Commentary: Sense of the body resolutions should transcend politics

At the April RTM meeting in Fairfield, a sense of the body resolution that included racism as a public health crisis was proposed by the Democrat members of the RTM.

The resolution was drafted without any outreach from the Democrat majority leaders to their Republican minority counterparts to work on the proposal jointly prior to its release. Historically, both parties work together on these types of resolutions, which have no binding legal authority, but which are supposed to represent a shared perspective on an issue.

The co-sponsors, both Democrats, obtained boiler plate language in a pro forma proclamation on the website of a Hartford-based, nonprofit, public policy, advocacy group. The template was designed using generic language to be approved by municipalities all across Connecticut. We do not think it is by coincidence that the 22 towns that have passed this same boilerplate language have Democrat majorities.

When the resolution was presented to Fairfield’s RTM, it failed to address the unique characteristics of our town and contained no reference to the commitment our town leaders have already made to combat racism. The majority party felt it was important to use a one size fits all approach to address the needs of our town.

As proposed, the Democrat-sponsored resolution focused solely on racism and excluded discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice against people of many other identities and backgrounds besides race - such as different ethnicities, religions, genders, sexual orientation, and disabilities. Their copy and pasted resolution also failed to address the health crisis we are facing with mental illness, teen depression, substance/opioid abuse, and violent crime that threaten the lives and well-being of all Fairfield residents regardless of background.

As an alternative resolution, Jeff Steele, deputy minority leader, R-2, offered an amendment that addressed these other urgent public health challenges and went a step further by acknowledging the work Fairfield is already doing to address racism.

Unfortunately, the amendment failed on a party line vote.

Sense of the body resolutions are just that, “a sense of the body” and they require a 2/3 vote of the body to pass. The goal should be to build consensus from the onset, not using a partisan approach of divide and conquer.

In failing to reach across the aisle from the onset to seek bi-partisan RTM input prior to the publication of the proposal; by pre-determining to “expect support from across the aisle” rather than asking for collaboration, the Democrat majority leader’s only success here was in sinking her own resolution and rejecting a more encompassing, powerful version from Representative Steele that actually condemned racism, anti-Semitism, discrimination, and bigotry and stated that Fairfield looks to be a welcoming, inclusive, tolerant, and supportive community.

Hyper partisanship at the local level has reached an unhealthy and unproductive level. The time for partisan gotcha politics must stop so that real governance can begin.