Last night's Westfield Residents Association (WRA) Meet the Candidates Night drew quite a crowd, and most of those individuals were candidates for office in Middletown!
All three mayoral candidates and the three city treasurer candidates had a chance to introduce themselves, as did many candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties. Interestingly, both parties (as well as the independent candidates) repeatedly mentioned the need for transparency and accountability in public office, yet no one specifically mentioned how that could happen differently given the fact that most of the candidates already hold public office in Middletown. Mayoral challenger Dan Drew pushed hard for the concept of economic growth by targeting specific growth industries (bio-tech and green industries), but he didn't explain how he could offer tax incentives to such businesses AND cut taxes while also fully funding the education budget that has been level funded for the last 4 years (don't forget that level funded actually means a budget cut due to contractual increases in salary or services that force cuts elsewhere).
The concept that a healthy fund balance is overtaxing...the only people who used to advocate that are somewhat to the right of Russ Limbaugh. You need two months reserve to maintain your bond rating. To improve the rating, you need to grow your reserve balance and it needs to be sustained growth, not a yo-yo. Don't forget that you need to pay bonds back with interest, and right now, Middletown's debt service is $15 million per year - that's 10% of the budget, and you could cut 3 mils right there if you didn't have to service that debt.
Christine Bourne, the independent candidate for mayor and current City Treasurer, stated that Middletown has "barely one month's operating expenses in reserve." She also commented that if Middletown wants to be able to offer loans to attract more businesses to our town, we need to have a healthier reserve account to accomplish that.
Much time was also spent discussing the Senior Center, and whether or not Block Grant funds should have been allocated to support this project. Christine Bourne argued that Middletown citizens should have been able to vote on whether or not to spend the money on the Senior Center as the City's Charter requires voter approval for projects over $750,000. That the Council split the project cost into two and then voted to approve funding for 1/2 the project simply denied Middletown residents project approval they should have had. Dan Drew defended his vote against using Block Funds for the Senior Center, "I think we could have funded the center later on AND given $90,000 worth of funding to other organizations right now. That way we could have done both things - funded the Senior Center in another way AND helped out those organizations that really needed it instead of just putting $90,000 away in a bank account for a year."
Clearly the candidates were ready to debate far into the evening, and time ran out before it got too ugly. It was an informative night, but the limited time made it hard for any one candidate to really answer a question.
Public Service Announcement:
Election Day is November 8, 2011. Please take the time to review the different candidates' positions, and then just vote when Election Day comes. Change in Middletown doesn't come because a candidate does or doesn't get voted into office: change happens because individuals take a moment to get involved, and they exercise their free right to self-determination. Many people in other parts of the world would die for what we have, so don't squander a precious gift, and don't be casual about it! Decide what's important to you, and then support a candidate that will embrace your philosophy. Your vote does matter, and you do have a responsibility to your fellow citizens to participate in the process.
See you at the polls!