Yes or No?



The lawn sign wars have begun. It appears Harkins is going with “If you tell a lie often enough…”

But we get ahead of ourselves. Let’s review a few things first. If we remember, Harkins tried to slide this deal passed the WPCA Board/Town Council (they are the same thing) with as little public view as possible. There was one (Count ’em, 1!) public hearing on the sale of the WPCA and it was conducted by Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority (GNHWPCA). Hardly a disinterested 3rd party. Three days later, the weak and stupid RTC Council passed it.

After the weak and stupid Council passed this horrible deal real citizens said, “Hold on there a minute, Buckaroo. We think we should all vote on this.” Astoundingly, within a mere two and a half weeks, citizens organized and collected 7,000+ signatures of registered voters. This was an amazing accomplishment. Any sane person would have understood the voter sentiment against this sale. But Harkins then ordered his Town Attorney to stop any referendum by claiming that voters did not have the right to petition the government. No big deal. Just take away Stratford citizens’ First Amendment rights.

Luckily for us, Marianne Antezzo, Matthew Catalano, Lisa Donnelly, Tina Marie Manus, Philip Young and Benjamin Proto all stepped up to defend our right to vote. Not once, but four times! Harkins would not go down to defeat without spending more of our tax money on attorneys and appeals. Nevertheless, he lost and a referendum was scheduled.

Now we have the Lawn Sign Wars to be followed by the Mailing Wars.

And what slogan is Harkins using? “Vote Yes, Pay Less”  Pay less what? GNHWPCA current rates are $435/year for a residential account. . All of this so we can “save” $15 per year? (Well, that is IF GNHWPCA keeps their rates the same next year which is something they’ve never done.)

Harkins, and whoever is financially backing him, are counting on the voters to not believe their own common sense. Vote Yes Pay Less is wrong. No one knows that anyone would pay less. Whether or not you support or are against this sale you cannot say that rates will go down because WE WON’T OWN IT ANYMORE.

Mayoral Office Equipment

Mayoral Office Equipment

We must admit even we grow weary of going over the same material time and again. But apparently we must.

“The mayor has maintained, however, that this “Vote No” assessment of the issue is simplistic — and that the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority would be assuming the cost of the 17 employees of the waste treatment plant at the foot of Birdseye Street, as well as the high cost of maintaining more than 200 miles of sewer pipes and 13 pumping stations. The sale would also reduce the town’s bonded debt, Harkins said. And, he has said, if the sale is scuttled, the town’s bond rating will suffer because the the current and previous town budgets were predicated on the sale taking place.This has resulted in the town’s reserve fund to drop precipitously — a key factor that bond rating agencies look at.”

Sound reasonable? It might if any of it were true. In fact, the only true part was “the town’s bond rating will suffer because the current and previous town budgets were predicated on the sale taking place.”  Let’s go all the way back to Home Economics. What do they call it now? “Domestic Science”? You don’t count as actual money the things you haven’t sold yet. But that is exactly what this mayor and his weak and stupid Council did! And then they spent the imaginary money as if it were real money!

If this deal wasn’t so bad and the mayor didn’t lie about it so much,  maybe so many thousands of registered voters wouldn’t be so mad. On the other hand, if your grandmother had…..never mind.

It’s still a horrible deal and no amount of $100 party tickets will change that.

New Sign Proposed by Mayor

New Sign Proposed by Mayor

It sure has been a confusing summer. The citizens are just waiting for the next “thing” to happen. And a lot of us are wondering why we’re being subjected to these ridiculous maneuvers. It seems incredible that these things continue to happen.

For example, why does someone tear down a fairly new school to create a parking lot?

Why is it a surprise that barrels of cyanide are found at a brownfield site that the EPA has known about for nearly a decade?

Even after 6,000+ voters (Not just residents, but registered voters of both parties.) in a mere three weeks sign a petition, why does this mayor persist in claiming doing this horrible deal with Greater New Haven Water Pollution Authority is a good thing?

Why does our Economic Development Director think that bringing in hundreds of tow trucks day after day is a great asset for Stratford?

Why can’t Matt Catalano fill out the forms correctly just to leave us with a candidate who’s history of arrests, bankruptcies and business dealings would only qualify him to be on an episode of “Cops”.

Should we be in contact with Aquarion? It must be in the water.


What a Vote Can Do

What a Vote Can Do

It is a rare occurrence that so many Council terms are expiring at the same time. Much talk will take place about who will run. While that is important, equally important is the reason why a candidate would run. For decades, we have been subjected to the dominance of a very, very small group of influence peddlers and profiteers. In fact, the only interest group that has not had their pocket filled or their palm greased is the Stratford taxpayer.

What we would like you to imagine is the election of at least seven strong willed, independent representatives of the voters of Stratford. With seven votes, a Council can make a mayor almost irrelevant. We would also like you to imagine what that could mean to voters/taxpayers.

  • An independent forensic audit of the Town’s books which would include the Board of Education.
  • Conversion of the Town Attorney’s position to a salaried position.
  • A review of the policy and procedures of each department.
  • A conversion to zero based budgeting.
  • A review of all consulting and contracted services and fees.

