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Fairfield First Selectman Candidates Face Off

Bellitto, Tetreau, and Dolan took to the stage to answer questions at a forum hosted by the Rotary Club of Fairfield.

The three candidates for the town’s highest leadership position participated in a forum to discuss town issues Monday. The forum is a regular event hosted by the during every First Selectman election season.

Current First Selectman (Democrat); current Vice Chairman (Republican); and Fairfield firefighter (Independent) answered questions posed by the Rotary Club and members of the audience.

Here’s what each candidate had to say regarding the following topics: 

Candidates’ Qualifications

  • Rob Bellitto: “You have to be someone who is honest, fair, and listens.” Bellitto said he is that someone for Fairfield.
  • Hugh Dolan: Dolan believes the town must utilize the “2,000 well-trained employees in this town,” and his ability to manage the town’s resources to “maximize return to taxpayers” – and he said he is the candidate who can do that.
  • Michael Tetreau: Tetreau touted his 25 years of experience in project management in the private sector: “the town is a $260 million operation…like any CEO, you need planning and vision.” He added, “it starts with having a serious plan that addresses where we are going, and what numbers we have to hit to get there.”

 

  • Rob Bellitto: “Flatto put the town on the hook…additional income? Haven’t seen it yet…that being said, there is a lot of potential.” He added that the town needs to lure businesses into the space and to market its proximity to mass transit. “We need, in the future, to have project managers manage these projects from beginning to end and all points in between.”
  • Hugh Dolan: “All of town government is responsible for this,” Dolan said, regarding the cost overruns. “We should put a hotel there, retail space must be rented.”
  • Michael Tetreau: The Metro Center presents an opportunity to “market the whole town – not just the center. This is about Fairfield.” He added that there are smaller costs ahead, but it will in the end bring a lot of revenue – a “golden egg” for the town. “It’s a model for commercial space,” placing commercial interest and transportation together.

Economic Development (framed as each candidate’s vision for the town, five years from now)

  • Rob Bellitto: “I see Fortune 500 companies on Commerce Drive.” He wants the town to be a place where people work and live.
  • Hugh Dolan: “We don’t need just burger-flipping jobs; we need careers.” He wants to see Fortune 500 and NASDAQ companies investing in the town. “We can become the technological center of the U.S., right here in Fairfield County,” – thanks to the location between Hartford and New York, which can be maximized, he said.
  • Michael Tetreau: “While we’re out getting new businesses, we need to keep old businesses.” He said the town can learn from businesses currently in town, learn what they value – that will help lure new businesses in.

Education (framed as each candidate’s vision for the town’s school system, five years from now)

  • Rob Bellitto: “I have three children…I want to see a day when there’s no overcrowding in the schools and redistricting is a thing of the past.” He said that he wants to look back and make sure “my children and your children go to high quality schools” – at lower costs to taxpayers.
  • Hugh Dolan:  His mantra: “Reduce costs and maximize cost savers.” He added, “get money to the teachers, and it will get to reading, writing, and arithmetic that goes to the kids.”
  • Michael Tetreau: “We’ve got a high quality education system,” he said, and added that is prepared him to be a competitive student at Princeton University. “We want to be a model for quality and productivity.”

and Prioritizing Capital Planning

  • Rob Bellitto: “We’ve had a limited budget since I was elected to the Board of Finance in 2007. We can’t keep asking taxpayers to pay more and more and more.” The capital projects he would address first are those falling under the categories of public safety (i.e. buildings that need renovating) and capacity (such as overcrowded schools).  Another issue to address with spending is the collective bargaining process: “The First Selectman is the representative of the taxpayers” during collective bargaining, he said. “That’s been a little forgotten over the past few years. ­
  • Hugh Dolan: “We need to do an operational audit from top to bottom that stakeholders and own and participate in.” When he worked for American Can Company, he helped run audits that resulted in $350 million in savings. He believes audits are necessary “in order to reduce cost of expenses and burden on taxpayers.”
  • Michael Tetreau: “It all starts with a plan and a strategy. We suffer from a lack of a five-year plan.” He said officials can’t put together a plan “unless the and the town are working together.” He also said “we need to put together workshops for our citizens…get their input and advice.”

