It has been both my pleasure and my privilege to represent the people of the First Ward on the Westfield Town Council. Westfield continues to be the envy of other communities. We are a desirable place to live and raise a family, and a premier destination in the region for shopping, dining and entertainment. My family and I have been proud to call Westfield our home for more than 17 years. We enjoy its excellent school system, its vibrant and award-winning downtown, and its charming neighborhoods. As a member of the Town Council, my focus has been, and will continue to be, to protect and preserve our exceptional quality of life.
When I first ran for election to the Westfield Town Council four years ago, all that I could honestly say to the residents of the First Ward was "trust me." I had no Council record to run on, but among other things I had coached many residents’ children in soccer and baseball; I had served responsibly on both the Westfield Historic Preservation Commission and the Citizens Advisory Committee on Enrollment, which discussed strategies to address the then pending middle school overcrowding issues; and I was committed to being an informed, respectful and responsive representative in Town government. Four years later, as I again ask First Ward residents for their vote, I can confidently say that their trust in me has been rewarded.
Over the past four years, Westfield has faced a number of substantial and, in many cases, unprecedented financial challenges: the loss of millions of dollars in state aid; the state’s imposition of a two percent cap on annual property tax levy increases; a substantial decline in real estate values and the resulting loss in millions of dollars in property tax revenues, just to name a few. It was the perfect storm of economic hardships; and then, quite literally, the weather got worse. Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy, damaging Autumn nor’easters and snow storms, and a blizzard that dropped nearly three feet of snow the day after Christmas 2010 all battered our infrastructure and severely strained our limited financial resources.
Yet Westfield is in better financial and physical shape than it was four years ago. Our municipal budget is lower this year than it was in 2009; municipal salaries and wages are below 2005 levels; our streets are safer, and many of them have been repaved for the first time in decades; we have acquired state-of-the-art police and firefighting equipment to protect both people and property; our downtown is thriving, with the expansion and addition of numerous national, regional and locally-owned businesses; the high school parking issue has been addressed; and we have finally made progress in getting some one-seat train service to New York City next Spring.
Our success was not achieved by happenstance, but by the leadership, foresight and hard work of Mayor Skibitsky and the members of the Town Council. As chair of the Council's Finance Policy Committee, responsible for formulating our municipal budget, I have played an important role in those efforts and in achieving the favorable outcomes described above. Our municipal debt level remains low, our credit rating is high, and our future is bright. That is why I believe that I have earned the privilege of serving the residents of the First Ward for another term.
With the ongoing assistance of Mayor Skibitsky, Councilwoman Vicki Kimmins and Councilman Keith Loughlin, and with the addition of David Oliveira to the Town Council, I know that we can continue to meet the challenges that lie ahead and keep Westfield both financially secure and a wonderful place to live and to raise a family. Our success to date has been a team effort, and I ask that the residents of the First Ward support me and that all of Westfield supports the entire Mayor Skibitsky team on November 5th. Thank you.