People have a very low opinion of their representatives in government. One need not bore you with statistics to show this lack of faith in elected representatives. A major reason for this is the electorate does not feel like their voices are being heard. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in Connecticut. After tax increase after tax increase and businesses and people leaving the state a vast majority (90% by a recent poll) of the residents feel additional taxes are not the way to balance the budget. Yet it’s probably likely that the vote in the coming days will produce a budget that does exactly that.
We will all hear representatives and senators get in front of reporters and say this is a bipartisan budget and a compromise was needed to make it so. They will wheel out provisions from the 900-page document that will attempt to make it palatable to their constituents and say we needed to give up higher taxes to get this concession or that one. Next year during election season they will put on their carnival barker hats and claim we got a spending cap (although not constitutionally implemented) and made it more affordable for towns in prevailing wage costs. But as soon as someone says to them, “Didn’t you vote for more tax increases?” Said candidate will rebuke sharply, “Hey you spoiled brat quit pulling that curtain back.”
There is a ton of pressure on our elected officials to get a budget passed. Although doom and gloom timetables seem to come and go without the sky falling, there is a rush to get this to a vote. It would appear that leadership want to yank the Band-Aid off quickly and make this nightmare go away. Hasty, late night press conferences that only provide scant details is the only information available to the residents of the state. With votes scheduled for the latter part of this week, this will be another trust-us-it’s-a-good-budget-we’re-smarter-than-you scenario.
Bucking this trend is a state representative from Eastern Connecticut, Rep. Doug Dubitsky. Mr. Dubitsky is a conservative Republican so one would assume his position would be to reject this budget. Yet Dubitsky took to Facebook (You can see the exchange here) on Tuesday evening and provided the best information he had in bullet point fashion to give his constituents as much information as possible. But what came next, sad to say, was pure political courage. Representative Dubitsky asked his constituents to weigh in on their feelings about the budget as presented. He served as moderator of the discussion while not weighing in on his own personal leanings. Dubitsky provided clarity, if possible, when asked questions. His action was a virtual town hall held at the convenience of his constituents. We follow several representatives in this state and this is the only time we have seen a representative take it to the people. This was not an exercise in political grandstanding. This is the government the framers envisioned.
Representative government has been lacking in our system for quite some time. Too many votes are based on what caucus you belong to or what leadership wants with the promise of more power down the road. They have to play the game to get ahead. But in this digital age and our ultra-connectedness citizens of the state have the tools to weigh in on important issues. These tools threaten the circles of power. This is why you won’t see other elected officials using this new medium to take the temperature of their districts.
Representative Doug Dubitsky gave the towns in his district a voice. He put them front and center. He will be able to look them in the eye and know he did what was right. In a state wrought with political guilt, Dubitsky can hold his head high and be able to say next election season, I have represented my district’s interests.
Photo taken from authors personal collection