Letter: State money for Y raises broader issue

My state representative, Jonathan Steinberg (D-13), for whom I voted, supports the use of state-bond funds for the Westport/Weston Family Y.

In his letter ("Bonds for Y road work in town's best interest," July 25), Jonathan lists four reasons why he "came to support the bonding request to cover Exit 41 road work." They are: 1) not to "drive the Y into significant debt"; 2) to make sure the Y can "complete the remaining aspects of the project"; 3) "it is best for Westport"; and 4) "we stop taking sides and come together as a community."

Here is another perspective:

1. Jonathan did not state the amount of state-bond funds. It is $3 million. This amount is included in recent state legislation as one of many, many possible state-bond projects. I think the long list reflects the efforts of our legislators to promote projects relevant to their constituents without adequate understanding within the legislature of the merits of each individual project. Actual funding, including the $3 million for the Y, will occur only if Governor Malloy requests funding from the State Bond Commission. Requests also can be dependent upon the support of the relevant state agency, in the case of the Y, the state Department of Transportation. I believe no request for funding has yet been submitted to the State Bond Commission.

2. The Y has never stated it does not have the money to perform its obligations, that it would be driven into significant debt absent this $3 million or or that it is seeking state funds.

3. Rep. Steinberg has only recently publicized his efforts over the past several years to secure state funds. If our state wants to contribute to a private organization such as the Y, I believe that should be done openly and based upon a program to aid needy not-for-profit organizations. A "gift" to the Y should not be made through bond funds for Exit 41 roadwork required because of the Y's new facility and which appears to have been substantially completed and either paid for or payable with available Y funds.

4. Jonathan's effort could be viewed not as a step to cause us to come together as a community or as "best for Westport" but, rather, as an action that provides state money to a private, membership-driven organization and reopens the "wound" that he describes in his letter as "the single most controversial issue I can recall in my lifetime in Westport."

My judgment is that our state should not pay for the cost of the Y's roadwork and that such funding may be evidence of a bigger issue, namely how state funds are not allocated to the most important needs of our state.

Don Bergmann