Year-end gives us the opportunity to look back on our accomplishments, failures and everything in between. In the context of Woodbridge politics, 2019 was a combination of all three, and we Republicans appreciate the opportunity to share our views on the topic with our neighbors in this forum with the goals of generating honest, respectful debate, finding common ground with Democrats and moving Woodbridge in a direction that benefits all our residents.
Our May municipal election is a good place to begin the discussion. The Republicans ran on a platform with three planks: Budget Reform, Economic Development and the never-ending saga of what to do with the golf course. It would be easy to say “well, the voters selected Democrats, so the Republican ideas were rejected by the majority – end of story.” But is it? Not at all, as two key Republican ideas have been adopted, at least in part, by the administration.
In the area of Budget Reform, the Republican position was, and is, the First Selectman and the Board of Selectmen must take a leadership role in setting budgetary objectives, including department staffing, delivery of services and programs and controlling expenses. Shortly after the new terms began in July, the First Selectman announced the formation of the Budget Task Force charged with basically what the Republicans proposed. This subcommittee is not bipartisan, unfortunately, so the business acumen the Republican Selectmen can bring to the Committee is not being tapped. But the formation of this subcommittee is a start. And considering our 40.23 mill rate and anticipating the costs of the Amity bonds that just passed, this process, if it does yield expense reductions, could not have come too soon. Hope springs eternal.
Regarding the golf course, in the 2019 campaign the Republicans called for the Town to engage expert consultants who specialize in re-purposing golf courses. Candidly, this is a re-tread of a 2013 proposal Republican Selectmen Dey and Anastasio made. No one on the Board of Selectmen, nor in the Town’s employ, have such expertise and considering the financial and quality-of-life impact the future of this property will have on Woodbridge, it’s clear we need help. Now, a few short months after our election, the administration announces the hiring of an outside consultant to review the options for the property – assuming the referendum to sell the 60-acre parcel passes (far from a for-gone conclusion, by the way). Two thoughts here on this hiring: 1) What took you so long? and 2) Why limit it to the 95 acres not on the table for sale? Shouldn’t we look at options for the whole property?
The message here is that Republicans, as the minority party in Woodbridge, are as President Obama phrased it, “leading from behind.” We don’t have the votes, but we have the ideas. And a tip of the hat goes to the Democrats for adopting some of our best ideas, because they benefit everyone in Woodbridge. Now, are they following our ideas to the letter? No, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. We will continue to review the landscape of our town and promote sound legislation and management of our resources – beginning with our taxpayer dollars. We are ever-mindful of the growing tax rate-sinking property value spiral we are in and we will always ask if what’s being proposed will positively impact homeowners and taxpayers.
By Chuck Pyne