It was a night to vent and that’s what a few dozen speakers did Tuesday night at City Hall Annex.
Roughly 100 attended the meeting of the informal elections committee appointed by Mayor Bill Finch and chaired by former Mayor Nick Panuzio (see interview with Nick above) tasked with reviewing the Election Day debacle of ballot shortages and making recommendations so it never happens again.
State Rep. Chris Caruso had one loud message in his presentation to the committee and audience to make sure city voters never again experience a ballot shortage: remove Democratic Registrar Sandi Ayala. Easier said than done. Ayala is elected by the people, in fact reelected to a new two-year term two weeks ago. The Big Wave, who’s pondering a run for mayor in 2011, said he’s looking into state law that would allow for the impeachment of Ayala by the Connecticut Legislature. Would he really have support for that? Caruso has peppered Ayala with criticism since he lost a tight primary to Finch in 2007, claiming election irregularities. Caruso, by the way, was named chairman of the city’s legislative delegation in a meeting with peers on Tuesday. That means he’ll take the lead on pushing through legislative initiatives on behalf of the city.
Several speakers including former city development director Nancy Hadley, a downtown resident who led a voter registration drive of new downtown residents, led a chorus for Ayala’s resignation. Ayala did not attend the event, and it was good she did not witness the piling on. Her Republican counterpart Joe Borges also did not attend. Linda Grace, who’ll be replacing Borges as Republican Registrar (she had nothing to do with the ballot shortage) did attend.
Several Republicans spoke including Republican Town Chair Marc Delmonico, 2007 GOP mayoral candidate Michael Garrett, former State Senator Rob Russo and David Pia, losing GOP State Senate candidate, who regaled the audience with election nightmares including a mix-up of ballots that had the incorrect ballot handed to two dozen voters before the gaffe was caught at Black Rock School.
The crowd was orderly and Panuzio did a nice job accommodating speakers, keeping the pace moving and letting everyone have their say for more than one hour. Panuzio says he expects the committee will submit its recommendations to Finch within 90 days or so.
Will anything be resolved long term from the meeting? Probably not. But it gave Finch an opportunity to allow voters to vent and share their ideas. City voters, on this one, deserve a lot of latitude to bitch. Ayala has taken a public beating for the ballot shortage. I don’t think she’s going anywhere without an all-out political closing in. Does anyone think she’d make the same mistake again?