Report by Paula Antolini
September 23, 2017 3:01AM EDT
Photos: Matthew Knickerbocker (left) is the incumbent Bethel First Selectman, a Democrat Party candidate running for a 5th term in office as Bethel First Selectman. Cynthia McCorkindale is the Independent Party candidate also cross-endorsed by the Republican Party, presently a member of the Bethel Board of Finance, running for her first term as Bethel First Selectman.
BETHEL ADVOCATE EXCLUSIVE
VIDEOS (49 Questions): Interviews with the 2017 Bethel First Selectman Candidates Matt Knickerbocker and Cynthia McCorkindale
You have never seen an interview like this before! A MUST-VIEW before you cast your vote on November 7th! Side-by-side comparison of candidates’ responses to the same exact questions, presented in a format for easy access, to immediately view whichever question you are interested in most. No wading through long video interviews. Enjoy getting to know the candidates!
Here is a chance for you to “meet” the candidates for 2017 Bethel First Selectman, as they each answer questions on a variety of topics, presented here to you on video.
In the past few weeks the Bethel Advocate conducted interviews with the 2017 Bethel First Selectman Candidates, First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker and Cynthia McCorkindale.
Matthew Knickerbocker is the incumbent Bethel First Selectman, a Democrat Party candidate running for re-election for a 5th term (2 years) in office as Bethel First Selectman. Cynthia McCorkindale is the Independent Party candidate also cross-endorsed by the Republican Party, presently a member of the Bethel Board of Finance, running for her first term as Bethel First Selectman.
Each candidate was interviewed on separate days, Cynthia McCorkindale on August 25th and First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker on September 8th, and interviews ran about two and a half hours each.
The candidates answered 41 of the exact same questions each, on a variety of topics including their campaign platform, taxes, state funding and grants, Bethel’s Master Plan, infrastructure, economic development, schools/education, music and art, Bethel Forward and Transit Oriented Development (TOD), seniors, communication with residents, and much much more. We asked for clarification on their answers where needed.
Neither candidate knew what any of the questions were going to be ahead of time. Candidates’ responses could be any length of time, of their choosing. Their responses to the interview questions (view in links below) have been presented in full and are not edited down.
We also asked each candidate to submit 4 questions to ask their opponent, and they did not receive those questions ahead of time either. Those questions are presented at the end of the interview.
We gave ample opportunity for each candidate to respond with additional information they felt might not have been covered in the interview, and we also gave the candidates a chance to “virtually” speak directly to their opponent via the camera. Finally, each candidate made their closing statement.
Below you can view questions and answers on video, at your leisure. For your convenience, you can view questions in order, or jump to the question you are most interested in first. Each candidate’s answer to each question is directly below the question, just click on the link to view video response.
Enjoy getting to know the candidates. We hope this helps you in the voting process.
Why do you want to be First Selectman?
How would you describe the job of a First Selectman? What are the responsibilities?
What is the platform of your campaign for First Selectman this year?
What is your ONE greatest accomplishment in all the years you have been involved with the Town of Bethel?
Describe the most difficult moment in your career and how did you resolve it?
What do you think your opponent’s weaknesses are?
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 do you keep in touch with residents, to know what their concerns are? Is there a process, or will you put one on place, for residents to present their concerns and get answers in a timely manner?
Do you think it is important to provide residents with recordings of meetings (audio and visual) in a timely manner, or live stream? Why haven’t town meetings and hearings been digitally recorded (audio and visual) or live streamed in the past (or hardly recorded), and inserted on the town website? Will you put a plan in place to do this for all meetings?
Many town 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?
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. Will you address this issue to make sure all comments are listed in minutes of meetings, in their exact words, not a paraphrase?
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?
Recently residents in certain areas of Bethel have experienced problems with their water quality. Who is responsible for the water quality in Bethel and who should residents contact when problems occur, and who is responsible to rectify the situation? Is there a time limit on how long residents should have deal with bad water, and if not, will you address this issue to make sure no resident goes without quality water for extended periods of time?
Can you explain why taxes go up every year when some other towns manage to minimize taxes? What will you do to reduce taxes?
Editor’s Note: We just received a correction today, 9-26-17, from candidate Cynthia McCorkindale, regarding her response to question number 14, at mark 3:15. She said.”I noticed that I made an error in question #14 at mark 3:15 where I said “the Board of Ed” when I meant “Board of Finance.” If you could note that on the record, I would very much appreciate it.
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?
Governor Malloy has recently cut state funding for many CT cities and towns especially regarding education. What repercussions will this have on our town and do you have a plan to resolve these issues? Do you think Bethel can survive these cuts?
QUESTION 17 & 18
(Both candidates gave responses in question 17 to answer 18, so we combined video clips here):
(#17) What are you doing, and/or what will you do, to bring jobs to Bethel?
(#18) What are you doing, and/or what will you do, to draw new business to Bethel?
Is there 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? Or are the building approvals being done on a first come first serve basis with no regard for a Master Plan?
Have there been 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?
Several years ago Bethel received 2 grants of approximately a quarter million dollars each, to beautify Greenwood Avenue’s main business district. Was any of this money spent and if so how? If not, why not? Where is the money now and why is it not being used for this project? Is there an actual plan to visually upgrade the main business centers that exist now, and if so, what is the plan and where can residents view this plan?
(Both candidates combined responses in questions 22-23-24, so we combined video clips here):
(Editor Note: We mistakenly quoted the payments mentioned in #22-23-24 (in links shown below) as being approved by the Board of Selectman in meeting minutes, and meant to say Planning and Zoning Commission approvals in meeting minutes, as reference. Scroll down the minutes page once you click on the highlighted links below, for the meeting minutes, and check under “Business Meeting/Invoices” to see references for payment amounts we have questioned. We are still gathering more facts about payments, as these are only some of the payments we have found, to use as examples. The point is to see why these payments are approved. We have asked the P&Z to explain these approvals of payments by the P&Z but so far the P&Z has referred us to other departments, and has not answered questions or further emails, despite the P&Z being the commission that approved the payments.)
