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November 27, 2007

‘I Will Be Watching’

By Ron Gambardella

Now that the election is behind us, I can return to being an ordinary citizen of Hamden. I do, however, plan to continue to report on local issues that concern me and approximately 6,000 other voters, who would like me to express my opinions.

There was a lot at stake in this past election -- taxes, street and sidewalk authority, education task force and the location of the new police department. I anticipate that taxes will increase, street paving and sidewalk repairs will continue to be determined behind closed doors and the education budget will continue to escalate beyond our ability to fully understand the root cause of the out-of-control spending.

Finally, the construction of the new police department located at the center of town will create traffic nightmares that will irritate the most patient drivers among us. Ah, such is life in Hamden. If nothing changes, then nothing changes.

While I am hoping for the best, I am preparing for the worst. The reality is that the current operating budget has $1.3M of one-time revenue that includes the sale of the Dadio Farm land, and fictitious revenue of about $1M from out-of-state license plate registrations. Now when you consider that the mayor has promised the teachers a no-contest contract, higher pension plan contributions and the replacement of one-time revenue items, the only outcome from this scenario will translate into yet another round of higher taxes.

Mayor Henrici’s administration appears to be less popular and more out of touch with Hamden residents than anyone previously imagined. I, along with 6,000-plus voters, will have to endure two more years of inept government spending and a deeply entrenched system of favors and old-boy politics. What a shame!

I will be watching as Hamden struggles under the weight of cronyism, favoritism and failed policies doomed to break the backs of the taxpayers. I apologize for the bleak forecast. The close mayoral vote on Nov. 6 (I lost by only 651 votes) shows that more and more people have come to understand that this type of government will not be tolerated forever. We shall see over the next two years how this scenario plays out. I hope I am wrong, but if history is any predictor of future events, hold on to your bank accounts because your bank balance is about to go down.

Does this sound like sour grapes? To some it might; to my supporters it is the reason the vote was as close as it was. They expect me to continue to sound the trumpet until the walls come tumbling down!

This is the final submission for “Ron’s Run.” Stay tuned for my new column, “Ron Responds."

Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella ran for mayor this November and lost by 651 votes. He can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

September 22, 2007

Walking the Talk

By Ron Gambardella

While walking Hamden's neighborhoods in recent weeks, I have been asked the same question over and over again: Why do I want to be the next mayor of Hamden? So let me take this opportunity to explain why I am in this race.

I would like to be Hamden's next mayor because taxpayers need someone to stand up for them. Someone who will listen and then lead. In this era of skyrocketing costs of electricity, oil, gas and food, Hamden needs a mayor who understands that public policy does impact the daily lives of residents.

Hamden needs a mayor who will fight to control Town Hall spending, and hold the line on future tax increases. Mayor Henrici and his current council have increased spending by nearly $20 million in the last two years alone. They have also given us the largest tax increase in the town's history. The reality is that his record over the last two years has been of higher and higher taxes, and more and more spending.

It is time for the residents of this great town, who pay the bills, to have someone sitting in the mayor’s chair who will end this tax-and-spend mentality that has permeated our town’s government. Hamden needs a mayor who will get our fiscal house in order by scrutinizing our budgets with a fine-toothed comb.   

Residents put their faith in leaders to keep their interests in mind. The leader they choose must recognize and fight for the needs of the constituents they are supposed to represent. Over the last few months, I have crisscrossed our town, from Highwood to West Woods, listening to taxpayers’ concerns. I have attended civic association meetings and small meetings on front-door steps. I have spoken to folks at ball fields and met with people in their living rooms. In this process, I have come to the conclusion that taxpayers are extremely disappointed in the performance of the current mayor and his administration, and they believe we need a dramatic change in Town Hall.

Many residents I have met -- Democrats, Republicans, Greens and independents alike -- are pleading for a change, and for a mayor who will represent them and their interests, not those of the special interests. Hamden residents want a mayor who will roll up his sleeves and fight for them. Here’s what residents have been saying to me.

1) They want respect. Simply stated, they expect a candidate to do what he or she promised. Don’t mislead, don’t omit and don’t renege from what was promised. In other words, no excuses.

2) They seek a mayor who will not ask for a substantial raise for himself after giving residents the largest tax increase in our town’s history.

3) They seek a mayor who will not demand a large travel allowance, paid for with tax dollars, while many residents have difficulty paying their own bills.

