What Westporters want
Published 1:02 am, Friday, November 6, 2009
In typical Westport fashion, the town did its own thing at the polls this year. Going against the regional trend of voting out incumbents, Westporters kept every single incumbent running, with the notable exception of Board of Education Member Kristin LaFleur, who ran for second selectman.
Though a majority of the elected and re-elected candidates were Democrats, the town's biggest vote-getter in a contested race was Board of Finance member Avi Kaner. (The uncontested Board of Education candidates received the most votes Tuesday, with Republican returnee Michael McGovern receiving the most of the entire election. Democrat Don O'Day, current chairman of the board, garnered the least amount of BOE votes.)
What does this election say about Westport? It's tough to analyze, unequivocally, because only a portion -- 40 percent -- of the town's registered voters came out to the polls.
It seems, though, that the majority of the town is content with the way things are -- since we can safely assume that those who did not bother to vote don't care whether any changes are made.
And yet there are some new faces joining town government this year who will hopefully breathe new life into some of the boards and commissions. Stability is good, but fresh ideas and perspectives are crucial.
Town meetings featuring the new cast start soon and it's important that all elected officials remember that just because the voters didn't opt for vast changes, it doesn't mean that elected officials' jobs are already done. The job of serving the town is an ongoing challenge, and it requires constant work. There is no room for coasting just because the election is over. If officials forget this, it's likely Westporters will let them know next election -- it's a town that's never been afraid to let its opinions be heard.
There are a great number of unresolved and growing issues in town right now -- namely the infamous Planning and Zoning Commission text amendment proposal regarding affordable housing; plans for senior affordable housing; growing environmental awareness.
Plus, work on the upcoming budget will begin soon. Westport's residents and employees have made a number of sacrifices this year to help the town out during tough times -- just last week the town's teachers agreed to a lower wage increase for the first time in recent memory.
We ask that the town's officials keep that in mind as they begin their new terms. Many were asked to stay, and some were picked for the first time, but all are first and foremost representatives on behalf of the town's residents. Going forward, regardless of party affiliation, town officials need to work together and listen to what Westporters want. We hope new and current town officials have heard the voters' concerns this year -- be it while they were campaigning or just now analyzing the voting results.
For those who wanted to represent the town, but were not chosen, we urge them to continue to stay involved, even if it's just attending meetings and delivering public comments. Participation in town government is crucial to our way of life. There were many good ideas posed during the campaigns, and regardless of who got elected, we'd like to see candidates follow through on them.