Update, 10:15 p.m.:
Video of the debate — courtesy of — is now available above. The recording has been split into individual questions.
Both Thursday's debate and Tuesday's League of Women Voters Candidates' Night will be rebroadcast periodically by TV79 leading up to the Nov. 8 election.
Republican Jayme Stevenson, Democrat John Lundeen, and Ultra-Conservative Chris Noe came together Thursday morning at the for a third and final debate of first selectman candidates ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
The event — moderated by the editors of the Darien Times, The Daily Darien, and Darien Patch — featured nine media-moderated questions and a two-minute closing statement by each candidate.
Several dozen people attended the debate, which came about and between the campaigns over location and timing.
The candidates previously met for a Channel 12 debate , organized by the League of Women Voters. The proposed shuffle of municipal facilities — which had dominated much of the conversation at Tuesday's event — came up for discussion again at Thursday's rematch but played a less prominent role.
Below are several excerpts from candidates' responses. Further material — including TV79's recording of the event — will be posted here shortly.
As first selectman, what would you do if the Representative Town Meeting votes [against your stance] on the shuffle?
- NOE: I don't think there's anything I can do.
- LUNDEEN: If the vote were to pass at the RTM meeting, we've had some discussions about exactly what the options are that are available to us. I think that in the most recent term, the current first selectman has taken the opportunity to change plans that had already been put in place prior to his taking office. ... As my first act, I would make sure that we agree to separate the question of disposition of the old library building from the question of what to do with the senior center. I think it's important to proceed on the question of rebuilding the senior center, and I believe that an even quicker approach to that is without waiting for any reconstruction of any intervening buildings at the town level.
- STEVENSON: If the shuffle doesn't pass, I will be clearly disappointed, because I do believe — as do many people in our community — that this is an exceptionally good plan that solves a variety of issues. However, I understand that the RTM decides. The RTM is representative of the community. My hope is that RTM members are in fact out asking their constituents what they feel about this project. And if the project doesn't pass, then my first order of business is to keep the highlight on the seniors. We will be left with a still-crumbling facility at Edgerton, and it will be incumbent on me to make sure that the seniors' needs come first and foremost. But I sincerely hope that I will instead be planning the grand opening of the Mather Community Center.
Besides the facility shuffle, in one sentence tell us what the next capital project is that the town needs.
- LUNDEEN: I'm not sure that there is an obvious next capital project that the town needs. … Part of my opposition to the shuffle is that it will push our borrowing limits up very, very high — up to the point where the Board of Finance and others in our community have agreed that that's about as high as we would ever want to see them go. Therefore, I would like to preserve the option of borrowing for a next capital project when a next capital project becomes essential.
- STEVENSON: There are always capital projects. We own assets. And I would believe that most probably our next important capital project will be continued improvements to our drainage infrastructure.
- NOE: We could easily move into flooding. There's another thing that's been overlooked: the sewer line from the pump station right down the road here. That needs to be replaced. That's a million dollar project. We're going to tie in the new sewer line from Goodwives River into the pump station.
In terms of the town’s current operating expenses, what, if anything, would you look to eliminate or reduce?
- STEVENSON: I share Mr. Campbell's great desire to move forward with shared services. It was a concept that we talked about before we were elected in 2009, we'd like to continue those discussion. … As hopefully many of you know, the Board of Selectmen budget is 25 percent of the overall town budget. The major driver of our tax expenditures is the Board of Education, for which the Board of Selectmen has no say. So my job will be to keep that 25 percent as efficient and effective as possible. In order to make dramatic reductions in budgeting, you have to look at personnel and benefits. And that is very difficult — as most of you know who are in business, we deal with six unions in the Town of Darien. We certainly will make changes where necessary, but still allow us to ensure delivery of appropriate services.
- NOE: We have to do a lot of hard things. Unfortunately we have some great employees we need to protect; we have some other employees that we'd like to fire. … My approach is that I'm going to try to dismantle the unions. I've got some great ideas, and I'd like to bring those forward. … If we boot the unions out, we can agree easily to do what our employees want and cost the town less in the long run.
- LUNDEEN: I think one of the most important things a first selectman can do is to set a good example, particularly given the circumstance that we would be faced with, where the first selectmen really controls directly only a fairly small component of the town budget. We all recognize that the school budget is very important to the people who live in our town, and … we can set an example in the way we establish and conduct our budgeting processes every year. We can ask our department heads and the leaders of those different service groups to think seriously about ways that they can create efficiencies, and I would propose to ask them for 5 and 10 percent reductions — what would that really imply in your department or whatever your service area is? … I'm not suggesting that we are going to establish new ways of teaching the schools or even new ways of plowing the streets, but we need to accept the budgetary discipline that suggests that we can't just constantly grow our town operating budget.
Do you believe the town is doing a good job right now of serving the interests of local businesses and their owners? What if anything would you do differently in the next two years?
- NOE: The government has got to get out of the way. … We have a town and we need to promote business. We need to keep businesses in business. … You talk about job creation. If we could figure out how to get that building [the Mediplex] open, there'd be a ton of people working there. And this is the thing we should be looking for: trying to fill up our space. And if they had two more floors on there … it would be taxed at a higher rate, and the town could get revenue from this. … You have to look at the big picture with everything you do … and the town has to get out of the way of private businesses.
- LUNDEEN: There is necessarily a lot of interaction between the business owners in town and Town Hall. I would say the relationships in general have been good, but we could do more. … There are a lot of new businesspeople who are coming to town to do business. Many of them don't live in Darien, but they come here to do business, because they find Darien a very attractive community for a lot of reasons I think it's important that we pick up the legacy of the planning that was done in the Darien Business District during the [Darien Revitalization, Inc.] days. … It's important that Town Hall and the Planning & Zoning process be willing to serve as a partner to our business owners in town.
- STEVENSON: I'm glad John brought up DRI, because DRI I thought was a really great initiative. And quite frankly I don't understand why DRI went away, but that will be a question for me to research when I become first selectman. … I firmly believe that we need less regulation for local business, and to that end, that's why I am a strong opponent of the plastic bag ordinance. I do not want Town Hall to create ordinances that create an undue financial burden on our hardworking local merchants. I think we can do a better job about always looking at ways to make parking more efficient and plentiful, and because the Board of Selectmen is the parking authority, I'll make sure we continually do that. But first and foremost I think we should always encourage shopping local. I practice it every day, and I hope that the residents of Darien do that, too.