As a lifelong Republican, I can no longer support the Avon Republican Town Committee in the upcoming November elections. Although I appreciate the service that many of the individual candidates on the Board of Education and the Town Council continue to provide for our community, the messaging that is being presented by the RTC is filled with deceptions and fabrications. The arrogance of their leadership is appalling to any intelligent person who has lived in and worked for successful schools and infrastructure within our community. It is despicable behavior. As a Republican, if you dare to disagree with them you are basically excluded from the local party. When I arrived in the community nearly 10 years ago I was proud to be a local Republican, a member of the party that associated itself with the likes of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole. Today, the leadership of the RTC more closely resembles Senator Ted Cruz, Congresswomen Michelle Bachmann, and the Tea Party. The same Tea Party initiatives that have created the financial stranglehold that exists in Washington in an effort to provide extremely low government services for our people have found their way into the Avon community thanks to leadership of the RTC.
The Republican leadership takes credit for everything that is seen as positive in our community whether it is schools, recreation, safety, senior services, quality of life, or the highly touted AAA bond rating. They are obsessed with low taxes and low spending, at any cost, and fail to see the long-term consequences of these actions. According to Connecticut Magazine, a publication that the RTC has used numerous times in the past for bragging rights, Avon has slipped from #3 to #11. Although there will be no yard signs or household mailings from the RTC announcing this recent demerit, and they will not indicate how property values can be negatively effected by no longer being seen as the top town, it does bring up a good question that voters need to ask themselves: What exactly has the Republican leadership provided for our community, and how will their actions affect our future?
It is arrogant to assume that quality schools are due to Republican leadership, yet that is what the yard signs provided by the RTC indicate. One of the key accomplishments they tout for this year was the introduction of full-day kindergarten to our elementary schools – an initiative that, in fact, two of the Board of Education Republicans voted down. Those same two candidates voted against the proposed school budget. I have been involved in education for most of my adult life, and quality schools are a result of parental involvement, excellent teaching, a strong and supportive administration, and a curriculum that looks to the future needs of its students, not the involvement of any one political party. The fact is that under Republican leadership Avon no longer enjoys the status of the number one school. Our curriculum is dated and lacks proper offerings in business, language arts, science, theater, and world affairs; offerings that surrounding schools such as Simsbury, Glastonbury, Farmington, and West Hartford have continued to increase over the past decade. Extra school fees charged to parents for programs and supplies are at an all time high; tax-paying parents are expected to absorb costs that the town can’t or won’t cover. Under Republican leadership Avon schools went for over a decade without a long-range strategic plan. Imagine a $50,000,000.00 a year business with no long-range strategic plan in place. Additionally, Avon has the lowest per student spending of any school in the Farmington Valley. Is this really something for Republicans to be proud of? Obviously the RTC feels that it is, regardless of the negative effect that it places on our families and children.
I would also remind the RTC that they did not lead the way on school safety after the Newtown tragedy, concerned parents, teachers, and school administrators did. Numerous parents sat in the BOE meetings, wrote letters, made calls, sent emails, met with school administrators, and spoke with our Congressmen and State officials. During this process many parents were frustrated because Avon was one of the last towns in the area to implement major changes in our safety policies. While Avon officials contemplated which board would pay for the cost, or whether the sacred “rainy day fund” would need to be considered, Glastonbury, West Hartford, and other communities were immediately passing resolutions and making significant changes to protect their children. I would remind the Avon Republicans that it was a Democratic Governor and legislature that demanded that schools make these changes. Shame on the RTC for politicizing an issue such as child safety in an election year after such a devastating tragedy as Newtown.
When the RTC and their candidates take credit for “quality of life” issues what exactly are they referring to? Sidewalks barely exist in Avon and have been a point of contention with seniors and parents for many years. The new stoplight and sidewalk project that the RTC refers to on Lovely Street was actually advocated for by the Unplugged Learning Project, not the Republicans. The new tennis courts at the AMS were a result of the non-profit ACORN, which funded and did virtually everything to secure these new courts, not the Republicans. The new score board at AHS was a result of the work of the Booster Club, not the Republicans. Republican leaders in Avon had to be shamed into connecting the recreational trails between Farmington and Simsbury and we were the last community in the Farmington Valley to provide that service to its citizens. Senior tax relief services are not widely used because the income mandates put in place by the Republicans to qualify are too low. As to their boasting about the storm clean up, really, what were they going to do leave the trees blocking the streets? This was of course partially funded by the State and FEMA. The fact is that Republican leadership has spent very little money on “quality of life” issues that they were not forced in to a corner on. Taking credit for other people’s advocating and hard work seems to be a norm for the RTC, and while typical of their behavior is beyond shameful.
A small community such as Avon should not struggle amongst itself. It should not plot old against young, parents with young children against those whose children are grown, or even Republicans against Democrats. A community such as Avon should work together to create lasting solutions to the challenges of maintaining our roads and infrastructure, providing not good but great education for our children, and for dealing with the ever-increasing needs of our senior citizens. For that to happen we need a new balance in our community. For too long the Republican Party has held all of the control and it is time to make a significant change.
Until the RTC comes out from behind closed doors and openly works with members of both parties, regardless of their disagreements, I am one Republican who will support the Democrats in the local elections to be held on November 5th.
Mitchell Piper, Resident