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OPINION: Facts in Wallingford: Stagnation or stewardship

OPINION: Facts in Wallingford: Stagnation or stewardship

By Jack Beecher

Stephen Knight has recently written two editorial columns supporting the re-election of Wallingford’s mayor. As an unaffiliated voter I take serious issue with his mischaracterization of mayoral candidate Jared Liu’s positions on several matters and his support of a mayor who took office in a fiscally sound town, with good infrastructure and who, for the last 36 years, failed to maintain that infrastructure allowing our town to stagnate.

The mayor has been an honest public servant but has failed to meet his stewardship obligation for public properties. When the mayor was first elected we owned 100% of the power plant and had modern water and sewage treatment facilities. That is no longer the case, which is fact, not opinion.

It is a fact that maintenance and modernization of facilities costs money and that when money is used to maintain something you own, that is an investment. The problem with Mr. Dickinson’s, “Just Say No to Everything Policy” is that it is easier to just say “no” than it is to decide which projects deserve a “yes.”

Wallingford’s technology infrastructure is non-existent because of one stubborn man who is, and always has been, afraid of technology and who is unwilling to listen to anyone about its role and importance in today’s world. I volunteered and served on a “Technology Committee” for the mayor during his second term and came to the realization that, regardless of the many hours we spent assessing our situation and analyzing our needs, he was unwilling to do anything about improving technology except to form a committee so he could say he was looking at it.

Enormous expenditures on electronic capabilities are required because they have been deferred for so long. Few could expect tomorrow’s industry to locate in a town that doesn’t think email is effective or which requires that citizens drive to Town Hall to read minutes of public meetings.

Town employees are forced to find ways to get around the lack of technology. These policies cost Wallingford’s citizens time and money and are utter nonsense in 2019, not innuendo as Mr. Knight claims, but rather one of those pesky facts. Investment in technology occurs every day in business. If it was not cost-effective e-mail would have failed well before the turn of the century.

Businesses look at community infrastructure before deciding to “invest” in a Town. What they will see in Wallingford is an artificially low tax rate because we have not spent the money to maintain our facilities according to regulations. I am not in favor of increased taxes but understand that there are costs associated with government services and, as a recent retiree, I am acutely aware of the harsh realities of living on a fixed income.

The purpose of government is to provide for the “common good.” While we may have differing definitions, public safety (including policing, fire services) and public education are paramount. Wallingford’s citizens have the added benefit of owning our Electric and Water and Sewer providers. Government also has an obligation to think ahead about issues affecting the entire citizenry to assure the Town will be here for future generations.

Mr. Knight is right about one thing, “No one else will get stuck with the bill but you and I.” We are already stuck with the bill related to having to pay for maintenance and technology deferred and for shortsighted decisions about the strategic value of full ownership of a mothballed power plant. Yes, we are going to be stuck with “Bill’s Bill,” as he has allowed our infrastructure to deteriorate. An oil filter commercial once cautioned us with the tag line, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” Later is almost here.

Jared Liu has integrity, intelligence and vision. He also understands that we need to plan for a future that sustains the Town we love. The current mayor leads the Town by looking through the rear-view mirror; Mr. Liu’s candidacy looks ahead, through the windshield, seeking to guide Wallingford to a better future.

The cost of stagnation enabled by our current mayor will be high. It is indeed time for a change; it is delusional for us to think otherwise. Mr. Knight’s very sly implication that Mr. Liu is a socialist who would raise taxes by 20% is absurd. Perhaps he has confused Wallingford with Washington as his condescending attitude is disrespectful, shortsighted, inappropriate, and beneath his previous propriety.

Wallingford is a place for civil discourse and differing opinions and we should behave accordingly. To do otherwise insults the good people of Wallingford. We need to prepare for the future as those good stewards of the past so ably built our Town before the current mayor was elected. Jared Liu gives us the best chance to achieve that goal.

A Wallingford resident since 1973, Jack Beecher is semi-retired and works part-time at Yale University as the Veteran and Military Liaison.

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