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OPINION




Letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor or partners of Litchfield.bz. Letters to the editor must be 400 words or less. We reserve the right to edit and shorten the text. Please avoid CAPS, BOLD and underline for emphasis. We encourage letters providing positive solutions for current issues. Letters should be brief and refer to current or recent local events. Please include your full name, a street address and a daytime telephone number for verification; only the name and town will appear. Letters should be e-mailed to editor@Litchfield.bz 

 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 20

I hear the articulate grumpiness in Paul Mordecai Rosenberg’s letter of Oct. 19 as he lays out the “awful truths about local political campaigns."  In response, I have a few confessions to make about my experience campaigning locally as a Republican candidate for a four-year term on the Litchfield Board of Education. 

I confess that I do obsess a wee bit as I watch lawn signs for the opposition sprout up like weeds across our five boroughs, so it is comforting to hear Rosenberg’s claim that “more signs don’t mean more votes.”  I confess that I look forward to the mailers from each party with photos and bio information on the candidates because I believe it is my responsibility as a citizen to educate myself about all the candidates. I read every word of them, but then again, recently retired from my 24-year high school English teacher career, I believe in the importance of reading to learn.

I confess that I have been out and about door-knocking when the weather is good and folks are likely to be at home, and my experience as a novice door-knocker has been uniformly energizing.  I have chatted with people in their driveways, been offered iced tea, reconnected with people from my 34-year history of wearing various hats in the community and been asked some challenging questions that have helped me to clarify my thinking about why I am running for the Board of Education and why I am running as a Republican.

I confess that I enjoyed having the opportunity to tell the audience about myself at the PTO’s evening “Meet the BOE Candidates” program last week.  I also confess that I enjoyed the chance to get to know my fellow BOE Democratic candidates better—“love matches” indeed, as Rosenberg says.   We do have the best interests in mind for the children, the school system, and the community.  We do bring solid educator credentials to our candidacies.

My advantage over my opponents is that, being retired and having my two daughters, Katie and Vickie Gardner, already graduated from Litchfield High School in the late 90’s with lives of their own, I have the magical gift of time, a necessary ingredient to meet the demands of being on the Litchfield BOE.

So open your door when a candidate knocks, read those political brochures when they arrive in the mail, don’t worry about yard signs, and get out and vote for the candidates of your choice on Nov. 5.  Hopefully, I will be one of them.

Oh, almost forgot:  I endorse this letter, and I guarantee that it has not been “ghostwritten.”

Margaret Hunt
Litchfield

 
To the Editor:
Oct. 19
 
Here are some awful truths about local political campaigns that local politicians don’t want to know but voters should know:
 
Candidates and committees obsess about lawn signs in vain. Seriously. Do they think voters have to be constantly reminded who’s running or really give a damn whom their neighbors support? And more signs don’t mean more votes.
 
Nobody pays attention to paid political ads that sing the praises of candidates.
 
Take campaign mailers. Please. Most unsolicited mail never makes it out of the post office at the best of times. But political mailers are tossed reflexively without even being read. In peak silly season the recycling bins are full to overflowing. Because most voters will have decided whom to vote for at the get-go. Or they just don’t care. And most of the mailers aren’t worth reading anyway.
 
Letters to the editor in support of candidates are usually solicited and often ghost-written but may sometimes be written by the candidates’ actual supporters and employees who sign them. Does anybody take them seriously?
 
Editorial endorsements, while candidates grovel to get them, tend to be no more than ego trips for self-important editorial boards and don’t mean much to voters.
 
Town committees contest local elections to justify their existence. The campaign process, such as it may be, serves two purposes: it keeps up appearances and keeps committee members and volunteers busy—if they can be motivated to actually do what they’ve volunteered to do.
 
All political campaigns are issue-based. Even though they’re not. Especially local campaigns, where personal acquaintance carries the day. When there are no real issues, wannabes have to justify toppling the status quo. So they discover or, more often than not, invent niggling little faults of the incumbents that don’t matter and nobody really cares about anyway.
 
That’s where “It’s time for a change!” comes in, the political platitude of platitudes. When the out-of-power faction can’t come up with anything of substance or hasn’t a clue about doing the job, it’s time for a change. Even if it ain’t broke and don’t need fixing.
 
Who needs a platform in a local election? Who has one? Who wants one? Who will read one?
 
Lots of local campaigning is done not just in the back room but under the table. Like when a candidate conspires—make that agrees—with the opposition to fix an election in one way or another. Legally or otherwise. It’s worth noting that the only way to get rid of an elected official in Connecticut is to vote her, him, or it out in the next election.
 