Services for Seniors

  • Rob Bellitto: He promoted expansion of the senior tax relief – “give them a straight-up credit…reward them for their longevity in the town.” He said seniors are the “backbone of town” and the town needs to maintain services that cater to seniors.
  • Hugh Dolan: “I want to invite seniors to contribute to the cost-saving [strategies]…they know what’s wrong with this town.” His bottom line: “I want to make it affordable…want to deliver services required at a lower cost.”
  • Michael Tetreau: Tetreau wants to survey seniors to find ways to improve the senior center, and to find out what seniors who don’t use it want to see there.  “We need to go to other towns, find out who’s doing it better” for seniors, he said, and learn from them. He agreed with expanding the senior tax relief program. “The bar is set too low – we can do better.”  He added that there must be more affordable senior housing and the town needs to plan for it.

Youth Services

  • Rob Bellitto: A proponent of youth recreation, Bellitto said, “kids need to stay active; it’s good for the town, it’s good for them.” He said it keeps their minds sharp, their bodies fit. Playing sports and other physical activities teaches kids responsibility, Bellitto said.
  • Hugh Dolan: “I will work with parents, teachers, and kids to deliver the same services at lower costs.”
  • Michael Tetreau: “Sports are important,” he said, “but youth activities are more than just sports.” He added that programs that included the arts, cultural topics and non-athletic nutritional activities are important and need to be expanded.  Also, having children volunteer “teaches students to be more active in the community.”
kylie October 18, 2011 at 12:34 PM
This is a great summary of the event. Bellitto has the vision, experience and level head to help get this town back on the right track.
Stanley Simpleton October 18, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Unfortunately, nothing interesting or original was shared by the candidates in this debate. At least the lawyer and real estate agent are getting free advertising/name recognition from all of this.
Brian Spilner October 18, 2011 at 02:05 PM
No new ideas? Were you not there? Bellitto shared some great ideas on welcoming businesses into town helping take some of the tax burden off the residents of Fairfield. We have never had anyone as invested in the town as Rob. Raising 3 kids in town (in the public school system), life long resident, CHOSE to work in town and owns a small business, and a taxpayer... Tetreau cant say any of those things! HE doesnt even pay taxes to the town because he RENTS! What a joke!
Stanley Simpleton October 18, 2011 at 03:39 PM
Mr. Spilner, I agree with most of your points, particularly those regarding Mr. Tetreau. However, I didn't walk away from the debate with a sense that any of the candidates stood out from the pack with a well thought out, tangible solution to address the Town's growing financial challenges.
kylie October 18, 2011 at 05:18 PM
I thought Tetreau was a Real Estate agent, what other business did he run? That's important info to have out there.
Caitlin Mazzola (Editor) October 18, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Kylie, he was a project manager and a management consultant for various operations for 25 years before entering the real estate business. That should say something more along the lines of business background, not owner. My apologies – thank you for catching that.
Anthony Buglino October 19, 2011 at 12:24 AM
So Tetreau, Flatto's handpicked successor lied about running a business? What other layers of deception can be pulled back about Tetreau's character, what do we really know about this guy?
Anthony Buglino October 19, 2011 at 12:27 AM
I agree, Belitto pays taxes, has children in the school system, what does Tetreau have? He does not own property, apparently he does not have a family except for Flatto, what is he really all about? What do we not know about this guy? What is his truth?
Caitlin Mazzola (Editor) October 19, 2011 at 12:28 AM
That was more of a typo on my part – Mike Tetreau spoke during the forum about his experience as a project manager and consultant before moving into the real estate business (story's been edited to reflect that).
Pi October 19, 2011 at 01:26 AM
Why does it matter if Tetreau rents or owns property? Part of his rent is used by his landlord to pay his taxes. If the taxes go up for the landlord, rent is going to go up for Tetreau. He may not pay taxes directly but he definitely pays taxes. I feel like quite a few people are focused on such small issues that it just leaves a huge window for the big issues to stay the same.
kylie October 19, 2011 at 02:48 AM
It's not a small issue, the rent argument is silly. Everyone knows the owner collects and pays the taxes. It takes moxie to ask people who OWN property and all of the expenses attached to that, have committed to the town with that purchase and who have little control over the future tax bills to vote for someone who doesn't share that same burden. It's a large issue to everyone I've spoken to. I'm impressed by Bellitto on many levels and the property issue has nothing to do with my support of him. A non-property owner would never get my vote for BOF or Selectman.
