Economic development was the focus of a Meet the Candidates Night last week at the Wheeler Library in North Stonington, but not everyone was happy with the singularity of that discussion.
Residents Kerri Perez and Heather Rudd said they were dissatisfied with the forum because of that focus. While they said it is an important issue, they wanted to hear a broader range of issues. Specifically, they are interested in improving and increasing services for youth in the town.
We agree that those, too, are important issues. But those issues seem harder to dissect and less likely to generate catchy campaign phrases. And in a town where the tax rate is high, promising to reduce the tax rate evidently is a better way to go.
Besides, there is the cost to some of those projects that benefit our youth, especially if what you are talking about is building ballfields and playgrounds. Those things come with an upfront cost and later on, maintenance costs.
But how do you put a price on the quality of life in the town?
It was interesting that in the midst of the discussion, incumbent First Selectman Nicholas Mullane II seemed to be somehow blamed for the closure of McDonald’s at the I-95 interchange. We are not sure how that could be anyone’s fault, except perhaps the people who took the risk and built the restaurant in the first place.
Building a business is all about risk, and in this case after a long run, the profitability of the venture was not judged worthy to continue it. But at least the business owners gave it a shot.
We believe that development of viable businesses at the I-95 interchanges would be the best opportunity for the town and most attractive to businesses. Building a business deep in the heart of North Stonington where there is minimal traffic and even fewer customers does not seem like a recipe for success.
The town can make itself attractive to businesses but at the same time it must protect the integrity of its business zones and a way of life for its residents. We thought the town’s new conservation plan addressed these issues quite nicely, after gathering lots of input from residents.
Besides, if a retail business does a study and decides that an area in North Stonington is not a good location, there is not much the town can do to entice it to make an investment. Making the property available, with the proper zoning, is about all that town can do.
We recall that there was talk from a developer about building a big retail center near the Stop and Shop off Route 2. That effort seems to have been put on hold, first by a dip in the economy, and perhaps now by an over abundance of caution.
Another resident at the forum said afterwards that he was disappointed that more people aren’t running. But that person also said he understood because most government positions are unpaid and time consuming, which could deter many from making the effort. However, it was heartening to see that more than 50 residents attended the forum in an effort to gather information and help them make an informed decision.
Let’s face it. The job of the candidates running for town office is clear. They must provide leadership and level-headed thinking when it comes to spending the taxpayer’s money. None of those attributes come with a party label. It just seems like it takes a bit of common sense.
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