Letter: Residents asked to pay up and shut up

To the Editor:

Why does the Trumbull government treat our residents as adversaries? Consider:

• The Board of Education has a new policy this year to limit public feedback. You get two minutes to address the board, and then you get the hook — the chairwoman says “time,” and off you go.

• If you point a finger in the direction of school board members, you’re threatened with removal from the meeting.

• When First Selectman Tim Herbst weighed in on the redistricting issue, he opposed the call for a forum, saying it could become a “lynch mob.” That is no way for a public servant to describe constituents.

• The school board disbanded the Policy Advisory Committee, a group of parents and educators who collaborated to recommend policies to the school board. It was done abruptly and arbitrarily, without so much as a “thank you” to the participants.

• The school board rejected a forum to allow parents to be heard on redistricting.

• The town recently placed tax liens on nearly 2,000 Trumbull homes for unpaid sewer use bills of as little as $5. That’s one home in five — 20 percent — of the homes in town with sewers. Tax liens have a serious impact on credit ratings. Credit tracking agencies keep even paid liens on the record for as much as seven years.

• The town has collected nearly $20,000 in fines for an alarm ordinance that was rolled out ineffectively. Many people don’t know about it. The ordinance provides for fines if your home security system activates for a false alarm. It should be modified so that warnings come first, before fines. The fines already collected should be returned to residents.

• When the Water Pollution Control Authority last year raised sewer-use rates last year by more than 30 percent, and now bases its fees on water usage that never even goes into the sewers, Mr. Herbst dismissed questions about it, blaming a 15-year-old contract with Bridgeport. He should have taken the time to explain what’s happening between Trumbull and Bridgeport, and that he cares about the lack of fairness of paying fees for water not entering the sewer system.

The relationship between taxpayers and their government feels off. It feels hostile. Our government should be encouraging community engagement, and making interaction with the government easier, not harder. There is so much we can do. Why not online tax payments, for instance? Why not a whole “e-government” initiative, that includes applications, access to public records and more, and that creates convenience for residents and eases the workload on town workers?

Why aren’t we creating new ways to celebrate our town? How about a parade for Little League Opening Day? How about an Easter Egg Hunt on the Town Hall Green? Or a community beautification competition? Why not a Halloween Parade?

Right now in Trumbull, it feels like a lot of our government leaders view residents as an irritant. A source of votes and revenue that should just pay up and then shut up.

Tony Silber