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Melissa Kane

Running for First Selectman

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Party: Democrat

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Marital Status: married

Current Residence: Westport

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Why are you running for this office?
I am concerned for our community right now. I feel over the last four years we have missed a lot of opportunities to make effective changes – from traffic to infrastructure to senior housing. And it is catching up with us. Westport needs a leader who does not shy away from tough decisions. Westport needs a fresh perspective town we say we are – even if it makes us uncomfortable. I decided to run for first selectman because I’ve had experience on the ground –working with 3000 opinions on the Downtown Plan, representing my district on the RTM - on many different committees - where I’ve realized that my convictions, my temperament, and my ability to take action, make me the right person for this job. So - I’ll help keep Westport sustainable and vibrant, and I’ll love doing it.
What is the most pressing local issue facing your community and how would you solve it (within the capacity of the office for which you are running)?
Preservation of our town's character and values: We treasure and will better maintain the charm of our neighborhoods, our environment and our many town assets. Repairs at Compo have been ignored for too long. We will get those bathrooms replaced. We will preserve the Cribari Bridge, essential to Saugatuck’s heritage and character. We value our seniors, who built Westport, and we'll take action on senior housing, not capitulate to the P&Z's shortsighted decision on Baron's South. All of these actions describe a more assertive style of leadership which puts Westporters' needs first, not political calculation.
With the state's ongoing budget crisis looming over the election, what are your plans for your community's budget? Is there anything you can do make your town less dependent on revenue from the state?
We’ve got to deal with the crisis in Hartford, so were going work with our legislators - from both sides of the aisle -- to make sure that towns like Westport are not singled out for unfair treatment. Obviously, we are going to continue to pay down our debt – the scheduling of which was established long before the current administration took office - and we’re going to complete major pension contract negotiations. We are going to aggressively reduce unnecessary expenses wherever possible. That comes in the form of combining town and school back office support systems and assessing the logic and cost effectiveness of our permitting processes. And we do not currently have an economic sustainability plan -- so I will implement one from the start, informed by the input of Westport’s business community, with whom I have already been meeting, that will support and promote the growth of our commercial tax base in order to keep the burden off of homeowners.
The legislature has been debating various ideas to allow towns to raise revenue locally through something other than property taxes. If you could ease your residents' property tax burden by adding another method of taxation, is there anything you might consider for your town?
Westporters pay their fair share of taxes already. Our income taxes support many of the critical functions of the state. The conveyance taxes on property sales, which was supposed to be a temporary tax, contribute more to the state budget than most municipalities. Westporters want the state to address its own fiscal problems and not shift them to our town.
Are you in favor of regionalizing more services in conjunction with other nearby communities? If so, which ones?
With the decline of state grant funding, particularly for towns like Westport, it will be very hard to keep taxes flat unless we modernize municipal government. The current administration has been slow to investigate and pursue efficiencies like combining with other towns to share equipment or combine basic back office services. It's taken years to implement consolidation of emergency response call center services, as low hanging fruit as there can be -- and we're still waiting! Ther's much more that can be done with effective leadership, rather than timid reliance on the status quo.
Should your school district get the same amount of education funding from the state if your district's enrollment is dropping?
No, but that's never been a problem for Westport. It has always been a school system which has attracted families and countered the general trend to declining enrollments. Nonetheless, we have seen state education funds disappear in favor of funding the cities. WE are committed to maintaining a best-in-class educational system even without any state aid.
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