Observations from the Streets of District 8

I’ve been a little slow to get into campaign mode but over the last few weekends I’ve been hitting the streets, going door-to-door to speak with people, drop off some literature and take the town’s temperature.

In 2009, there was a sense of complacency that lulled me into thinking I would be re-elected. What I missed was that complacency (due to a lack of a top of the ticket vote) was coupled with the economic meltdown’s injection of anger and fear into the populace. Fewer people than normal came out and the ones who did wanted a change.

They got it. Our 26-24 Democrat/Republican Representative Town Meeting suddenly became a 38-12 Republican super-majority and there was initially a lot of bluster about being able to influence the way things were going in town.

Well, they voted in tax increases the last two years, nickel and diming the budget when they couldn’t find substantive fat even after the Republicans held private study sessions as opposed to holding their deliberations at the Standing Committee meetings so we could hear their concerns.

And while pooh-poohing ordinances that were being considered during my last term to ban the use of plastic bags (following a successful initiative in neighboring Westport) and one that would have required all municipal construction to adhere to LEED Silver standards, ensuring more energy efficient buildings, the Republican-led RTM offered up a softer ordinance requiring recycling bins be required at gas stations and car washes.

After two years of pretty much doing nothing, I am not sure what accomplishments the RTM incumbents will be running on. They had their chance and frankly squandered it. In my own district, I have found myself at deep philosophical odds with my five representatives, who appear more interested in ideology than fact-based decision-making.

Going door to door, most people were once again seemingly happy with the town. There were concerns over infrastructure, the usual cry about taxes, a few issues with the latest botched school redistricting, but no real sense of awareness of what’s been happening in town. A few in my district asked about the renovations being done at our local Gould Manor Park, concerned about the cost until I explained the fields were being rehabilitated by the Little League and not a single tax penny was being expended. Then they were happy.

One wasn’t interested in me or my literature saying the RTM was an “ineffectual body” and he had given up rather than express an interest in putting in different representatives. That’s a shame because there are about 100 people crisscrossing town, hoping to get elected and serve as the new 50-person RTM and move in sync with whoever we elect our new First Selectman (although form all accounts, our guy is looking pretty good).

While it’s nice to hit the streets again and see some familiar neighbors and meet new ones, I find myself wishing people were more engaged in the process since it doesn’t hit closer to home than the local government.

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