Monday, October 26, 2015

Meet the Candidates at WRA

Perhaps the biggest, and only surprise of the evening at the perennial Westfield Residents Association Meet the Candidates night was that one of the mayoral candidates arrived late, and on crutches.

Republican candidate Sandra Russo-Driska arrived at the event from the hospital where she had been treated for an inflamed cyst in her knee.  On crutches, with a leg encased in a immobilizing boot, Russo-Driska made an entrance from a back door as Republican council candidates spoke.

WRA president Jennifer Mahr greeted candidates and warned them to be civil and "not to get mad at each other."  She then warned them to obey the time constraints, "because you don't want me mad at you."

Non-council candidates from both parties introduced themselves, and then each Council slate was given the opportunity to introduce themselves and to make statements about issues and philosphy.

Speaking as majority leader, Democratic Council candidate Tom Serra boasted about the fiscal prowess of the current Democratic team which had increased the bond rating of the town from a AA- in 2005 to a AA+ today.

"When you get a double A plus as a city, that's pretty good," Serra said.  "The council is helping us remain solvent as a city in terms of finances."

He also urged voters to vote yes on the bond issue which requests an additional $15 million dollars for a sewage pumping station.  This money had not been part of the original bonding estimate, and was a point upon which all candidates, of both parties agreed.

Speaking on the Mattabassett Sewer project, Serra said, "It's important that we finish it.  We're invested in the project and the membership in the district."

When Serra addressed the second bonding issue, which requests money for city parks and playing fields, Serra urged voters to vote "no."  On this matter, Serra found more agreement from Republican opponents than from candidates on his own slate.

Democratic council candidate Mary Bartolotta spoke strongly in favor of the bonding issue, noting that there is little difference in the current bonding ordinance from the one that was originally brought forward.

"I believe the request has been vetted quite well," Bartolotta said.  "We have required that new fields be real grass, and otherwise it covers everything it was supposed to cover."

Bartolotta conducted research that convinced her that artificial turf holds possible dangers for young athletes.

"I don't see why we should want artificial turf," Bartolotta said.  "The decision that was made for this bond was made in the best interest of our children."

Council candidate Gene Nocera agreed with Bartolotta and added that current research underway was beginning to question the safety of turf, and that the federal government, which once approved artificial turf, no longer did so, and was in fact, suspiciously quiet on the issue.

Republican candidates argued that the artificial turf was not the issue, but that the planning for the bonding was not complete.

"It's disingenous to tell members of the public their going to get everything they want with this project," Republican Council candidate Seb Giuliano countered.  "Because they're not."

Write in candidate Hope Kasper was allowed to present her bona fides, and to explain the process of writing in her name as a write-in candidate for Council.

Three mayoral candidates were then allowed to make brief presentations.

Republican Sandra Russo-Driska hobbled to the microphone, and made a short statement indicating that taxes were at the center of her platform.

"Taxes did not go down," she said referring to the current mayoral administration.  "Your mill rate went up."

Russo-Driska called for more planning, with attention being paid to capital projects, schools and riverfront development.  She also called for cooperation between the parties.

Incumbent Dan Drew touted the financial success of the current administration, citing increase in business investment in town, and the financial stability he feels his administration has achieved.

"Our taxes are down by .3 of a mill this year," Drew said.  "We've increased our bonding rating, and
our fund balance is at the highest point ever."

He highlighted business successes, including the impending FedEx ground headquarters to be built on the former Aetna site.

"It will be close to a quarter of a billion dollar facility," Drew said.  "It will bring up to a thousand jobs and an addition 500 delivery jobs."

Write-in candidate Brian Clark began his presentation by declaring that he was putting an end to negative campaigning, and then spent several minutes castigating the current mayor for what he called dishonesty and illegalities.

"He has eleven pending lawsuits in state and federal court," Clark claimed in a litany of alleged wrongdoings.

With Russo-Driska visibly wincing in the background, Clark declared his affinity with the Republican candidate saying that he agreed with her on most issues, but that he and Drew seemed to "be pissed off at each other for breathing the same air," at which Drew winced as well.

Mayor Daniel Drew of Middletown
The evening ended with questions from voters on the intricacies of the mill rate and revaluation of property, and whether workers at the FedEx facility would be unionized or not.

In closing statements, Drew declared that he hoped to continue the success in the city that had already been established.  Russo-Driska said that she would focus on taxes, education and finances if elected.

1 comment:

Inigo Montoya said...

"Putting an end to negative campaigning."
I do not think the words mean what you think they mean.