To many Waterbury voters the upcoming election may not seem to be important, because it does not involve issues perceived as crucial to everyday city problems. Waterburians have repeatedly shown how passionate they may become on local issues, while accepting national issues as the “necessary evil”. Next month’s election will be of critical nationwide importance. The period of 2007 – 2008 will include essential steps toward the resolution of the Iraq dilemma and the development of a major recession. The handling of both shall pave the way to the presidential election and hence to a new turn in the historic course of our country. From these will emerge the parameters affecting the lives of our next generation.

On the local scene, representatives we shall send to Hartford will be instrumental in conducting our city’s affairs on the state level vs. the interests of the other cities and towns. This will affect some very important issues concerning finances, grants, education etc.

The senses of the candidates are at their sharpest immediately before the election. Whether they plan to adhere to their platform promises or not, they have to listen and make commitments. As a voter, this is your chance to pin them down and evaluate their agendas.

The war in Iraq may seem a distant event unless one are related to those serving and working there. This, however, is a wrong attitude. First of all, our national standing in the world and energy sources are dependent on the resolution of the Iraq venture. Second, our State economy is heavily dependent on defense industry.

Politicians advocating “getting out of Iraq” fail to articulate the domino effect which would be caused by a sudden slowdown in defense spending. In that we must also consider the Iraq and Afghanistan connected civilian projects. We need people at the helm with ability and resolve to plan for the economic transition.

State prime contractors, like Sikorsky, Pratt & Whitney or Electric Boat, as well as those out of state, radiate employment to subcontractors of all sizes nationwide. Any reduction in orders will be felt throughout the state. The slowdown in automotive manufacturing will be further exacerbated among our local industries. Incomes generated by them support endless businesses, down to mom and pop diners. Even the infamous but lucrative gambling industry depends on that economic infrastructure.

While the housing market in Waterbury is still touted as strong, I would anticipate that the squeeze will come from the side of the banking industry. Latter holds billions of dollars in mortgages on extravagant mansions and projects; any domino effect might start from that direction.

On national scene the voters must take a serious look at the changing balance of power in favor of a third political party. Since 1968 there has been a consistent trend toward a viable independent party. In the 1992 presidential election H. Ross Perot, running as an Independent, garnered close to 20 million votes. There has been a growing dissatisfaction among citizens with the imposition on their rights as practiced by the Republican -Democrat bloc and their ruthless elimination of opposition. Our two-party system has become corrupt and increasingly unable to promote and maintain the principles of American tradition.

The tacit intimidation practiced by the two major parties extends down to the lowest echelons of our administration system. People realize that their livelihood may depend on the official adherence to the Party in power. How they vote in the privacy of the booth is, however, a different matter. In Waterbury, for exammple, in the last municipal election the Independent Party, with only a few hundred of registered members, garnered some 5,000 votes. Then we have the Concerned Citizens Party, Green Party etc. Their following will show in the election. If all those parties here and elsewhere will coalesce some day into a national movement, we might see some meaningful changes. What this country needs is an AMERICAN party, guided by the interests of American citizens.

In the upcoming election attention should be focused on the candidacy of Senator Joe Lieberman, as it will demonstrate the reaction of both the voters and the Democrat Party to someone bucking the political tradition. Not that the Senator is free of political baggage, but we have all observed the juggling of loyalties as the Party stalwarts toed the line. A single senator may not be able to wag the Party policy but, if elected, he will become a symbol of challenge to the established system. Will retribution follow?

It is, therefore, very important that prior to the election people should not only listen to the political rhetoric, but also read the lips of the candidates (both sides of the mouth). Here are some of the issues which should be brought up:

Oversight Board. In order to maintain our budget in the black and justify the dissolution of the Board, the administration has been cutting every corner it could. Defects in the functioning of the administration are being blamed on personnel cuts. While everything is being done to facilitate the real estate development, the city’s infrastructure has been going to pot. Whatever can be swept under the carpet, is. Perversely, there is a perceptible hope that the Board might continue to exist and keep the administration under its protective wings. What will happen to union demands etc. if the Board is no more? Who will continue the “good cop / bad cop” game?