4) Residents complain that roads and sidewalks are paved for political benefit of a few, rather than the greater good of all. They want fairness in this process that no favoritism is shown as to which roads and sidewalks are repaired.

5) Parents remain concerned about the quality of education their children are receiving in the Hamden public school system. Many are thinking of leaving our town because of the quality of our schools. Residents want a mayor who recognizes these challenges, not one who defends the status quo as being acceptable.

6) Seniors, many of whom who are on fixed incomes, want a mayor who will control spending so their tax dollars are not wasted. Many seek tax relief so they can afford to stay in the homes they have worked a lifetime to own. They don't want a mayor who will take away the pride and independence they have worked so hard to obtain.

7) Residents want a mayor who understands that for each tax dollar they take out of people's pockets, it is less money for those taxpayers to spend on food, utilities, medicine, occasional nights out, pizza with the kids or grandkids, or whatever activity the residents desire and deserve.

These are the issues of this campaign. Some in the mayor’s inner circle will try to attack my views, linking me to national politics and such. The truth is this election is about Hamden's issues, not national issues. I want to be a mayor who champions bipartisanship, who will bring in diverse opinions to help guide me to making the right decisions. And one who will work together, across party lines, to meet the needs of all residents. This is how a town could and should be run.

Hamden needs to chart a new direction so our town government can begin to again put taxpayers first.

Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella is running for mayor this November. He can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

September 10, 2007

A Bipartisan Authority

By Ron Gambardella

You may have noticed the street paving around town over the past few weeks. It seems that this is one area most everyone has an opinion. “How come that street is being paved?” “Why wasn’t my street considered?” are frequent questions I hear along the campaign trail. The process has become highly politicized.

The Henrici Administration certainly has not gone out of its way to inform folks how the streets or sidewalks have been selected for repair. In fact, the entire process is somewhat secretive. The most recent list compiled by the administration and approved by the Council required a special request by the Council to see the list before funds were approved.

I believe the entire process must be exposed to public scrutiny and debate in an open forum. Politics must be removed from the process to ensure fairness. In other words, let’s put the taxpayer first. If elected as your next mayor, I will propose to create a Local Street and Sidewalk Authority (LSSA).

Fairness and openness in the sidewalk and road repair process has taken a back seat for far too long with this and prior administrations. Taxpayers expect and deserve better. The LSSA will change the current decision-making process and encourage volunteers to participate in local government. Each volunteer will be appointed by the mayor and approved by the council. The authority will be empowered to develop a three-year comprehensive plan of action to determine which streets and sidewalks will be repaired, and in what order.

The authority will be made up of nine district representatives with staggered terms expiring in the third and fifth year to ensure continuity from one administration to the next.

The authority will look closely at volume of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and will work cooperatively with the town's risk manager, Engineering Department and the superintendent of streets to address liability and public safety concerns. All requests for road and sidewalk repair will be directed to the authority for consideration and action. And the implementation of the authority's recommendations will be contingent upon legislative council approval and funding.

This process will remove the secrecy and political posturing. As mayor, I promise to make nonpartisan appointments that reflect the diversity of the population they serve.

Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella is running for mayor this November. He can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

September 4, 2007

No New Taxes

By Ron Gambardella

Last Friday, I visited the farmers market located in the Miller Library parking lot. The day was hot and humid. Folks seemed to be coping well. I spoke to various vendors and inquired how business was going. Each one indicated that business was good. It was clear they were reaching new customers who may not have been familiar with their primary place of business.

While walking around meeting people, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who recognized me and introduced themselves. Now to a politician, this is somewhat surprising. It is usually the politicians initiating the conversation in hopes of a chance to discuss the issues.  Some people recognized me from the rebroadcast of the Council meetings. Others have been following me in the papers. All were concerned about the tax situation and expressed their dismay at the administration and the Council as a whole.

They wanted to know what my position was with respect to taxes. One woman said she was on the verge of selling her home, but wanted to wait until after the November election before making a decision. She pledged her support to me, suggesting she has had enough of the disappointment and failed promises of the current administration.

To be absolutely clear on the issue of taxes, I told each and every person who asked that I will not submit a budget for council approval that has any chance of creating new taxes or worsening an already overtaxed Hamden population. What this means is that when funds are considered for various projects, the first test any proposal must pass is the tax test. Will the proposal create upward pressure on expenses? If so, where can we cut? If we can’t cut, are there new sources of revenue that will provide funding? If not, the proposal will not be submitted to the council for consideration by my administration. This will be the tax principle by which all financial decisions will be made.

