By Riley O’Connell
Tuesday, November 7th, is now just days away, and voters are going to have to decide which candidate has presented the stronger plan for Wallingford’s future. My earlier column (RJ 10/6/23) focused on my fiscal policies, specifically a multifaceted approach to lowering taxes while also increasing investment. Today I will focus on my administration’s other priorities and how they compare to those of my opponent, Vincent Cervoni. Community Pool
My position on Community Pool is straightforward, and it’s the same as it was when I organized the Save Our Pool rally back in 2021. The pool should have never been allowed to deteriorate into its current state in the first place, and I’m fully in support of the renovation project to reopen the pool. I vow to put the project out to bid as soon as I take office, and do everything in my power to have Community Pool (and the accompanying splash pad) reopened by the summer of 2025. Just last month Cheshire received $500,000 in STEAP grants for their Community Pool; Wallingford didn’t even apply.
At first glance, Mr. Cervoni’s campaign website suggests his position on the pool is similar: “The park must become functional again, either as a pool or perhaps in another form (such as a splash park for young children).” His record, unfortunately, demonstrates otherwise. The only two times the Community Pool renovation project came to a meaningful vote (5/12/20 & 5/13/22), he voted against it. He claimed the project was too expensive and suggested we wait for prices to go down. Predictably, however, waiting has only caused prices to increase substantially. Infrastructure
Addressing the widespread infrastructure issues across town will be one of, if not the most difficult challenge the incoming administration will face. Our sidewalks, roads, schools, parks, and town buildings, even Town Hall itself, have been languishing for years. Literal generations of neglect cannot simply be resolved overnight, so a well thought out long-term plan will be critical in ensuring these problems are addressed in the most fiscally responsible way possible.
Like most observers, I was appalled but not surprised by the severity of the dilapidation that was brought to light by the Building Maintenance Committee. Using the reports this committee has compiled as a starting point, I promise to present the Council and the public with a robust 5-year, 10-year, and 15-year infrastructure recovery plan. This will allow for all voices to be heard before next steps are finalized. Prioritizing public safety concerns will be first and foremost, followed by implementing schedules for routine maintenance and inspections to prevent us from falling back into this situation ever again.
In comparing this plan to Mr. Cervoni’s, however, we arrive at another impasse. His website says he “will initiate a thorough survey of all town properties to determine necessary improvements and updates.” The problem is, Mr. Cervoni voted against the creation of the Building Maintenance Committee (1/10/23), which is already tasked with doing just that. We cannot begin to address our infrastructure issues unless we know what and where these problems are, which is all the more reason why we should not be playing politics with the gathering and release of this information.Public Safety
With incidents ranging from vehicle break-ins, to juvenile vandalism, to reckless driving, the question of how we address rising concerns around public safety is one of the most frequent ones I hear from voters. One thing that my opponent and I seem to agree on is that Wallingford is a very safe town generally speaking. That being said, I believe there is plenty more we can do to ensure our first responders have all the resources they need to do their jobs as effectively and safely as possible.
My opponent claimed at the recent candidate forum that our Police Department already has all the technology they need. I disagree. If there’s one thing I learned from my time working at the Department of Justice, it’s that the greatest limiting factor to law enforcement carrying out their mission is technology, or the lack thereof. Modern problems require modern solutions.
One proposal that’s been tossed around for years but has failed to make inroads under the current administration or council is modern communication programs. Software such as Atlas One, or similar tools, would allow our first responders to more effectively communicate across departments and keep the public informed about ongoing situations. This seamlessly and securely incorporates automated texts and calls, as well as social media. I would also support implementing license plate scanners at highway exits, so that WPD can respond proactively to any unregistered vehicles that enter town.
There are many more elements of my platform that I simply could not fit in this column, so I encourage anyone interested to go to my website, OConnellCT.com. They include addressing our staffing crises, charter revisions that would lead to more responsible and responsive governance, economic development, and much needed technology upgrades.
Even within the limited topics we have covered, however, a consistent theme has emerged: my opponent’s unfortunate habit of saying one thing while doing another. Mr. Cervoni’s platform is inherently irreconcilable with his record, and attempts to parse through these inconsistencies have raised more questions than answers.
For the first time in four decades, Wallingford is going to have a new mayor. 14-years of rubber stamping the current administration’s agenda has brought us nothing but gradual decline by every metric — taxes, education, infrastructure, population, the list goes on. We cannot afford to throw away this once in a generation opportunity to right the ship, to finally help our town achieve its full potential. When you step inside the voting booth on Tuesday, I urge you to cast your vote for not only whom you believe has the better plan for Wallingford’s future, but whom you can also trust to follow through on that plan. Actions speak louder than words, and past actions speak louder than empty promises.
Riley O’Connell is the Democratic candidate for mayor in Wallingford.