Note: All Stratford candidates running for office on November 3rd were sent a Stratford Crier questionnaire. Candidates Jim Feenan, Rick Marcone, Kevin Kelly, and Ed Scinto did not respond.
Name: Dr. James Simon
Office: Democrat running for Registrar of Voters
Have you held office before? If yes, when and what?
I served as Assistant Secretary of the Environment in Massachusetts, focusing on brownfield remediation issues (like the AVCO property). My varied experience gives me many other ways to view voting issues: as an Associated Press political reporter who covered elections for 10 years … as a nationally known and published expert on how to get young people more involved in voting … and as a university Dean and professor who uses his doctorate in public administration to study government. I also am proud of my volunteer work for the Stratford Library, the town’s Greenway Committee, and others who need help.
Whether you have held office or are running for the first time, what is an accomplishment or project for the town that you are proudest of?
When Karen, Chris and I moved back to Stratford in 1997, we realized you could make a big impact without holding public office. At that time, the town made plans to widen beautiful Whippoorwill Lane to make way for a gas pipeline; since the pipeline company was paying for alterations, the town announced plans to chop down dozens of trees on the lane. I helped organize neighbors, met at Boothe, formulated plans to get press coverage, testified at public hearings, and shamed the town into backing off – which they did.
What made you decide to run for this particular office?
Every other town in Connecticut has part-time Registrars of Voters. But our Town Council has been spending $300,000 a year to pay four (!) full-time Registrars, with benefits. The result: it has cost Stratford five times more per voter to run the Registrar’s office than neighboring Trumbull. Out of the 150+ towns in Connecticut, guess how many have followed The Stratford Model. None! We continue to be the only town to waste your taxpayer money on full-time patronage jobs instead of using it to protect and expand voting.
What would you like to accomplish if you are elected?
1. Give myself time to fully understand what is involved in the Registrar’s position.
2. Begin work to roll back the Registrar positions to part-time status, adding any needed
additional part-time workers in election seasons.
3. Restore integrity to the office. Make sure the Democratic Registrar keeps an eye on the
Republican registrar, and vice versa, consistent with a watchdog role.
4. Use my experience in public administration to update the voting rolls, lobby the state
legislature to make mail-in voting easy and permanent, protect voters’ rights, expand
voting access, and look for ways to further automate the registration process.
What’s more important for Stratford right now: building new homes and commercial space or rehabbing/expanding/better utilizing our existing homes and storefronts?
This is well beyond the role of the Registrar. I would hope any such decisions are made with an eye toward generating more business revenue to help the town balance its books and reduce the sky-high property taxes in town.
If you received a $1 million grant to use for the town any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
Bring in economic development experts to help generate a marketing plan for the town, rooted in the goal of making Stratford a destination for the arts and young families, tied to the terrific new plan to rebuild the Shakespeare Theatre.
How do you plan to engage Stratford residents and make them a part of your decision making
I don’t understand why the Registrar’s office does so little in social media to reach out to voters and remind them of voting rights, rules and procedures. At the very least, we should have an interactive Facebook page and website that provides expanded information, allows you to ask questions, and encourages voting.
Call me an idealist, but in this polarized age, I also would hope the Registrars could have a non- partisan citizen advisory board to study ways to expand the scope of the office, such as innovative ideas to engage/excite high schoolers about civic life and their privilege/duty to vote.
What is one of your favorite things/places/events in our community?
As I recently wrote on Facebook, a hidden treasure here in District 8 is the Sikorsky Estuary Walk, which allows you to walk or bicycle from Ryders Landing, under the Merritt Parkway Bridge, and up on the bridge as you walk to Milford. It’s safe, free … and it brings back memories of the 200 times I did it with my beloved dog Diesel before he passed on.