If you haven’t been reading everything and closely following the local political races (admittedly it’s hard to do when there’s so much noise around the fight for the presidency), it’s not surprising that there’s a good deal of confusion about some political signs that have appeared around Wilton.

These signs don’t mention any candidate by name. Unless you really focus in on them, you don’t even easily identify a political party. Some people find them scary and alarmist. What do our schools need protection from–COVID? Budget Cuts? Both signs mention ‘local’–sometimes in small print–but what’s that all about? Many people are confused–what actually is on Row A and Row B that they want us to vote for?

After more than one reader reached out to ask if this vote was about the Wilton School Budget–NEWSFLASH, it’s not–it was clear that the signs needed some explanation.

We’re going to try to do that without editorializing on the issues. We’ll let the candidates do that in their own words a little further down in the article. But first…

What’s Row A and Row B?

Those are the rows of candidates on the ballots. Row A lists the Democratic Party candidates and Row B lists the Republican Party candidates. See below:

There is no referendum or question regarding Wilton Schools on the ballot. There is not one single referendum on the ballot about anything. In this election, voters are only considering candidates for five offices: President/Vice President (actually voting for electors); US Congressional Representative; State Senator; State Representative; and Registrar of Voters.

Then What are the Signs About and Why are they Posted?

Republican supporters posted their “Vote Row B” signs first. Republicans have made two issues central to their campaign–fighting against school regionalization and fighting against land use/zoning regulation reforms.

In both of those issues, the question is about whether state legislators in Hartford should or shouldn’t write, support or pass legislation that either mandates certain statewide changes to schools in Connecticut or mandates statewide reforms of land-use laws–in other words, maintaining local control of schools and planning & zoning.

Wilton Republicans have accused their Wilton Democratic opponents of supporting regionalizing school districts and reforming land-use regulations because Democratic legislators from other parts of the state were the ones who introduced or wrote legislation supporting both of those things.

Wilton Democrats say they don’t support regionalization and land use reforms that come from Hartford, but they stand for “local control over local matters.” Thus, the “Vote Row A” signs appeared soon after.

Who’s Right?

Each side has published op-eds, articles and letters about local control, and they’ve spoken extensively on it. Rather than rehash and analyze what’s been said on each side, we thought we’d let the candidates speak for themselves, directly to you.

Below are the clips from our interviews with the local candidates answering our questions on both topics:  In the race for State Senate (26th District) are Will Haskell (D) and Kim Healy (R); running for the State House of Representatives (143rd District) are Stephanie Thomas (D) and Patrizia Zucaro (R).

[Editor’s note:  We did not interview Tom O’Dea (R), who is running unopposed in the election for State Representative (125th District). Voters who vote in Wilton’s 2nd voting district at Cider Mill School will be considering O’Dea, not Thomas and Zucaro.]  

Side by side, they’re answering our questions on regionalizing schools and land-use reform. You can compare and then decide which candidate on which row you’ll support.

After watching the clips below, check out the other questions we asked for the full side-by-side, issue-by-issue comparison for each race, Haskell v. Healy and Thomas v. Zucaro.

Q:  The topic of land use reform legislation is being discussed at the state level and it’s become a hotly discussed topic in Wilton. It is something that our first selectwoman has raised concern about; it’s something that’s several towns in the 26th district have raised concerns about. Let’s talk about legislation that was drafted by state Senator Saud Anwar, which undoubtedly will be reintroduced when the new legislature returns in 2021. Specifically, if reelected, where are you on that legislation that Senator Anwar introduced? What are the elements you’ll support and what elements won’t you support?
Q:  Where do you stand on school regionalization?

3 replies on “Sign of the Times: What the ‘Vote for Row A’/’Vote for Row B’ Signs Mean”

  1. Thank you Heather as always for this very informative synopsis. I am hopeful that this divisive, fear mongering campaign will come to an end so that our towns can return to what we’ve been doing all along – finding smart ways to save money without trading in local autonomy in our schools and working diligently on how to increase foot traffic in Wilton Center vs. a one-size-fits-all approach.

    I was especially glad to see that Representative Gail Lavielle and candidate Patrizia Zucaro shifted their remarks in an event this week to quote EXACTLY what I have said publicly all along. They wrote in the Hands Off Our Schools facebook group and on the campaign Facebook page: Three of the most salient pieces of information we discussed were: 1) Our Fairfield county towns absolutely want to increase affordable housing and to offer wider range of housing options, 2) Most have been and are actively taking steps to do both, and 3) The Democratic legislators supporting the top-down proposals for state-controlled local zoning have been completely ignoring these local efforts, assuming that our towns are willfully doing nothing.

    I will add that as far as I know, I am the only candidate who has been proactively working for the past two months to educate legislators in other parts of the state about the work Fairfield County has been doing in this area. My goal is not to rally against something that is proposed in January, but to influence whether it gets proposed or not.

    Now that that’s settled, I hope we can get back to solving our problems and not just yelling that the sky is falling.

  2. What is missing in this article is the important context that School Regionalization was (and perhaps is) promoted by Democratic state legislators only. The various bills voted in committees of the state legislature in early 2019 were voted strictly along the party line. For example, Proposed Bill SB-738 “An Act Concerning the Creation of Regional School Districts” was proposed by Democratic Senator Martin Looney. All 23 Democratic members in the Education Committee voted “Yea” and all 14 Republicans voted “Nay”. Similar situations apply to other similar bills as well as the issue on zoning. Giving this context, what can be said about this “confusion” is that there shouldn’t be any confusion at all. It is very clear which side is supporting what. This issue just seems strictly partisan, unfortunately.

  3. Why vote Row B? If anyone wants real facts instead of campaign soundbites, visit Hands Off Our Zoning Facebook Page for a Zoom video that very clearly explains: 1) Why Democrat Sen. Anwar’s DRAFT bill (LCO3562/LCO3508) IS COMING in January 2) The specific details in that bill and what that bill will mean for towns like Wilton 3) What the intended goals are of that legislation and more importantly why it won’t achieve those goals 4) What towns like New Canaan and Wilton have been doing already to create affordable housing 5) What are some other more effective ways/better ideas than this proposed legislation (that IS COMING in January) to increase affordable housing. Why does this matter? There is a full court press to get this Democrat proposed agenda going: Desegregate CT Advocacy Zoom Webinars, Voices for Children Advocacy Report, Draft Bills ready to go, Press Conferences by Democrat Leaders in Hartford that Haskell attended, CCM Zoom Webinars. All one sided information without any details on the impacts to our towns. There is also Justin Elicker’s OpEd in the CT Mirror on Taxing Segregation. The media in general is talking in detail about Why it is needed but not the details and consequences or how to most effectively accomplish these goals. These policy ideas on zoning and regionalization are coming from the same party. One party rule in our state means they set the agenda and there is only one voice. One party public policy is why we got a regionalization bill that did not even address the struggling school districts and just wanted to throw more money at it. Isn’t it time to really fix problems where they are? Instead we have one party rule trying to find new and different ways now to take property tax dollars on top of the already existing “user fees” and state income tax dollars from our residents. How do we get more voices at the table? Vote Row B.

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