This is the first of many articles on the Clinton Patch that will provide a closer look at the candidates running for municipal office this November.
In this series, the candidates for the office of first selectman were asked the same question: What are the top three issues/challenges you feel face the town of Clinton right now and what are your preliminary plans to address each issue?
Here is Republican candidate Carol Walter's response:
Thanks to the Patch and to Fay Abrahamsson for giving the First Selectman candidates an opportunity to address the most important challenges and issues facing Clinton and its citizens. As a long-time Clinton resident and business owner, whose family has lived here for generations, I am fully committed to this community and to helping solve its formidable problems.
Clinton’s first priority is to stimulate development and to increase the tax base. For at least six years, Clinton has been operating in reverse. My plan to stimulate development will ultimately provide the tax dollars Clinton needs to provide services and to educate its children, without impoverishing its taxpayers with the highest and fastest growing mill rate along the shoreline. I will do this first by turning the losses of Unilever and Stanley Bostitch into opportunities, employing Brownfield grants and process from the EPA to study and clean the sites for ecological and developmental purposes. Unilever’s 26 acres and proximity to I-95 are key to economic renewal.
If you think I am exaggerating about our problems, all you need to do is check current census data. The painful statistics concerning Clinton’s economic decline are not typical among our neighboring shoreline communities. This data shows that we suffer far more than area towns in business loss and the lack of new families moving in. These are undeniable facts.
The word “impoverished” is not used lightly. High taxes rob our citizens in numerous ways: first, they gouge already stretched household budgets; second, they drive down home values, as home sellers must compensate buyers for high taxes; third, they drive out business and shift a greater burden to homeowners. This is a vicious cycle that erodes Clinton’s tax base and hikes its taxes in a never-ending downward economic spiral. At approximately $15,000 per student per year we cannot rely so heavily on residential taxes.
There are four strategies for tax relief in order of priority and preference: first, grow the tax base with new and growing businesses and upscale adult residential development; second, aggressively and successfully apply for grants to reduce the portion of local expenses born by property owners; third, eliminate wasteful spending that has little or no direct financial return to Clinton citizens. Focus instead on reducing spending and on spending that is an investment with a return; fourth, temporarily tap the undesignated fund as described below. By reducing taxes, Clinton can once again attract business and grow the tax base. These actions will reverse a vicious cycle and replace it with a virtuous cycle that ignites a new culture of growth, lower taxes and prosperity.
I will revitalize our Economic Development Commission in conjunction with the Planning and Zoning Commission, Water Pollution Control Commission and the Chamber of Commerce to ignite an economic rebirth of Clinton. I will orchestrate Clinton’s efforts to unite toward a common goal of growth and prosperity.
The excessive $8+ million in undesignated surplus funds can be judiciously tapped to make Clinton tax rates more competitive. As the economy grows and tax receipts grow with it, the need to tap this fund to make ends meet will evaporate and will prove to have been an investment in Clinton’s future. More of our plans to revive Clinton’s economy can be found in our platform at: http://clintongop.org/TW_Platform_Ad.html
Clinton’s second priority is to put its financial house in order. Responsible budgets that eliminate waste and practices that hold all public servants accountable are critical to curbing spending and to concentrating on high priority projects with a promising economic return. Projects that are “nice to have,” like Clinton Landing and the Astroturf field, squeeze out more important projects that will support business growth, like wastewater treatment facilities, that are largely paid for by those who need them and use them. There are many businesses that have gone elsewhere because our infrastructure does not support them. The wastewater program that the First Selectman stopped in its tracks and promised to replace six years ago has gone nowhere. Six years of abject neglect will end in the Walter administration. I will also institute a review of all 91 (yes a staggering ninety one) town owned properties to see why we have become a land baron. Which ones can we stop spending money on and return to the tax rolls. For example the old police station next to town hall should be leased to a fine restaurant (who would pay to upgrade the building), which would draw people down town on nights and weekends.
Clinton’s third priority is third only because it is more strategic. It is meaningful charter revision. While charter revision is not required until 2014, it is important to professionally manage the town of Clinton as soon as practical. Clinton has become too complex to continue with an amateur hour form of government. I want to be Clinton’s Last - First Selectman, and transition smoothly to a professional town manager form of government. Experienced, career-minded town managers whose education is in public administration, planning and economic development are worth their weight in gold. This would be mostly paid for by eliminating the First Selectman’s high salary. Transforming Clinton into a successful, prosperous town is a course correction from which I want our children and grandchildren to benefit. One day, they can look back at the November election of 2011 as the year Clinton chose a different path, a path to professionalism and prosperity. But not to fear, the citizen elected Board of Selectmen will remain the supreme authority in town, providing direction and over sight of and to our new town manager. See our other charter revision suggestions at our web site listed above.
On November 8, please vote for Team Walter 2011 including Carol Walter for First Selectman and John Giannotti and Kim Simoncini for Selectmen. We can’t do it without you. And you won’t regret it.