Six Town Council candidates battle for four spots
Published 11:31 am, Friday, June 24, 2011
Tucker Murphy, Steve Karl, Kenneth Campbell, Daniel Radman, Roy Abramowitz and Roger Williams are all names to keep an eye on July 19. Only four of those candidates will be selected by voters in a few weeks to represent them in Town Council. Following the first selectman debate Thursday night, each candidate participated in a panel of questions that dealt with issues like transparency, taxes and debt.
"I think the way the Town Council operates now could not be more transparent," Campbell said, citing the three public hearings held for the sidewalk referendum issue.
Williams disagreed with those sentiments pointing out the union contract negotiations that took place under the current administration and the exclusion of the commissions in the process.
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"Excluded from this discussion were any members of commissions who dealt with those bodies," Williams said. "The fire commission was excluded. The police commission was excluded despite our request to be involved and our request to continue to be involved throughout that process were basically rebuffed by the first selectman every step of the way. The end result is we ended up in arbitration with the [fire and police commissions]."
Abramowitz agreed and suggested more oversight among the three main town bodies.
"We need checks and balances. We need checklists," Abramowitz said. "Checklists that go to the Town Council from the Board of Finance from the First Selectman's office that every bit of information that's needed like to look at the budget, has been supplied and has been considered. Pertinent items should not be in executive session, they should be transparent."
On the other hand, Steve Karl, current Vice Chairman of Town Council, believed that transparency was not a problem and provided several examples.
"Here is just a brief list that I compiled to illustrate transparency in town that's been instituted since I started four years ago," Karl said. "We've got support of channel 79 broadcast. We've got a town website that's amazing and has improved every single month. The guys in IT have done a great job. Last evening [arbitration subcommittee meeting June 22] we had our first ever Town Council meeting where we had e-mail questions from somebody sitting in their pajamas."
When it came to dealing with debt and other financial issues, Tucker Murphy said it was something she would not tackle alone. Rather, she would solicit feedback from the community regarding their opinions on the matter and try her best to represent the people. In addition to discussing the merits of bonding versus budgeting, Murphy also reiterated the reach Town Council actually has regarding decisions.
"Remember, the role of the Town Council is just to approve, reject or reduce any appropriation that has been approved by the Board of Finance. That is our authority. That is all we can do," Murphy concluded.
Radman had some ideas of his own on how to improve the processes in Town Council.
"The way I would improve it is helping the communication between departments," he said. "Right now it seems to me that the Town Council, as much as they'd like to, is not in sync with what the public is looking to do. What they are in sync with is the selectmen, specifically the First Selectman's office. I think things need to change in this town and I think there needs to be a little more objectivity."
In that same vein, Williams praised the choice voters have for this election unlike the previous uncontested election. He said that choice alone will be a step away from the current regime in Town Council. Williams said he believes seven out of eight members currently on Town Council al vote similarly most of the time, preventing objectivity.
"Paul [Giusti] has the support of seven out of the eight Republican members of the Town Council. We call them the `seven eighths.' Now the seven eights stand together and they vote as a block," Williams said. "They haven't seen an appropriation they didn't like and this budget season they voted on $1.9 million of unbudgeted money, your money, taken out of the general fund."
In his closing remarks, Steve Karl summed up the importance of Town Council to New Canaan.
"I'm extremely proud to say I was part of a 12 member Town Council. I've served on it for four years. Twelve residents like you, who were elected but volunteered to represent your interests," Karl said. "A group comprised of men and women, young and old, with different political views, careers and commitments. We disagree and battle at times but one thing that never wavers is this group's ability to put New Canaan's interests first."
Registered Republican voters can make their choice on Town Council July 19 at the Republican caucus.