(#22) Describe the Bethel Forward and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Plans and how do you feel about these projects? This includes the crossover bridge plan over the train tracks at the Bethel train station. I believe Bethel is requesting $600,000 from the state. Do you expect to receive this amount? How much will the Town of Bethel contribute in addition and how is it affording this?
(#23) Several years ago DPZ Partners conducted a massive project regarding town planning involving a certain portion of Bethel centering around Greenwood Avenue. For this they received approximately a quarter million dollars. I see that there are payments being approved to this same company in amounts of several thousand dollars at a time. Is this company on retainer as a consultant, or what are these payments for, that were not covered in the massive plan they outlined?
(#24) Also, an architect is being paid to design the TOD (Transit Oriented Development) bridge. Is this allowed, before a project is approved? And where is the money coming from to pay these individuals, and who approved putting them on the books?
Will you be in favor of the school renovation projects (Johnson and Rockwell) and how will you handle the state cutback of 8 million dollars for school education budget?
Do you support the new police station and why?
Do you support the new proposed athletic turf field construction and why?
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, and Is this going to happen and when? Who will handle this?
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 on a Monday between Xmas and New Year’s, that hardly anyone knew about. This put the P&Z in charge of the park. Will you restore power to the Economic Development Committee (or hold a referendum to do so) 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 – 31:
(Based on the response of the candidates in the video we have combined questions 30 -31.)
(#30) 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. A committee was appointed to make suggestions to the Board Of Selectman about uses for the park, and two public hearings were also held asking the public to give input about how they wanted to see that property developed. Things like baseball fields, a golf course, pool, hiking trails, bike trails, horse trails, a town garden, disc golf and even hunting etc. were discussed. People expected at least some of these activities to be developed there. Can you indicate why nothing was done other than a sign on the corner? and … Will you develop the Franc Property in any way if you are elected and how will you develop it?
(#31) 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?
What condition do you feel the infrastructure of Bethel is presently in, how often do you (or 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? Will this happen in the next year or two?
Presently the choices for senior housing or retirement communities in Bethel are poor or unaffordable. What are you doing (or will you do) for the seniors in Bethel?
(Based on the response of the candidates in the video we have combined questions 34 -35.)
(#34) In the last few years an entire introductory music program was cut from the Bethel Middle School without parents knowing about it until after the fact (if at all) or approving this, or having any control in this. It seems music and art programs continue to shrink in our schools, and now other programs could be on the chopping block too, such as the EMS program etc.. 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? What are you doing to promote or protect music and art in our town? As a side note, the Bethel Artspace seems to have died.
(#35) Are there any plans for a town live theater or music center, and if not, why not?
Why were no Bethel artists considered or even contacted, for the large sculpture exhibit installed in Bethel? For that matter, why aren’t Bethel businesses considered first to do town projects (if their bids and skills are acceptable), to promote more successful economic development with Bethel companies? Are all Bethel town projects put out to bid, if not, who is in charge of deciding who gets hired?
What do you envision Bethel to be in the next ten years?
What advice would you give to anyone seeking the position of First Selectman?
What are you most proud of?
Is there anything you’d like to say to your opponent (First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker / Cynthia McCorkindale)?
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
FOUR QUESTIONS FROM CYNTHIA McCORKINDALE TO FIRST SELECTMAN MATT KNICKERBOCKER
What was your biggest rookie mistake as First Selectman and what could I learn from it?
Of the non-union town positions that opened up over the past year – i.e. full-time from part-time, or vacant positions, how many were required to be posted according to EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) guidelines/requirements?
Would you support an “Open the Books” policy and work towards making Town financials available from the Town website – not just budget information – but vendors, salaries, pensions, disbursements, revenue, etc.?
Seeing that Eversource has bought Aquarion, would you consider selling the water department to a conglomerate such as Eversource?
FOUR QUESTIONS FROM FIRST SELECTMAN MATT KNICKERBOCKER TO CYNTHIA McCORKINDALE
The Town of Bethel employs a highly skilled and experienced chief financial officer to provide leadership for the town’s financial affairs, which is encoded in Town Charter in the position of Comptroller. But unlike many towns of similar size or even smaller, Bethel does not have the parallel position of Town Manager. The duties of a town manager fall to the First Selectman, who assumes all management responsibilities, including labor negotiations, personnel management, logistics and operations, project management, utility operations and regulations, large scale information technology systems and finance, to name just a few of the most critical functions.
Please describe in detail the specific educational and work related experience that qualifies you to direct an $80 million-dollar per year municipal and utility operation.
You are a long time member of the Bethel Action Committee, an activist organization that without exception has opposed every town budget and every school budget since its inception in the 1980’s, serving most recently as its president. In April of this year, as a member of the Bethel Board of Finance, you personally urged Bethel residents, in writing, to vote down the very budget you participated in creating.
Please explain why residents should now trust that you will serve the interests of the entire community, rather than only the narrow agenda of the single political action group to which you have devoted yourself.
Two of our three elementary schools have become functionally obsolete and require renovations in order to provide 21st century education.
Will you vote “yes” to support the proposed renovations of Rockwell and Johnson Schools?
The position of First Selectman is not a part-time job. It is a 24 hour per day, 7 day per week commitment that requires full time involvement, off hours study, full work days, two to four week night meetings and frequent weekend work.
How will you put your music career “on hold” in order to devote your full attention to the Town of Bethel?
CLOSING STATEMENT: First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker
CLOSING STATEMENT: Cynthia McCorkindale