Letter: RTM majority bullies dissenters
Published 10:08 am, Friday, May 18, 2012
I was deeply disappointed to witness for the second year in a row how the RTM's majority party has chosen to bully those who disagree with them.
Democrats were accused of not starting the conversation, which is code for "the Democrats were unwilling to offer cuts for the sake of cutting." We were willing participants, but the Republicans called the vote and the conversation ended. They couldn't stand to hear the legitimate concerns and reasons to keep the contingency fund intact.
Last year, when the Republicans felt it necessary to bypass the standing-committee-review process in favor of their "study groups," the only department head to refuse their invitation was IT Director Donald Leslie. He made it clear during the RTM's April budget meeting that he was prepared to answer the standing committee's questions in a public venue. As a result, he saw his budget slashed.
This year, the study groups vanished, but the Republicans did not engage in an open, transparent dialogue with the Democrats, keeping their intentions close to the vest until the April RTM meeting. For the first time, they made it clear that -- despite the studies done by three ratings agencies, the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance -- only the Republicans on the RTM saw how dire our financial situation was.
The rallying cry was suddenly for austerity measures with no explanation of how they reached this conclusion. Instead, the RTM was presented with a proposed 2-percent cut, without any detail as to how they wished to see these dire cuts enacted. Instead, they passed the buck to the department heads.
When I and others pointed out that such proposed cuts had to be done on a line-by-line basis, Majority Leader David Becker came back with a punitive $850,000 proposed cut to the contingency fund, essentially forcing the selectmen and finance board to do his dirty work and find ways to cover these needed funds.
Despite admonishments from the town's chief fiscal officer and finance board members, the Republicans would not be swayed, except Rep. Thomas P. Conley. He was the lone Republican to step away from the herd and be the voice of reason, but to no avail. The contingency fund was left unrestored.
I support an open exchange of ideas, and a bipartisan approach to the RTM's role as the town's final check and balance. Our town works best when we can air our feelings without reservation, examining the other side's ideas and seeing if there's a path we can both agree on. Without it, Fairfield is the poorer for it.
RTM, District 4