In New Milford, some fellow Democrats split with mayor
Published 6:03 pm, Wednesday, October 19, 2016
NEW MILFORD — As the town’s year-old Democratic mayoral administration has gotten to work running New Milford, some fellow Democrats are unhappy.
Two former Democratic Town Committee members have left the party in recent months.
“I think the town is making some negative choices,” Wallace said after she resigned from her seats on the Arts Commission, Historic Properties Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals last week. “But discussion has just been a one-way street.”
Wallace says the DTC’s treatment of Bernie Sanders supporters was the reason she left the town committee this summer.
Joseph DeGregorio also left the party over the summer because of the DTC’s support of Hillary Clinton, he said. DeGregorio says he agrees with Wallace about Gronbach, and feels the new administration was no better than the previous GOP one.
“We all rallied behind this idea of no more heavy-handed rule, no more party politics,” he said. “I drank the Kool-Aid.”
Mayor Gronbach said his administration hasn’t been heavy handed or opaque. Instead, he argues that his administration has been very open and willing to hear from town residents. He said he doesn’t know why Wallace quit her posts, but she never spoke to him about it and his door was open.
Wallace said she decided to quit her seats after an Oct. 13 town meeting when she felt her former party was no longer working for the “little guy” but was forcing an agenda. At that meeting, questions about the environmental impact of a natural gas power plant proposal at the old Century Brass mill were met with an adversarial attitude, not open ears, she said.
“I don’t want to be a facilitator of all that.” Wallace said. “I think about our family home and having a power plant down the street.”
DeGregorio became disenchanted with the administration after the mayor pushed to remove Children’s Center employees from the town’s insurance plan. He also dislikes that the administration said it had six months of conversation with a power plant company before the public heard about it.
Wallace said the mayor’s lack of interest in discussion surrounding the town’s plan to move Gallery 25 was another reason she quit.
DTC Chairman Andy Grossman said that the two left for their own reasons, not a division within the town’s party. In recent months, participation hasn’t dropped considerably, he added.
“The Democratic Town Committee is 100 percent behind the mayor,” Grossman said.
Grossman said Wallace and DeGregorio left because they didn’t get their way, not because the DTC or the administration wronged them.
Gronbach said that his administration has been remarkably transparent. For the power plant proposal, the town could have worked behind closed doors, he said. But instead his office urged public comment and set public meetings.
Both Grossman and Gronbach said there have been several meetings about the proposed power plant, and that questions have always been welcome.
Gronbach said he hasn’t even made up his mind yet.
“I still have questions,” he said.
Gronbach said his office hasn’t been secretive. He just doesn’t have answers to several environmental questions because discussions with Panda Power Funds have just begun.
Grossman said he agreed with Gronbach, adding that lies about the administration have been spread just to hurt the mayor, not because Gronbach had done anything wrong.
“Many of the things that have been said about the mayor, about the town government, have been totally untrue,” Grossman said.
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