The United States, Connecticut, and the city of Hartford all have benefited when political parties – of all types and stripes – are vibrant and competitive.
However, an ordinance coming in front of the council “Amending Chapter 2, article 11 of the municipal code de common council staff” is a step toward weakening party power and the powers of our elected councilpersons. To build a strong party, and to encourage strong leadership amongst council members, there must be some benefits other than salary and city benefits. One of those benefits is having an executive assistant who answers to the council person – not the mayor, not the council president, nobody but the a democratically chosen representative of the people of Hartford – a duly elected member of the Hartford Court of Common Council.
By degrading the role of a councilperson by taking away an assistant answerable only to them – somebody they can trust, somebody who will go the extra mile … the citizens of Hartford lose an advocate to a new “staff member,” more interested in currying favor with the council president than serving the public through its chosen representative.
With personal experiences in this, your reporter has had the benefit of a great assistant, Bob Lutts, who had the wisdom to tell an inexperienced councilman when to watch his P’s and Q’s. There also was a sad time when an assistant answered to the minority leader rather than the council member. From those experiences the idea of working with someone you cannot trust robs one of power and influence.
As for the political parties, let’s be honest, a little patronage goes a long way in keeping lines of communication open between party workers and elected officials. If we want strong political parties, we must have a core of professionals being seasoned – often that is best right in the council office. To strengthen the council president while weakening council people is anti-democratic.
So, however you feel about all this you have a chance to discuss it with the council (while it still has most of its powers) on March 11th, 6 pm in the council chambers (public comment) or on March 18th at the public hearing at 7 pm. City Council’s OMB?committee will also meet soon and listen to public comments.
Remember, often democracy is inefficient on purpose. It is our opinion that rushing to change long held traditions usually leads to disaster and this thoughtless legislation will leave the council and the citizens with less power and influence and continue the breakdown of our political institutions.