RTC Chairman Encourages Bethel To Vote For Fiscally Conservative Cleary
The following is a letter to the editor sent by Paul Improta, Chairman of the Republican Town Committee–
Letter to the Editor, Monday, Nov. 7, 2011:
As we are in the final stretch of the 2011 Municipal Election Season, we have heard from all the insiders. They have tried to make their case why their candidate should be elected, and in some cases why their opponents shouldn’t be elected. Most of the insiders’ reasons have little to do with the needs or the future of Bethel, but to influence voters’ opinions for this election. We need to listen beyond the immediate chatter, and look at history. Each candidate has a track record.
Matthew Knickerbocker came on the scene as a candidate for the BOE. Matt’s a nice guy, but his orientation is that of a big spender. His philosophy coincides with that of the Teachers’ Unions. He’s from Michigan, one of the bluest states in America. Matt interviewed as a Republican for a seat on the BOE in 1997, but was rejected by the RTC Vacancy Committee because he was too liberal. In 1999 Matt was picked up by the Democrats and cross-endorsed by the then-liberal ProBethel Party to run on the “Star Team” ticket. Their mantra was “let the professionals do their job”, which was code for let the BOE be a rubber stamp to the administration and the Teachers’ Unions, and so it was until the Republicans took the majority in 2005. They have held the majority ever since.
Many will remember during Knickerbocker’s tenure on the BOE, the town experienced some of the most bruising budget seasons, with the Democrat-crafted school budgets always asking for more from the townspeople than they were willing to fund. The Democrats on the BOE along with some of their surrogates in the community would engage in scorched earth campaigns – letters to the editor, sign waiving, and accusations that schools were being shortchanged. It just so happens that those they accused of underfunding education were the same people who voted in the majority at each referendum. In other words, the majority of their neighbors.
Who could forget the “no – too low” campaign where a Resolution of the Democrat-controlled BOE –with Mr. Knickerbocker was Chairman - encouraged voters to vote that the presented budget was too low, but every time the budget was voted down, those who voted “too high” outnumbered those who voted “too low”, and each time the budget was cut further. That was Mr. Knickerbocker and the Democrats putting politics over our children. Since the Republicans have held a majority on the BOE, the rubber stamp has ended, the politicizing of our children and schools has ended, the schools have never done better, and lo and behold the BOE has consistently returned allocated funds unspent to the town General Fund.
Let’s look briefly at Mr. Knickerbocker’s orientation toward his job as First Selectman. One of his first initiatives as First Selectman, two years into the worst recession since the Great Depression, was to borrow $8.5 million on our already maxed-out credit limit for road paving. There is no way the town has the capacity to pave that much roadway in a single year, which means the town would’ve been making interest payments for years on money yet used. Again, this demonstrates a propensity to recklessly spend the taxpayers’ money. Luckily for the taxpayer, the Board of Finance whittled the amount down to a manageable $2 million, but even with that allocation, Mr. Knickerbocker has been too slow to implement the plan with the majority of the money still sitting in escrow almost two years later.
In his first term, Mr. Knickerbocker has put together “Ad Hoc” committees to “study” various aspects of town government, including much-needed economic development to generate industrial and commercial tax receipts to offset residential taxes. I call these “look busy” committees because they never conclude with an implemented plan. These committees have generated talk. They might’ve even generated some photo ops for campaign literature, but in two years they have not resulted in anything tangible for the taxpayer.
We can go further on the tax-and-spend theme regarding the Bethel Democrats and Mr. Knickerbocker specifically. One only needs to consider the Working Families Party Cross-endorsement. The Working Families Party is on off-shoot of ACORN, labor unions and far-left community organizations. Mr. Knickerbocker, along with his running mate Richard Straiton have both accepted the Working Family Party’s endorsement. Peculiar, there is only one registered Working Family Parties Elector in the entire town, so this cross-endorsement action has just as much to do with an ACORN-based political party gaining credibility in Connecticut as it does to assist the Democrats in our local election.
Seeing where the Democratic Party has gravitated in the last decade or so, it’s not unreasonable to find many fiscally conservative Democrats could no longer relate to the agenda of the national Democratic Party. In Connecticut and Bethel, the Democratic Party is in lock-step with the direction of the national party, which has served to alienate many now former Democrats, many who were involved in party politics on the local level. Phil and Steve Gallagher, along with our Republican Candidate for First Selectman Kevin Cleary come to mind. Americans of Irish-Catholic descent, these men share the Yankee ideals of self-reliance, fiscal conservatism, individual responsibility and public service. To paraphrase the words of Ronald Reagan; they didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left them.
Contrast Kevin Cleary’s work experience and public service with Mr. Knickerbocker’s, and you will see a man who by his very orientation has the inclination to examine a situation from all angles to determine its value and efficacy before accepting it. If he can improve the situation, he will give his recommendations. His training tells him to manage each situation as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Mr. Cleary has demonstrated this over and over in the past as Chairman of the Board of Finance, and as a Selectman. He would’ve never extended our debt to the extent Knickerbocker tried to snatch-and-grab with the excessive bond deal, because he would’ve known the town hadn’t the capacity to construct that many road miles, and that we’d be paying interest on debt for unused funds.
Let’s forget the Republican or Democrat moniker for the time being. Yes, Knickerbocker was a Republican, and Cleary was once a Democrat. So what? On the local level, one must examine the person, that person’s values and make a conscious decision whether that person’s values mimic your own values. Are your values supported by an ACORN-based, tax-and-spend liberal agenda? If so, than Mr. Knickerbocker is your man. If you are concerned about over-spending and residential taxes increasing during these tough economic times, then your choice must be no one other than Kevin L. Cleary, a proven fiscal conservative to be the next First Selectman for the town of Bethel.
Paul K. Improta, Chairman, Republican Town Committee