Rising Star

Some people think watching city council week after week would be dull; I laugh when I hear that. So much to discussion goes on at those meetings and all the others like them it’s hard to keep up. Tedium simply doesn’t apply. The last meeting in particular there was an impressive level of public input, with probably almost 10 people standing up to speak, and then there were a plethora of topics that I could have written about—unfortunately I only had 750 words.

In the last few weeks one councilor has kept things even more interesting than normal. He has distinguished himself with his willingness to directly confront critics, often with uncommon eloquence and confidence, and to repeatedly hammer on issues important to him. The councilor is David Poulin.

It started at the mayoral debate, when councilors had five minutes open time to address the audience. Councilor Poulin unleashed more talking points in that five minutes than the rest of the room mentioned combined. He may have even conveyed more than the two mayoral candidates, and they had an hour. It was the most fired up I’d seen him in six months of covering council, and it caught me completely unprepared.

Next was the meeting after Councilor Dick Lafleur was to serve as chair but not enough councilors showed up. Councilor Lafleur scolded councilors for missing it, to which Councilor Poulin responded. Clearly perturbed, he maintained his composure and gave it back hard, with a hint of disdain in his voice. It was a strong second performance for a councilor that had before this been pretty uncontroversial. Before this the thing I would have remembered him for was requesting a memorial plaque.

Most recently it was the city seal. Councilor Poulin was the driving force behind removing the stack from the seal, and he continues to point out when the old seal pops up still. The city clerk wrote a memo for Monday’s meeting listing the cost of replacing all iterations of the seal, which came to “$10,000 at a minimum.” Some councilors balked at the price tag, but not Councilor Poulin, who responded with another noteworthy rebuke:
“Why is it such a point of contention to remove the stack? Nobody wants to live in ‘Stinktown.’ I can’t see where pollution should be a poster-boy. There’s going to be expense associated with transforming an image. You’re undermining the actual vote. I can’t support anything but getting rid of this stuff.”
Again, like the first two, no number of quotes do it justice. I’m glad I was there to watch.

Three times now since the end of October I’ve wished I had a video camera while in city hall, and every instance has been to tape Councilor Poulin. He has been an aggressive champion for his views, which he shares freely, even when they go completely against the rest of the group. And unlike many local politicians, he is bullish enough to wield his inclination effectively.

I understand he ran because issues involving the sign at his business on Glen Avenue, but now he’s become an effective spokesperson for progressive change in Berlin. What’s more, unlike other champions of those policies on the council, Councilor Poulin is a Berlin native, which is important to many voters. He mixes laissez-faire economics with a flair for marketing and then speaks when just as the room pauses. Most politicians are better at avoiding questions and employing doublespeak, but he’s comfortable putting his positions on his business card. It makes me look forward to next Monday night.

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