At long last, I am devoting this “View” to a few thoughts and observations on Old Lyme’s November 7th municipal election, which included a recount; aka “recanvass,” for positions whose margins were less than 20 votes; — required in CT unless the losing candidate waives the recount. The recount, which was held on Monday, Nov. 13th, did not change any elected positions, though one was reduced to a margin of a single vote.
It is noteworthy that in a state where only 34 percent of eligible voters turned out on the 7th, there was remarkable interest amongst Old Lyme’s electorate; where 58.6 percent of eligibles voted.
In contrast, Lyme had 33.9%; East Lyme, 40.3 %; Waterford, 33.7%; Groton, 25.2%; and to the west, Old Saybrook had 40.3%; and Westbrook, 33.8%.
Participation in municipal elections is usually lower than for statewide or national elections, when turnout in Connecticut can exceed 75 percent.
The results of the election demonstrated the community’s support for the Democrats’ “Small Town-Bright Future” vision; and the new leadership team on the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen (BOS), with Democrats Martha Shoemaker as first selectwoman and Jim Lampos, selectman. The Democrats were also successful in contests for positions on important boards and commissions.
Republican Judith Danenhower Read, fills the third position on the BOS, receiving 1,715 votes vs. her running mate, John Mesham’s 1697. In Old Lyme, the losing candidate in the first selectman’s race automatically becomes a candidate for the board of selectmen.
Old Lyme’s Town Clerk, Vicki Urbowicz, swore in the newly elected on Sunday, Nov. 19th.
The earliest draft of this “View” included a lengthy assessment of the factors and events that I believe had an influence on the election. These included the Old Lyme Republican Town Committee’s list of priorities that was sent to all residents in the spring, which included a “pledge” to exercise greater “parental rights” over the shaping of school curricula and the holdings of school and public libraries; the ‘book-banning’ issue and subsequent “petition” against it; and the demand made in a public comment at a Region 18 Board of Education (BOE) meeting that BOE members, who had signed the “petition” mentioned above should resign because they were really supporting pornography and obscene books in our Library’s ‘Teens & Tweens’ section.
My editor, who sometimes uses her red pen in the same way that Darth Vader wielded his light saber, strongly suggested, — i.e., told me, that now was not the time to be looking backward but rather forward. Of course, I submitted to her decision, but after a little bobbing and weaving, and a reminder that “those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it;” did negotiate an abridged version of my original effort.
All that said, there is an apparently orphaned project that deserves attention.
Last year, the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts proposed an “Arts Overlay District” on Lyme Street, which would amend Old Lyme’s zoning regulations and create “a more flexible arts and social district.” Michael Duffy, Chairman of the Academy’s Board of Trustees, stated that they seek “a predictable set of guidelines so they can plan, knowing that their activities are “in conformance with the regulations.” Their site at 84 Lyme Street is zoned “residential”, although the Academy, with its extensive studios and classrooms, has operated on that site as an educational institution for decades.
The Town’s Planning Commission had already determined by unanimous vote in October 2022 that the proposed overlay district was consistent with the Town’s “Plan of Conservation and Development.” They referred the proposal to the Zoning Commission, and it was on that Commission’s November 14, 2022 agenda; continuing through December and into 2023. As I recall there was some concern raised by the Historic District Commission that the Academy might use the new zoning regulations to open a Starbucks. Unfortunately, and now a year later; Zoning has not taken any action on the Academy’s proposal, although Democratic Commission member, Mary Jo Nosal, has emphasized the importance of writing new regulations without delay.
Author’s Notes: I want to pass on the words of Winston Churchill, who frequently used the phrase, “We must go forward together,” in speeches to Parliament and the British people as advice for First Selectwoman Shoemaker and the BOS.
I also want to acknowledge Tim Griswold’s many years of service to Old Lyme; and as a fellow Navy veteran, wish him “fair winds and following seas,” the traditional United States Navy farewell tribute.
Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka.
About the Author: Tom Gotowka is a resident of Old Lyme, whose entire adult career has been in healthcare. He will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK. A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.