Walking the Neighborhood
Two years ago, District 8 had no Republicans running for RTM so the field was clear and I didn’t have to work hard at all to get elected.
This time, though, they’re running three people so there’s a competition for the five spots and I’m doing more traditional campaigning. On the local level, nothing beats walking the district, knocking on doors, talking to neighbors and hearing what’s on people’s minds.
While I have done this on my own, I much prefer walking with one of my fellow candidates. It makes the time far more pleasant especially as we go from door to door and no one is home. There are plenty of bad times to go knocking, such as dinner time or three in the morning. Good times are harder to judge.
I also have met an interesting cross-section of the people living here. My section of town seems to have been built in two major stages, once in the 1940s and a different section in the 1960s. Fairfield also has a nice percentage of people who have lived here their entire lives. A Szost lives on Szost Street for example. I’ve spoken to people who live in the homes they built. Over the last five weeks of campaigning, I’ve certainly learned a lot about how this area developed and what was good and what is not good today.
If you read only the local papers – we have a regional daily and two town-specific weeklies – you’d think the town was in turmoil with both sides slinging accusations hard and fast. The Letters to the Editor column is a fascinating study in campaign rhetoric and passion. Our incumbent First Selectman is either a boob who has ruined the town by being co-opted by developers or he’s a fiscal visionary who has managed tax increases and overdue construction, earning the town national accolades.
If you go door to door, I introduce myself, explain why I’m here and ask if they have any thoughts or concerns. Most will say, “Nope, I’m pretty happy. Sure, I’d like taxes to go lower but that will never happen.” Honest and straight-forward. Some will have an issue and right now our town is going through an evolution that has larger homes replacing the tudors, colonials and capes that filled the streets for decades. Zoning issues are very hot now so we get comments about that, especially on streets where construction is ongoing or recently completed. Some have issues about flooding or street repair. Few were absolutely negative towards the current administration and only one called all politicians crooks.
Our town, 59,000 or so and growing, definitely has issues to manage. More people move in as older folk pass on and new families arrive. However, there’s finite acreage so the population wants more…fields for the kids, parks for the families, a town pool for year-round use, schools to keep class size down. Can’t do it all, there’s just not the space. Managing that growth, both on the residential and commercials sides is an interesting challenge. We’re certainly reaching a point where some hard decisions will need to be made.
But, in general, as I walk, I’m very happy to see how general content my neighbors are. With luck, that will mean most of the incumbents, myself included, will be returned to office so we can continue the work we’ve started.