Dr. John Foley and Rodney Pinkham have had enough.
The two Republican members of the Representative Town Meeting both told Patch Sunday night that they would not seek re-election for the 22-member committee. Both said they were focusing on other areas in politics, and both complained about the inability of the RTM to make an impact and the lack of leadership in either party.
“What do we do?” Pinkham said. “We don’t really do anything.”
Said Foley: “I have better things to do. There is a failure of leadership (in the RTM).”
Both men, at different times during the budget hearings earlier this month, walked out of meetings due to frustration. Both tried to , although all of there cuts were rejected by the RTM.
“We actually added $2,000 to the budget this time around,” Foley said. “That’s when I realized I probably had better things to do with my time.”
Foley was frustrated by the way administration has negotiated contracts. Recently, the firefighters union, the administrators union and the police union all received contracts with raises.
The RTM was unhappy with all three, but . First Selectman Dan Steward has said that the contracts are the best the town can hope for, because the town has such a large general fund. Union arbitrators vote on the town’s ability to pay, and with such a large general fund (more than $9 million), they will say Waterford can pay, and side with the unions.
“We are negotiating these contracts in fear,” Foley said. “And then it comes to the RTM, and we approve them, because we are told we can’t do better.”
Steward defended his ability to negotiate, stating that he saved the town thousands of dollars in legal fees by not fighting more. Even if they had spent more money, the town would not likely win anyway, Steward said.
“If you took away the ($1.2 million increase) in retirement, I came in with a (flat) budget,” Steward said.
Foley disagreed, saying administration should argue for a flat salary, and then concessions in the health care. If the union achieves the same salary as it did last year, that would be a win for them, he said.
Pinkham echoed similar sentiments, saying the RTM has no clear plan of what it wants to do. In December, Pinkham fought hard to get a resolution passed to honor the , and even that was strongly opposed, Pinkham said.
“We can’t even pass a simple resolution,” Pinkham said.
Ironically, the Legislative and Administrative standing committee of the RTM is proposing the RTM avoid making resolutions in the future. The RTM will vote on the matter at its next meeting.
Recent Budget Hearings
The RTM added just over $2,000 this budget year. This is because of the new ordinance, where the board of selectmen reviews the budget, Steward said.
“Three commissions see this budget before the RTM sees it,” he said. “All the low-hanging fruit is gone by the time it got to the RTM. I think that lead to some of their frustration.”
Steward said RTM members could have come to the board of selectmen meetings or the board of finance meetings to voice their displeasure with the budgets, but none did, he said. By the time the RTM got it, all the cuts left “would damage the community,” Steward said.
“The RTM is the chief legislative body of the town; it isn’t the chief fiduciary body,” Steward said. “You need to know your role.”
The RTM should tell the board of selectmen what it “wants to cut,” Steward said. That never happened this budget cycle, he said.
Foley plans to spend more time fighting against the new federal health care law supported by President Barack Obama. The new laws will make health care more expensive and hurts the nation, Foley said.
Pinkham plans to focus his . Pinkham is the chairman of the commission.
“I believe we are currently underutilized,” Pinkham said.