Musing on Tetreau’s smoke and mirrors at the grocery store

To the Editor:

Of late, Democratic First Selectman Mike Tetreau has turned to bemoaning the fiscally responsible actions of RTM Republicans in the press, on social media, and via the town’s blog. All of this has recently led a neighbor of mine to stop me in the grocery store to ask, “Why all the hubbub from Tetreau these days?” Why is he criticizing RTM Republicans, who voted to maintain full funding for our top-notch schools, public safety departments, parks & recreation facilities, roads, and our libraries — all the while driving down the local tax rate?

I told him that this is what is known in politics as the “art of deflection,” and went on to explain that the entire fiscal mess in Fairfield and every other municipality in Connecticut now rests squarely on the shoulders of Gov. Dan Malloy and the Democratic majorities in Hartford. As the nonprofit and nonpartisan news outlet CT Mirror reported on Aug. 9, Malloy continues to advocate that municipalities like the Town of Fairfield be required to pay monies to the state to cover the $400 million underfunded teacher pension fund, which historically has been a state obligation.

My neighbor smiled and said, “Ah, I get it — Tetreau won’t criticize members of his own party for setting up these fiscal problems, and would rather twist the conversation to place blame onto the RTM Republicans ahead of November’s municipal elections.”

Indeed, I noted that, just last week, Tetreau reported that the town had stopped paving roads as of July 1 and that the library would be reducing its hours of operation come mid-August and how, consistent with his modus operandi,  Tetreau has taken to social media to blame RTM Republicans for these actions. I added how Tetreau likes to disregard the important role of checks and balances in our town government provided by both the Board of Finance and the RTM.

At this point, our exchange had become so engrossing that the cashier asked us both to move our carts up for checkout. I pointed out to my neighbor that the RTM set the service level for town departments when it approved the 2017-18 fiscal year budget this past May. It is the first selectman’s job, as the town’s chief administrator, to execute these approved services and, if there are budgetary shortfalls, to go before the Board of Finance to discuss or request more monies (if necessary) to keep town services optimized.

Fast-forward three months, and the Town of Fairfield is now in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, with first quarter tax payments rolling in, and every town department flush with new appropriations — and Tetreau is closing the library early and cutting paving?

Tetreau’s actions ignore the will of the people, as expressed by the RTM, which I reminded my neighbor stands for Representative Town Meeting. Local taxpayers chose to pay for their roads to be paved, for the potholes to be fixed, and for their award-winning libraries to be fully open for operation for the entire year through the actions taken by their RTM representatives this past May. What’s more, the Town of Fairfield has some $30 million of taxpayer funds in its surplus account (which may or may not make sense to tap for budget shortfalls generated by the state’s gross mismanagement under Malloy).

As we walked to the parking lot with our grocery carts full and the sun beginning to peek through the clouds, I concluded the conversation by stating that, as a member of the RTM, I fully support the votes that the RTM Republican majority took this past budget cycle, and that Tetreau should own up to his actions and take responsibility for reducing road paving measures and closing our libraries early because these were his and no one else’s decisions.

To that my neighbor lifted his shoulders, shook his head, and smiled, saying, “Well, we do need to give Tetreau some credit. He has truly mastered the use of smoke and mirrors to shift the blame onto others. I’ll be sure to take his next missive to the community with a grain of salt.”

We both then departed the parking lot for our respective homes to unpack groceries, having agreed to have another catch up over a beer, once college football season starts in a few weeks.

Michael Herley

RTM District 10

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