The people I select to help run my administration must be absolutely clear about what we are here to accomplish. By making this principle clear in the minds of all, the business of running the town becomes less confusing. If a decision must be made by a department head concerning new funding, he or she will be able to do a self-assessment by remembering the tax principle. If the issue cannot be resolved within the department making the proposal we will search other departments for funding. If this fails, the proposal will not be considered for funding.

Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella is running for mayor this November. He can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

August 27, 2007

Henrici Put Rent Over Highville Kids' Health

By Ron Gambardella

As our attention turns toward the upcoming school year, I can’t help but admire the parents, students, teachers and administrators who have continued to support the Highville Mustard Seed School through all of its trials and tribulations. This must be a truly remarkable and inspirational place of learning to have endured such controversy. The education process continued even while the school was experiencing leadership challenges and a less than adequate learning environment, as suggested by acting Fire Marshal Brian Badamo.

It appears that the end of this saga is in site and all involved should be recognized for their Herculean efforts to overcome each and every obstacle that was placed before these dedicated folks. Such commitment to the task at hand has not gone unnoticed. There are at least two lessons I have learned from this heroic effort. First, if there is the will there is a way. And second, the school’s successful approach to learning has inspired a following second to none -- a truly awe-inspiring achievement.

I believe Hamden can learn from this experience by recruiting volunteers from among Mustard Seed School stakeholders to participate on my proposed education task force. These folks have figured out how to make due with less, and in the process won the support of students and parents. This hard-earned support is specifically related to the success of the educational programs and staff at the Mustard Seed School. It is like the adage, if you want what they have, then do what they do.

When you contrast this stellar example of true-grit determination against the backdrop of the Henrici Administration's efforts toward resolving this issue, I can only see failure and shortcomings. The former fire marshal has articulately laid out his reasons he wouldn’t send his granddaughter to the old middle school, and the acting fire marshal has offered his response. While I certainly am not a fire-code expert and cannot attest to whether the acting fire marshal or past fire marshal is correct on this issue, I can understand why many people that I meet are concerned that Henrici is willing to put the safety of children at risk for political expediency.

I would never have believed that this mayor would risk a child’s health for rent, but I do understand that there is a sense of disappointment and distrust among those that voted for him two years ago. Many of these people are justifiably frustrated with his political decision-making and think that this is another one of those decisions.

The administration not only failed to mediate the issue, but actually succeeded to inflame the situation by pressing to rent out the former middle school over considering safety issues. There are enough uncertainties regarding the old school property that would make it imprudent to utilize the building for learning, or any other purpose, due to conflicting opinions on its overall safety.

As I have been campaigning over the past few weeks, several people have come up to me and suggested that the idea of moving the children to the old middle school was conceived to help narrow the budget gap, as the rent to the town would be about $25,000 per month. Their concern was that students and teachers were being put at risk to help the mayor look good before the election.

Councilman Westervelt stated he would not send his own grandchild to that location, yet the administration continued to insist it was perfectly safe. I agree wholeheartedly with Councilman Westervelt. I can still recall the outcry of former middle school teachers who complained of headaches due to a mold problem at the school. Why would we want to put more kids, teachers and staff at risk in an environment that was unsafe only a few short years ago?
The administration appears desperate to try to support a budget that overstated revenues and understated expenses. This seems to be the reason behind the ill-fated middle school proposal by the Henrici Administration. It is time for a change!

Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella is running for mayor this November. He can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

August 20, 2007

Cops Need a Piece of Dadio, Too

By Ron Gambardella

(Editor's note: A reminder to those who continue to ask us why we don't run columns by Gambardella's opponent, Democratic Mayor Craig Henrici. We have asked Henrici many times if he would write for us, and he has consistently turned us down. However, Henrici's weekly columns can be read in the Hamden Chronicle.)

It seems the mayor is doing everything in his power to sell the land formerly known as the Dadio Farm on Putnam Avenue. The window of opportunity is closing rapidly. As I understand it, land that would be perfect for the construction of a public safety center on this site is about to be sold. This would all but kill the idea of building the public safety center in the southern part of town. I had hoped that this project could be the cornerstone of encouraging revitalization in this part of town.

The mayor and his Council are doing their best to thwart this effort. If I cannot put enough pressure on this administration to stop the sale from moving forward by the end of August, it seems almost certain the Council will approve the sale just prior to the November election.

