Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LOWV Council forum 2011

Livestreaming the Council debate... fun, fun, fun!

I just watched the DISTRICTS starting around 7pm. Thoughts:

David Schrumm -- David is David. He reminds me of Newt at a local level. The best debater out there. And as much as he drives me nuts at times... at times like this, he reminds me how beneficial he can be for the town. He's knowledgable, articulate and makes a good presentation. He explains issues in a succinct manner. I know he has no opponent this year, but he shined favorably on the entire GOP team tonight.

Tom Ruocco -- He's good. I would absolutely vote for him. And as Personnel Chair, he has made important progress this term on town union pension reform by moving from Defined Benefit to Defined Contribution plans for new hires.

Matt Bowman -- I like Matt, but I hope he remains in "private industry." He kinda dropped the ball and stumbled during his closing comments.

Joe Schmitt -- He's very enthusiastic. I absolutely agree with him about priorities. I just don't see why this Council spent so much time discussing and funding recreation projects.

Andy Falvey -- When he commented on priorities, I couldn't really follow. He works hard for the 3rd district though. I know residents who really appreciate his efforts at Mixville.

Steve Carroll -- I thought he did fine. Though nothing in particular jumped out at me.

Peter Talbot -- Did anyone else think he was suggesting that "raise my taxes!" was his campaign slogan? I know the 4th district fairly well. And I know a lot of people who want education well-funded. But I don't know that many people who want higher taxes. That's different from being willing to pay higher taxes.


Jim McKenney -- He kept hammering away at the $30,000,000 sewer plant upgrade. I was about to vote for the project until he explained the possibility of the state walking away from funding the $6,000,000 de-phosphorous component. He explained that passing the referendum would reduce Cheshire's leverage with state funding. That's concerning. But since maintenance of the plant is mandated, I can't fully appreciate his argument. Regardless, this funding issue -- that Mike O'Donnell and Sylvia Nichols also mentioned -- seems important. McKenney also hammered home the point about the millions of dollars worth of no-bid contracts given out by the WPCA. I was under the impression that the no-bid nonsense had ended with this Council. Perhaps not? Or perhaps, unlike before when no contracts were put out to bid, now some contracts are being bid? Based on what I heard, Jim was the only person to properly answer the question "What one thing would you do to save money?" The rest of the responses sounded like non-responses to me. Overall, I thought Jim did really well. Still an uphill battle though as a non-major party candidate. As PBC Chair, I didn't care for his approach to work. I never thought he was particularly receptive to the Energy Commission and the obvious value they could offer building projects. But as a rank'n'file member of the Council, he might be a good addition. I doubt he'd be a rubber stamp for the Town Manager!

Bob Behrer -- I like Bob. He was fairly reserved tonight. But I do now know that he supports the turf and the pool. And speaking of Bob, I've been emailing with him the past few days. His company sources beeswax from around the world (geographic diversity is important for the business continuity plans of many manufacturers), but do not yet have any sources here in Haiti. So he reached out to me and we're hoping to help generate some money & jobs for some of the poor of Haiti. Regardless of the business-driven, profit-motive, I appreciate Bob for contacting me. Thinking outside-the-box could be good for the Council. Unfortunately, you'd still need five votes to direct action on outside-the-box thinking. One Council member alone cannot effect change. Change requires five hands in the air.

Mike O'Donnell -- I think Mike would be a good addition to the Council. I've known him since I first ran for the Council ten years ago. The great thing about him is that he's a straight-shooter. He's very direct. He's never minced words with me or told me what he thought I wanted to hear. He's always respectful, yet plainly tells me if he agrees or disagrees with me.

Patti Flynn-Harris -- Among the at-large candidates, she had the best performance. She has the best presentation and she does her homework. In fact, just today I got an email from a Republican saying that she's the Council member most involved with the concept of a townwide energy conservation plan. That basically relates to her desire to understand how a performance contract works. I have never served with her, but it sounds like she does her homework. And that's important. I suspect that PFH will be the highest vote-getter on November 8th.

