DARIEN, Conn. The following letter was submitted by Cassandra Hegarty of 31 Barringer Road.
As an elected member of the Representative Town Meeting , serving in my second year, I have seen first-hand how our town's legislative process works ... or doesn't. At January's RTM meeting , some of the behavior and comments of my fellow members hit a new low in my opinion.
As elected officials, it is our duty to maintain decorum, which does not include booing and hissing at speakers at the podium or inappropriately chastising their opinions. As Americans we are entitled to free speech, but as government officials we should refrain from heckling. This practice might be encouraged in the Houses of Parliament, but last time I checked we weren't in Great Britain.
Don't get me wrong, we are meant to disagree but not to disrespect. We especially look to our moderator to keep the order and direction of the meeting on target and to not politicize issues. The system failed us at the last meeting and as a town, with a 9 percent tax increase looming, we can't afford to be working against each other.
In addition, during the meeting's uproar, one district member addressed the group by saying we "vote with our conscience." This couldn't be more of a misstatement. The Representative Town Meeting was established so that we could serve as the voice for our constituents and not our personal agendas. It is our job as legislators to fairly and adequately advocate for our townspeople. It seems as if some have lost sight of this.
At a time when Darien is facing a crisis in confidence, we need our leaders to guide us and not exclude the people from the political process. Debt is up. Property values are down. Taxes are expected to rise (again). The education budgets will be scrutinized and foreign language will probably end up on the chopping block (again). New buildings will be extensively renovated and reinvented at a substantial cost (again), and frustrated residents who want safer walkways to schools, trains and parks will be denied (again).
The lack of unity in our legislature further erodes any confidence that remains. Last month's RTM meeting is a primary example of this polarization. We need to rethink our priorities, communicate with each other and make informed decisions that will be in the best interest of the residents not ourselves.
I encourage us all to reflect on our position and on our civic duty to preserve our town. District One in particular is hoping to hear more from our constituents in the coming weeks and we encourage others to do the same.
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