Additionally, the mayor is continuing to burn up more taxpayer dollars to “study” the possibility of converting the old Town Hall into a police department. According to Scott Jackson, the mayor’s chief aide, so far about $250,000 of a $500,000 grant has been expended on “soft costs” to determine what to do with the building. The Council has approved an additional $60,000 for another study. This is sheer madness and a colossal waste of time, money and effort.

There seems to be no end to this administration’s ability to waste taxpayer money. The mayor believes he has the right to do as he pleases given the mandate he received by the voters in the last election. Recall that he won by 80 percent of the vote. I believe history will show that the voters believed he offered great hope and promise, but in the end, he turned out to be a bitter and devastating disappointment.

I don’t believe he will win in November given his total and utter contempt for the people who elected him mayor. Therefore, I am appealing to his sense of decency that he waits until after November’s election before burning up more of your money. If, for some strange reason, he is elected again, then he can continue to recklessly spend your money without the slightest concern for accountability. The message will then be loud and clear that he could do whatever he likes and no one will object. Oh, just imagine what the tax increases will be like if this should happen!

On the other hand, if I win the election, rest assured I will immediately put an end to the ridiculous activity of converting the old Town Hall to a police department, preventing further cash burn. Money the mayor spends between now and then could be money saved. Given the mayor’s propensity to disregard common sense and do what he wants when he wants, I doubt this will happen. Moreover, the mayor in his rush to sell the land on Putnam Avenue will have taken away the best location for a public safety center. I will then be forced to look for another location that may not be as perfectly suited.

If you want to know how folks feel about this issue, please visit my Web site at www.gambardellaformayor.com. Once there, click on “New Online Poll.” There you can cast your vote either in favor of my idea or the mayor’s for a new police headquarters.

Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella is running for mayor this November. He can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

August 17, 2007

Small Businesses Can’t Prosper in Henrici Tax-Land

By Ron Gambardella

I have been a practicing tax accountant for more than 25 years. Over this period of time, I have seen businesses flourish and I have seen businesses die. Dun & Bradstreet reported, “Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have only a 37 percent chance of surviving four years (of business) and only a 9 percent chance of surviving 10 years. Restaurants only have a 20 percent chance of surviving 2 years.” These statistics reveal just how difficult it is for small businesses to succeed.

Hamden must attract and retain small business. By doing so, we will build up our economic base that can share in the overall cost of running the town. A healthy business climate is good for the future success and stability of Hamden’s finances. Unfortunately, the recent residential tax hike reduces individual taxpayer discretionary spending that ultimately adds another barrier making it more difficult for small business to succeed in Hamden. With fewer discretionary dollars available for spending on clothing, meals and entertainment, small businesses will struggle to generate a profit.

Given the Dun & Bradstreet statistics, I believe small businesses already have a difficult enough challenge just to survive the initial startup period. I don’t believe Hamden’s government should add to the burdens most businesses must face on a daily basis. Small businesses already must deal with such issues as marketing, inventory management, labor cost, distribution cost, utilities, competition, etc. When you think about it, the list can become overwhelming. Couple this with runaway government spending leading to higher residential taxes and you have all the ingredients for failure.

The Henrici Administration seems to specialize in failure. Failed policies, failed voter confidence, failed financial management and failed promises.

As Hamden’s next mayor, I intend to submit a budget that will not add to the already painful burden Hamden residents must bear. I plan to tighten spending, negotiate fair labor contracts and better monitor and control the use of the town’s assets. As a result, I intend to bring financial stability and prosperity to taxpayers, employees and businesses. This in turn will restore the confidence and pride to the folks who call Hamden home.

Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella is running for mayor this November. He can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

August 7, 2007

Police Need New

By Ron Gambardella

Last night, the Council voted to approve a $60,000 study that I strongly oppose. A portion of the study will exam how a police station can be retrofitted into a building built in 1929.

To be clear, the mayor is proposing moving the police department from a building built around 1950 into a building built around 1929. I do not consider this progress. It seems the current administration is going to extraordinary lengths to foolishly spend your money on a project that includes restoring an old building that will not fit our needs and may have more hidden costs than anticipated.

Not only is this administration wasting taxpayer money on such an endeavor, they are adding insult to injury by selling town-owned land that will prevent the construction of a public safety center on an ideally suited location formerly known as the Dadio Farm.