Tim Slocum -- He alluded to the teachers' union concesssions. That was a big win for the town. He also deserves credit for town pension reform because despite town management footdragging, Tim helped closed the door on defined benefit pension plans for future hires. That was another big win. But then he mentioned a future goal of the Council: shared services between the Town and Schools. That sounds great and I appreciated his usual candor. But he made clear that this Council decided to spend the past year figuring out what to do with the pool bubble, rather working to reduce waste and duplicate services in government. I just don't see how or why anyone would campaign on that. Sounds like a poor choice to me. I also had to chuckle when he mentioned that this Council directed the Town Manager to save money anyway he can. I guess that may be true, but there obviously wasn't very strong accountability backing it. I mean, we got fleeced for $150,000 on the Norton boiler fiasco, including probably $50,000 to $60,000 being spent by this Council. How is that saving money? And we saw the money wasted when we had to pay to repave Rosemary Lane only two years after we had just repaved it. How much did that stupidity cost? And we saw Jim McKenney tonight. He kept hammering home the no-bid contracts at the WPCA. Anyone know the common denominator among these three issues? It's what I said two years ago... the Council needs to deal with the failed management of the Public Works Department. But since that's a function of the Town Manager, the Council needs to deal with the TM. Yet I see no indication that they have done so. Instead it's seems as though they live in The Land of Make Believe... where everything is perfect and town government has done no wrong for the past two years. That's absurd. And it's a major disappointment to me. As I said during the last Council, I hope the voters can identify five people who are willing to direct the Town Manager to stop the waste & mismanagement in town government, particularly in the DPW. I hope we can find five people who are willing to direct the TM when he is wrong -- and he is wrong sometimes -- and not simply back down when he starts getting visibly angry and jumping up out of his seat (and no, he doesn't do that on TV... he always very controlled there... but get him off camera...).

Jimmy Sima -- He started his comments by mentioning that he sometimes leaves Council meetings frustrated. Well, between all the unnecessary time and money spent on recreation projects... and the lack of accountability in Town Hall... I can venture a guess as to why Jimmy gets frustrated at times. He also mentioned his general opposition to hiring consultants. I'll be voting for Jimmy. He's my top choice for Council. I hope he's your top choice too!

Mike Ecke -- He offered a nice opening statement. But he proceeded to say that we're "stuck with the bubble." Au contraire. The new bubble was a conscious decision. He also mentioned the $500,000 for the locker room that has gone unspent. Initially, I thought that was an important point. But Tim Slocum rightly said that spending requests begin with the BOE. And if the BOE hasn't asked for the money, that's not the fault of the Council for failing to spend the money. I like Mike. But I have to challenge his point about being willing to work with all elected officials. I agree with him that he's willing to listen and take input. He worked with me several times. I recall one time when he delayed (for one year) hiring a consultant for an update to the strategic plan. I very much appreciated him listening to me on that. So his assertion was true. But I can't ignore my previous conclusion that when push comes to shove... his preference -- as is the preference of most Council Chairs -- is to defer to the Town Manager, not to other elected officials. And I just think that is so wrong. It reminds me of these Republicans running for POTUS. When asked about war, too many of them say "I'll defer to my commanders." Huh? Then why'd we elect you?! We have elections for a reason! The bureaucrats will virtually always want to spend more money and have less accountability. I want Council leadership that will make the decisions. And no, I don't have to agree with the Council decision. But I want to know that their decisions are their decisions... not a decision made by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.

Sylvia Nichols -- She's nice. I like her, but not much jumped out at me.

Dan Nowak -- He started off on the wrong foot as his mic wasn't working. And I wasn't too thrilled when he seemed to be advocating expanding services... does he want a water polo team? But I know him a smidge. He lives in the 4th district! I think he may have been a bit nervous tonight. Nonetheless, he -- like all others -- could offer the Council some good.

Overall, I think what surprised me most was how many candidates are uncertain how they will vote on the $30,000,000 wastewater treatment plant upgrade. Per Jim McKenney, there's obviously new information (post-capital budget vote) that's now in the public forum. So it's somewhat understandable. Frankly though, going back to my POTUS analogy... I get pretty annoyed when I hear Herman Cain tell us that he won't answer a question (i.e. the way forward in Afghanistan or naming a Fed Chairman) because he's not President yet. You know what Herman? I don't want another "unknown" like Obama. I want to know where you stand on the issues. And while volunteering for the Council is different, I still want candidates to be clear on the issues.

That's it... goodnight!

Tim White


Anonymous said...

Upgrade of treatment plant NOT state mandated. People using fear - if something breaks and there's "sewage running in the streets of Cheshire" that state would step in and order work to be done. But other than need to eventually meet some eventual standard of phosphorus removal, this upgrade it NOT state mandated. Needed, yes, but a yacht? And we have always been "cutting edge" says chair of WPCA. Need to be, or the consultant WANTS us to be?

Tim White said...

Upgrade of treatment plant NOT state mandated.

But maintenance is required. Regardless, I'm just now beginning to appreciate the magnitude of this question.

The seriously disappointing thing for me... knowing who acts as staff to the WPCA (think DPW Management)... this reminds me of the pool building... I have little confidence that this project is being managed well.

Which brings me to a huge disagreement between me and the Council leadership. They heart the TM, calling him a "great manager." I feel differently.

And now after two years of a Council majority, we still have the same failed management of the DPW. No change. Even though change is obviously necessary... and the Council leadership knew it... and they could've acted, but chose inaction.