With these few steps, an independent Council would be able to lower taxes and, yes, sewer fees. Imagine Stratford with the mystery and secrecy gone from Town Hall and the Board of Education. Imagine the pride residents and businesses would have by virtue of simply being here as victors instead of victims. It could happen. But it can only happen when voters stop paying attention to the “R’s” and “D’s” after a candidate’s name and start paying attention to what they are saying.

Each of the above points are entitled to a thorough debate. It is not enough to say to voters, “I am running because they couldn’t find anyone else.” You have to have a plan, a mission, a goal to achieve that your potential constituents agree with. This space is, of course, available to any candidate who wishes to use it. There are other spaces as well that are free to use. But if you, Mr./Ms. Candidate, choose to remain silent and depend solely on the placement of lawn signs, we certainly have no reason to vote for you.

Budget Stories

Taxpayer Alert

Taxpayer Alert

Stratford Residents Deserve Much Better

It is time for every single Stratford resident to become aware of the situation concerning the sale of the Stratford sewer treatment plant.  Once residents become engaged they will inevitably come to the sad conclusion that their elected officials have not represented their best interests.

Again the WPCA aka Town Council voted to increase the Sewer fees to $450 /household with the weak excuse that it is still lower than Trumbull.  In just a few short years Stratford residents have seen their sewer treatment bills go from $280 to $450 – a 61% increase.  Annual sewer rates in Milford are $298.44 and Shelton $198.00; both have sewer facilities and infrastructure needs similar to Stratford.  Common sense says Stratford can do better.  Maybe those Stratford council members hope to push the public to sell the plant – who knows?

A key reason our sewer fees are so much higher is because they are based on grossly inflated costs.  During Mayor Harkins’ tenure the Town Council has decided to charge the WPCA $600,000 for use of the land the treatment plant sits on, $300,000 for bookkeeping and administrative expenses, and $500,000 for public works services.  The effect is to transfer $1.4 million annually from town expenses to sewer expenses.  This means that town residents are now paying higher sewer fees instead of property taxes. The net effect is a second tax on Stratford residents. Your elected representatives may argue that it makes no difference, but remember that property taxes are deductible while sewer fees are not.

Another thing that should concern every Stratford resident is the hundreds of thousands of dollars expended on legal fees. Each year from 2013 – 2016 almost $500,000 has been added to the WPCA budget Contractual Services line that we now learn was for legal expenses. This year the Harkins administration has waged a costly court battle to prevent citizens from exercising their right to vote in a referendum on the sewer sale, and lost every court case and appeal along the way.  Scratch below the surface, it gets worse.  By what authority was that money spent?  Neither the Town Council nor the WPCA voted to authorize the expenditure of these funds.  How can the town or the WPCA proceed with court actions that were never authorized by a vote of the people’s representatives?

It is time that the Harkins administration stood up to protect the residents of Stratford.  Mayor Harkins and his council members are responsible for this mess and must be held accountable. Selling a significant town asset for pennies on the dollar to plug a budget hole is not the solution.  The Town Council should set a date for the people of Stratford to vote on this issue and immediately release all documents so residents can inform themselves.  That is the purest form of democracy, and it is a shame that so much time, effort, and the people’s money has been wasted trying to prevent it from happening.

Stephanie Philips

3rd District Town Council Member

Submitted to Stratford Star, and CT Post.  6/28/2015

 Reprinted here with no edits and no one’s permission.

Stratford Mayor-visual approximation

Stratford Mayor-visual approximation

Step 1: Find a journalist that will print anything you say without question.

Step 2: Say that the world will come to an end unless you raise taxes and fees.

Step 3: Deny any responsibility by blaming someone else

Step 4: Blame “they” or “them” for layoffs, service cuts, higher taxes and anything else you can think of.

Step 5: Try to look like you’re doing the right thing by making the entire population suffer the consequences of your blundering.

Mayor Repellent

Mayor Repellent

The citizens of Stratford won a victory yesterday with Judge Bellis’ decision to order the Town Clerk to accept the voter’s petition. While it is indeed a victory reaffirming that the right to vote exists even in Stratford, it is a sad victory. Our mayor, Town attorney and seven members of the Town Council believed that they, and only they, had the authority to decide everything for themselves without the participation of the residents and voters of Stratford.

They were wrong.

What is sad and unfortunate for us is that they really believed they could get away with it. Particularly Mayor John Harkins and Town Attorney Tim Bishop (neither of whom had the guts to show up in court, by the way). Harkins went so far as to threaten Town Clerk Susan Pawluk with immediate termination if she accepted the 6,000+ signature petition. Tim Bishop actually believed that a single unrelated sentence in a single paragraph in the entire collection of Connecticut State Statutes would eliminate our First Amendment rights. They really thought no one would care or have the energy to defend our right to vote.

They were wrong.

