Letters to the Editor: FEA endorses Kiley, Special election mushrooms...
Published 9:11 am, Friday, May 19, 2017
The Town of Fairfield can proudly point to its beaches and parks, its safety and services along with its libraries and outstanding public schools. These features have made the town a magnet for young families moving into Fairfield County as well as a vibrant community for its senior population. It’s a real credit to those who serve on the various town bodies, and the advocacy of Fairfield’s residents from all perspectives, that the town finds itself in such high regard.
Today, financial problems at the state level threaten the carefully crafted value proposition Fairfield has built. Depending on how the state deals with its financial crises, Fairfield may have to deal with millions of dollars of lost revenue and extra expenses. At that point, Fairfield will have to decide what its priorities are going forward.
Some will say taxes must stay low no matter what the impact is on our schools and community services. Others reject this zero-sum outlook that suggests cuts from the state must mean cuts in education and services. They say we have to find a way to maintain the value proposition for all residents that is so intrinsic to Fairfield’s identity. The Fairfield Education Association (FEA) agrees with that latter group, but we know it is going to take experience, problem-solving abilities, a willingness to listen to all constituents and excellent communication skills to tackle the challenge. It is for that reason that we are endorsing Kevin Kiley for the Board of Selectmen during the upcoming June 6 special election. For over 20 years Mr. Kiley has served on the Fairfield RTM, Board of Finance (5 years as its chair) and the Board of Selectmen. His long service to the town gives him a unique perspective on why the town is structured the way it is and what changes might be possible. At the recent FEA candidate’s forum, Mr. Kiley evidenced a remarkable grasp of the issues relating to both Town and Board of Education affairs. He was thoughtful in his answers to very difficult questions and evidenced the desire to work with everybody, Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike, to find a way to deal with whatever comes down from the State. Most importantly, he spoke passionately about his commitment to maintaining all that is good about Fairfield. He is both committed to seniors and families and rejects any suggestion that there must be winners and losers among Fairfield residents if the state’s financial problems spill down to the town. Instead, Mr. Kiley has pledged to help re-engineer the way Fairfield operates so we can continue to deliver the high-quality services Fairfield residents expect, but at a much lower cost.
Typically, the FEA would focus solely on education issues when making an endorsement and there is no question that Mr. Kiley has a very consistent record of supporting education. At the forum he called supporting education an investment in the future, the future of Fairfield’s children and the future of our democracy. Beyond educational issues, the teachers’ overarching commitment is to the students, their families and all other members of the Fairfield community. For Fairfield Public Schools to thrive, the Town of Fairfield must thrive and that means continuing to maintain the balance between affordability and quality of services and programs. We believe that electing Kevin Kiley is critical to achieving that goal, especially in difficult financial times. We therefore urge all town residents to vote for Mr. Kiley in the upcoming June 6 special election for Board of Selectman.
Special election mushrooms
Like mushrooms after a gentle Spring rain, campaign signs are popping up all over town. The message is clear: The Special Election for an open seat on the Board of Selectmen scheduled for Tuesday, June 6th is on. I’m supporting Kevin Kiley, a popular, personable, community-minded candidate with 22 years of public service who has bi-partisan appeal.
I first met Kevin when he became our district Representative to the Town Meeting (RTM). He held that position for four years, and then served on the Board of Finance from 1997 - 2012, where he was Chair for five years. With a background in finance, he has contributed his expertise to such issues as Senior Tax Relief, Metro Station, and School Space, and is currently on the PTA Council. Recently, he served on the Board of Selectmen where he always voted in the best interests of our community.
His top priorities include maintaining our excellent education system, keeping Fairfield affordable, supporting new sources of revenue through appropriate commercial development, and maintaining Fairfield’s quality of life. He believes in “people over politics,” social activism, and public service. He enjoys family life with his wife and two sons.
Every registered voter can vote on June 6th at their usual polling place, and absentee ballot applications are available. I urge you to support this outstanding and experienced candidate, Kevin Kiley, for Selectman. You’ll be glad you did.
Global peace won’t happen without talk
Human beings are unique and sophisticated creatures that have a tremendous capacity for good. Our humanities class this year has been studying what it means to be a human and what it means to be a peacemaker. We have studied different ways to obtain peace. We looked at individuals who have made a difference and even large organizations like the United Nations who operate on a global scale.
We have concluded that global peace won’t happen unless it starts at a community level and spread by individuals to individuals to make them aware of today’s devastating and unprecedented situations we have going on today.
We invite you to find us downtown on May 31 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Rain date June 1st) to help spread the message of peace and learn from us.
Don’t even think of a tax increase
For anyone in Connecticut breathing oxygen and still capable of observing reality, the era of governor Malloy and the Democrat legislative majorities has seen the state brought to its fiscal knees. Promising to right the fiscal ship, the governor led the passage of the two largest tax increases in CT history. Instead the state now faces immediate and projected budget deficits larger than when Malloy took office. In the mean-time Connecticut has become known as the state businesses are leaving or are bribed with taxpayer money to stay. For the deniers, all this was punctuated by GE’s exit to Massachusetts of all places.
A commonly used benchmark illustrating the burden of taxes on the American people is denoting the day on which the taxpayers finish paying federal, state and local taxes and start keeping the money they earn. That day is known as Tax Freedom Day and CT is perennially the last or next to last state to reach it. In 2010 CT reached it on April 27th — it is now May 21st and we are again dead last. Connecticut ranks 50th in economic growth. We have the fourth highest debt per—capita. And with our debt and pension liabilities as a percent of state GDP the highest in the nation (17%), Barron’s business magazine has declared CT the worst run state in the nation.
