By Jared Liu
Imagine there’s a leak in your roof. The current administration’s plan would be to throw a tarp over the roof. In the short-term, that’s certainly cheaper than repairing the roof, but just because you’ve put it out of sight doesn’t mean the patch has solved the problem. In fact, you’ve taken what could have been a $1,000 repair job and made it a $15,000+ new roof job. And that $10,000 you had saved in the bank sounded fiscally responsible then, but now only begins to cover the cost. This is equivalent to how this town manages our finances as of late. We need to stop blaming the weather for our problems and use available resources wisely. A rainy day may be coming, but, instead of waiting to get wet, let’s prepare so we can stay dry.
This is step 3 of my plan to get taxes low. In steps 1 and 2, I addressed how we can save money by cutting out government waste and investing those savings into economic development for our long-term sustainability. In step 3, I conclude my finance plan with the quality of life initiatives that attract and retain residents in Wallingford. These will be funded with revenue generated from economic development. However, over the long-term, every idea I propose pays for itself. That’s fiscal conservatism.
Step 3. Fund quality of life initiatives that are revenue-positive in the long-term:■Create and annually update a 20-30 year infrastructure plan that guides improvements, repairs, and major infrastructure projects. Early planning is key to holding down costs. Thankfully, the state mandates the Town to complete a Plan of Conservation & Development, but that’s only once every 10 years. An example of how planning can save money is Community Pool. I support the pool, but, rather than now face a $6 million price tag to rebuild it, the cost could have been $20,000 per year to maintain it the right way. Over 20 years, that means we will have overpaid by $5.6 million. My plan includes concessions, advertising, guest day-passes, and a longer season.■ Attract and train more volunteer firefighters and EMTs to ensure timely responses and hold down costs. In 1983, when the mayor was first elected, we had four more operating fire stations than we do now. And just recently, underfunding Rescue 3 by $15,000 resulted in a key emergency service vehicle being taken offline.■ Preserve our small town feel by moving towards 80 full-time officers, allowing us to do more community policing, returning an officer to Center & Main, having a more robust non-dispatch presence that integrates with citizen watch groups, and outfitting more cruisers with bicycles.■Create a unified arts & activities calendar that includes Parks & Rec programming, school-based music and theater shows, library events, town athletics, and nonprofit and private organizations. In addition, create an Arts Council of Wallingford with the mission to build a vibrant artistic and cultural community and support local artists.■ Promote lower downtown through an outdoor summer movie series, create a centerpiece festival that draws interest to Yalesville Center, revitalize historic points of pride such as the old train station and cemeteries, and run an open-air trolley that circulates during evenings and weekends. These initiatives will be a draw for residents and visitors alike.■As part of what summer should be, we will coordinate with state officials to re-imagine Community Lake or make a portion of North Farms Reservoir into a recreation center. In the winter, there will be a slate of outdoor winter activities that includes sledding hills, public skating, ice fishing, and more.■ Empower residents to improve the community through the creation of Neighborhood Councils. Every year, councils could apply for funds to host a block party, build a community garden, start a tool co-op, or create a pocket park. My goal is to have a pocket park or open space within a 15-minute walk of every resident.■ Create a Wallingford Scholars gap year program for high-achieving graduating high school students. The competitive program would pay a one-year stipend for young residents who dedicate a year of service to Wallingford, contributing their talents to building services and infrastructure as well as launching themselves.■Preserve agricultural businesses in town (farming, pastures, vineyards, greenhouses, etc.). We can assist our farmers by marketing them beyond Wallingford, integrating them with gardens at all elementary schools, hosting public educational sessions, expanding community gardens across town, developing our gardeners’ market into a regional draw, and converting vacant warehouses to be hydroponic farms.■Invest in facilities that are cheaper to purchase outright than rent every year. For example, we pay $50,000/year to rent ice time for our high schools. We could have owned our own rink by now and earned ticket revenue along the way! At the same time, we will partner with youth athletics to share maintenance responsibilities.■Start the 10-20 year planning that returns us to generating electricity. First, we will fully utilize existing energy conservation funds and allow real-time net metering so homeowners and businesses are incentivized to install solar panels and micro wind turbines that reduce usage on peak days. Second, we will construct and market renewables as part of a plan to attract Fortune 500 companies. And, third, we will explore municipal fiber to modernize infrastructure.
This is about investing in our future, but always making sure to do so in a financially sustainable way. I’m running for mayor because I want our children to have the same opportunities I had growing up in Wallingford. Are you with me?
Jared Liu is a 2019 mayoral candidate. More information is at: www.jaredliu.com.