Congratulations to our Westerly Democrats. They now have a majority on the Westerly Town Council. It took some luck, repeated council candidate rejections, and some political deals, but they did it. Now they are trying to thwart the rules: to take back total control of the town and its patronage, the “spoils,” for themselves.
There were two bits of luck. First, an excellent council president resigned the council. Second, conflicted councilor Phil Overton recently recused himself, thus breaking the 3 to 3 tie votes that had hitherto blocked each side from choosing a replacement seventh councilor. So, the Democrats finally voted in their candidate and now have a majority.
Along the way, the Democrats rejected anyone not committed to their own party’s rule. They even rejected Westerly’s most diligent, best prepared, and impeccably honest former town councilor, Louis Sposato, in their zeal to take back the town. Their excuse? They said they wanted someone who “had run for the office” and that Mr. Sposato had not run for that office. (They later forgot that excuse.)
Democrats recently rejected another excellent former councilor, Fred Harwood, (who had run for past councils) in favor of someone who had never run. The Democrats rejected Mr. Harwood because he would not promise to help them take over the town. Instead they had found someone who they expect will be more compliant. So, when Mr. Overton recused himself, the Democrats’ votes prevailed.
Democrats resent the rules that state that the council vice president becomes president when the president is gone. They quietly and contentedly watch, as partisan invective continues to attack their opponents and to spare themselves. Democrats don’t want council rules, or Robert’s Rules of Order, to get in the way of seizing power. They want to “reorganize the council.” They covet the jobs, the money, and the patronage that comes with total control of our town.
As an independent, I often vote for state and national Democrats. The local party, however, is an alliance of lawyers, developers, municipal vendors, and labor unions — many of whom deal through party leaders, like Robert Ritacco, for their own venal advantage — with little care for the town, its citizens, or more than the money of its taxpayers.
Councilor William Aiello once righteously declared that Democratic party chair Robert Ritacco never directly told him what to do. But Aiello knows it doesn’t work that way. More often word is passed that developer D is a friend of the party (wink). And lawyer L is an ally (nod). And it’s vendor V’s “turn” to get the bid this time. Or that unqualified job applicant B is the friend or family of C. And that replacement manager L and solicitor X know to “go along” or look the other way.
We all saw local Democrats’ scandals, nepotism, corruption, and free speech suppression, exemplified by Copar a few years ago. So, if they now want good government, let us wish them well. But, when, once again, they just seek the spoils, let us stay vigilant — since, as they have so cynically taught us — power corrupts.