Westport is at a crossroads. Together as a community, we have to decide which to choose: the road to status quo or the road to a better Westport. Local elections have the most impact on our lives. It is on the local level that we decide the direction of our town, the education of our children, property taxes and town services, short and long term. Local elections are about making educated decisions so we can elect the most qualified people.
True achievement is about results. There has been significant success in Westport during the past 16 years of Democratic leadership. During this time, the town rebuilt Staples High School and Bedford Middle School, renovated almost every other school, built the senior center, expanded the sewage-treatment plant, began the revitalization of downtown to attract businesses and restaurants, began to develop more senior housing, fulfilled some long overdue work at Longshore, acquired open space and maintained our AAA credit rating while keeping taxes historically low. But the town is changing, and we need to anticipate the change.
It was unfortunate to learn that the Republican selectmen challengers unashamedly and knowingly falsified letters to the editor and have now have chosen to go negative in their campaign literature and attack Helen Garten. The statements are blatantly untrue and not backed up by facts. This is not who we are as a community. Dissent can be productive, and we should be able to express our opinions. Honestly and openly.
Garten's record, vision
Let's look at the facts: During the recession of 2009, Westport was an island in Fairfield County. Helen Garten, as chairman of the Board of Finance, spearheaded financial controls to ensure that -- unlike neighboring towns -- Westport did not experience diminished town services, higher taxes to cover shortfalls or laying off of town employees and teachers in our schools. While maintaining a solid financial position for the town, taxes only increased 2 percent. It was under Helen's direction and expertise that real pension reform was initiated. At the same time under her role as chairman, school budgets increased during the worst recession years. Westport continues to be robust financially.
As first selectman, Helen, along with selectman Melissa Kane, would set the course for the town with a clear vision as to what Westporters have said they want for themselves and their families. They are the only candidates who have set forth a vision for a revitalized downtown that would be a destination for Westporters, with vibrant streetscapes, small retail shops and places for the young people of our town. It was Helen who requested that the developer of Baron's South give back more to the town in the form of amenities for all seniors, including additions to the senior center.
Finance Board expertise
Board of Finance candidates Brian Stern, Blake Benke and Lee Caney bring a level of financial expertise and unique sets of business skills that we will need as we move the town forward. The years ahead will require important decisions including pension reform that impact the financial health of our town. Brian, Blake and Lee are the people we can trust to guide the decisions.
Dedicated to children
As members of the Board of Education, Elaine Whitney and Brett Aronow dedicate their time and experience working for the children of Westport. The Westport schools are recognized as one of the best school systems -- not only in the state of Connecticut but the country. We need to move forward and give our children every opportunity to excel.
Collaborative P&Z slate
The team for the Planning and Zoning Commission -- Andra Vebell, David Lessing and Alan Hodge -- represent the best of our town. All three have been cross-endorsed by Save Westport Now. They would work in a collaborative manner. As we look to revitalize downtown, it would be their knowledge and expertise that would not only ensure we maintain the residential character of our town but also work to meet the changing needs of the community.
Both Sheri Gordon, an alternate on the Zoning Board of Appeals, and Bernard Deverin, a local businessman, bring valuable experience to the ZBA. They would make knowledgeable, educated and impartial decisions.
District probate judge
Kieran Costello has the real experience, knowledge and compassion to be our next judge of probate. The role of a probate judge is to resolve crises that arise within families. An attorney for 21 years, Kieran has represented hundreds of clients in guardianship, conservatorship and commitment cases. He has served as a board member and volunteer at the Center for Women and Families, the Fairfield County Counseling Center and the Domestic Violence Crisis Center.
Westport is a blue-ribbon town. Westport is our hometown. It is the community that my parents chose to move to in 1953 to raise their family.
It is the town I returned to, and I have worked to make a contribution to the community I care about. It will only continue to be a special town if we all work together and make thoughtful decisions with the most qualified people working on our behalf.
We ask for your vote for the Democratic team on Nov. 5.