Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Let the Public Decide: A Commentary and A Request For Participation

News and Commentary

On Monday January 3rd, the Middletown Common Council once again rejected Mayor Sebastian Giuliano's appointment of Acting Police Chief Patrick McMahon to the permanent chief position.  The vote was strictly along party lines: all Democrats against, all Republicans for.

I've written more than one column asking the Common Council to appoint the chief unless they could provide real evidence that his record, his behavior or his qualifications were a problem.

Those opposed to the chief's appointment addressed those issues, but I didn't hear a single shred of factual evidence that a problem was uncovered.

It appears that political squabbling has played more a part of the confirmation process than actual concern for the public interest.

Considering the fact that more than one of those opposed cited "the interest of the public" for the reason they voted, and considering the fact that they provided no evidence that their actions were truly in the public interest, I've decided to try to measure the real public interest.

I've asked the Town Clerk of Middletown to create an official petition, which if completed, will put the question of the chief's appointment before the general public as a referendum item on the ballot for the November 8 election.

Since it's in the public interest to settle an ongoing dispute between the mayor and the Common Council, and it's in the public interest and the interest of public safety to have a permanent chief, I feel it's essential to let the public decide.

The Town Clerk has approved the petition request.

The wording of the petition is as follows:

The following question has been determined to be in the public interest by the Town Clerk, per Section 6, B. Initiative of the City of Middletown Charter, and is being presented as a question on the November 8, 2011 ballot for public consideration:


“Shall Resolution 7-1, as proposed at the Jan. 3, 2011 meeting of the Common Council, approving and confirming the appointment of Patrick McMahon as Chief of Police for the City of Middletown, BE APPROVED AND ADOPTED?”

To get the question on the ballot, I will have to collect 2,275 signatures of Middletown registered voters between July 1, 2011 and September 9, 2011.

I can't collect signatures before July 1, but if you are willing to sign, or help collect signatures, you can join the Facebook group, Let the Public Decide, or send me an email here at the Middletown Eye (mieyeed@gmail.com or letthepublicdecide@groups.facebook.com)

I know I will be accused by some of bias.  But as a resident of Middletown, a registered Democratic voter, an activist and a citizen journalist I am only interested in determining what's best for the public, as decided by the public.  The outcome of such a ballot as described above will determine just that.

If in the event a permanent Police Chief is appointed and confirmed before July 1, the petition drive will be canceled.

 - Ed McKeon


Anonymous said...

Perhaps there is a concern that overrides the confirmation of the Chief: How Middletown looks in the eyes of outsiders considering coming here to visit or live. When this type of partisan bickering spills over into the public eye, like too many issues have lately, our City looks bad. And what candidate for Chief is going to consider Middletown now?

The Democrats have made a mess of this issue, like the Mayor and Republicans made a mess out of the Board of Ed.

Please just get in a room and work out a compromise so the City can get on with business. Neither of these issues were so important that they warranted this public display of disharmony. We know the parties will fight nasty on the national level, but one reason our City is so good is because we usually work well together.

We shouldn't need a referendum, but if it comes to that, thank you, Ed.

Anonymous said...

If you are claiming you are not bias, then why are you only providing a link to a site that WANTS to sign the petition and not one that DOESN'T? Just report the news and not your opinion please...

David Sauer said...

Interesting, but I wonder whether an initiative can be used to confirm an appointment when the charter grants that power solely to the council. The initiative can be adopted as a resolution or ordinance, but I don't know if adoption of a resolution by the electors will translate into the confirmation of the council which is required to approve the appointment. It may be possible, but I fear that if this were to go forward and pass this whole decision will be tied up in court for years to come.

Anonymous said...

To David Sauer:

I hope this doesn't go to feed lawyer's underemployment. If an initiative can usurp the council's authority, perhaps another group will create an initiative to appoint a different chief, usurping the mayor's authority.

It could be a fun election this year.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:18pm you're an idiot. All newspapers print Opinion pieces and this one is clearly labelled Commentary. Also, it IS news, what is news is the fact that Town Clerk has approved a new petition and it is out there now. If you don't want to sign it then don't! And if you want to start an opposition group to tell people why you think they should not sign then go ahead and make that happen.

martel said...

I don't believe that approval of the question in a referendum will result in confirmation. If I read Ed's story correctly, the referendum is intended to "measure the public interest" in having McMahon confirmed or not. In that sense, it would be a non-binding advisory vote - which would be very difficult for any politico to ignore.

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...


You're incorrect. I initiated the petition because I think it's in the public interest to get a police chief confirmed.

According to the town clerk, if the question gets onto the ballot, and the referendum is passed, McMahon will be confirmed as chief, as per the resolution that's mentioned.

There will be a debate about the power of the referendum over the power of Council confirmation. However, if the referendum passes, and the Council decides to challenge it, they will be defying the will of the people.

Signing the petition does not indicate support or non-support of McMahon. It simply indicates that the voter is willing to have the suggestion settled by the people in a referendum vote.