Taxes A Focus In Board Race
Six Candidates Seek Selectman Seats
Courant Staff Writer
November 2 2005
Three incumbents and three newcomers - a nurse, a lawyer and a restaurant
consultant - are vying for seats on the board of selectmen in the Nov. 8
The three Republicans and three Democrats have
identified taxes, the town's form of government, services for seniors and
economic development as crucial issues in Simsbury, long a Republican
Democratic Selectman John Hampton and Republican Selectmen
John Romano and Joel Mandell are seeking re-election. Republican Moira
Wertheimer and Democrats Charles Houlihan and Ferguson Jansen were chosen for
their respective party tickets this summer after two selectmen chose to retire.
The top vote-getters win selectman seats, but no party can have more
than four seats on the six-member board, which includes the first selectman.
The losing first selectman candidate can win a seat on the board if he
is one of the top vote-getters. This year's first selectman race pits incumbent
Tom Vincent, a Republican, against Democrat David Ryan.
The six selectman
candidates agree that "responsible" economic development is needed to bolster
the tax base. Nearly all of the candidates note that senior citizens have told
them that the high cost of living is driving seniors out. Homeowners bear about
75 percent of the tax burden.
The issue of the form of government has
come to the fore as the charter revision commission has met to consider ways to
improve the document. Democratic candidates are pushing for the town to consider
hiring a town manager instead of electing a first selectman - a recommendation
that was recently rejected by the commission, but could be reconsidered by the
newly elected board of selectmen. Republicans oppose a town manager form of
Mandell, 66, the deputy first selectmen and a lawyer, is
seeking his seventh term. A special counsel at CATIC, a title insurance company,
Mandell said he hopes to partner with the board of education to maintain the
town's quality schools. He also wants to improve the quality of life for seniors
by ensuring the senior center is well-maintained.
The father of three
and grandfather of four said he feels his actions on the board "speak pretty
loud" and he continues to volunteer in town because it's a way of giving back.
"I feel privileged and honored in playing a large part in making our town what
it is," he said. Mandell was on the 1990 charter revision commission before
winning a seat on the board.
Romano, 60, a father of three and a project
manager at the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, said if re-elected he
hopes to convene a bipartisan tax policy committee to look into easing the tax
Romano, who was born and raised in the Bronx, thinks the town
should bolster its dial-a-ride program for seniors and look into buying land to
build a senior center complex with affordable housing. A mechanical engineer,
Romano said he thinks the town should consider getting a cell tower to provide
service to the Bushy Hill section and correct safety and traffic problems on
Route 315 in Tariffville. Romano has lived in town for 26 years, and was on the
design review board before winning a selectman's seat in 1997.
set himself apart from his fellow Republicans last month when he was one of two
selectmen to speak out against "big box stores" when pressed by a residents'
group upset that a developer wasconsidering such a store in the south end of
Wertheimer, 38, the only woman runningand a mother with nursing
and law degrees, said she hopes to set an example for the community and get
involved in town affairs. She said she thinks the town should investigate
bringing tax incentives or credits to seniors who have lived in town for decades
and working with a developer to build smaller housing units for seniors who
either can't afford larger homes or do not want them.
"I want Simsbury
to remain a place where new families can move in and feel like they can afford
it, and I want older residents who put their lifeblood into the town to feel
like they're not being driven out by the cost of living," she said. Wertheimer
is on the zoning board of appeals.
Hampton, 38, a Tariffville native who
works in alumni and government relations at the University of Connecticut, is
seeking his fourth term. He, too, supports a tax credit for seniors. He also
thinks the town should develop a comprehensive 10- to 15-year open space
strategy and reorganize the open space committee because the members - the first
selectmen and members of other boards and commissions - are already too
entrenched in town affairs.
He said the selectmen should take a more
active role in cultivating relationships with members of the business community
and meet regularly with them, as former First Selectwomen Mary Glassman and
Anita Mielert, both Democrats, did. Hampton was on the zoning board of appeals
and the aging and disability commission, and is active in several civic
organizations. He made a bid for state representative in 1998.
spoke out against big-box stores last month, when pressed for an opinion by the
residents' group SHARE.
"Chip" Houlihan, 52, a local lawyer who made a
bid for state Senate in the 1990s, takes issue with the town leadership and its
handling of issues. "There are crucial issues coming to the fore," he said.
"It's not been the leadership style to engage them." He is married with two
Houlihan, who is on the zoning commission, said the town gave
short shrift to discussions about acquiring a large parcel at the Ethel Walker
campus - an issue still in play - when Vincentfirst became first selectman. He
also questions the board of selectmen holding a meeting at 8 a.m. the Friday
before Labor Day and 7:30 a.m. the Tuesday after the holiday to approve a
$190,000 set of permanent lights that was an add-on to a project that had
already cost $1.9 million.
Jansen, 65, a restaurant consultant and
former restaurateur who runs Tyee Management Associates and is on the planning
commission, said he thinks the town has lost its regional connection and needs
to work to strengthen its ties to surrounding communities.
married, has three daughters and grandchildren. He ran the Last National Bank, a
restaurant in Hartford, and the Hop Brook Restaurant in Simsbury. He is the
director of the Greater Hartford Transit Authority, Simsbury Community
Television and the Farmington Valley Visitors Association. He is the former
president of the Simsbury Chamber of Commerce.
He thinks the town should
look into ways to relieve the tax burden on seniors and supports the town
changing to a town manager form of government. "It's in business everywhere," he
said. "You have a board of directors and a chairman and they set the policy and
the hired hands implement it. They don't change every two years."
Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant