We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to meet the candidates running in the Nov. 5, 2019, municipal election.
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 the 2019 municipal election.
Identical questionnaires have been sent to all 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 voters in being informed and prepared when they go to the polls on Nov. 5.
If you are a candidate and wish to submit a profile, please return it by email to Ronni Newton at [email protected] as soon as possible.
Name: Chris Williams
Party, position seeking: Republican seeking re-election to West Hartford’s Town Council
Family information: I was lucky to be raised in West Hartford by my parents, Denise and Paul. I have two siblings – Scott and Joan, all three of us are Conard High School graduates. My wife, Holly, and I are raising our two children just two blocks from where I lived when I was their age.
Other occupation, if applicable: Partner with Conway Stoughton LLC
Political experience: I have been honored to serve two terms on West Hartford’s Town Council where I have served on the Finance & Budget, Public Safety, Administration & Technology and Education Liaison Subcommittees.
Other relevant experience: Before 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 protect the promise of the West Hartford we all know and love. And, what is West Hartford’s promise? It’s a promise that its residents can start a family here, raise kids here and stay here when they are on a fixed income. It’s a promise that people from all different economic backgrounds can call this Town home. It’s a promise that residents can expect that their investment in this town will be a good one long-term – namely, that their property values will increase with time. And, its a promise that their tax dollars will be used wisely, with good roads and services commensurate with our taxes.
I am also running because the Majority Party – with each passing budget – increasingly erodes West Hartford’s promise. Since they have taken control over the Town Council, the budget under the Majority Party has more than doubled – now standing at $298M. In the last 5 years alone, the Majority Party has raised taxes on the average home owner by approximately $2000 in just five years. Moreover, in the budget before last, they raised the car tax by 28% – in just one year.
This budget trend is entirely unsustainable and unaffordable. If West Hartford is going to maintain its promise to residents its Town Council needs to have common-sense voices – like my own – which are willing to speak up and identify inefficiencies or areas where savings can be realized, even in the face of opposition.
What issue(s) are your primary area of focus?
Affordability, Affordability, Affordability: Almost every election-cycle every Town Council candidate seemingly lists affordability as a primary focus of his/her campaign. But, ask yourself whose record reflects an actual prioritization of reversing the Town’s unsustainable budgetary trends? The Majority Party has governed for over 15 years. During my time on the Town Council, I have not been afraid to identify specific areas where I believe the Town can make substantial savings over time such as reversing the fire department’s expansion into paramedic services and opposing unaffordable contracts with our multiple collective bargaining units which offer benefits and compensation disproportionate to those earned by residents.
It is a fear tactic to suggest that honest discourse about curbing spending will gut quality services that residents value. It is only through robust debate that government can work best. Residents do not have to accept that unsustainable taxes are the cost to live in a great town.
Infrastructure: West Hartford cannot succeed if it has poor infrastructure. The Town used to strive to repave 10 miles of roadway annually but that number has gone down in recent years as the Majority Party has reallocated budget funds elsewhere. Unless the Town takes a different budgetary track and stops expanding in areas where it should be saving as I have pushed, I believe the lack of attention to our roads and other critical infrastructure will continue.
What do you feel is the biggest issue facing West Hartford today?
Affordability, Affordability, Affordability. West Hartford’s budget trajectory is unsustainable and unaffordable. But, don’t just take my word for it. Look at this quote from State Sen. Fonfara – a member of the majority party – “We know in Connecticut that having a local mill rate above 40 is like the canary in the coal mine. It’s a sign of instability. And too many towns are trending in the wrong direction.”
West Hartford’s mill rate is 41.8 – among the highest in the state. The average tax payer is paying about $2,000 more today than five years ago. That is an enormous jump for working families who are trying to balance their own home-budget, residents on fixed incomes or families trying to help put their kids through college – and, don’t forget – for our businesses and renting residents whose rent-jumps are impacted by annual property tax increases.
The right of any government entity to tax is sacred, a privilege and should not be taken for granted. To me, the Majority Party has lacked compassion as it has increased taxes on such an exponential trend in recent years and made West Hartford less affordable for more and more each year. I am committed to continuing to fight against this trend.
Please provide a brief statement regarding your opinion of the Town of West Hartford’s fiscal situation, and what, if anything, can be immediately addressed. (This question is more relevant to Town Council candidates, but Board of Education candidates are welcome to comment on the school budget.)
The Town needs to decide to make affordability a priority. It makes hundreds of financial decisions when it passes a budget. If there is a dedicated commitment to affordability, those decisions would be made in that context and residents would see immediate relief in the cost of living
The truth is that the Majority Party has not done that and the results are illustrated through the statistics above. Here is an example of where that leads:
Years ago, the Town was faced with the prospects of less fires. Instead of dealing with that fact and reducing the size of the fire department compassionately – over time and by not filling vacancies when firefighters retired, the Town expanded the fire department by adding paramedic services. This move alone has led to an expansion of the fire department – the most recent examples being the purchase of a $67,190 “intercept vehicle” and a $72,000 “hydraulic portable lift” – for use with an ambulance bed. It is critical to note that the Town did not get involved in this program because of poor service by AMR which previously provided the service exclusively. Moreover, the Town Council has not yet authorized the fire department to undertake ambulatory medical response yet it seems to intend to do just that. Having a quality fire department is important for public safety but we need it – and all of our services – to be sized commensurate with our Town’s needs.
What do you feel differentiates you from other candidates also running for this position?
Candor in the Face of Adversity. I will always tell you what I believe are the problems that West Hartford faces and my thoughts on solutions – even in the face of adversity. It is easy to identify problems but harder to offer real solutions. I have tried to do both during my time of the Town Council because I believe that is the only way we can reverse the Town’s truly unsustainable and unaffordable budgetary trends.
Offering solutions is not without its down-side. To the point, my opinions about the fire department’s expansion were met with vocal opposition from those who disagree with my position. It can be uncomfortable – to say the least – to have a public disagreement. But, we must be able to openly discuss issues.
I have continued and will continue to publicly voice my opinions on various issues because it is what I believe is the right-thing. If re-elected, I will continue to work to identify areas where I think the Town can improve and publicly voice them – even in the face of adversity – because that’s what you deserve.
Anything else you would like to share?
I ask for your vote on November 5th! Please feel free to email me at [email protected] to discuss any issues that concern you and don’t forget to check out my website which has many videos setting out my various positions and is likewise intended to provide residents with information concerning the Town and the Town Council www.facebook.com/ChrisWilliamsWH
Thanks to Ronni Newton and We-Ha.com for putting together and publishing this candidate profile.
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