Endorsement: Mayor Thomas G. Dunn

by Christopher O'Brien
Thomas G. Dunn

Thomas G. Dunn

Editorial by Chris O’Brien

Its also been about ten years since I first met Tom Dunn when he first sought a seemingly long-shot bid to become Mayor in 2003. Back then, Michael DeNegris faced a challenge from Republican Eileen Watts. Both had experience being entrenched in the office of Mayor. Dunn’s style was much different than either of the major party’s nominees. When he greets you, there is often a slight timid pause. Meeting any of the Dunns tends to be this way – first an enthusiastic greeting, and then allowing the resident to speak first while they quietly listen. In many ways, his campaign style then – and today allowed plenty of time for voters to quietly make up their mind on whether they were comfortable with the homegrown smiling man sporting a scruffy red goatee.

And its clear that they were.

The results of that election was like an earthquake. Voters clearly voted for change from the status quo with Dunn receiving twice as many votes as both of his political party opponents. And they’ve kept him with overwhelming support in each election ever since.

Dunn’s style often is to present the facts and his case simply to his audience. He always comes with careful research, and never asserts much pressure..

The challenges he faced since then have varied since then, as Dunn has lived up to his promise to put people above politics. Always running alone on Row C (up until now at least. This year Republicans openly crossed endorsed Dunn in their literature and Dunn has returned the support) without any natural allies on the Town Council, he has consistently returned solid stable budgets and returned money to the reserve fund at the end of the year. The bond rating is secure as well.

The SuperFund site along the Waterbury line was cleaned and just last year a couple million dollars – largely in federal grants- brought new water and gas lines to the industrial area. In 2008, when State Police began to invstigate our police department, Dunn brought in Neil O’Leary to replace an absentee police chief.

In almost every campaign Dunn has set out one or two goals to improve the town and has met or exceeded them almost every single one of them every time. Two years ago a referendum was held to repave some the longest streets and roads in town, bring water to Wolcott High School, and build a dog park. The Waterline was installed last month. And a group is actively soliciting donations to build the park without town funds in a parcel the town had bought just for that purpose in the right part of town. He regularly meets with seniors at the Senior Center, and addresses PTAs. In the last few years he has developed a closer relationship with the School Superintendant to assist the town’s largest industry.

I was interested when Michael Gugliotti decided to throw his hat into the ring for Mayor. Its a sign of a healthy Democracy to see if we should do anything different. Yet, as the months wore on the campaign was very quiet. This should cause a hesitant concern. When flyers began flooding our mailboxes just two weeks before the election, I realized this was a bad sign. Yet, even before hand, I should have given pause. When Gugliotti announced that he wanted the Republican nomination for the office, he was late. At the time he had only spoken to one Republican Party member that we know of before the vote was held.

Mr. Gugliotti left his job as Police Chief in Waterbury in March of this year. He says that he wants to use his managerial skills to give back to the town, however its tough to convince voters that you are ready for that job in just a two week campaign. The Democrats attempted to pursue a “gotcha” campaign.

Now, the advantage for a challenger is that he can say almost anything because he doesn’t have access to all of the information of his incumbent. The advantage to the incumbent is that he has access to all of this information – but to his disadvantage, he can be questioned virtually on anything and the skeptical will believe it.

When we examined much of the rhetoric in the campaign material, we found it riddled with misinformation and shoddy research.

In 2011, the Council researched what route the waterline would take to the high school. Surveys were sent to residents to see if they needed public water as well. Overwhelmingly, they declined and did not want it at all. As a result, the line took the shortest route possible – straight through the woods off of Minor Rd. It passes only 7 properties on the way. Town ordinance 61, Section IV says that a waterline project should keep the town free and clear of expenses EXCEPT when it is primarily for municipal use, in which case the Town should contribute a fair portion of the costs. Democrats cite state law that requires anyone on the water route to be assesed a charge- even if they don’t tap into the waterline. While they may have a point, not a single Democrat raised this issue in the entire two years since the project was propsed until now.

We also have concerns arising from original plans to demolish the Food Pantry building next to Frisbee school from the same bond package. The original idea was that the school needed more parking to ensure children were not crossing busy Woodtick Road. The Whisper went to Frisbee on Monday to monitor the congestion at the school. Instead, we saw none. Before parents arrived to pick up their children, there were five vacant spaces in the original parking lot. As children were dismissed, those five spaces plus only seven on the gravel lot were occupied.

This means that there are 45 spaces that are almost never used. Interviews with eight parents confirm that the back gravel lot isn’t used. No one is parking across busy Woodtick Road either. So we have to ask the question- Why do Democrats insist on building a parking lot that will be used less than the new one already built?

True, the gravel lot will flood in rainstorms. Yet, Dunn tells us that the town is in the process of purchasing catch basins and drainage equipment and the lot will eventually be paved. Most of the paving material is already on site.

Gugliotti has also proposed abolishing the town’s DARE program, and according to Food Pantry administrator Helen Donovan, he proposed tearing down the building. Gugliotti says he was misunderstood. Whichever is true, we have found the campaign to be unfocused and late in all respects. Mr. Gugliotti further says that he has respect for Mayor Dunn and his family. We were thankful to hear that when we met with him in August, however were left heartbroken when the campaign intensified in the past week.

A flyer with cartoon caricatures of Dunn and tax Collector candidate Darlene Dunn included duct tape covering their mouths. It was ugly. We can understand disagreements, and we can understand different points of view. However this isn’t a way you treat a neighbor who you’re likely to see in the supermarket or at the Thanksgiving football game. We’re betting that since Dunn received 84% of the vote two years ago, it also wasn’t very smart.

So we’ve found the allegations brought by Mr. Gugliotti first to be fully without any merit, and then without any class.

Also running for Mayor is Steven Olmstead. To his credit, he has run a positive campaign with some interesting ideas. He has also been a welcome diffusing presence between his two opponents. His partial school voucher idea is one that other municipalities have adopted in some areas of the country and may be a first in Connecticut. He also suggests that hydroelectric power can be obtained from Scoville Dam. This sounds like an expensive and implausible idea, but as wind technology has improved in wind powered generation, perhaps there’s something here we don’t know. Or perhaps it will be plausible in time. If his ideas have further merit, he should present them to the town for consideration. We believe he will receive some anti-Dunn votes, however he doesn’t make the case in ideas or ability to assume the job as Mayor.

Mayor Dunn has consistently had an open door policy and been open to new ideas throughout his tenure. He has also held the mill rate and budget stable while still making solid progress towards the future. We fully support Mayor Dunn for this election – and for as long as he feel that he can serve the best interests of the town just as he has for the past decade.

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