The seven members on the Council who blithely went along with whatever Harkins wanted no matter what it cost the taxpayer or how negatively it would impact the Town in the future thought they could just vote quietly and be done with it. Some of them even signed the petition so they could claim both positions if they were ever questioned. They truly thought no one would notice how they voted.

They were wrong.

Now it is up to us to make sure that this effort does not go wasted. Surely this mayor and these councilmen will have something else planned that will thwart the will of the people. We must continue to pay attention, act and most importantly, vote. We must do this because

We are right.

Transparent Message

Transparent Message

In a stunning denial of any belief in democracy, Mayor John Harkins rejected out of hand the voters right to petition the government. We have been commenting upon Town politics for nearly ten years. That is a lot of slime and muck to wade through. But we have never witnessed such a blatant disregard for the will of the voter, taxpayers and businesses in Stratford. Never.

To review, Harkins had conducted a secret negotiation with Greater New Haven WPCA to sell our WPCA to them for $11 million. Oh, you will hear lots of different numbers coming out of Town Hall. $16 million, $37 million, pick a number. It doesn’t matter. The deal is $11 million for a $100 million asset plus $10 million per year to Greater New Haven WPCA in revenue. That’s the deal.

Unfortunately for Harkins, he couldn’t just sell it with his signature alone. He needed some weak and stupid councilmen to go along with his plan and sell out Stratford residents. Turns out they were pretty easy to find. Gavin Forrester (R), Joseph Kubic (R), Peter Massey, (R), Brian Dempsey, (R), Ken Poisson (R), James J. Connor, Jr. (R) and Jason W. Santi (D). A little arm twisting from Lou Decilio and Harkins had seven easy votes. But it was a public vote. On the record. That’s when voters became irate. Quite a few in fact.

Nearly 7,000 registered voters (more actually than ever voted for Harkins) signed the petition to stop the sale of our WPCA and let the voters decide on election day whether or not it should be sold.

Let’s make no mistake here. What Harkins did yesterday is send a clear message to every resident of Stratford that they do not have the right to vote on Town issues and that furthermore our right to petition the government as specified in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution is null and void within the Stratford Town limits.

This, my neighbors, is outrageous!

Smear Campaign


Stratford Politics

Stratford mayor: critics waging ‘smear campaign’
John Burgeson

Updated 11:13 pm, Wednesday, April 29, 2015

“The group seeking to scuttle the sale of the waste treatment plant on Birdseye Street is dealing in half-truths and staging a “smear campaign,” according to Mayor John Harkins.”

We are amazed at our great good fortune. We have been treated to several statements lately from Harkins/Decilio that have appeared in the friendly and uncritical local print media. We, of course, will analyze the statements in detail below.

However, we would take a moment here and discuss the purpose of municipal government. This mayor has stated repeatedly that Stratford should not be in the “business” of waste water treatment. We ask, why not? How dissimilar is it from solid waste management. Does that go next? How about fire protection, traffic control, crime, emergency medical services or education? Should municipal government be in those “businesses” either? Why do we need municipal government at all? According to Harkins, we don’t. We as residents will be much better off if private corporations sold us these services for profit. That way we could “vote” by refusing to “buy” these services. We could just let our houses burn down because Fire Department Inc., charges way too much. Or we could refuse to use Stratford EMS Corp because maybe the heart attack will just get better on its own.

An herein lies the problem. Once we sell off municipal services, in this case to the lowest bidder, there will be nothing like the competition that exists in a retail market. The rate we pay will be whatever the company says we pay.

It's your right. Use it when you want.

It’s your right. Use it when you want.

Calling All Volunteers!! VOLUNTEER RALLY
WHEN: Wednesday April 22nd, 7:30-9:00pm
WHERE: Baldwin Center
WHO FOR: For all fully engaged and all who want to be part of the action
WHAT WILL I GET: Volunteer training, information sharing and networking
WHY SHOULD I COME: So many of you have been so successful in just 4 days. Learn all the best practices, tips and techniques for maximizing your time in getting friends, neighbors and fellow citizen to sign the referendum petition.
This is a can’t miss event for all working to make this referendum petition drive a success. We had a huge weekend and expect the next two weeks to put us over the top and reach our goals.
As always, let us know how we can support you and your teams.
Let’s make it happen!!

It doesn’t get more basic than this. There is probably a good reason the right to petition the government is right up there in the very first amendment. Here’s a good reason; the seven councilmen who voted in favor selling our WPCA/Sewer Plant for no benefit to Stratford residents at all do not care anything about their constituents. This couldn’t be more obvious.

In case anyone has forgotten, these seven Councilmen are:

Gavin Forrester (R)
Joseph Kubic (R)
Peter Massey, (R)
Brian Dempsey, (R)
Ken Poisson (R)
James J. Connor, Jr. (R)
Jason W. Santi (D)

Signing the petition is a unique opportunity. It is a voter’s chance to make it clear that Stratford residents pay attention and care about what their municipal government does with our money. To be sure, all ten council members should have stood up to their Mayor and Town Committee Chairman and voted to put the sale of a $100 million asset and ongoing payments up to the voters and residents of Stratford. But they did not.

Now we must.


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