Connecticut patriot grassroots groups are organizing a rally at the Capitol in Hartford at 1pm on Sunday, May 21st — Tax Freedom Day. Our purpose is to rally citizen support to tell gov. Malloy and the CT legislature to pass the current budget without ANY tax increases or new taxes. When you massively increase taxes twice and the deficits only grow, you have defined a death-spiral and you must stop. Please join our rally on May 21st to come to their senses, balance the budget and don’t increase taxes, before it’s too late.
Bridgeport judge got it right
Section 3.1.A of the Fairfield Town Charter defines by exception the “Elector requirement for appointed Town officials” as the following: No person not at the time an elector of the Town shall be eligible for appointment to any appointed board or commission or to the office of Town Treasurer, Town Attorney, or Assistant Town Attorney. In other words: the First Selectman, by law, must buy local when it comes to these professional services.
There is little doubt in my mind that the Bridgeport judge got it right in granting the petitioners their requested mandamus to hold the special election for selectman. The right to petition for the election is very clearly spelled out in the state statutes. The Supreme Court will uphold that decision if it even bothers to hear the appeal. The two Republicans on the three member Board of Selectman keep getting it wrong on this one.
Where the local judge did get it wrong was in upholding the First Selectman’s appointment of New Britain Attorney, Robert Morin, to represent the First Selectman in the case. Morrin is not an elector of our town and has no business getting one dime for legal services from the local taxpayers.
This is not the first time the First Selectman has illegally dolled out legal work to certain loyal Democrats around the state. However it should be the last time. Our hard earned tax money needs to stay in town whenever and wherever possible. That only makes sense and that may even be why it’s in the charter, too.
Buy local, Mr. Tetreau; you can’t pick and chose when it comes to the town charter.
The definition of fiscal irresponsibility
Republican Representative Town Meeting (RTM) members recently congratulated themselves with their success in delivering a 1.45 percent budget increase to Fairfielders. Several noted that they achieved this rate without having to further reduce the library or the education budgets. However, their comments and actions are disingenuous at best. Because Republicans cut over $800,000 from a contingency account of $1.2 million set aside to cover the potential State budget shortfalls, it is almost guaranteed that no portion of the library material budget will be restored this year. The vote also eliminates the town’s ability to restore dollars to the underfunded paving budget.
The smart decision for the long-term fiscal health of our town was to approve the budget as passed by our Board of Finance (BOF). Rather than pass a fiscally responsible budget with a low tax increase of 1.81 percent, the RTM Republicans ignored the warnings of both RTM Democrats and BOF Republicans and implemented cuts. The net result ensures that our residents will begin to receive diminished services in the coming years. In addition, Republican RTM members’ short-sightedness now sets us up for larger tax increases in the future to cover costs and services that the town will be unable to fund this year.
The RTM Republicans also demonstrated their disdain for transparency and collaboration when they decided to cut thinly-staffed departments without consulting the relevant department heads. One of the positions cut was in the Tax Collector’s office and, according to the Tax Collector, this action will severely limit the department’s ability to collect taxes. The Chief of Staff position in the First Selectman’s office also was cut from full to part time. Given that the Chief of Staff provides critical constituent services and helps our departments run as efficiently as possible, we are likely to see a decline in overall responsiveness to residents’ needs.
The RTM Republicans’ decisions are the definition of fiscal irresponsibility and kicking the can down the road. Remember this when the town has to further cut library, paving, or other town services, or send you a supplemental tax bill.
Support H.B. 7000 and S.B. 17
I am writing to urge our local legislators to support two proposals in the state legislature that will help all motivated Connecticut students pursue their dreams of a college education. The bills will help undocumented immigrant students afford college by making them eligible for institutional aid, a specific form of financial aid that already comes out of their tuition. These proposals are a smart investment and the right thing to do, and they come at no cost to taxpayers.
Currently, when students enroll at Connecticut state colleges and universities, part of their tuition is set aside to fund need-based institutional aid grants. But while other students with financial need can receive grants from this fund, undocumented immigrant students cannot access a single penny of the pool of aid they help to fund.
Two proposals in the state legislature this session would fix this inequality. H.B. 7000 and S.B. 17 would simply open up institutional aid to all Connecticut residents who are already eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of immigration status. Because undocumented students already pay into the system, this would cost taxpayers nothing, according to the non-partisan Fiscal Analysis Office. Both bills have been voted out of the Higher Education Committee with bipartisan support and they are backed by officials at the University of Connecticut, at the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) System, and at the Board of Regents of Higher Education.
These bills are an investment in our future. The non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that undocumented individuals in Connecticut already pay over $124 million in taxes. According to an estimate from a 2009 RAND Corporation report, the completion of a college degree raises lifetime tax contribution by at least $68,000. These proposals will benefit Connecticut taxpayers in the long run by investing in our economy and tax base.
Every day, lack of financial assistance makes it more difficult for undocumented students in our community—our friends, family members, classmates, and neighbors—to fulfill their dreams of graduating from college. As an open access institution that is designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic Serving Institution, Norwalk Community College is committed to the success of all our students. We should help these students reach their full potential and enact H.B. 7000 and S.B. 17 today. These bills are a matter of basic fairness, as well as a smart investment in our state’s future that will cost taxpayers nothing.