Trumbull Democratic First Selectman candidate Mary Beth Thornton this week outlined her position on the Bridgeport magnet school, calling First Selectman Tim Herbst’s handling of the project one of the worst mistakes in Trumbull’s history.
Herbst earlier this year, allowed the state of Connecticut to carve out a 40-acre swath of the town’s southern border and turn it over to the city of Bridgeport in exchange for the right to negotiate for ownership of a much smaller parcel of land already in Trumbull. That 40-acre piece of Trumbull will be used to build the magnet high school.
“It’s ironic that Mr Herbst said in the newspaper the other day that he’s better prepared than me to negotiate with unions on behalf of the town, because he botched this negotiation up as much as it was possible to botch up,” Thornton said.
Thornton said she understands and supports the concept of magnet schools for Trumbull and the State of Connecticut, both for the expanded educational opportunities and choices such schools offer, as well as for the fact that they help address the important issues discussed in the case of Sheff vs. O’Neill.
But because of the mismanagement of this issue by the Herbst Administration, it is essential that Trumbull make the best of this situation by working with the state to protect the interests of the citizens of Trumbull. If elected, Thornton commits to approaching the governor to seek ways to become involved in the building process and influence decisions made by the state—thereby repairing the fractured relationship caused by the unnecessary belligerence of the Herbst Administration. Thornton and her team also commit to:
- Withdrawing the frivolous lawsuit recently brought by the Herbst Administration, opting instead for substantive discussions with the state on the potential lease or acquisition of land involved in this situation.
- Meeting with the residents and Town Council representatives of District 7 to hear their concerns, and meeting with state officials to help alleviate those concerns. Most importantly, Thornton pledges to report back to the residents and representatives on the results of any discussions with the state.
For his part, First Selectman Tim Herbst failed the test of leadership and stewardship of the town of Trumbull through an unnecessary and counterproductive strategy of bluff and bluster. He managed to alienate both the state of Connecticut and the city of Bridgeport, thereby straining working relationships with these entities that the Town of Trumbull will need on other important matters such as sewer regionalization. By not understanding the importance of magnet schools to the State of Connecticut, and by his excessive demands and threats, the Herbst administration lost 40 acres of land for Trumbull; lost $1 million over 10 years that Bridgeport agreed to pay to Trumbull; lost several hundred thousand dollars from Bridgeport to the Trumbull Center Fire District; lost Bridgeport funding for road repairs on Quarry Road and Old Town Road.
Mr. Herbst also lost 100 student slots in the school, which would have saved millions in local education costs over the life of the agreement. He lost the stringent oversight by the Trumbull Planning and Zoning Commission as well as a $750,000 building permit fee. He has caused the delay of construction with his lawsuit, thus putting hundreds of local construction jobs on hold.
Mr. Herbst lost all this for the town and in return gained the right to negotiate in good faith for a lease on 20 acres of deed-restricted land of dubious value. This is a clear illustration of incompetence.
“By failing to understand his limits and because of his inability to admit error, Mr. Herbst continues to compound his mistakes by following his “litigate first, think later“ approach,” Thornton said. By filing yet another dubious lawsuit, the only result will be more lawyer fees and unnecessary delays in the project.”