I obviously don't know the details of this project. But to me this is probably a continuation of the long pattern of screwed up town projects. And this is a biggie.

This really makes me question how I'm going to vote.

Tim White said...

And since I mentioned Herman Cain's ambiguity last night... I have to mention that he apparently moved from pro-life to pro-choice today... although he's now trying to claim that he's pro-life!

He lied to Ron Paul about his opposition to a Fed audit. Is this another lie?

Anonymous said...

not one person cares what you think

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Tim, for your thoughtful analysis. I appreciate your discussing the candidates in terms of issues and performance, not party. Your views are helpful to me in deciding how I will vote.

Anonymous said...

Who's the politician now?

With the exception of the TM, it seems you "like" everyone- even Mike Ecke, who would probably be the first to describe you as a doofus. With what he's done for this Town, you sure let him off easy in your little version of This Week with Tim White. You "like" M Bowman, and even McKinney-- but later blame others for our "fleecing" with the "Norton boiler fiasco"-- most of which occurred while YOU were on the Council (nice "oversight" there). And then you pick an argument about Tim Slocum complaining about not pursuing waste spending?

Is there a lot of Ganja in Haiti? Or did you smoke it all?! YA MAN

Anonymous said...

Tim White wrote what was said at 859 as he usually does when someone puts the slam on him
Nice try timmieesss

Cedar Lane said...

Anon 8:46,
No, 859 was me. And I'm guessing that you are my neighbor, still bitter and angry about your overwhelming defeat two years ago.

Anonymous said...

The problem with ALL this is it is not just Cheshire, the entire system is broken. Every few years we choose from a group of "concerned citizens" who want to pretend to be something they are not - Managers. It is one thing to say what you would do and another to actually do it. Just because you have run a business for years does NOT make you able to help run a Town efficiently. It seems that when push comes to serve many buckle. and as much as I hate to agree with Tim (give way to the Town Manager).
While the TM is a nice guy, he is responsible for placing each of the current department heads in place. This places him in a bad position when they screw up (thier failure is my failure thinking). this Town has a string of failures - pool, boiler, financial accounting software, paving software, contract mistakes, not to mention the mistakes in personnel appointments.
I am waiting for ONE TC member to show that they have a set and stand on an issue, with a clear argument, and (key word here) maturely try to impose thier will. Not grandstanding (schrumm), or list your resume (Harris), or throw a temper tantrum and call names (insert any name here). How about picking a side because its right not because of your politicial affiliation.

Oh the hell with it....... youre all doing a great job (you too Board of Ed - the IPADS were a great purchase, glad we almost laid off teachers)

Anonymous said...

Tim for someone who has claimed to be for transparency, you are letting the BOE and Perugini skate on the IPAD purchasing.... I have asked several very simple questions and Tony continues to delete and moderate comments.. In a time when layoffs, programs, and school closures were threatened why cant the BOE answer questions about buying IPADS for teachers..
How about a little help on this one?

How many Ipads were bought?
To whom were they issued?
what mechanisms are in place to ensure they are not being used for steaming music, facebook etc, but are being used for thier intended purpose.
Who is responsible for replacement of lost, stolen, broken IPADS?
How are we measuring increased educator performance from those who were issued the Technology?
Are there extra Ipads that have not been distributed?
Why wanst this purchased defined as opposed to being grouped under Tech infrastructure....
It seems a little self serving (ony) to have a blog for transparency then refuse to answer questions you dont like

Tim White said...

Tim for someone who has claimed to be for transparency, you are letting the BOE and Perugini skate on the IPAD purchasing

I have seen your comments before they got deleted at TPL.

I have two thoughts that may help explain your concern:

1) The problem TP has with your questions may be because some of your earlier comments were pretty strong. I would've let'em fly here, but TP has a lower tolerance for that stuff on his blog. And it's possible those comments set the tone for your future comments. Not sure. Just saying.

2) I thought your later comments were fair. I don't know why you haven't gotten an answer... except for the possibility that some of your earlier comments had set the tone? Again, not sure. Just speculating.

As for why I haven't asked any questions... I really don't know anything about it. I was tempted to mention it, but TP clearly is not answering your questions.

I'm in Haiti. I'm not getting the details that I may be able to get if I were in Cheshire.

I suggest doing as Tony suggested. Attend a meeting and ask the questions there.

I'd make sure it's televised and then state your questions. Address them to the Chair and don't budge until you get an answer. Say something simple like:

"Did the BOE purchase iPads for staff this year?"

That's a binary question. It'd be tough for the Chair to give you a non-answer. But if you feel all your getting is the runaround, then come back for the next televised meeting. Ramp up the pressure.

That's precisely what I did with the take-home vehicles. The TM repeatedly refused to address them with me. So eventually I concluded the bully pulpit was my avenue to address my concern.