All local campaigns start out positive. Love matches between candidates. Some even stay positive to the sweet end. So nobody pays attention.
 
Therefore, the only campaign stuff that attracts and deserves any interest is negative advertising. Attack ads. Knocking copy, whether fact or fiction, is far more interesting, absorbing, and readable than all the positive and generally dull campaign crap that pervades the silly season. So it’s quite rightly the most effective campaign material. And even if it’s a tissue of lies, knocking copy works.
 
And, while candidates continue to delude themselves that turning up unannounced at voters’ homes will win them votes, knocking copy easily trumps (pardon the expression) knocking on doors.
 
Finally, the great unwashed who seriously expect a new broom to sweep clean should be careful what they vote for. Because a new regime likely will be no better but might well be a lot worse than the old regime that served them so well . . .
 
Yours faithfully,
Paul Mordecai Rosenberg
Litchfield
 
 
  
To the Editor:
Oct. 18
 
Since my last letter advocating a dog park behind Town Hall, I've spoken to so many Litchfield dog owners who cheer for the idea.  And I've noticed that the three or four people who've said they're against a park all have large dogs that enjoy running through the woods of White Memorial.

I remember many a morning walking with Hugh Schoelzel through the woods in and around White Memorial with his wonderful Dalmation, Tango. Tango, un-neutered and unleashed, would tear up and down those hills, looking like the happiest dog on earth. There is nothing more stirring in the morning than to hear a sporting canine crashing through the underbrush.
 
Indeed, if you want General, Fury, or Wolfe to have the room to run, the woods of White Memorial are for you.  On my last walk on the boardwalk I was almost bowled over by a large, unleashed golden retriever. When I suggested to the owner that Bounder is required to be on a leash, I was told that all golden retrievers are friendly.  Yes, if Bounder had been any friendlier, I would have been swimming with the beavers.

White Memorial is turning into the area's major Canine Adventure Park for huge dogs.  On another recent walk I met Missy, the world's largest rescue pit bull. She was dragging her owner along a path toward Bantam Lake.

However, for the great majority of us who can be found daily walking our dogs through the village with a leash in one hand and a poop bag in the other, a dog park where Leo, and Hector, and Archie can run a bit and socialize as the pack animals they are, would be terrific.

Health concerns?  Sure, just as you don't want your child or grandchild attending school without proper vaccinations, you want your pooch properly vaccinated.  In fact, the dog park should be limited to neutered pets with dog licenses.

The cost of a playground for our pets?  I asked Steve Drezen, the realtor who recently wrote and told us how dog parks are now highly considered amenities for prospective homeowners.  He took a look at the large, unused field behind Town Hall and thought that because it was ideally situated, a great dog park could be set up for under $20,000, maybe under $15,000. 
 
Talk about bang for the municipal buck. Denise Raap has been reminding us how important the quality of residential living is to Litchfield. There is no enhancement to our town that would make a bigger impact for the buck than a simple dog park.

So folks, enhance the life of your favorite, furry, friend........Bark for the Park!

Jim Stedronsky
Litchfield
 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 18

As longtime Litchfield residents and parents of students in the Litchfield public schools, and as teachers, who have worked in public education for twenty-five years, we have always paid close attention to the work of the Board of Education.
 
Recently, we have noted a significant amount of internal strife on the board, as well as an acrimonious relationship with the boards of finance and selectmen. These problems do not just create instability for the students, teachers, and community members who have a stake in our schools, they also paint an unflattering picture of Litchfield for people who may be looking for a place to settle with their family.

With the need to create a team of professionals willing to put their differences aside in order to assure the best possible outcomes for the children of Litchfield, we want to express our support for the three Democrats running for the Board of Education, and specifically for Steve Malo. 

Steve is parent and a public educator whose many years of experience as a respected high school teacher and school counselor will be a wonderful asset to the team of people who work to improve the education and the services we provide to children and families in Litchfield. Steve’s first-hand insight into the many challenges facing public schools day in and day out will complement the knowledge and skills of other board members with whom he will serve. 

Anyone who knows Steve Malo knows that he is passionate, intelligent, and ethical. Steve’s only mission is to work transparently and responsibly to provide the best possible schooling for our children, and we ask that you join us in voting for him this November.

Mary Lou and Kristian Kuegler
Litchfield
 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 18
 
I’m writing this letter, not with a partisan point-of-view, as that’s the last thing on my mind, but rather to speak to the capabilities and judgment of a candidate for the Board of Selectmen.
 
