Letter: Are we getting what we need?

To the Editor:

As we open this year’s political season, it’s time to assess where we are as a town, and where we want to go.

A few things strike me as defining characteristics of the four-year tenure of First Selectman Tim Herbst.

Herbst campaigned on a promise of changing the trajectory on taxes. He has not. As a candidate, he promised to deliver budgets of inflation minus 1 percent. But in four years, overall spending has increased by nearly $19 million. That’s an overall increase of more than 13 percent. Inflation during those four years increased by only about 6.9 percent. Herbst now has a bona fide spend-and-tax record.

The town’s population is not growing. The Grand List is not predictably growing. So why must the budget grow at more than twice the rate of inflation, relentlessly? Have your salaries increased at that rate? Tim Herbst promised an administration based on zero-based budgeting, but that was just a catchy slogan. Zero-based budgeting doesn’t mean spending everything you spent last year, plus another 3 or 4 percent. It means if you must increase somewhere, you should be prepared to cut elsewhere.

Here’s what I believe: The residents of Trumbull, from time to time, should expect that their town will have their backs, and that it will tightly manage spending-perhaps even not increase it. That’s not impossible.

Mr. Herbst is a divisive figure. This might not be deciding factor in the coming election. It might not even be a significant issue. But it matters. Think of all the good things that could happen if there was a degree of goodwill among our elected leaders. Can it possibly be that all those who differ with Mr. Herbst are “deceitful” and liars? He says those things frequently. Is it necessary to blow up commission after commission? No, it’s not. If things are not functioning well, fix them. Change things without all the vitriol and overreaction and drama. The town deserves better. Residents need the energy of elected leaders focused on them, not on vendettas.

Finally, Where are the grand Herbst ideas for the future? I (along with others) suggested a Riverwalk in Trumbull Center. I proposed an update of the Plan of Conservation and Development. But big, difficult goals-and equally big decisions-elude Tim Herbst. Great cost-saving ideas are everywhere. South Jordan, Utah, saved $500,000 by imposing a policy that workers on the roads shut down their vehicles rather than allowing them to idle. Asheville, North Carolina, saved an average of $638,000 per year through high-efficiency streetlight bulbs. Bellevue, Washington, formed a consortium that would create a better permitting process to help developers and applicants can submit their forms online 24 hours a day. The possibilities are limitless.

Fellow citizens of Trumbull, please consider these things in the days ahead. Think about what's important. Is actual tax stability a goal? Is a long-term vision for the future of Trumbull important? Is harmonious political leadership? Are we getting these things now?

I hope you'll consider these things in the weeks ahead.

Tony Silber