Small Town Politics - Big Town Issues In Canaan?

If you’ve ever heard people talk about small-town politics, you know that bad things happen even in seemingly quiet, friendly communities.  Public corruption is a problem across the United States… and mirrored in small towns. So what can average every day citizens do about it?

Perhaps more than you think. 

On Saturday and Sunday I had the opportunity to attend local meet and greet bipartisan events for selectmen in Canaan Connecticut. One of the best ways ordinary, unelected people can help make government run more efficiently and transparently is to attend open meetings. Attendance at public meetings in small towns is often low, meaning that few people are fully aware of what’s going on in their town. It’s much easier for elected officials to raise utility rates, award contracts to friends or slip personal agenda items into public policy without the public’s awareness.

I am not suggesting that this is the case in the small Litchfield Hills town of Canaan Connecticut. There are however egos, bruised or otherwise, which hinder an open and bipartisan discussion. Going to a public meeting may not be everyone’s idea of a fun time but doesn’t Canaan deserve better? Is something amiss?

Open, public events, gives us a chance to speak, for or against issues that truly matter to us - such as who our town hires to oversee emergency services, which roads get repaired, how our water plant operates, and how much we pay in utilities. 

Canaan residents can create change by attending these meetings and asking questions of their selectmen. Generally, when people are closely watching what their elected officials are up to, officials tend to behave better. Going to public meetings is one way we can help keep government clean and create change.

And if you don’t like what you hear dig deeper. You can file open records requests to know more about town salaries, how much money the school paid in legal fees, how much given construction projects cost, or almost anything of that nature. By simply requesting these records, people can show public officials that they are keeping an eye on them. Often, the information revealed through a request can shed light on some surprising situations. By law, you can rightfully request and obtain these records.

What I surmised, having attended both meetups, is that one candidate sets himself far apart from the others. His bipartisan position coupled with a written, well constructed agenda and vision for the community constitutes a refreshing change for a better, friendlier, transparent and more tolerant town. More to the point, in a five candidate race, only Jesse Bunce, Ann Talmadge and Christian Allyn verbally illustrated the community needs. The remaining two pointed me to a website, or less. 

So far …Jesse Bunce is the front-runner for me. But I am open to have my mind changed.

Let’s insist on an open debate before it’s too late. It’s easy to do nothing and excuse oneself . But if this town is important, let’s please set aside all petty egos and show the community that our leaders care enough.