As taxpayers, please be aware that this plan is shortsighted and ultimately futile. We need a police facility that will anticipate town requirements over the next 50 years. The mayor’s plan will have a life expectancy extending to the next election. Any attempt to retrofit a building as old as the historic building sitting at the corner of Dixwell and Whitney to accommodate a state-of-the-art police facility is nothing more than folly and will end up costing taxpayers more money in the long run.

The Council is fine with approving the $60,000 to assess the situation more closely. I say let’s save the money by not spending it on a poorly thought-out plan.

The mayor certainly seems to be struggling to come up with a vision for Hamden’s future. It is almost as if he is considering this proposal as an afterthought. With all the years Mayor Henrici was on the council, you would think he would have had an opportunity to address this issue before. Now that he feels pressure to do something about the police station, he offers the department a building built in 1929 to address our needs into the 21st century. He is leading us down a dead-end street.

Friends, the obvious choice is the Dadio Farm site on Putnam Avenue in the southern part of Hamden, between Whitney and Dixwell avenues -- the main arteries in our town. Once again, I envision a public safety center that will encompass police, fire, emergency services and animal control. Just picture in your mind such a facility in an area that has long been neglected by this and prior administrations. It makes too much sense to be ignored.

I plan to stop this administration from moving forward with such a short-term, ill-conceived plan by winning in November.

We cannot rely on his rubberstamp Council to do what is best for the town. It will require a complete overhaul of the status quo. I trust the voters in Hamden have had about enough of this foolishness. Be patient, the time is at hand.

Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella is running for mayor this November. He can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

August 2, 2007

Another Tax-Financed Study for Town Hall;
License Hunters Bad Idea

By Ron Gambardella

There were two items that I believe you will find of interest discussed at the July 30 Council meeting. The first item was seeking approval to spend $60,000 for another study of Memorial Town Hall. The second item requested the Council to approve the hiring of a firm to seek out folks who reside in Hamden but maintain a vehicle registered in other states. I voted no on both proposals.

Here’s why.

The first item approving a study of Town Hall will be added to the previous studies that sit on someone’s desk and collect dust. If I am not mistaken, with this proposal the town will have spent well over $100,000 to study Town Hall. To date, nothing of any substance has been done with the previous studies and I believe nothing will be done with the new study.

There has been no evidence that the administration even knows what’s in the previous studies, yet it is eager to commission another. The past studies never gained any forward traction. Further, the existing studies have been criticized by this and prior councils for inactivity. Yet, this Council decided to approve another study allowing the administration to proceed without delay. One Council member suggested that since the state is willing to fund $30,000 of the $60,000 study, we should not pass up the offer.

This is madness and reveals how the tax-and-spend mentality of this administration and rubberstamp Council show nothing but utter contempt for the taxpayers. The belief that we should proceed with the study because the state has agreed to fund 50 percent of the cost is preposterous. The administration and Council see no connection between waste at the state level and waste at the local level.

The group thinking is that the town should simply take the money and spend it, irrespective of the need for a study. It will be interesting to see who will win the contract for this so-called study. Imagine, $60,000 for what will be another useless document that more than likely, based on prior studies, will not be utilized.

If some of you can catch the recast on local public access of this meeting, you will be mystified at the extraordinary lengths President Gorman takes to justify this mess. Not to be outdone, Councilman Curt Leng adds his own justifications and rationalizations for a tax-and-spend government that he embraces and enthusiastically supports.

Friends, it is sad to see your hard-earned money wasted on such frivolous endeavors. This reminds me of how the past couple of councils approved time and time again architectural changes to the ice skating rink that amounted to about $450,000 in taxpayer cost and many, many delays in construction. Does anyone believe the Town Hall plan will be any different?

The second item of interest is the hiring of a firm that will receive 34 percent of the tax and interest collected for finding people who reside in Hamden and register their cars in other states. My fear is that a lot of folks will be unduly harassed because they have legitimate reasons for the registration. I am sure the firm the town hires will find cases where some folks have intentionally circumvented the process, but at what cost? The town is forecasting revenue of about $1.3M. This means the firm stands to earn about $340,000 (a total of over $1.6 million would have to be collected to realize the budgeted revenue). This is a very aggressive incentive to take extraordinary measures to find people

I simply cannot agree with a process that has the potential of shaking up innocent people who may have to jump through hurdles to defend against an overzealous firm trying to make a buck. I need only look at the experience of New Haven where cars were towed from church parking lots to recall how this process can become abusive. I do not believe there are enough safeguards to protect the innocent from being harassed, therefore, I voted no.

Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella is running for mayor this November. He can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)


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