Thursday, October 22, 2009
The Debate Continues
Mayoral candidates, incumbent Republican Sebastian Giuliano, Democratic challenger Drew and independent challenger Ruth Ann Johnson, gathered to debate the issues before an audience made up largely of residents from the Wesleyan Hills development and adjoining neighborhoods, Wednesday evening.
This is the first mayoral candidates at which Johnson was able to appear because of work commitments which keep her otherwise occupied on weekday evenings.
Richard Kamins, cultural correspondent for the Middletown Eye, moderated the event held at the barns at Wesleyan Hills.
At the core of the debate for the Wesleyan Hills group was a question about a parking prohibition imposed on Long Hill Road last year. Residents have complained that the parking prohibition occurred only after former police chief Lynn Baldoni moved to the neighborhood. Both Giuliano and Drew indicated that once the town discovered a hazard on the road they were obliged to address the issue, though Drew sided with an audience question as to why and how the hazard became an issue after 60 years of not being an issue. Both candidates also said that the authority to make traffic decisions was in the hands of Middletown's Police Chief. Johnson expressed puzzlement as to why the prohibition was imposed after so many years in whihc parking was allowed on the road.
The most contentious issue, not surprisingly was taxes and the town budget. Giuliano pinned the blame for budget problems firmly on the shoulders of the Democratically-controlled Common Council.
"For 16 years the fiscal authority of Middletown has played budgetary games," Giuliano claimed. "Eventually those bills come due."
Giuliano argued that the city had to get control of spending and must reduce debt service before it can stand on solid financial ground.
"Debt fees don't buy one yard of pavement, pay for one manhole," he said. "That's just money that goes out."
Drew attacked Giuliano for overtaxing residents in the mayor's effort to build up the fund balance, a fiscal reserve used to bolster credit ratings, and to serve as a fund to tap in times of financial stress.
"Last year taxes were up 6%," Drew said. "If the mayor had gotten its way, it would have gone up 13%."
Drew said that Giuliano was putting a huge burden on taxpayers in his effort to build the fund balance.
"The mayor would like us to be more like Greenwich," Drew argued. "We are 70 miles from Greenwich but we may as well be on separate planets. You can tax us like we're multimillionaires, but I don't see many multimillionaires here."
Giuliano countered that Middletown could continue comparing itself to cities like Meriden to make itself feel good, but he preferred to aspire to higher goals.
"I want us to do better than we're doing," he said.
The candidates will meet next week in debates in Westfield, and downtown at First Church.
Johnson argued throughout for fiscal belt tightening including reducing the salary for mayor, and the eliminating the compensation for Common Council members, as well as a thorough examination of all spending in the city.