We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to meet the candidates running for election on Nov. 7, 2017.
Compiled by Ronni Newton
We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to “Meet the Candidate” – designed to help them get to know the candidates running for office in West Hartford’s Nov. 7, 2017, municipal election.
Identical questionnaires have been sent to all major party candidates, and each profile received has been submitted directly to We-Ha.com by the candidate or the candidate’s campaign management. The responses have not been edited but have been formatted to match our publication style. Questions left blank have been deleted.
As profiles are received, they will be published on We-Ha.com under the “Government” tab. We-Ha.com is not making endorsements of any political candidates but we are publishing this information in order to assist West Hartford voters in being informed and prepared when they go to the polls on Nov. 7.
If you are a candidate and wish to submit a profile, please return it by email to Ronni Newton at [email protected] by Oct. 18.
Name: Chris Williams
Party, position seeking: Republican seeking re-election to West Hartford’s Town Council
Family information: I was raised in West Hartford by my parents, Denise and Paul. I have two siblings: Scott and Joan who are both (along with myself) Conard High School graduates. My wife, Holly, and I are now raising our two children, Lilia Clare (4) and Joseph (2) – about two blocks from where I lived when I was their age.
Other occupation, if applicable: Litigation Attorney with Conway Stoughton LLC located in West Hartford.
Political experience: It has been an honor to serve my first term on West Hartford’s Town Council where I have served on the Finance & Budget, Public Safety and Education Liaison Subcommittees.
Other relevant experience: Prior to serving on the Town Council, I served on West Hartford’s Advisory Commission for Persons with Disabilities, its Conservation and Environment Commission and as a Town Council Zoning Alternate.
Why are you running for office? To help protect the West Hartford we all love. I was very fortunate to grow-up in West Hartford which has an abundance of wonderful qualities. That said, West Hartford’s greatest quality has always been that it is a place where people of all different backgrounds and socio-economic levels can and should be able to call home – a microcosm for what is best about America.
I am running because this legacy of West Hartford is at risk now, more than ever. And, it is at risk because since 2003, the Town Council’s Majority Party has increased our taxes exponentially, refused to meaningfully curb spending and pursued policy decisions more focused on garnering revenue than on what our residents deserve. The result: our town budget has skyrocketed from $158M to $285M, or 80%, during that period while – at the same time – our population has remained relatively flat and our school population has declined and is projected to continue to decline. We need only look at the State to see a “sneak preview” of where such a trend will take us. It is unsustainable; the status quo must stop.
What issue(s) are your primary area of focus?
- Affordability: The Town’s spending trajectory has put too much financial pressure on many residents – particularly young families and those on fixed income. Unless, we reverse such trends, we will continue to price-out many of our residents and discourage those who would otherwise want to live in our great community from joining it.
- Schools: We must protect the quality of our schools – not only for the sake of our children – but also because school-quality is a major driver of property values.
- Development: We are fortunate to have multiple vibrant commercial centers which all deserve our equal attention and commitment to development which benefits the Town – with a particular focus on improving residents’ quality of life. As we continue to look at new development, and redevelopment of existing properties, we need to keep an eye on ensuring (1) that appropriate and attractive transitional space continue to stand between our commercial and residential areas, (2) that there is adequate parking for development, (3) that development is not accompanied by an increase in crime and (4) that the development benefits our residents and existing businesses.
- Public Safety/Traffic: West Hartford’s future success depends upon it continuing to be a safe place to live, work and play. Public safety has always been and will continue to be one of my top priorities. As our Town continues to attract new businesses and visitors, we must also continue to monitor traffic and parking patterns to ensure that our streets are safe for drivers and pedestrians alike. This is a key focus of mine as I live walking distance to the Center and see the safety/traffic/parking challenges it presents on a daily basis.
Several topics are likely on the minds of West Hartford voters this year. Please provide a brief statement regarding your opinion about:
- The Town of West Hartford budget – The recent Town budget exemplifies the mentality that has put West Hartford’s affordability at risk and why, to me, we need a new governing approach on the Town Council. For months before the Town started its budget process, Governor Malloy told the press and the public – consistently – that West Hartford would not be receiving State funds – at all – or near what it has in the past. Connecticut is out of money and can no longer continue to operate in the manner in which it is currently operating. In fact, whatever happens with the State’s current budget, it is likely to see greater budgetary issues for years to come as revenue is outpaced by expenditures. Given this reality, I pushed for the Town to reduce its budget to become independent from the State during this last budget cycle so that our residents and our own AAA bond rating could be protected from the State’s mismanagement and budgetary issues. Suffice it to say, calls to become independent from the State were rejected by the majority of the Council. Instead, in my view, the Council passed a budget that essentially maintained the Town’s spending trajectory, ignored the Governor’s warning – and even went so far as to add personnel in this very difficult economic environment and raise taxes. The Majority Party will tell voters that it tried to protect the Town by creating a $7M “contingency fund” in anticipation of potential State cuts – but, the reality is, it was neither funded or representative of reductions – it was simply an account where State funding would be funneled in case it came through – it did nothing to protect the Town. Because the Town Budget did not protect the Town, I voted against it. The Majority Party then doubled-down on spending increases by voting in favor of moving forward with purchasing the UCONN property – despite the many contamination and liability issues associated with the property.
- The State of Connecticut budget situation – The State is out of money – a reality that will not change in the coming years. West Hartford has to practice fiscal realism and protect its residents from the State’s poor choices by becoming as independent as possible from it. The Town should also learn from the State’s crisis – as it will be headed towards similar difficulty if it does not end its spending trajectory. The Town constantly asks its residents and businesses to deal with the consequences of the fiscal realities that the Town faces – it is time for the Town to do the same.
- Regionalism – I am extremely cautious of regionalism as informed by our experience with the MDC and how it pushed the Niagara Bottling deal through without an open process involving all stakeholders, attempted to shift the risk of a potential Hartford payment default onto West Hartford through a “reserve fund” that I believe was outside its legal authority and compensates its CEO in a fashion which should offend all taxpayers. I also believe that West Hartford should not make itself financially responsible for the consequences of bad decisions made by any neighbors. All that said, I am open to considering specific regional policies if – and only if – it benefits West Hartford.
What do you feel is the biggest issue facing West Hartford today? The exponential growth of our budget. Our mill rate is now 41.04. That puts us in league with Norwich, New London and New Haven. Consider the economic health of those municipalities and whether West Hartford wants to share it. If we continue on this current trend, our next budget may see a mill rate in the 44-45 range and the trend will continue from there.
What do you feel differentiates you from other candidates also running for this position? Perspective. I believe that I offer a unique viewpoint on the Council one which balances fiscal prudence with an understanding of the importance of maintaining first-class services and schools – as both my children will be attending them in the years to come. I am also unafraid to speak-up for residents and take a position on issues even when they are potentially unpopular – be it opposing the potential arrangement between our schools and a for-profit international school, Wei Ming, standing up to the MDC or voicing public opposition to the Town’s unsustainable tax increases and spending trajectory. I prefer transparency and public participation over party posturing – as I believe my record during my first term has shown.
Anything else you would like to share? I ask for your vote on November 7th! Please feel free to email me at [email protected] to discuss any issues that concern you and don’t forget to check out my campaign website on Facebook! Thanks to Ronni Newton and We-Ha.com for putting together and publishing this candidate profile.
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