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Dem splinter group wants change

Bethlehem reformers cite transparency, recent election performances

— According to Smith, he and several other members of the group have served on the town’s Democratic Committee in the past and didn’t like what they observed.

“The current system lacks openness, transparency and participation from Democrats,” he said. “This is what we want to address. Some members of the group expressed observations on the way decisions were being made and this is why there is a high level of interest in making this a different Democratic Party to reflect a 21st century Democratic process.”

Smith said group members thought the committee did a poor job of informing the public when meeting would be held and the process of selecting candidates is often handled behind closed doors. The group hopes committee reforms will result in a better local Democratic Party.

Bethlehem Democratic Committee Chairman Matthew Clyne said he is skeptical of the group’s motives.

“When people talk about reform it’s usually a code for self promotion,” said Clyne, who has been the party’s town chairman since 1990. “If people are really interested in reform, we (the party) are in the business of electing candidates, anyone not in sync with that mission isn’t an asset to the party.”

Clyne said committee meetings are closed to the public for a reason. Meetings are where political strategy is discussed and the party doesn’t want the public to know “what their game plan is.”

He said in past years it has been a struggle to get people to volunteer with the party and it is only in recent years that people have expressed interest in becoming involved.

“Our committee and our party has always been open,” he said. “Anyone can ask to get involved but I don’t see anyone of these people at fundraisers or asking to volunteer with us, so I’m skeptical.”

Smith said members of the Bethlehem Reform Democrat movement are just looking to be more involved. They have asked Clyne if he would be willing to attend a future meeting. Clyne said he may accept, “just to see what their true motives are.”

The Bethlehem Reformed Democrats have a website at www.bethlehem-reform-democrats.org.

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