kylie October 19, 2011 at 02:54 AM
The big issues to me are; attracting large business' to town without tax amnesty, supporting small business' so they can thrive, control over BOE administration salaries/ perks and, hiring qualified people for town jobs who aren't owed favors.
Jim Eastwood October 19, 2011 at 10:37 AM
Good Morning Fairfield !!!! Just a little late in reading !!!!! Interesting !!!! With all the missing $$$$ Train Station etc what are the real issues?? Ah but the Taxpayers just pay and Pay !!!!! Perhaps we need to question ourselves. Oh by the way "Newcomer" What are your concerns about the Pension for mr Dolan--He pays into his !!!! What about mr Flatto (No one Mentions) who stayed excatly long enough to Obtain HIS !!!!! Hey Newcomer Wake Up there are more issues that Mr Dolan's Pension---I Commend Him for Running !! Have a Great Day !!
OneFairfield October 19, 2011 at 01:18 PM
Tetreau was the professional at the debate. He gave well thought out answers because he has real solutions. Belitto has nothing to offer. He has no plan. He has no vision. Tetreau as a real estate agent knows what people want and need. He is with real people everyday.Tetreau went to Fairfield public schools and priceton and has worked and managed in the private sector. Belitto lead a sheltered life never leaving Fairrfield, going to a a private school and Fairfield U. The best he could do is work for his Dad. Wow!
OneFairfield October 19, 2011 at 02:03 PM
Belitto only pays $6500 in property taxes yet has 4 kids in the school system! he is getting a great deal!
Faith October 19, 2011 at 02:50 PM
It's politically correct for all of them to say expand senior tax relief. Senior tax relief has expanded to include those making up to $65,000 dollars who are over 65 or disabled. How about those 55, 45, 35, 25 making less than that and struggling to pay a mortgage or rent. Seniors often have their mortgage paid, and no need for savings for retirement or college costs for their kids. I am nearly a senior and consider this age discrimmination.
kylie October 19, 2011 at 02:50 PM
Three kids and he has a tax bill to pay, you're funny.
Anthony Buglino October 19, 2011 at 07:18 PM
Bottomline is that Tetreau is Flatto's handpicked successor, does Fairfield really need another democrat like Flatto. I sincerely believe that Tetreau knew about the overruns at the train station while his buddy was still in office and conveniently "discovered" the overruns. If you believe that he had no knowledge of this prior to becoming interim selectman I got a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you. Face it Fairfield you are being taken yet again by a schmuck. I still want to know more about Tetreau he seems to have no personal connections other that Flatto. I don't count his brother either.
OneFairfield October 19, 2011 at 07:42 PM
Flatto would have hand picked anyone but Tetreau!
Pi October 19, 2011 at 08:12 PM
You do realize that both Bellitto and Tetreau were both on the board of finance with this metro station, right? How you can say Tetreau knew about it and Bellitto didn't is amazing especially considering it was Tetreau who had the metro stations reports run and released.
fairfield AA October 19, 2011 at 10:49 PM
Caitlin -- i encourage you to do some research and fact checking on Mr. Tetreau's resume. A reference check perhaps! I think you will find inaccuracies and holes in his checkered employment past. He hardly has the real credentials to run a business (or town) as it's CEO. I'm surprised the media and others haven't made a bigger deal about the fact that Tetreau pays no taxes here (nor does anyone in his extended family), moved his parents out of town, has no children in the school system and never has but yet some want to allow this man to determine how much we each pay through mill rate inreases and the like. A renter can pick up and move tomorrow.....and no longer live here...haven't we made big stinks about other officials and their residency. Just because people thought his father was a good coach doesn't make him First Selectman material.
Kate Vega October 19, 2011 at 11:32 PM
Seniors don't have kids in schools ,actually they really only have The Senior Center since Tetreau took away the Gould Manor Park. They deserve a tax break, home school your kid , drive them to and from sport event that you pay for and then we can talk about giving you a tax break too
Kate Vega October 19, 2011 at 11:39 PM
Tetreau answers were akin to a operator of a shell game. He's a true Politcian. Speaks well and gave no real answers. He's been a salesman for a long time. Pays little to no taxes and keeps the taxpayers bent over every chance he gets!
lbh October 21, 2011 at 12:26 AM
I am a little worried about bringing in all these big businesses to the Commerce Drive area. I envision another Stamford. Bigger tax base but more crime. It is not worth it. As a life long resident of Fairfield, I long for a candidate like Jacky Durrell who once ran on the slogan "Keep Fairfield Special." There is nothing special about Fairfield anymore. The small town feel is gone, the roads have turned into mini-highways and commerical business are necessary to support the overgrown town budget.
Hugh Dolan October 25, 2011 at 04:55 AM
