Yesterday the Tribune ran a story about a dust-up between City Councilor-elect Sean Fountain and a private citizen (Jack Burke) over Mr. Burke texting and following Mr. Fountain. Councilor Fountain filed a police report, and of course it makes for great political theater. But is that all it is?
The back story here is that Mr. Burke and his political allies, through the course of the last election cycle, repeatedly spread rumors about Mr. Fountain’s place of residence. Those rumors include, but are not limited to:
a) Mr Fountain lives in North Andover
b) Mr. Fountain lives in Methuen, but not in the West District.
c) Mr. Fountain, wherever he lives, should not have been allowed on the ballot for West District Councilor because Jack Burke and his political allies have spread rumors about Mr. Fountain
Now obviously the political games and rumor spreading failed. Mr. Fountain was indeed eligible, does indeed live in the West District, and ran a strong campaign to win one of the two seats. Mr. Fountain received 1762 votes from his West District constituents, which stands in stark contrast to Mr. Burke’s prior attempts to win the very same seat. In 2007 Mr. Burke received 183 votes in the West District primary, but he burst over the 200 vote mark in 2009, receiving 216 votes. Obviously he failed to make the general election ballot both times, but I digress.
Mr. Burke, in the Tribune article, fashioned himself a “watch-dog” for the City. Obviously such status is self bestowed, but there can be no question that citizens, and even failed candidates, have every right to question, inquire, seek information from, and criticize elected officials. That is certainly part of the process, and it absolutely helps to keep elected officials on their feet, preventing them from getting too comfortable. But the tactics employed here by Mr. Burke are indeed over the line, especially the part about following Mr. Fountain or showing up in his apartment parking lot. Tactics like that drive good people away from seeking elective office, and create hard feelings and bitterness that makes working across political divides for the good of the community all the more difficult. Ratchet the nonsense down, and allow Mr. Fountain to sink or swim based on his ideas for advancing the community, and the West District. He was elected by his constituents, and he needs to be given the chance to do the type of job he promised he would.