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Herbst, Mark Attack Each Others' Records, Outlook

First Selectman Tim Herbst and Democratic Challenger Martha Jankovic Mark targeted each others' records and leadership styles Tuesday night in their second debate. It took place at Madison Middle School.

Among other things, Mark accused of Herbst of raising taxes and spending and presiding over a 34 percent increase in sewer use fees. Herbst replied that Mark and other Democrats under Democratic First Selectman Ray Baldwin Jr. increased taxes by six percent a year on average.

The debate also ranged from the philosophy of bonding to how to improve the town's library and senior center.

The full debate will be aired on Trumbull television, Channel 17/99.

Mark opened with her history in Trumbull as a parent and volunteer on the Town Council.

"We appreciate the wonderful quality of that Trumbull offers and [we want to] ensure the same opportunity" for future residents, Mark said.

Herbst detailed the challenges he faced in Trumbull's finance, education and the town's quality of life. "I'm proud of what we accomplished but there's lots more to do," he said. 

The Debate

The two disagreed from the first question, which covered school facility management and technology. The town bonded for new technology in schools as recommended in a report.

Herbst said he's been in private schools in Trumbull where their technology "far outpaces some of our public schools." He called for emulating the town of New Canaan, which has a technology leasing program and gives technology its own line item in the budget.

He added that the bonding was necessary to bring the school district's technology up-to-date, because it was so far behind.

Mark replied that, "I did not like we had to bond technology" because the equipment does not have a sufficiently long life.

She added that getting "adequate" technology was a better option because top-of-the-line equipment can be more expensive.

In the vein of education, the question of the school budget was hotly argued.

Herbst said the school district was adequately funded because there were no layoffs, class sizes remained small and all-day-kindergarten is now in the education operating budget.

"The proof is in the pudding," Herbst said.

Mark called the school district "a tad underfunded." She cited larger classes at Frenchtown School as a example. Mark also accused Herbst of breaking his campaign promise to remove portable classrooms, adding that all-day kindergarten worked in part because of portable classrooms.

As he did in many exchanges Tuesday night, Herbst called Mark "inconsistent." He accused her of becoming fiscally conservative "two weeks before the election." Mark switched to the Democratic Party from the GOP in 2011, because she said the party was not conservative enough for her.

Who Spent the Most?

Several times Mark said Herbst increased townside spending and raised taxes, most noticeably on personal property tax and car taxes. A revaluation reduced the value of many Trumbull homes by 20 percent, and real estate taxes rose 1.88 percent on average, which Mark called "artificial."

The tax burden also shifted to commercial properties.

Herbst replied that the Town Council, on which Mark has served for eight years, approved $73 million for the Trumbull High School as-new renovation. Costs for bonding made under First Selectman Ray Baldwin Jr. have become due and are driving up the town's spending, as well as higher contributions to the town's pension funds.

The pensions were underfunded and for the first time in a long time, the town has met its actuarial recommended contribution, Herbst said. The town has also maintained its bond rating because of the pensions, he added.

But one of the bigger increases has been in sewer use fees, which Herbst blamed on the city of Bridgeport which processes Trumbull's effluent. He said Bridgeport has its own Water Pollution Control Authority issues and is passing on the cost to Trumbull ratepayers.

Attorneys for Bridgeport are trying to remove an equalizing measure, which could further drive up sewer fees for Trumbull ratepayers, Herbst noted.

Tough Decisions

In addition to spending beliefs, the two candidates contrasted their leadership philosophies.

"You need to make decisions and stand by them under pressure," Herbst said. "You cannot vacillate and cannot abstain and you have to make decisions."

"You may disagree with my decisions, but I think everyone can agree I have been willing to make tough decisions."

Mark replied that, "A good leader can without causing polarization." Defending her voting record on the Town Council, she she abstained on or voted against some resolutions because they had been substantially changed by the GOP beforehand or they violated the Town Charter.

"I certainly am confident I would make tough decisions and I would make them well," she said.

In the end, it comes down to attitude, Herbst said. He accused Mark of tearing down the town, while he said he's focused on the opposite.

"I'm going to run a campaign of building Trumbull up," he said, later adding, "I think we've demonstrated that results matter."

Mark, in her closing remarks, retorted, "After four years of contentiousness, I would like you try caring competence." 
Dan Luposki October 23, 2013 at 01:34 PM
Unbelievable!! Let’s compare apples to apples. Previous commitments to debt service coupled with mandated increases in the pension fund account for a significant percentage of the budget increase. That, along with the well-deserved education funding, leaves little discretionary funding. The education budget is largely personnel and benefits and they too have little discretionary funding. We get a great return for our dollar in the schools in the general government. Funds are managed with foresight and efficiency by the Herbst administration and the board of education. Candidate Mark is ill informed. She cannot articulate her ideas at a debate. She has resorted to personal attacks and innuendo. Shame on her! Martha has managed an awful campaign. The under-ticket unfortunately will suffer for her poor showing. There are some outstanding candidates on the under-ticket. How can any voter expect her to be a decisive leader? You may disagree with Mr. Herbst, but he is not polarizing. He clearly articulates his views and is persistent in making sure programs and legislation are implemented. The opposition spends a lot on time on sewers. Much of that has been debated for years and it was the fiscally appropriate thing to do. He makes decisions, a quality that misses the Mark lacks. I am sure the regulars (McGoo, JunioR,FF, TomCat etc.) will chime in but you all know the only thing different from the Titanic and the Mark campaign is the Titanic had an orchestra.
HL October 23, 2013 at 07:07 PM
I'm trying to figure out if Martha actually made all of those quotes with words missing from her sentences or if it was just edited that way!
Aaron Leo (Editor) October 24, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Which one? I'll check it again.
Lori Belsky October 24, 2013 at 05:51 PM
I just visited Stern Village. The conversation was buzzing about Martha Mark comments at the debate. She bought into Mr. Green's and Mr. Littlefield's lies. Absolute lies. Check the facts. I am embarrassed to be a Democrat. She said rents were going up? The state approved a plan that permits new tenants rent to increase. Stern Village is self-sustaining and gets no tax dollars from Trumbull. Furthermore those who live there pay between $125 and $150 base rent! That covers utilities and maintenance. The state rep who I spoke to said rent can go up for existing tenants $25 dollars a year. No astronomical rent increase is planned for existing tenants and Mr. Green’s entire; yes, the entire premise is factually misleading and wrong. She attacked Mrs. Polansky! I respect what she has done and the residents are better for it. She was left a fiscal mess and hired a part time accountant to put the books in order and find money for a capital plan. I hear they found checks that were 6 months old and some former board members had lucrative contracts with the former director. The place was neglected. I have seen Mrs. Mark at a Stern Village meeting mumbling under her breath and acting less than professional. She was with Littlefield and her group. I am embarrassed for her. Democrats should not vote for her.

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