Newcomer-- you are obviously not listening well.Who else has proposed an Operational Audit of the entire town,with the cooperation and input of all stake holders, to save the town $ 21 Million ? Who else has proposed paying off the bom\nds of the town, using the money hidden in the na\bank accounts over many years--money that is NOT needed for current operations, and that really belongs to the taxpayer, anyway ? Who else, Newcomer, has proposed putting ALL the liabilities on a self-sustaining basis,so the taxpayers are not caught down the road. Both Mr. Tetreau and Mr. Bellitto are happy just to keep kicking the can further away-- which worsens the problem. I am the only candidate who will bring all parties together to secure the town's future. Allow me to ask, please,a question: If I was the head of YOUR work place, and YOU also paid into "our" pension, would you so flippantly conclude "you won't hear any ideas from Dolan on the pension-- because he'll receive one"? Wouldn't you expect someone who has some skin in the game to be interested in working for a long-term solution? From my proposals to streamline management, improve health care delivery, reduce the scope of the Board of Ed's responsibility, have open financial reporting, instill solid project management, and reduce the bonded indebtedness, only omebody not listening would not hear my proposals for Fairfield. Hugh Dolan, First Selectman Candidate of the Independent Party.
Hugh Dolan October 25, 2011 at 05:22 AM
People that believe in a town usually buy property in the town. They support the town, and it's programs , every time they pay their taxes. Even if you are paying the mortgage, the taxes are specifically stated. Not true when you rent. Taxes are far more remote, and, often, they are divided up amongst multiple tenants, any particular person's piece of the tax bill is neglible. But, more importantly-- we see how fast Mr. Flatto hoofed it out of here as the Metro was blowing up! A First Selectman who doesn't even own a home here can take off any time-- leaving the residents and taxpayers to pick up the pieces.And worse- he's a Realtor. If a Realtor isn't even confident enough to buy a home in Fairfield, why should anybody else ? But a realtor who is willing to keep spending taxpayers money to build the Education Kingdom ever larger, while he doesn't own property here is beyond understanding.I have proposed taking away from the Bd of Education those areas where the town could better manage , and reduce costs. I have proposed an Operational Audit of all departments,to enlist our employees in a great effort of delivering top-flight services at less cost. Neither Mr.Tetreau of Mr.Bellitto have been willing to join me in this epoch struggle to "Cut expenses- Cut taxes". That's what the people need, and that's what my administration will deliver. Hugh Dolan, First Selectman Candidate of the Independent Party
Hugh Dolan October 25, 2011 at 05:34 AM
Well said, L Holden. Keep Fairfield Special. The big developers that Mr. Flatto kissed up to, who are now pouring buckets of cash into Mt. Tetreau's coffers, have resulted in big box , inhuman stores and warehoues who could give two hoots about Fairfield. QAnd these Landlords " warehouse" their properties, since they control almost all of Black Rock tpk and the Post Road. Small town merchants have a tough go at it, because the rent hy\urdle is so darn high. The Lanlords just wait until another chain bited\s on the bait-- the heck with small town merchants, they say. The rents are so high, even the restraurants go out just as fast as they open up. And, while they make interseting dining for a while, they offer no long term careers to residents or taxpayers-- they hire out of towners, part-timers, people without any connection to a " Special Fairfield ". We will work to attract businesses that will offer careers for our people. Hugh Dolan, First Selectman Candidate.
Brian Spilner October 25, 2011 at 09:08 PM
Better deal than paying NO taxes to the town at all and magically being appointed interim First Selectman??? I think not! Yes folks, its true! Tetreau does not pay A DIME in taxes to the town of Fairfield. This is a fact! Just go to town hall and take a look for yourself! In fact, he hasn't paid any taxes to the town since 2005! CRAZY. The same people who caused the metro center debacle, hand selected Tetreau, and this guy doesn't even own property, have a family, or invest in Fairfield... This town is turning into Bridgeport fast. WE NEED A CHANGE
John Rodriguez October 25, 2011 at 09:17 PM
Yes, we should run this town more like the "American Can Company," as Mr. Dolan constantly loves to reference... And what happened to American Can? It dissolved into a financial conglomerate in 1987, you know it now as Primerica... What a great model for our town and local businesses! So much for Mr. Dolan being Mr. Small business... How many people lost their "careers" in that merger Hugh? If you ask me there is only one choice in this race. The only one who pays taxes to the town, who has kids in the school system, and who has lived here all of his life.
Atrebor October 28, 2011 at 08:45 PM
Bellitto is costing us a ton of money. He only pays $5000 in taxes yet sends his 4 kids to our public schools at a cost to taxpayers of atleast $36,000 per year or over $450,000 lifetime.

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