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On Cronyism and Apathy

Political patronage is what happens when voters don't pay attention.

We are in the middle of a very dangerous trend in Vernon.

The Town Administrator, the Director of Public Works, and the Executive Assistant to the Mayor have each held elected office in town.  Each was hired for their current position with no prior experience.

The Economic Development Coordinator and the new Zoning Enforcement Officer are clients of the Mayor.  Neither has prior experience.

The Chairman of the Republican Town Committee is our Town Attorney.  And without notice to the Planning & Zoning Commission, the Mayor has retained the law firm of a political crony (the soon-to-be-former Mayor of Manchester) to redraft our zoning regulations.

Look at the current roster of candidates for Town Council and Board of Education.  Many, too many, are the same names, moving from commission to commission as the deck get shuffled once again.  More and more, the Town Hall is becoming the clubhouse of an exclusive fraternity, whose members play war games against each other at the Town’s expense.

And now they are infiltrating the Town staff, taking over the very jobs that we depend upon to be carried out in a neutral and non-partisan manner.

None of this is a secret – all of these facts have been dutifully reported by the press.  So how did it happen?  It’s simple: we let it happen.

We’ve stopped paying attention.  Little more than a third of registered voters in Town voted in the last mayoral election.  There is no longer the annual public debate over the town budget that occurred through the referendum process – and this is thought to be a good thing.  And I’m finding more and more intelligent and thoughtful people in town that don’t even bother to follow the local news.

So as we immerse ourselves in the background noise of social media, as we press our noses against our blackberries and iPhones (I own one of each, by the way), as we obsess over trivial events that don’t concern us, we are losing control of our government.

We’ve let ourselves down.  And worse, we’ve let down many people with energy and enthusiasm and ideas that are being discouraged and penalized for not being part of the inner circle.  When these people finally lose their resolve, we may as well close up shop.

It’s time to hit the reset button, and to become re-engaged in the process of self-government.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mark Kalina October 05, 2011 at 02:10 AM
Michael, based on your glowing endorsement of Mr. Kleinhans, his choice as public works director was the right one. Why then are folks so upset? As it turns out it would appear the most capable person was hired for the job...
Michael Winkler October 05, 2011 at 09:07 PM
When DPW Director Robert Kleinhans does make the trip from Niantic to Vernon he does some good things. We'll never know how much Vernon's taxpayers lost because the most qualified applicant for the Director of DPW position couldn't get an interview.
meowkats4 October 06, 2011 at 01:45 PM
Michael does Vernon have a residency requirement for all Town Employees?
Christy Vale October 06, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Kathy: No
meowkats4 October 06, 2011 at 04:10 PM
So Michael are you telling us that Robert Kleinhans does not come to work everyday? Because he travels a long distance from Niantic to Vernon? (When DPW Director Robert Kleinhans does make the trip from Niantic to Vernon he does some good things "Quote of Michael Winkler")

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