I’m John Post, still fairly new here in Litchfield, but have become involved in a number of community activities that I find enjoyable and rewarding. One of them is to serve as chairman of the town’s Energy Advisory Committee, otherwise known informally as the “Green Team”. The committee is made up of representatives from each of the boards in town, and our mission is to find ways to reduce energy use in town buildings as a way to save money. The committee has been functioning for four years, has a standing agenda item on every Board of Selectmen meeting, which means I’ve attended quite a few of these events, enabling me to make observations of individuals’ performance.
 
I’ve gotten to know one of the Green Team members quite well, and wish to share my observations of him. Jeff Zullo, currently on the Board of Selectmen, is running again for the same position. Over the past four years, here’s what I’ve come to observe about Jeff:
 
·       Engaged & Informed:   He has a command of the issues, equal to or greater than his peer group. He comes prepared, asks questions if something isn’t clear, and more often than not is leading the discussion, often making a motion if one is required. His contributions to BOS meetings are real and substantive.
 
·       Gets Things Done: Jeff is an engineer by training, and by profession. What does this mean to us? It means it’s in his nature is to fix things if they’re broken, and to make them more efficient if there are potential upsides. This can only help our town.
 
·       Fiscally Conservative: Over the 3-4 years that I’ve been observing the BOS, Jeff consistently challenges the Board’s annual budget, and capital budget, believing there are more savings to be realized. Check the record - he’s consistently voted against nearly all these budgets, only to be overruled by the majority. Furthermore, Jeff has a solid grasp of the fiscal footing of our town, believing that Litchfield has acquired more debt/resident that most other Connecticut towns of our size. This kind of fiscal constraint is something we need more of.
 
To me, it’s irrelevant what party Jeff is a member of. What matters is what capabilities and judgments he brings to his role. I’m hard-pressed to find a better candidate.
                                                                                                    
John Post
Bantam   
 
               
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 15
 
I agree totally with Hugh Schoelzel and the lack of real need for a nice-to-have dog park. One benefit of such a park, however, might be encouraging the owner of the dogs he (not Mr. Schoelzel) walks on South Street to take them to that venue to relieve themselves rather than deposit it on the grassy area between the post office and the street as I have observed more than once.

Gerald Gault
Litchfield
 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 14
 
The duty of government is to provide the “need-to-have” that we cannot individually, as in roads, bridges, schools, and public safety. Mr. Stedronsky proposes a “nice-to-have” dog park that would benefit a minor number of us.
 
Note that White Memorial has over 4,000 acres, the Litchfield Land Trust protects 3,300 acres, and Topsmead has another 600 acres, all with trails, woods and fields that dogs love – it is their natural environment. We live in the midst one of the greatest dog parks in the nation.
 
While providing Fido an interactive closed playground may sound appealing if you live in a densely settled area, consider that most vets and dog trainers recommend against them. There are parasite, infectious disease, liability, bad-mannered dogs, oblivious owners, and sanitation issues.
 
If my friend, Mr. Stedronsky, wants a dog park next door to his property, here’s an idea: Form a 501c3, take donations, lease the land from the town, construct and maintain the park, insure it, absolve the town of any responsibility, and don’t ask the taxpayers of Litchfield to pay for something they are unlikely to use. Why should non-dog owners, those with dogs in rural areas, and cat people pay increased taxes?
 
Hugh Schoelzel
Litchfield
 
 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 11
 
The purpose of this letter is to both express and explain—as a businessman and fiscal conservative—my support for Democrat Denise Raap in the race for first selectman in the Town of Litchfield.
 
Quite honestly, I don’t vote for many Democrats and yet don’t find too many Republicans these days who consistently win my admiration. Though the current leaders of Litchfield deserve recognition for their hard work and success in maintaining Litchfield’s solid balance sheet over the years, I firmly believe Denise is a rare commodity and her candidacy presents a unique opportunity for Litchfield going forward.
 
Like many, I much prefer business, the markets and history to politics these days. This is primarily driven by the simply indefensible fiscal mismanagement at the State of Connecticut level, along with the entirely unproductive partisanship seemingly firmly embedded at the federal level—all of which has produced nothing but a divisiveness and level of unmanageable debt never before seen in our history. Accordingly, I generally shut politics out altogether.
 
Why then my support for Denise Raap, a Democrat no less? Simply put, Denise has the wisdom, independence, compassion and, importantly, business experience to succeed in this role.   Her promises to maintain the town’s prudent fiscal policies, to govern in a nonpartisan manner and to consider new policies and initiatives designed to benefit the town are both real and refreshing.
 
