Year in and year out, West Hartford is one of the best places in Connecticut to live.
That's why those in charge at town hall — a Democratic-dominated town council under the leadership of Mayor Scott Slifka — deserve to be re-elected when voters go to the polls Nov. 5.
This inner-ring suburb's municipal government delivers premium services. The schools are great. West Hartford has an interesting, thriving, safe town center with ample parking that is a regional destination. It will soon feature a new boutique hotel.
The town still racks up high marks in "best of" magazine surveys: For example, it's been named the No. 1 town in Greater Hartford by Hartford magazine (a CT1 Media publication, along with The Courant) and named by Family Circle as seventh nationally among best towns for families.
West Hartford's stable fiscal profile has, if anything, improved a bit over the past two years. It has maintained a AAA bond rating from two rating agencies, and Standard & Poor's restored its "stable" outlook. This year's budget, with a modest spending increase, passed on a 9-0 vote.
Mr. Slifka and his colleagues also seem to have managed well a change in top leadership in such departments as public works, finance, police, fire, human services, planning and economic development.
The current council — with its six Democrats and three Republicans generally treating each other civilly — has been a good steward. The majority Democrats are fiscally responsible, but certainly aren't hurt by listening to their Republican colleagues.
The town has upped its annual contributions to the sickly pension fund, required employees to do likewise and eliminated the practice of "spiking" (using overtime to drive up pension amounts) for new hires in the police department. Democrats say rating agencies have given their approach a thumb's up.
Still, the town is paying out in pension benefits far more than is being paid in each year, and the fund currently can meet only 44.2 percent of its obligations. Republicans have ideas on the pension problem. Hear them out.
The council also must make sure West Hartford gets the most out of development opportunities in the New Britain-Hartford busway corridor and, if it ends up with the land, in the 57 acres that has been UConn's West Hartford campus.
The candidates on both party slates are able. Voters can select six. Nine will be elected. The minority party is guaranteed three seats. The Courant editorial board recommends the following six, in alphabetical order:
Shari Cantor, 53, deputy mayor, a Democrat and the knowledgeable chair of the finance and budget committee. She has a major focus on senior issues and deep roots in the community.
Harry J. Captain, 50, a Democrat and vice president at Travelers. He has years of municipal experience, especially with finance, and should find common ground with Republicans who share his interest in pension issues.
Judy Casperson, 54, a Democrat seeking a third term. She lends a valuable perspective as vice president of TD Bank in the town center. She chairs the council's human services committee and knows what the town's needs are.
Burke Doar, 50, a Republican seeking a second term. He's an executive with Trumpf, emphasizes recruitment of more businesses to lower the property tax burden and works well across the aisle.
Clare Kindall, 52, a Democrat seeking a second term after five years on the school board. An assistant state attorney general, she is thoughtful and forward-looking.
Scott Slifka, 39, a Democrat running for his seventh council term and an attorney with Lego Systems. He has been mayor for nine years. Two years ago, we said that he has been "a strong and persuasive leader." There is no reason to change that assessment.
Incumbent Republican and council minority leader Denise Berard Hall, 53, has served the town well with her municipal finance background, and deserves strong consideration, as do fellow Republican Tad Bistor, 46, and Democrat Leon Davidoff, 51.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun