Report by Paula Antolini, November 2, 2019, 8:54AM EDT
Bethel First Selectman Candidate William “Bill” Ochs is the only candidate running for this office to agree to an interview without questions being provided ahead of time. He also agreed to do a debate any time, any location, with same parameters but his opponents declined.
So as promised, we are presenting his full interview on a variety of topics. Bill answered 40 questions in rapid fire in about 90 minutes. This will help you decide your vote in the Bethel 2019 Municipal Election.
Ochs is a candidate that petitioned to be on the ballot and received the required signatures and now has a substantial following. He operates under full transparency of government and he is determined to address the issues of concern to residents to improve matters.
Bill Ochs, 46, was born and bred in Bethel, educated through the Bethel school system, graduated with the class of 1991, and attended Western Connecticut State University where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. He was planning on attending the Police Academy in Vermont but decided to stay in Bethel when he met his future wife and they married and are raising a family.
Ochs has worked for Corporate America in the marketing industry for over 20 years, he said, “Handling multi-million dollar contract negotiations, dealing with Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies, handling huge contracts and huge projects that are going out Nation-wide.” He’s a former 4-year-term elected Police Commissioner. He is also a sports coach for multiple sports activities, volunteering much of his time to the community.
Ochs decided to run for office after he saw a Bethel budget, which he was opposed to, voted down and defeated by the people of Bethel, and he said he then knew that “people can really make a difference.” … “That’s when I decided to run for First Selectman.” He wanted to get involved to see if he could make things better. “I love this town, I’ve been here all my life and I am concerned about the way things are going, the direction that we are heading, and I want to step in and try and preserve Bethel and make it the town I always remember it being,” Ochs said, “and keep it that way for many generations to come.”
Among other issues, Ochs said his main focus is on “affordability and reducing taxes, keeping the budget and spending under control.” He wants to look at “inflated costs” in many line items in the budget. “It’s not easy to find those,” he said, which brought him to another issue, “The ease with finding information in our town, it’s just not there,” he said.
He repeated, “Taxes, transparency, and keeping with traditions … some traditions need to stay,” he said, later referring to the Bethel Nativity controversy in 2018-2019 which is still continuing with a lottery system pending, for selection of religious displays for P.T. Barnum Square in Bethel this upcoming holiday season. Ochs stated that the present administration, “Should have taken the ball and made a firm answer with that instead of allowing a small group within town to dictate rules and make new lottery systems and etc. for certain traditions that are held near and dear to, I’m going to say, 98% of Bethel residents,”
“Your job as leader of the community is to provide a safe community above everything else,” Ochs said, “If you’re not looking at your Fire Department and your Police Department to provide the utmost safety for your community you are failing. I’m going to say it right now, you are failing as a leader of this town and that to me is unacceptable.” … “When I am First Selectman I will make sure our first responders have everything they need.”
You can view the full video interview below to see where Ochs stands on a variety of issues.
We decided to ask the same exact questions that we asked Incumbent First Selectman Knickerbocker (D) in his interview in 2017, who is now running for reelection (except for a few questions that were no longer current) so you will be able to COMPARE answers between Knickerbocker and Ochs easily, regarding the same questions. Bill Ochs did not know we were planning this.
We also added a few current questions such as the one about 8-30g affordable housing and “shovel ready” projects, a new term first heard at a Charter Revision Commission Meeting on October 2, 2019 when all three selectmen discussed it in front of the audience.
View link here for the 2017 Knickerbocker interview, which you can view per question. You can also view answers from 2017 to same questions asked of Incumbent Bethel Finance Board Candidate Cynthia McCorkindale (I) currently running for reelection.
The Ochs interview took place on October 24, 2019 in the vintage Sycamore Drive-in Restaurant in Bethel, CT, a favorite meeting place for residents. Apologies for the noisy background but this is the Sycamore we love (lively and unique).
Read questions below for reference and view the Bill Ochs interview 2019 (link above).
QUESTIONS FOR BILL OCHS 2019
QUESTION 1: FIRST SELECTMAN
Why do you want to be First Selectman? Why did you decide to run?
QUESTION 2: JOB/FIRST SELECTMAN
How would you describe the job of a First Selectman? What would you say are the responsibilities?
QUESTION 3: PLATFORM
What is the platform of your campaign for First Selectman this year?
QUESTION 4: ACCOMPLISHMENT
What is your ONE greatest accomplishment?
QUESTION 5: DIFFICULT MOMENT
Describe the most difficult moment in one of your careers and how did you resolve it?
QUESTION 6: OPPONENTS’ WEAKNESSES
What do you think your opponent’s weaknesses are? (Matthew Knickerbocker and Pat Rist)
QUESTION 7: BETHEL PRESSING PROBLEMS
In ONE word for each topic, name the five most pressing problems that face Bethel, in order of importance, with the most pressing first. How would you address those issues if elected?
QUESTION 8: IN TOUCH WITH RESIDENTS
When elected, how will you keep in touch with residents, to know what their concerns are? Will you put a process in place, for residents to present their concerns and get answers in a timely manner, and if so, describe the process?
QUESTION 9: MEETING RECORDINGS
Do you think it is important to provide residents with recordings of meetings (audio and visual) in a timely manner, or live stream? Why do you think town meetings and hearings have not been video recorded or live streamed in the past (or hardly recorded), and all meeting recordings inserted on the town website? Will you put a plan in place to do this for all meetings?
QUESTION 10: MEETING SCHEDULES
Many board, commission or committee meetings are all held on the same day and/or time, or at times when most people are at work in the middle of the day. Will you do anything to address this issue and make sure meetings are available at more appropriate times for residents, and see that there is also no overlap, so residents can attend all meetings? If so, what will you do?
QUESTION 11: MEETING MINUTES
Although I realize there are rules and regulations regarding minutes of meetings, Bethel records do not seem to be standardized in that sometimes the names ONLY of residents who comment are listed, and other times their comments are also listed, but not accurately. Will you address this issue to make sure all comments are listed in meeting minutes accurately?
QUESTION 12: OUT-OF-STATE LICENSE PLATES
What will you do to address out of state license plate offenders and will you establish an actual system to catch these offenders? Or do you think there is no way to enforce this law? And if so, is this fair to residents who register their plates properly and pay their share?
QUESTION 13: 8-30g AFFORDABLE HOUSING
What do you think of the 8-30g affordable housing requirement and the new building projects that are being approved in Bethel? Even though this is a state issue, do you plan on doing anything to address this issue and the concerns of residents or builders? if so, what will you do?
Question 14: POLICE AND FIRE
Do you think the increased Bethel population from all the new single family homes projects and multi-unit building projects will put added pressure on our police and fire departments? If so, what will you do to remedy the situation?
Question 15: POLICE AND FIRE AND SCHOOLS
Will you have any studies done on how this development will affect services like police and fire departments and school enrollment and expenses etc.? or even how further commercial development will affect the businesses that already exist in Bethel?
QUESTION 16: TAXES
Can you explain why taxes go up every year when some other towns manage to minimize taxes? What will you do to reduce taxes?
QUESTION 17: CAR TAX
Do you think the car tax is fair and will you eliminate the car tax, or put a cap on cost, or eliminate the business property tax for small business owners earning under a certain amount?
QUESTION 18: JOBS/BUSINESS
What will you do, to bring jobs to Bethel?
What will you do, to draw new business to Bethel?
QUESTION 20: SCHOOL SYSTEM
What do you see as the positive aspects of our school system and also the negative aspects (things that need improvement). What are the problems and what will you do to improve education in our community?
QUESTION 21: “SHOVEL READY” PROJECTS
There’s been talk about a ”shovel ready” plan, from your opponents, regarding new building projects. Do you agree with this? Or what would you do to keep projects on budget?
