To the Editor:

Members of the Trumbull Town Council are elected to represent the will of the people of Trumbull. That sounds pretty obvious, and it is the cornerstone of what defines our representative Democracy. In fact, it’s so obvious that we shouldn’t have to even say it. The recent actions of the council, however, seem to suggest that it isn’t that obvious to some of the council members. Instead, they decided to go directly against the will of the people and pass an ordinance to say that it is mandatory for the town to fully fund the annual required contributions to pensions (known as ARC) every year no matter what.

So why is this a bad thing? Shouldn’t we fully fund our employee pensions? Of course we should! There is no debate about that. The problem lies in making it mandatory with no discretion for the council or First Selectman to make adjustments from year to year to account for unexpected situations like the recent economic downturn. This is a bad decision not just because the people already said they didn’t want it. It’s bad because it’s simply not a smart thing to do. What’s more, there is no good reason for it. The only reason to do it is to be able to say we did which makes it an empty political stunt. Unfortunately, it’s a dangerous one.

It’s dangerous because it limits the town’s options and forces actions that might ultimately hurt our friends and neighbors. In hard times, tax revenues drop making it difficult for the town to pay for all of its responsibilities. If ARC funding is mandatory, the funds might not be available forcing the town to raise taxes at exactly the time when the people of Trumbull can least afford it. It could also prevent us from investing to grow our economy. What if a company wants to move into Trumbull bringing good jobs and new tax revenue, but the move is based on Trumbull investing in an infrastructure project such as a new road or sewers in order for the company to move in? If our hands are tied by this ordinance, we might not be able to make the short-term investment today that will bring much larger rewards in the future.

Ultimately, the reasons against this ordinance far outnumber those in favor of it, but again, it’s not even necessary. We all already agree on the right thing to do. Government has no business making unnecessary laws. To take the decision away from the people can only be supported by one reason, and that reason is purely political. Rest assured, when you hear a candidate in the future stand up and proudly proclaim that they made funding the ARC a law, you will then know the only actual benefit to passing this ordinance. Unfortunately, that benefit won’t be for the people of Trumbull.
Kevin Shively