The past, present and future of Wilmington politics

I would like to take a moment to thank all who supported my campaign for Wilmington town supervisor. I am grateful to the voters who put their faith in me, and to the people who helped out during the campaign.

Two hundred and fifty votes in Wilmington is often enough to win, and 300 votes in Wilmington is almost always enough to win.

Although it wasn’t quite enough this time, earning 300 votes in Wilmington is an accomplishment, and it took a team effort.

Election Day in Wilmington yielded a split decision, and possibly no one was completely thrilled with the result.

In the days after that split decision, my friends and I fielded questions about my future plans. The most straightforward answer is: I don’t know.

If I run for office again, we can be confident that I will be a strong, patient, focused and determined candidate.

And we can be confident that my efforts will be opposed by a noisy brigade with a strategy rooted in relentless mendacity.

Ahead of a Wilmington candidates’ forum in October, the local newspapers asked the public to suggest questions for the candidates. After the event, the papers’ editors compiled those questions and emailed them to the candidates.

One question that caught my eye read, “To Tim Follos: We have heard about a discussion to try and put a cap on what homeowners can sell their homes for, should they wish to sell. Although a capitalist would disapprove of such a cap, can you please enlighten us as to the nature of the origin of the aforementioned discussion to enact such a cap?”

That was the second time I’ve heard that rumor.

I appreciate the question, because the “price cap” described in the question is light years away from my actual beliefs and proposals.

This was one of several bizarre rumors circulating around town in the months before Election Day.

As far as I know, the latest fable is that I am a proponent of something called “Agenda 21.”

After seeing myself labeled a proponent of “Agenda 21” on social media, I picked up a copy of a pamphlet warning of “Agenda 21” that a community member circulated before a recent town board meeting.

I gather that the alleged supporters of “Agenda 21” are accused of a desire to promote dense housing developments.

Those who know me personally and those who have followed my time in the public eye know that promoting dense housing developments in Wilmington is not part of my agenda.

I’d now like to put to rest a few other tall tales.

I do not want to ban campfires, cancel the fall festival or prohibit town employees from working for community events.

As one Wilmington citizen stated in response to an inaccurate social media post, “He’s not going to do away with short-term rentals. That’s all propaganda that has been spread since the start of his political career here in Wilmington.”

While some of that propaganda comes to us from the land of Looney Tunes, successful propaganda is often a structure tacked together atop a sliver of truth.

A truth that a few people have latched on to and distorted is the fact that I support changes to Wilmington’s spending practices.

At our November meeting, the town board voted to override the property tax cap and adopt a 2024 budget with a 4.7% property tax increase. If our town board wants to depart from its pattern of annual tax increases, changes are necessary. As I said at the candidates’ forum: “The money is there. It’s a question of priorities. And our priorities have been askew.”

As for vacation rentals: For more than two years I have publicly supported a logical approach to regulating short-term vacation rentals.

This does not mean I want to outlaw STRs.

Supporting a better law is not the same as supporting a ban.

And appreciation for the current character of a community — or disapproval of the scale, impact, density or location of a particular subdivision or commercial enterprise — is not unwavering antipathy to “growth.”

I don’t blame the people who innocently believe and repeat things they hear. That’s something we all do.

I blame the people who lie. I know who they are, and I know why they do it.

In fact, we all know why they do it.

They do it because my actual beliefs are popular with Wilmington’s voters and taxpayers.

As for the disrespectful conduct: Those who witnessed the heckling at the candidates’ forum caught a glimpse of routine behavior. Everyone interested in Wilmington’s future should know that some of those who most loudly and persistently bemoan “division in the community” are the same people who have encouraged, applauded and rewarded a long series of vulgar insults and foolish outbursts.

An enduring truth of American politics is that voters always say they hate negative campaigns and mudslinging. But campaigns and candidates turn to those tactics perennially — because they work. And they recently worked in Wilmington, too.

It is now a new year, and we have a new town board.

But we can expect many things to remain much the same.

We can feel confident that a few community members will spend 2024 in the mists of a political fantasyland. Others will continue to reject opportunities to compromise or achieve consensus — and then will complain about division in the community. Still others will continue to dispense grotesque invective.

And I will continue to represent the beliefs, interests and priorities of more than 300 Wilmington residents at public town board meetings, held twice a month.

— — —

Tim Follos is a member of Wilmington’s town council. The board is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at 5 p.m., and on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m.

(Editor’s note: Questions submitted to the Enterprise and Lake Placid News for the Wilmington candidate forum were provided to all of the candidates after the candidate forum had ended to allow candidates to get a sense of what residents wanted to know. Residents’ names were kept anonymous.)


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