James Waters: Two wolves and their shepherd

James Waters was born and raised in Greenwich, is the Chairman of the Serve America Movement and Chief of Staff of Compass Partners Advisors.

Steve Bannon lives in Greenwich. Yes that one, the former White House advisor and Breitbart Chairman who is inciting a Republican civil war. He divides Americans on a disguise of “populism” and “drain the swamp” to elect far right candidates and push a fringe ideological agenda. The national takeover of the Republican Party is ongoing.

Bannon doesn’t actually live in Greenwich, but his ideas do. Ask Board of Education Chairman Peter Sherr and Board of Education candidate Jason Auerbach. They helped lead an extremist takeover of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee.

Of course neither Sherr nor Auerbach will say this – they talk instead about “Greenwich First”, “Charter Change” and “voter choice”. In fact, they and others developed the agenda and messaging that is now the official platform of the Republican Town Committee and its slate of candidates.

Let me take a step back. This is the town I grew up in. I left to go to college, work in a Republican White House, serve as a Navy SEAL platoon commander, and then attend graduate school. I returned in 2014 so my sons could grow up in a wonderful place and attend our excellent public schools.

I am an unaffiliated voter who believes both political parties are infected with a disease that feeds on extremism. I’m building a new home to give voice to those who want to take our country back. We need a new home focused on integrity, fairness, and common sense solutions. We must achieve real progress
for the American people, unify rather than divide, and fix problems rather than fight. Outdated ideologies are killing us.

While thousands of Americans help us build this vision, we must stand up for what is right – and call out things that are wrong. Speaking truth to power is critical or we’re left with just the loudest, most extreme voices in the room, often wearing a more palatable disguise.

Here are three difficult truths to consider in the run-up to next week’s election:

• The far right controls the Republican Town Committee. It is led by extreme right wingers, far more radical than party leadership was just 10 years ago, when George W. Bush was president. There are plenty of reasonable Republicans in town, but they are not being represented when party elite sets the agenda or picks the candidates.

• “Greenwich First” and “Charter Change” are sheep’s clothing for the far right agenda to cut funding for our schools so favored neighborhoods can have their mill rate reduced. Plain and simple. This is unacceptable.

• The standard bearers for the right, Sherr and Auerbach, are fringe characters. Sherr is failing as Board chair: known for long meandering meetings, micromanaging the superintendent, leaking confidential information to the press, and attacking voters who challenge him on social media.

Auerbach is simply unfit to serve: showed up at less than 50% of RTM meetings he was required to attend, repeatedly voted to cut school funding, continually attempts to harass or intimidate voters and fellow candidates, and now hides his misconduct termination from us.

So why isn’t First Selectman Peter Tesei standing up for us?

Most would agree Tesei is a nice man and historically was a force of reason. Yet this all happened on his watch. He forcefully pushes the radical agenda himself and he empowered and normalized actors like Sherr and Auerbach. His fingerprints are all over the takeover because he is the one who opened the gates. I’m left with a final sad truth: our shepherd let the wolves into town.

Fortunately we can take a stand next week.

On November 7, I will vote for Sandy Litvack for First Selectman and Peter Bernstein for Board of Education. Litvack is a seasoned and non-partisan executive, a former Vice Chairman of Disney, who speaks truth to power and brings fresh ideas to government.

Bernstein is a Republican who bucked the party elite, a sharp incumbent and team player on the Board who has the potential to serve as a key leader in the years to come. Both men are reasonable, transparent, and fair – and just want to get things done. They represent a good start at protecting our town from the extremes.

I’d encourage my fellow residents and parents – Republicans, Democrats, and Unaffiliated voters alike – to get to the polls next week and not cast any votes for Sherr, Auerbach, or Tesei. We deserve better in our leaders. This is our town and we must defend it together, regardless of political affiliation.

James Waters was born and raised in Greenwich, is the Chairman of the Serve America Movement and Chief of Staff of Compass Partners Advisors.