QUESTION 22: MASTER PLAN
Will you develop a “Master Plan” for Bethel, meaning, an actual architectural drawing of how and where residential and commercial development will occur, and when and how much property will be developed, and how (more detailed than the existing general master plan)? Or will you allow the building approvals being done on a first come first serve basis with no regard for a Master Plan?
QUESTION 23: GRANTS/BUSINESS DISTRICT
Over the past 10-12 years Bethel received several grants in hundreds of thousands of dollars each, to beautify Greenwood Avenue’s main business district. Do you have a plan to visually upgrade the main business centers that exist now? What do you think some of the issues are? Do you think those grants were used wisely over the past 10 years?
QUESTION 24: BETHEL FORWARD/TOD
Do you agree with the Bethel Forward and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Plans. How do you feel about these projects? This includes the plan from former Governor Malloy to develop areas around the train stations for instance, making the town “walkable.”
QUESTION 25: SCHOOL RENOVATION
Were you in favor of the school renovation projects (Johnson and Rockwell) and why? Or would you have spent the money in a different way?
QUESTION 26: POLICE STATION
Did you support the new police station and why? or why not?
QUESTION 27: TURF FIELD
Do you support the new proposed athletic turf field construction and why or why not?
QUESTION 28: CLARKE PARK EXPANSION
There is a section of Clark Business Park that was set to be developed at the end of Trowbridge Drive, regarding adding restaurants and other businesses etc. Are you in favor this? Or do you have other ideas?
QUESTION 29: EDC / P&Z IN CHARGE of PARK
The Economic Development Committee had been the stewards of Clark Business Park for 30 years, with a successful record, until December 2014 when their power was stripped during a vote at a special meeting. This put the P&Z in charge of the park. Will you restore power to the Economic Development Committee to oversee the Clark Business Park? Or do you think the Planning & Zoning Commission, who is in charge of overseeing the park now, is sufficiently handling this task, along with all the other work they need to handle on the P&Z?
QUESTION 30: FRANC PRESERVE
Several years ago the Town of Bethel bought 72 acres of land for approx. a million dollars, now called the the Franc Preserve, located on Old Hawleyville Road and Plumtrees Road. The sellers hoped the property would be preserved. With that in mind, the town can still plan activities in the preserve. What would you like to see planned for that park? Will you develop the Franc Property in any way if you are elected and how will you develop it?
QUESTION 31: POOL./REC CENTER
There is presently no town pool in Bethel, that is urgently desired by many Bethel residents. How do you feel about a town pool and will you do anything to make this happen? Or will you address creating a new recreation center for Bethel etc.? If so, where and how will you do it?
QUESTION 32: INFRASTRUCTURE
What condition do you feel the infrastructure of Bethel is presently in, how often will you monitor it and how will you do that, and do you have a plan to assess the worst problem areas and improve the roads other problems?
QUESTION 33: SENIORS
Presently the choices for senior housing or retirement communities in Bethel are poor or unaffordable. What will you do) for the seniors in Bethel?
QUESTION 34: VETERANS
Do you think there ought to be a special veteran’s park in Bethel? Or what do you think should be done for veterans in Bethel?
QUESTION 35: SCHOOL PROGRAMS
It seems music and art programs continue to shrink in our schools, and now other programs could be on the chopping block too. Do you think taxpayers have a right to have a say in what happens with school programs? Do you think it is important for the First Selectman to keep an eye on what is happening regarding education, or that is not your job?
QUESTION 36: MUSIC/ART
What will you do to promote music and art in our town? Will you have any plans for a town live theater or music center, and if not, why not?
QUESTION 37: 10 YEARS
What do you envision Bethel to be in the next ten years?
QUESTION 38: ADVICE
What advice would you give to anyone seeking the position of First Selectman?
QUESTION 39: ANYTHING ELSE
Is there anything you’d like to say to your opponents?
Is there anything else you’d like to say?