January 16, 2022

Jim Lampos (D): Candidate for Old Lyme Board of Selectmen

Biography:

Jim Lampos serves on the Town of Old Lyme Community Connectivity Grant Committee, and is an alternate on the Planning Commission.   He previously served on the Sound View Improvements Committee.  He has been a year-round resident in Old Lyme with his wife Michaelle and his children Phoebe and Van for the past 16 years, and prior to that was a seasonal resident for 25 years.   He has written four books on the history of Old Lyme with his wife Michaelle, published by the History Press and the Old Lyme Historical Society.  He is also the owner/operator of Groton Pizza Palace.

Q1: Why are you running for the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen?

One thing nearly everyone in Old Lyme can agree on: we love our town. We cherish the beauty of our natural environment, honor our history, and treasure our cultural institutions. We want to preserve and protect everything that makes us unique: we don’t want to become “Anywhere, USA”, but rather, remain Old Lyme.  The Nature Conservancy called our salt marshes and islands along the Connecticut River one of “the world’s last great places”.   The same can be said for our entire town—our beaches, lakes, open spaces, farms, and charming villages—we don’t want to lose this to suburban sprawl, unchecked development, or schemes hatched in Hartford and Washington. Our strength is our democratic form of government—the town meeting—where everyone’s voice counts.  We have been meeting as a town to chart our own course since before the founding of the United States.  We showed the way then, and we must show the way again, preserving all that is great about our town while embracing the opportunities to improve our quality of life, our sustainability, and our prosperity.   I am running for Board of Selectmen to help in that process.

The challenges that we will face in the coming years come from many angles, some foreseen and others not.  There are resiliency issues due to climate change, a declining population of young families, an aging and at times inadequate infrastructure, a car-based streetscape that discourages biking and walking, and a lack of vision and direction when it comes to economic development. We can’t just stand in the road with a stop sign and expect the world to halt at our borders, or we’re going to get run over.  We need a forward-thinking strategy to preserve all that we love about our town while embracing positive solutions for the future.

Q2: What is your opinion of the Resolution Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis, which was originally proposed by Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal in August 2020 as a document that the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen should approve? It remains unsigned — please indicate whether you would be willing to sign it, if elected.

The way forward on this question has been shown by our neighboring town of Lyme that discussed the matter and adopted a resolution on racism in their own words; and by our own Resident State Trooper Matt Weber who embraced Rev. Steven Jungkeit’s introduction of the ABLE police training program to help mitigate confrontations by affirming that he is “open to discussion for anything”. That’s the spirit.   

I have been dismayed that First Selectman Griswold has repeatedly refused to even discuss the resolution. This is not the Tim Griswold I’ve known for all these years, and he is perhaps inadvertently sending the wrong message about who we are as a town.  Old Lyme has a very intelligent, informed citizenry accustomed to vigorous civic discussion: our town famously debated the separation of church and state in 1727.  Tim’s reluctance to discuss the matter is not in keeping with our character.

In an apparent attempt to avoid controversy, the First Selectman’s obstructionism sends the message that Old Lyme doesn’t care, which I know is not true. Contrary to the assertions of some critics, the resolution in no way states that our townspeople are racist. Rather, it affirms that we are not and pledges that we will be ever mindful and vigilant on this question. To refuse to even entertain a resolution denouncing racism, one of the central political issues of our day, sends the wrong message at a time when extremist ideologies are being normalized.  I would like to see the resolution discussed, and as Selectwoman Nosal has repeatedly said—we can craft our own resolution upon which the entire Board of Selectman can agree, and which reflects our Old Lyme values. We cannot afford to be silent in this historic moment.

To answer the question directly:  Yes, I would have signed it.

Q3: What do you consider are currently the three most important issues in Old Lyme that require the attention of the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen, (with the exception of the Resolution on Racism discussed in Question 2)? Describe how you would move forward on each issue, if elected.

Low Taxes, Local Control and Great Schools: I will work to maintain and improve the greatest aspects of our small town:  holding the line on taxes and working to lower them, keeping decision-making local, supporting our schools and helping our seniors.  I will look for additional efficiencies in our budget process and aggressively pursue state and federal funds for projects that can improve our neighborhoods and quality of life.  We should also promote Old Lyme’s local farms and small businesses, finding ways to help them succeed.  

Conservation and Resiliency: Nature is at the heart of who we are as a town.  Numerous volunteers and benefactors have done the great work of protecting and maintaining Old Lyme’s open spaces, and as selectman I would support having the town double down its commitment.  Protecting our lands gives us the additional benefit of conserving our most vital resource:  our aquifers.  Climate change will be impacting many of our communities along the shore and inland, and testing our infrastructure.  Preservation of our wetlands and creation of nature-based solutions will be key to our success in dealing with rising sea levels.  

Strategic Vision.  Strategies of inaction and resistance are not effective, and indeed, often counter-productive. Proposals for a 24-hour convenience store/gas station on Halls Road and 30,000 square foot commercial units of unspecified use on Shore Road have aroused strong opposition, but are the result of the town’s lack of planning and foresight.  Without a substantive plan, we will have unwanted outcomes. The Old Lyme Economic Development Study (2020) is a representative survey of our residents and business community and should not sit on the shelf gathering dust.  After public discussion of the recommendations, we should draft policy and implement solutions that have broad consensus among our residents and business owners.

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