WESTON, Conn. The Daily Weston sent a questionaire to candidates in the Nov. 8 election to help voters as they make their choices. The following answers were provided by Gayle Weinstein, who is running for re-election as Weston's first selectman.
Why should people vote for you?
Two years ago, [Selectman] David [Muller] and I ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and the compassion to do what's right for Weston's citizens. I believe we have followed through on those promises, and also addressed some long-standing town concerns, such as whether or not to build a town cemetery, remediation of Revson and the Lachat property.
For two consecutive years, I have transmitted town budgets, not including the school operating and school capital budgets, that have been a reduction over the previous year. These budgets have been supported unanimously by the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance, and have been overwhelmingly approved by the town (79% voted in favor of the town operating budget). We've successfully balanced economic reality with maintaining our infrastructure, while providing necessary town services, including the need for increased support in the area of social services.
I have started the process of positioning Weston for the future in several ways. First, by establishing a Charter Review Commission, we will have the opportunity to update the way our town in governed. Secondly, I have been working closely with the superintendent of schools and neighboring communities to see if there is a possibility of combining services or sharing equipment. Thirdly, by serving as vice chair on several regional and statewide task forces, I have made Weston a stronger presence in the state. And finally, we have started improving the efficiency of our town government by offering some town services online.
But the primary reason people should vote for me is because I take the time to listen. My open door policy and monthly brown bag lunches allow me an opportunity to engage in active dialogue with our residents. I have attended every Board of Finance budget hearing for the past seven years, and every Speak Up event for the past five years.
What are the biggest issues facing Weston?
Despite having created budgets on the town-side that were a reduction over previous years, fiscal management will remain the greatest challenge facing Weston government. We must continue to find ways to keep taxes manageable for all Weston residents. Regional cooperation, as well as working closely with the Board of Education, to share essential services, equipment and purchases must be considered. By enabling online payments for programs and tax collection, we have been able to provide better service. We will continue to look for opportunities to update the town's core services.
Is Weston going in the right direction If you are an incumbent, what were your biggest achievements? If you are a challenger, what has your opponent done wrong while in office?
Yes, I believe Weston is going in the right direction. We have had the lowest tax increases in Fairfield County for two consecutive years. This year's increase was 0.29 percent. Had the state passed their budget prior to the town setting the mill rate, we would actually have been able to decrease the mill rate this year.
We have emphasized the importance of helping those who are in need, and constantly monitor our social service needs. Our school system is ranked one of the best in Connecticut.
What is one change you would like made to the town's charter? What's one thing you do not want changed?
I think it's important to clarify our annual town budget voting procedures and make our charter relevant to the 21st century.
What's your plan for the future of the Lachat property?
The Lachat property was purchased with tax dollars and I believe it's important to find a way for the residents of Weston to be able to utilize and enjoy it. Dennis Tracy and I have been working closely to amend our relationship with The Nature Conservancy to allow that to happen. Once the town votes on that agreement on Oct. 20, we will be free to open the discussion to residents. One plan that has been proposed is to utilize a piece of that property for a town farm. I personally like that idea. I'm in favor of any proposal that brings the community together.
How will the town prepare for another natural disaster? What was done well during Hurricane Irene? What could have been done differently?
I'm very proud of how our emergency management team prepared for Hurricane Irene, and how our first responders and town employees handled the aftermath. We started preparing three days before the storm hit, and I felt we were very prepared, with many contingency plans in place. I would prepare exactly the same way for another natural disaster. Unfortunately, I cannot control the way our public utilities prepare or respond.
One lesson we learned was that communication without power is extremely difficult. Immediately following Hurricane Irene, we had a special "storm line" installed and started Facebook and Twitter accounts so that people will have greater access to information. We sent a letter to all residents with this information, as well as how to sign up for codeRED alerts. We encourage the community to respond to our survey so that we can communicate even more effectively.
You can read The Daily Weston's questionnaries with other candidates and our other election stories here . A questionnaire with first selectman candidate Dan Gilbert can be read here.
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