A Safe Place for Civil Discourse in Stamford

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To the Editor:

When I joined Stamford’s Democratic City Committee in 2022, I thought it was going to be temporary. One of the reasons for this is that I felt uncomfortable on the DCC because of the bullying behavior that I had witnessed in the past. However, as Representative de la Cruz says, “just because you don’t like the way the game is played, doesn’t mean you stop playing. You work to make things better.”

Regarding bullying behavior, ingrained in my mind is an incident from 2017 when the former DCC Chair aggressively yelled in a woman’s face, towering over her in a threatening way, for endorsing a municipal candidate for office that he didn’t care for. Apparently, this same tactic happened in 2018 at the state convention, although I was not present for that incident.

Even now, bullying is still very much ever present in the DCC, albeit in different ways. I expressed disagreement about a statement on the charter revision, and another member aggressively yelled at me, “Don’t like it? THEN, RESIGN!”

Someone else then commented, “I don’t think this is a safe place for disagreement!” Bingo! It is not a safe place for disagreement. Much worse than this was the interview done by the DCC Appointments Chair regarding a Board of Education vacancy, which I would characterize as abusive of Ms. Pioli.  This was behavior that I actively stood up against.

Civil discourse is paramount in government. We don’t have to agree, but we should be able to be respectful. The Democratic Party is extremely powerful in Stamford — probably at its most powerful point ever. The Board of Representatives has 37 of 40 seats. There are only two districts left that are electorally competitive for the Board of Reps (districts 1 and 18). We hold the mayor’s seat, a supermajority on the BOR, the maximum allowed majority on the Board of Finance, and the maximum allowed majority on the Board of Education. If the Democratic Party, and all the city’s Boards, Commissions, and elected officials were always in lockstep agreement on everything then we would be myopic, and risk becoming authoritarian. That is simply not healthy for democracy.

In response to Mr. Weinberg’s op-eds in the Stamford Advocate on so-called “double-dipping,” he is currently knocking doors for a person who is a double-dipper, who is serving both on the Board of Education and the DCC. In fact, the “United” slate is hardly a group of purists on this issue. They have multiple people who rely on the Democratic Party’s endorsement for elected or appointed positions, including members of the Board of Education, a couple constables, and a Zoning Board member. While it is feasible to successfully primary a party endorsed candidate for the Board of Representatives or a state representative position, it is nearly impossible to launch a successful primary challenge for a citywide volunteer position. Who is going to collect thousands of signatures, raise $50,000, and knock thousands of doors for an unpaid position like the Board of Education? No one. Any person who gets the Democratic endorsement for the Board of Education or the Board of Finance is going to be one of the top vote getters. The only reason we have any Republican representation on any city Boards or Commissions is due to the state minority representation rule.

While I am not perfect and have lost my cool in the past, I have the utmost respect for my colleagues in government and the mayor. I once apologized to the mayor in a meeting for getting overheated, because civility is essential. You get more flies with honey than vinegar. Mr. Weinberg would do well to heed this message.

From the very beginning of his joining the Board of Representatives, Carl has made it a point to disrespect his colleagues, spread conspiracy theories about them on social media, question the motives behind members’ votes, and felt the need to insult me in one of my first phone calls with him, stating, “only a person who doesn’t understand finance very well would say that.” This was in reference to me relaying information from years of meetings I’ve attended on school construction as both the Chair of the Education Committee and a member of the Long-term Facilities Committee.  

If you want to get things done legislatively, getting along with your colleagues is necessary. Referring to them as “pigs,” even in reference to an allegory, is simply uncalled for, and is, I believe, an example of bullying behavior, reminiscent of a tactic that the DCC far too often thinks is appropriate to employ.

I am running for the Democratic City Committee because I believe in the importance of civility in the political process. Recently, it has been rather lacking. Let’s discuss things together in a calm, respectful manner. Stamford deserves it. Weinberg’s constituents, and the whole city, would be better served by him working with his colleagues in order to get things done, as opposed to spending his time attacking us.

Megan Cottrell
Stamford, CT

Cottrell is writing on her own behalf as a member of the Board of Representatives (D-4) and as a member of the Democratic City Committee.