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Pizza and Politics 2007-Taxes, Long-Term Planning And The Economy Lead Residents' Concerns



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Pizza and Politics 2007—

Taxes, Long-Term Planning And The Economy Lead Residents’ Concerns

By Kendra Bobowick

The aroma of mozzarella welcomed residents attending Pizza and Politics, a political forum hosted by three local groups and presented on October 29 at Reed Intermediate School. Standing behind stacked boxes of pie were Newtown Woman’s Club (GFWC) Inc volunteers dishing tasty wedges onto plates.

While many indulged in their favorite fast food and soft drinks, attendees were primarily hungry to hear the answers to questions they posed to local candidates for first selectman, the Board of Education, and the Legislative Council.

Nearly 120 people crowded into the cafeteria with the similar hopes of learning more about the men and women vying for seats in town government. Former state representative Mae Schmidle welcomed interested residents and town board and council hopefuls.

“It’s exciting to see the people who have the potential of running our town all in one place.” Looking toward the night’s guests, she said, “The people who came out on a night like this, those are the people who are interested.”

But why are they interested?

Lynn Hawley wants to know “who is who,” she said. “I want to have an idea of who I am voting for.”

Residents Gordon and Sabrina Hull, who moved to town from Danbury several years ago, both agreed that after a long time in a neighboring community, they hoped to gain a better idea of Newtown’s leadership. “We’re here to differentiate between the good and the bad,” Ms Hull said. Mr Hull said, “We know why we moved here, but the big question is why should we stay?” Taxes have them both concerned.

As a homeowner and taxpayer in the community, Mr Hull noted, “If you invest, you should get a return.” They asked about Newtown’s long-range plan, new business, tax increases, and land use. The couple is trying to get ahead, Ms Hull said. Her husband agreed. “If taxes keep going up and up, we are out in a couple years.”

Sitting together with a slice of pizza and plates of salad, Nick Borrello and William Watts offered their reasons for attending the forum. “It’s our civic duty,” said Mr Borrello. Mr Watts agreed, and added, “We’ll keep ourselves better informed about what is going on.”

As volunteers cleared emptied pizza boxes and capped the soda bottles, candidates for town selectman took seats on stage at the front of the room. Fairfield Hills, senior citizens, town education, and taxes littered the men’s opening remarks. Fielding questions was incumbent Democratic First Selectman Herb Rosenthal, Republican Joe Borst, also endorsed by the Independent Party of Newtown, and petitioning candidates Christian Qualey, Jr, and Jay Mattegat.

Board of Selectmen candidates this year are Republican Paul Mangiafico and Democrat Joe Bojnowski.

Candidate comments lingered for a time on open space discussions and balancing student enrollment and tax dollars. As the student body grows, taxes weigh heavily on residents faced with high school expansion costs, for one. In this light, open space could mark a halt to development in some areas, while also appealing to the environmental minded.

Reading aloud one question from the audience, League of Women Voters and moderator for the night Carole J. Fanslow asked about the men’s thoughts for long-term planning and Fairfield Hills redevelopment.

As the questions came to an end nearly one-third of the guests slipped out of the room. Those remaining had an interest in listening first to education candidates, and then to those running for the council.

Sitting side-by-side waiting their turns to speak were residents vying for open seats on the school board. Speaking Monday evening were Republicans George Garacciolo and Kathryn Fetchick, Democrats Lillian Bittman, Sara Frampton, Julie Luby, and Independent Party candidates Desiree Galassi and David Nanavaty. (Two other school board candidates, Democrat Anna Wiedemann and certified write-in candidate Donna Monteleone, were not invited to speak because of the event’s sponsors’ uncertainty about Ms Monteleone’s official status as a candidate, which had been certified by the secretary of the state before the event took place; the organizers concluded incorrectly that Ms Wiedemann was unopposed and therefore did not need to speak.)

Key topics in their remarks were goals, visions, quality education, and school budgets. Drawing attention was the topic of school expansions. Candidates volleyed ideas about costs in contrast to moving the project forward. Going inside the classrooms and looking at teachers and curriculum, the men and women swapped ideas about spending and quality education, the need for creativity to work within the budget.

Year-round school? Some candidates felt children needed a break, and a chance to be children, while others questioned how high school could continue around the calendar, but younger grades would not. In the end, none of the candidate’s favored yearround schooling.

Finally, the Legislative Council candidates separated themselves into three corners of the room, one for each district.

Running for District 1 are George Ferguson, John Aurelia Sr, Joseph DiCandido, Christopher Brennan Lyddy, Frank Scalzo, Francis Pennarola, Benjamin Roberts, and Albert Roznicki.

District 2 candidates are Patricia Llodra, David Charles Benore, Barbara Bloom, Timothy Holian, Joseph Hemingway, Christopher McArdle, Po Murray, Guy Howard, and Gary Davis.

Candidates in districts 3-1 and 3-2 are William Rodgers, Constance Widmann, Jeffrey Capeci, Daniel Amaral, Jan Lee Brookes, Ann Hearn Ziluck, Robert Eugene Murray Jr, Brendan J. Duffy, and Ruby K. Johnson. From around the room talk of Fairfield Hills sprang from the huddled groups, for one.

Among opinions was a strong division among District 1 candidates about the importance of a town hall. Municipal employees should stay where they are, contrasted with thoughts that town employees now seated at the Edmond Town Hall have not had a new space since the building was constructed roughly 75 years ago. District 1 representatives also shared thoughts on how to better communicate with the public. The Internet and website links were among ideas.

A question raised months ago still occupied conversation within the group for District 2. The master plan is not a plan for the town, but only for Fairfield Hills. A strand of conversation slipping from District 1 conflicted with this thought, however. Among other opinions was the thought that the master plan’s progress is just now becoming clear. Co-sponsoring the evening were the Newtown Chamber of Commerce, the Newtown Woman’s Club (GFWC), Rotary Club of Newtown Rotary, and Newtown Lions Club.

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