In my view, Denise possesses many of the same qualities of past political leaders I admired who successfully utilized their intelligence, independence, business acumen and compassion to govern wisely and effectively. Finally, I admire Denise’s premise for running: she simply wishes to utilize her skills and experience for the benefit of Litchfield.
 
In business a key element for continued success is measured, thoughtful and sensible change. The same concepts apply to the public sector. I firmly believe the candidacy of Denise Raap represents measured, thoughtful and sensible change for Litchfield.
 
John D. Liberator
Litchfield
 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 10

Reading the recent (Sept. 30) letter from Anne Haas re upcoming municipal elections, it behooves Litchfield's voters to think seriously of what we want from our leadership.
 
Ms. Haas clearly states what has been missing from the first selectman's chair for a very long time, i.e., open communication, transparency, and the opportunity for meaningful dialogue.  The current practice of holding limited pubic comment at BOS meetings with no opportunity for dialogue with the selectmen is the antithesis of open and meaningful communication.
 
With that in mind, consider what can be viewed as revealing comments from the candidates for first selectman. Denise Raap has from her first day as a candidate espoused exactly what Ms. Haas proposes: open communications, public discussion and opportunity for dialogue.
 
Jonathan Torrant, as quoted in a 10/3/2019 Republican-American article regarding service trucks parking on town property, said "I don't have a problem with discussing policy if it would help us not have to listen to (the complaints)." Attitude is an essential component of effective leadership, and it seems we now have an indication of the attitudes of Litchfield's candidates for first selectman.

Gerald Gault
Litchfield
 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 10
 
I have known Denise Raap for over 40 years and have found her to be intelligent, honest, and driven. Denise’s ethical standards are high and her ability to listen and focus on what’s best for Litchfield residents are what’s most important.
 
I believe change is necessary to support fresh, new visions and ideas. In local politics, it’s about the platform, not the party. I encourage Denise’s support for the long overdue changes this town needs to thrive.
 
Alan Landau
Litchfield
 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 10
 
As town treasurer, I can state confidently that Litchfield’s financial position is strong, a result of careful planning by our current selectmen and financial management team.
 
On Aug. 8, S&P Global (an independent credit rating agency) used the words “Strong Economy”, “Strong Management”, “Strong budgetary performance”, and “Strong debt position” as part of their written report to describe Litchfield’s financial condition. Our grade was AA+, one notch below the highest possible rating.
 
Even with this complimentary report, critics say our debt level is high, and we are spending too much to repay debt. S&P calculates that 86% of our current debt will be repaid in 10 years. Additionally, by 2026 we will be paying almost 50% less annually to repay this debt. 
 
Our debt is managed responsibly, as we recently refinanced $6 million of debt without extending the term, saving taxpayers $442,000 through 2025.
 
Our pension plans for employees and emergency volunteers are funded in excess of 80% of future obligations, well above state and national averages.
 
With many years of experience on the current management team, Jon Torrant is uniquely qualified to continue these efforts and is the right choice to be elected Litchfield’s first selectman.
 
Francis C. Carpentier
Northfield
 
(Editor's note: Francis C. Carpentier is Litchfield's town treasurer.)
 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 10
 
This letter is in response to a remark made by Republican candidate for Litchfield’s first selectman, Jonathan E. Torrant. The article reporting this comment appeared in the Republican-American on Oct. 3.
 
Mr. Torrant remarked “I don’t have a problem with discussing a policy if it would help us not to have to listen to complaints.” The complaint brought to the attention of the Board of Selectmen was two-fold: a parking safety issue and a lack of policy on who has the authority to allow commercial vehicles to park on town property.
 
It seems as though Mr. Torrant would only consider discussing a parking policy to make the taxpayers stop complaining. If Mr. Torrant were to win the election for first selectman, would he approach each taxpayer’s concern with this unconstructive attitude? Selectmen are elected to represent and listen to taxpayers and their concerns, not to stop them from “complaining.”
 
Lauren Sage
Bantam
 
 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 10
 
I am a registered independent. I became concerned about the actions of the selectmen, especially in the areas of finance and town properties. So, for the last two years or so, I have attended almost every Board of Selectmen meeting.
 
After all the time I have spent in these meetings, my take-away is this: Although I didn’t always agree with all the Board’s decisions, I did come to highly respect two of the selectmen: Anne Dranginis and Jeff Zullo.
 
