As part of GOOD Morning Wilton‘s coverage of the elections for the 2019 municipal elections, we have set out guidelines inviting each unaffiliated/petition campaign and town committee to submit an op-ed piece for the Special Election 2019 Voter’s Guide. Tom Dubin is the chair of the Wilton Democratic Town Committee.

Democrats – For a Better Wilton

Wilton’s 2019 Democratic candidates offer a new path for our wonderful town.

Fiscal responsibility is the essential touchstone. Our local economy, reduced home values, and related challenges require careful management of town expenses. But Wilton’s best future requires more. Realtors report that Wilton is now rarely considered a first-choice destination. Cost-cutting alone isn’t the answer. We need a new vitality that takes a sharp look at our amenities, schools, infrastructure, town center, and town character.

The Democratic candidates are deeply engaged in Wilton, growing successful businesses here, putting kids through our schools, running extraordinary non-profits, energizing parent-teacher organizations, cheering (and chauffeuring) athletes and scholars, and ensuring our houses of worship remain strong. They represent the breadth of Wilton, including several unaffiliated and former-Republican candidates.

Wilton’s success depends on the quality of our schools. Short-changing the education budget is short-sighted. Even the outgoing Republican Board of Education chair voices concern that, “We are in jeopardy of falling behind.” Our schools are the single most important factor affecting home values. Savet Constantine and Ruth DeLuca know the difference between discretionary and necessary investment, and will fight to ensure our schools remain tops.

The Board of Finance’s budget process this year was flawed procedurally and substantively. Months of discussion, surveys, guidance, and consensus were ignored. The BOF cut the agreed town and school budgets unilaterally and literally overnight, then dipped $500,000 into a contingency fund days later. Best outcomes can be achieved only when boards operate collaboratively and transparently. Chris Stroup, Mike Kaelin, Jung Soo Kim, and Kevin Gardiner have deep financial expertise and significant experience with Wilton’s schools, government, and businesses. Importantly, they’ll bring a collaborative approach to town finances.

The Planning & Zoning Commission has heightened importance this year, as the Plan of Conservation and Development must be translated into a Master Plan and the moratorium on affordable housing provisions will expire. Rem Bigosinski, Florence Johnson, and Peter Squitieri understand Wilton’s special character, and also the need to modernize regulations and engage proactively with homeowners, businesses, and developers. They bring vision for a vibrant town center, mixed-use buildings, celebrating the Norwalk River, and options for smaller housing to encourage singles and young couples to move here and downsizing families to remain.

The Board of Selectmen must lead these efforts. To thrive, Wilton needs leadership that invites engagement and input from all stakeholders. The selectmen must focus on Wilton’s “brand” to attract new families and businesses, and ultimately to grow our Grand List. Deb McFadden has been a dynamic leader at all levels of government and private organizations in Wilton and beyond. Ceci Maher has been the successful CEO of one of Connecticut’s most important non-profits, and Ross Tartell has broad expertise in organizational management at leading corporations and as a Columbia University professor. Deb understands the need for engaged collaboration as first selectwoman. Together, Deb, Ross and Ceci will reinvigorate Wilton’s economic and cultural development.

Wilton is our home. We commit to a vibrant, first-class Wilton for 2020 and decades to come. Please support the Democratic candidates–“For a Better Wilton.”