigans of ALL previous administrations - especially when the previous administration was known for making quite a mess of things - no matter what side of the aisle you claim your seat in. Is there any one of us who can say upon starting a new, highly complex job, that we have mastered it within a matter of a few months? That certainly has never been my experience as a registered nurse - so I'd be hesitant to assign blame or judgement during the infancy of a new administration until an appropriate and reasonable amount of time has elapsed before I rushed to judgement.

I could go on and on regarding my assessment of the meeting dynamics I witnessed and was part of that evening on the Green and its transfer to Carrigan School but two things leapt out at me. One was the fact that Mayor Picard and the City Council members sat patiently and attentively while their guts were eviscerated by the anger and passion of citizens who firmly believe in the legitimacy of their cause. Takes a lot of courage to face an angry group of people, especially when it is foreknown that the group in question is not coming to offer you tea and crumpets. And it takes a lot of courage to identify yourself as a protester, particularly in Bushworld and challenge the old maxim, "You can't fight City Hall." Whatever the outcome of that evening, praise to all. We were witness to Democracy in Action.

No one has mastered the Politics of Personal Destruction and Character Assassination better than Karl Rove, THE political operative who pulls the puppet strings attached to all things George W. Bush and his merry band of thugs. The body politic has been brainwashed by acts of duplicity, deviousness and dirty tricks that has insidiously allowed acceptance of these diabolical tactics and become mainstream. I know. And I saw it that night. Personal attacks is now the name of the game; in fact, we have a whole new name for it: "Swift-boating." It would seem to me that when the Mayor and Councilpeople returned to their homes that evening, Maalox would have likely been their beverage of choice.

All this leads to a little story I'd like to share with you for which you will form your own opinion. That's a good thing. Informed opinions are generally best as I can attest to in reviewing my own level of discomfort in my ignorance of the issues being presented at that gathering.

On Primary Day, in working my district's polling place, I had the good fortune to encounter a wonderfully dynamic, intelligent and highly informed council woman who was one of my fellow sunbathers in the intense heat of that day as we "campaigned" for our candidates. (Psst...mine was Ned Lamont.) Later in the evening, nearing the flashpoint between dehydration and delirium, we were joined by Mrs. Picard who could be described as nothing less than a delightful, friendly and lovely young woman. Bolstering our spirits appeared to be her only agenda, and one that was greatly appreciated by diabetic feet which had no real business being out there. But what's a little pain when one is fighting for their country, right?

Shortly before the closing of the polls, her husband, Mayor John Picard, winding up his rounds of election sites, appeared and engaged with us as though we were simply a bunch of friends he'd popped in to see. He was contagiously friendly, genuine, free from any kind of power airs as he slipped into our group unobtrusively in a way that indicated great comfort among strangers while possessing a natural ease in genuine communication. By that time of the day, there was no question that I appeared as someone on their last legs of the Boston Marathon and every movement was an effort at that point. I'd parked my car across a wide street several feet down from a stop sign and it appeared to me at that moment, as far away as the North Pole. When I indicated my intention to move it up to the school in order to exercise the same right you have as a citizen of the United States, supervise the electoral count of the polling place, it garnered immediate attention. Oh, not necessary you say? Two words. Florida. Ohio. 'Nuff said.

As I began to make the longest journey of my life, I heard a male voice call to me, "Would you like me to get your car for you?" Stunned by such a random act of kindness that might not seem like such a big thing UNLESS your body was rebelling for things you shouldn't have done, I turned back to see which kind soul had offered me such a gift. And when I did so, I found myself looking directly in the eyes of our mayor. Initially overwhelmed, I shyly rebuffed his offer but there was something in his face and demeanor that resonated within me and that something was the kindness, generosity, authenticity and genuine offer to just simply offer assistance to a fellow human being. I hesitated a moment as I processed all this, and suddenly changed course and walked back to him, offering him my keys. He had nothing to gain, no agenda, no ulterior motive except to assist a damsel in distress.

I ask my fellow West Haveners to recall this moment the next time you think of bashing the man who drove my car. Yes, he can be challenged on his record and his administrative decisions and certainly, he showed his willingness to welcome just that. But before you resort to the Politics of Personal Destruction and Character Assassination, I ask you to consider a not so random act of kindness before you judge him. This was a man in a moment, a real life, genuine human being, and a man who happens to be our mayor. A good man. A good man who gives me no reason to question integrity and ethics while demonstrating a genuine desire to fix the wrongs he inherited. I don't know about you, but I believe I now have the fundamental reason as to why he deserves the respect and the opportunity to work through the highly questionable decisions of the previous administration. We the people, put John Picard in the driver's seat. He demonstrated to me that he's one man who can drive.

Karl Rove? Your politics are not wanted here.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor. As one single, human being, I commend you.


West Haven Tax Payer said...

Hi Mary -

I truly think that Mayor Picard, outside of the politics of city hall, is a good man. I even think he wants to do the right thing with the city.

However, he's putting lots of people out of his homes. I have neighbors who have lived their entire life in homes, and had their taxes go up by $6000 overnight -- they don't have that kind of money.

Others, who are on fixed incomes are going to end up having to leave ... IF they can sell their homes. You see, we have a bit of a glut of homes for sale these days.

So, I do see Mayor Picard as a human being - and I don't fault him for trying to do the right thing. However, I see a lot of politics being played on both sides - it's rather sickening.

Feel free to come by my blog if you'd like to learn more about politics in West Haven - I'm learning it's very thick.

Kind Regards,

A Concerned West Haven Taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

I don't live in CT, but I saw the blog's link by Mary from West Haven and clicked on the link. I'm glad I did. The commentary is extraordinary, in particular, the insightful reading of events after the installation of George W. Bush, which affects us all in all states.

Mary said...

Thanks so much for your excellent and heartwarming comments to US..ALL of us here who live in community. I believe that we have the power to STOP the nasty partisanship within both parties. If we can't do this at the grassroots level, then none of us should be surprised when we see it amongst our leaders. We ARE the leaders if we can support each other by practicing the basic values we say we believe in. We really CAN all get along. We all need each other in this town to be who we are so, I wonder if it makes sense to begin to dialogue using fact and intellect rather than power, yes, greed too, but it's power that's the true aphrodisiac...This is what we must understand. WE are the power..all of us together to save what we all have in common...our humanity, our piece of Heaven, our haven that is breathtakingly beautiful down at the shore we all love on the map of Connecticut and once we understand that, at our level and at the level of those we've seen captured not only by...oops..sorry, have to fly...It's time for the Mike Malloy which I never miss..Why not this..why don't we, all of us, make a point of making sure we simply smile at a stranger we see on our streets here, our places of business, our social areas. Let's let that be the opener to the common understanding we have for that "other" and celebrate that with a smile. One week. We can all commit to it for one week. Right?

It's my please to meet you and thank you for featuring my article on your blog. I appreciate that and if you don't mind, I'd like to return the compliment. As I'd said in the piece, I really do need to learn more about city government and I'll start with your blog - thanks for the invitation...I have to be able to put my money where I speak! LOL..Hello, West Haven!