Hines Sight / Time for voters to perk up and pay attention
It is mid-September. The first official day of fall is a week from today.
Over the summer, we have endured the controversy of the estimated overruns of the Fairfield Metro Center project and the subsequent approval to replenish the budget with $7.5 million; felt the shaking and shimmering of an earthquake; experienced the devastation left by Tropical Storm Irene; feared an alleged arsonist; and relived the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001.
Ready for a break? Sorry, not just yet. The end of summer and the beginning of the new school year signals the start of the silly season -- in other words, the race for municipal office. You'll get your break on Nov. 9, the day after all the ballots are counted. Maybe.
Until Nov. 8, when you step into your polling place and fill in the boxes next to the names of your preferred choices, you will be inundated with campaign literature, candidate sparring and sniping, donation requests and, at some times, confusion.
To alleviate your confusion -- and make an educated and informed decision on Election Day -- it is your responsibility to get to know the candidates. And not just at the League of Women Voters of Fairfield's forums, which, unfortunately, are traditionally attended mostly by the candidates' campaign teams and their families. But make sure you attend the forum because it is a good way to hear the candidates' views.
You can begin by becoming familiar with the candidates' names, which you will be able to find on the websites of the two town committees -- www.fairfielddemocrats.org/ and www.fairfieldrtc.com/. The secretary of the state's office also will have a complete list at www.sots.ct.gov/sots.
The following offices will be elected in November: first selectman, selectmen, town clerk, board of education, town plan and zoning commission, zoning board of appeals, board of assessment appeals, representative town meeting and constable.
With the resignation in May of Democratic First Selectman Ken Flatto, who took a job in the Malloy administration, the race for the top job is wide open. Sure, Michael Tetreau is doing the work now as the interim town executive, but that doesn't mean he's a shoo-in in November. He still has to prove himself and win your confidence that he can do the job for the next four years. No other Democrat put his or her name into consideration by the party so Tetreau, a Fairfield realtor who most recently served on the board of finance, was the unanimous choice.
On other side of the aisle is Robert Bellitto, a Fairfield attorney who currently is the vice chairman of the board of finance, on which he has served since 2007. He received the Republican nomination over RTM member David Becker and Fairfield firefighter Hugh Dolan, who now is running with a slate of candidates for the Independent Party.
Over the next weeks, sit down with the candidates, get to know them and find out if they have your best interests at heart. Ask them what their vision is for the future of Fairfield. If they already have served the town in some capacity, check their voting records. Did they vote the way you wanted? Do they have a grasp of the issues facing your everyday life? Do they give you detailed answers or just rhetoric? Be forewarned, rhetoric can run rampant during the campaign season. So ask them how they intend to accomplish their goals.
While much of the focus usually is on the candidates for first selectman, those running for the RTM never should be overlooked. Under our town charter, the RTM is the legislative body and wields considerable power. It holds the final say over large appropriations, and we've got a few of those coming up. In your neighborhood districts, host a candidate meet-and-greet. I've never known a candidate who doesn't like to talk about himself or herself, so in a small and informal setting, you just might get more information on which to make a final decision.
And when it is all said and done, and your views have been offered and heard, hopefully you will make the best decision that will chart for course for our town until the next election.
Walter H. Judd, an American politician, statesman and medical missionary, perhaps said it best: "People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote -- a very different thing."