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Keep your eye on Chuckatuck, Feb. 17, 2006

I heard from someone who is attuned to local politics that four, perhaps as many as five, people could file to run for election to City Council from the Chuckatuck borough. He even provided names.

While that many would surprise me, it’s clear that Chuckatuck could well be the hot spot for political activity this election.

First off, there’s a lot of rage over the situation with King’s Highway Bridge. The bridge has been closed for about a year, forcing residents to drive miles and miles more than they were accustomed to going the Driver or Chesapeake Square area.

It’s poor Joe Barlow, the incumbent who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by E. Dana Dickens who might bear the brunt of that rage, even though what happened to the bridge is not his fault. He’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Incumbency is a sword that cuts both ways. When things are good, the incumbent benefits, again whether he or she had anything to do with it or not, and when they’re not as good, he or she gets the blame.

Another reason there could be a lot of competition for the Chuckatuck seat is that the incumbent is not well entrenched, unlike Dickens who had served several terms. Barlow was not even elected to the seat, so anybody who has been thinking about running from the Chuckatuck borough is likely coming to the realization that now is the time if they are ever going to do it.

While I enjoy seeing competitive races n it makes our elected representatives more responsive and accountable n I’d be surprised if there’s any competition at all. People just don’t have time to be bothered with it. I can only speak for myself, but I couldn’t imagine how I would ever work serving on an elected body, and being serious about doing a good job, into my schedule. While it’s a pretty good part-time gig, paying something like $15,000 a year, it’s a massive commitment.

Incidentally, I heard some news yesterday that could wind up benefiting Mr. Barlow. A source told me that in the next couple weeks the city will be putting out a Request for Proposals on repairing and operating the King’s Highway Bridge.

I suppose someone would operate it as a toll bridge to try to recoup their investment on fixing it.

While that may provide some hope for Chuckatuckers (Chuckatuckians?) to cling to, I would advise against getting their hopes up. A new bridge will eventually be built six, eight, 10 years or whatever from now. And the new bridge will allow traffic to pass for free. When it’s open, it would put the toll bridge out of business. I couldn’t imagine anyone seriously trying to make a go of something like that with no guarantee of being the sole bridge provider.