Over time it became clear to me that Anne Dranginis’ experience as a judge gives her a unique perspective on how the selectmen should make decisions. She understands the importance of correct wording and the legal nuances in a contract, agreement, or policy. It is my belief that she has kept the board out of legal difficulties and has guided them on a sound path.
 
Jeff Zullo brings an analytical mind to the board. He is thoughtful about issues and asks the right questions during discussion. In leading the last Town Hall Review Committee, he stuck to the guidelines set by the BOS and was diligent at providing the information requested. He has also led the Green Team (greenway, solar arrays, electric vehicle charging). These are two examples of the extra work Jeff puts in and brings to the Board of Selectmen for decision-making.
 
In my opinion, these two individuals should be on the next Board of Selectmen, because of the unique qualities they each bring.
 
Gary Gillman
Litchfield
 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 10
 
So did Colin Pratt get a raise or a promotion for writing that very nice letter about his boss?
 
Yours faithfully,
Paul Mordecai Rosenberg
Litchfield
 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 9
 
Denise Raap is the only choice as Litchfield’s first selectman. Denise understands that a strong education system is the basis for great towns in Connecticut. She moved to Litchfield 20 years ago with her husband and local school system graduate, Greg Raap, to raise their twin daughters and obtain the great education that Litchfield Public Schools has to offer.
 
As co-owner of the Village Restaurant on the Green, she has given back to the community that has helped her business thrive for over 20 years. She has given so much to the Litchfield community by donating to local charities and organizations and volunteering her time to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
 
Denise has a vision for Litchfield. That vision includes making the strong school system of Litchfield even stronger. She has met with school superintendent Christopher Leone to discuss the school district’s needs. To help the student population of the schools grow, she has a plan to bring younger families into the town. With the low volunteer firefighter and volunteer ambulance enrollment, Denise envisions the younger families in town filling those volunteer positions to avoid depending on neighboring areas for assistance.
 
As a successful business owner in town, she has helped build the Village Restaurant into one of the most successful restaurants in Litchfield County. Under her direction, and that of her business partner, David Vigeant, the Village has become a local meeting center and an icon of the Litchfield Green and the town itself. 
 
Litchfield needs a first selectman who has the passion and caring for the Litchfield community. As a pillar that she has already become in Litchfield, there is no one more qualified to lead Litchfield.
 
Colin Pratt
New Hartford
 
(Editor’s note: Colin Pratt works at the Village Restaurant)
 
 
 
To the Editor:
Oct. 9
 
As candidates for the Board of Selectmen in the Nov. 5 election, our common commitment to Litchfield citizens starts with being accountable to forward-thinking community needs and concerns. 
 
We are fortunate and blessed to live in the incredibly historic town of Litchfield 300 years after its founding. We want to energize our sense of community and sustain our beautiful surroundings while continuing the independent Old Yankee tradition of living within our means. We are listening to the need for a fresh perspective and commit to being responsive to shared community goals. As we experience declining school enrollment amid the critical need for sustainable state and town budgets, we know we must confront existing and new challenges.
 
Litchfield ranks among the most financially strongest towns in the state. We offer our collective 25 years of town leadership experience in the belief that now is not the time for inexperienced leadership and change for change’s sake. It’s a time to stay the course of sound fiscal management while we work together to continue the spirit of civic pride in our town and its connected communities.
 
We pledge to be accountable for productive stewardship of Litchfield’s resources. We give you our commitment to be advocates for sustaining quality education and for accelerating the cost effective, cooperative education model that is necessary for student success. You can measure our performance based on meeting your expectations for improved communication, community involvement and collaboration for accelerated results that build on the bedrock of Litchfield’s historic, rural character.
 
Jon Torrant, Bill Burgess and Tom Waterhouse         
 
 
To the Editor:
Sept. 30

With the municipal election less than six weeks away, voters may want to consider that Litchfield has many issues deserving public discussion: our schools, the management and repurposing of town-owned buildings, the parking situation in both boroughs and the effects of a decreasing population on the town's tax base and its schools.

Residents shouldn’t need to petition for open dialogue with the Litchfield Board of Selectmen. There should be a schedule of open town meetings in which residents and the BOS can communicate on topics of interest or concern. In a June 2019 BOS meeting, some selectmen made explicit reference to this need. The opportunity for dialogue could exist with regularly scheduled open meetings.

I encourage the incoming administration to hold such meetings, so that taxpayers and residents can not only gain perspective on current issues, but also air their concerns or suggestions. We will all gain from better transparency.

Anne Haas
Bantam