While I did not vote for Shelley Brindle four years ago, I was willing to give her an opportunity to implement her vision for the town, and was hopeful that maybe a new administration and a fresh approach to the issues facing Westfield would yield tangible results. I wanted her to succeed but sadly I’m disappointed in the accomplishments, or lack thereof, over the past four years, particularly on the fiscal front.
I specifically recall that during her campaign, Brindle rightfully focused on the state of our downtown and the growing number of “for rent” signs that were steadily increasing. She won partly on a promise to turn things around downtown and it just hasn’t happened. In fact, it’s gotten worse. The Rialto and Lord and Taylor closed on her watch, and this past spring, we were featured in a national news story about having the worst business environment in the country for small towns. Even more discouraging is that some of our neighboring downtown areas seem more vibrant than ours.
Property tax increases have been kept low, just as they were under the previous administration, but at what cost? Our surplus has gone from 14.5 million dollars to only 5.8 million dollars over the past four years. It’s only a matter of time before our taxes will need to be raised higher than our historical average to replenish the surplus. This will be a major headache for whomever is elected the next mayor.
We seem to be going in the wrong direction. Certainly these fiscal problems aren’t easy to solve, but as I see the business environment and the town’s fiscal health decline over the past four years, it’s hard to give the Brindle administration the benefit of the doubt for another four.