City Hall and the Firehouse(s).To bond or not to bond the $50 million? Do you know what it is for?
The administration and WDC are asking for the money, without having disclosed any firm plans. Nobody seems to know whether the City Hall will be renovated or restored. Which departments will the structure accommodate? Will the firehouse remain in place or be relocated and, if so, what will be the effect on other firehouses? We are given bits and pieces of information which do not jive. Should the people we elect offer some answers? After all, sooner or later they may have to ask for help from Hartford; they better tell us now .

Revaluation. An editorial entitled , “Little to fear from revaluation” (Rep-Am of 9/13/2006) painted the process as so much fun. It states, “…if a value of a house doubles, assessments should reflect that.” It then continues with the reassurance that a resulting lower tax rate may only minimally affect our taxes. Let’s assume this would be true. However, the “doubling” of the home values has been due to a market balloon which is already beginning to deflate. No Tax Assessor would revise the inflated values downward when the market will hit the bottom. Hence, the homeowners would be paying taxes on fictitious real estate values. If the tax rate would sink dramatically as Mr. Mr. David Dietsch proposes, businesses and industries might find Waterbury more attractive. True. However, the middle class citizens would continue their exodus, making the revaluation a Pyrrhic victory.

Jobs. The unemployment in Waterbury is the highest in the State. We apparently have lost 3,000 jobs in 14 months (Rep-Am of 9/23/06). I have asked again and again for some comment on job training. There has been a total silence. If the city proceeds with all the construction work it has on schedule, where will the workers come from? What has happened to the “Good Jobs” project? Could it be possible that our community totally lacks people willing to learn a trade? Would our elected delegates bring this matter to the table in Hartford or Washington?

Illegal Immigration. We may not have the problem faced by Danbury but, sooner or later, especially if the national economy will slow down, the overflow will reach us here. Would there be any plan to deal with a spike in jobless and welfare recipients? The crime statistics may still be low in Waterbury, but that could change quickly. The Capitol Hill denizens may have lofty plans but, ultimately, the cities and towns will have to foot the bills.

Education. We have a problem with the quality of education, as shown by the statistical data. Public attention may be focused on new schools, but will the problems be alleviated? We may be a “welcoming city”, but how does it benefit the young generation? As the parents and teachers are gradually abrogating their responsibility in shaping the young minds, the discipline in our schools is being ceded to the police! There is the general perception that it is up to the higher education institutions to provide the next generation with the needed skills.

The fallacy of this theory will be painfully felt in very near future. If our state economy is to retain its viability, we must ensure a uniform growth of new workforce at every level. We cannot sustain our economy on increasing numbers of college graduates with non-marketable degrees and dwindling numbers of trained industrial workers. More emphasis must be placed on high school education, since it is here where students obtain the ability to intelligently select the skills for their eventual careers. Politically correct methods, such as the bilingual education, are wasteful in the sense that they produce functional illiterates, unable to fully perform in either language. However, Spanish should be mandatory as a second language in all public schools, since most people will find it essential in the future.

Water. So far the citizens of Waterbury have prevailed in retaining control over this most valuable commodity. This has not happened thanks to our elected officials. This issue has not evaporated – it hangs over our heads like the proverbial sword of Damocles. Water is fast becoming a top target of international speculators and the value of this public asset is skyrocketing.

Our pension fund deficit still exists, but nobody is inclined to talk about it any more. Like in a well orchestrated play, both the administration and our politicians have hidden the issue from the public. It is destined to reappear when least expected. Let us not forget the sneaky way in which our elected representatives approved the amendment which would have facilitated the sale of the city water. Potential buyers and speculators have simply been advised to be patient and wait for the right moment. This may be a reason why the water bottling proposal has been allowed to wither on the vine. The “forces of evil” must simply expect higher profits from sale of the city property than bottled water.

Energy. Local politicians may claim that they have no control over the international energy market. However, on the State level they carry a lot of weight. Supply and generation of energy for the Connecticut consumers is being manipulated in the worst way. Projects like the “Broadwater” liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage on Long Island Sound, new power plants etc. are being stiffed at our expense. How come it is safe to have a towering LNG tank in the middle of our South End, but not miles away from populated areas? If countries like France can rely on nuclear power plants, why can’t we build new ones? It smells like private interests blocking the way.

Before November 7th demand answers and on Election Day vote your conscience and patriotism. Get informed and use the one right that is still left to us!