Letters to the editor March 17
To Memorial Day Parade organizers
I, like most town residents, anxiously await our annual Memorial Day Parade which celebrates not only our country's history but that of our beautiful town as well.
I realize that you need to position parade participants along Riverside Avenue and must mark each group's location. However I ask that this year you use a less permanent marker since last year's numbers are still visible on Riverside, nearly 10 months after the 2009 parade. Surely some form of chalk which would last for days, not months, would serve your purposes and not leave such a long-lasting mark on the road.
Don't ignore the
will of the people
The General Assembly responded to the state's budget crisis in 1991 by creating the personal income tax, and calmed fears that this new tax would lead to out of control spending and irresponsible tax increases by promising to adhere to a spending cap. But the General Assembly has repeatedly disregarded the will of the more than 80 percent of Connecticut citizens who voted in favor of ratifying our constitution to establish such a spending cap. If the legislature had enacted the constitutional spending cap when required, it is possible that government spending would now be more in-line with the state's flat employment and population growth -- and Connecticut would not now have a structural deficit.
That is why I recently testified before the legislature's Appropriations Committee in support of Proposed Senate Bill 3, An Act Redefining Terms Concerning The Spending Cap and Proposed House Bill 5073, An Act Concerning The Constitutional Spending Cap.
For the last 18 years, the legislature has been operating under a statutory spending cap, but one that does not have the binding power or effectiveness of a fully implemented constitutional amendment. Statutory language can be changed by a simple majority vote of the General Assembly, and often is. In fact, the legislature has ignored this statutory cap many times and voted to exceed it for various purposes. This was not the will of the voters then or now. These two legislative proposals include the language necessary to fully implement Connecticut's constitutional spending cap.
The General Assembly can no longer afford to ignore the will of people, and the time to fully implement the constitutional cap is now. The public outcry on excessive spending at all levels of government is unprecedented. Our citizens expect, and even demand, that we address this critical issue to ensure that the welfare of future generations will not be compromised.
State Senator, 26th District,
Comments on Linxweiler property
My wife Lori and I are 11-year residents of Westport. We live on Sue Terrace. I'm a 48-year-old father of two elementary school age girls and the COO of a financial services firm. We love our town and our neighborhood, but until recently we've not been overtly active in town politics. That has changed.
The proposal, initiated by IHA, for the development of the Linxweiler property has garnered a lot of press lately ... and rightly so. My family and I stand in opposition to the plan. I understand the proposal has been withdrawn, but will likely be submitted again soon, and I'd like to list my points clearly, so they're unambiguously on the record. The proposal in any form should be rejected because:
The project defies the Linxweiler will. The will states that Linxweiler desired the property be left as green space. Defying a will is a reprehensible thing to do, and effectively puts an end to any future bequests to the town. The town would never be able to un-ring that bell.
A 75-year lease is excessive. Entering into a 75-year lease is fiscally dangerous and irresponsible.
Ceding control of the property is wrong. I don't think the board has the right to dispose of the property in question, and the town's attorney, Ira Bloom, alluded to that notion last week.
Local infrastructure can't support development on that scale. This part of town floods regularly. It causes property damage and misery. I'm not just referring to storm water runoff, but the overwhelming of the sanitary sewer system, which backs up into people's homes. Homes like mine and my neighbors'. Photos, letters and other testimonies are available as a matter of public record. This project will add sewage to an already dangerously overextended and under-performing system.
There are personal safety issues. Since the proposed development would be IHA's largest and most ambitious, I don't think the applicant has any idea how difficult and dangerous the security situation might become. The greater Crescent Road community, including Sue Terrace, Ivy Terrace, Heather Hill, Deletta Lane, Crescent Park, Whitney Street, Sugarmaple Lane, Webb Road, Allen Ln., Marc Lane, Spicer, Rayfield, Beechnut and other roads, is rich with families and children. This project poses a real threat. There is no certainty when children's safety is at question.
Approving the 8-24 text amendment contradicts zoning rules. With the zoning text amended, projects like IHA's will be allowable without public scrutiny, review or debate. Every Westport resident will rightfully be outraged.
The project will be a blight on the community. The project will introduce undesirables into a closely knit, family-rich community, increase pressure on infrastructure and support organizations like police and other first-responders, increase litter, increase traffic, and reduce resident's hard-earned equity.
The project is an unfair tax burden. Increased pressure on infrastructure and support services means the town will have to increase taxes. The town cannot afford another obligation.
These are the salient points as I see them. There are others. I know there has been debate on the proposal. This is my stand. I hope I've been clear and direct.
There's one more issue, however, that bears addressing. You see, I am the resident whom the chair of the P&Z board singled out for holding the "no" sign. To be clear, these are 8 ½ x 11-inch yellow paper signs with the word "NO' written in black letters. Many of my neighbors brought these to the meeting, and prior meetings. At last week's meeting, I was sitting silently, listening to testimony with the paper sign at chest-level, and 90 minutes into the session, P&Z chairman, Ron Corwin stopped the testimony, pointed at me, and told me to put down the sign. There was a fifteen minute debate followed by a vote, whereby the signs were ordered removed. My neighbors and I put our signs down in protest, and the meeting resumed.
Here are my thoughts. First, I'd like to thank everyone, (including the other P&Z board members) who took a stand in defense of the right to self expression. I know the chairman was wrong. Moreover, I believe he knows he was wrong. In fact, I'd say that even if Corwin thought he was in the right, the town's attorney, Bloom, probably had a discussion with him, and provided clarification on local, state and federal law. Politicians and public officials make gaffes. It happens all the time. The problem is that this one was particularly shabby. It looks as though an important public official, who represents the people of this town, is at best inexperienced and mistake-prone ... and at worst, a partisan bully with an over inflated ego. Neither of these paint the board or the town in a good light.
I believe that confidence in the board is very low, and they need to do something quickly to restore the public's trust. An apology would be nice, but certainly not expected. A public statement is a "must" in my opinion. The town needs to clarify its position on this issue. It needs to explain why customized T-shirts, expressing support or opposition of an initiative are allowed at P&Z meetings in some cases, and discrete signs, likewise expressing support or opposition of an initiative, are not. The town must restore confidence in this body, or it risks an integrity crisis, and probably, if not certainly, legal problems of vastly greater size and scope in the future.
This is my first letter to an editor. I know it is long, but it is also a fairly sizeable issue. I'm not happy about this fight. I enjoyed spending Thursday nights with my family. I suppose now, they'll have to share me with the P&Z board on Thursday nights. Two good things have come from the ordeal: My children and I are learning about the democratic process, and I've met some simply extraordinary people. Neighbors I never knew, are so genuine and inspiring, I know I'll be friends with them for life. Those are great gifts.