December 4, 2020

Op-Ed: Thoughts on ‘Suckers’ and ‘Losers’

“Suckers and Losers”?

I am outraged; and saddened. 

If you’ve paid any attention to the national news, you know that The Atlantic recently carried a report by editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, who cited sources who stated that the president canceled his visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because he believed the Marines who died in the battle of Belleau Wood during World War I were “suckers.” According to the report, Mr. Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” 

Mr. Trump lashed out at Goldberg, calling him a “slimeball,” adding that it was, “a fake story and a disgrace,” written by a magazine that probably was not going to be around much longer. He has made similar comments about the New York Times. Unbelievably, he went on to say (i.e., “Tweet”): “Steve Jobs would not be happy that his wife is wasting money he left her on a failing Radical Left Magazine that is run by a con man (Goldberg) and spews FAKE NEWS & HATE. Call her, write her, let her know how you feel!!!” Holy Cow … again, the specter of strong women?

Jeffrey Goldberg is a solid, well-respected journalist. The Atlantic began publication more than 150 years ago. The Atlantic’s founders include Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 

The following are my memories, but relevant to how I’ve reacted to this reprehensible White House issue. These memories are special to me, but certainly not unique amongst American families. 

My father’s life was interrupted by some action in “harm’s way” in World War II and the Battle of the Bulge. He was a member of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”; my grandparents prayed, and he eventually came home. My Dad was neither a sucker nor a loser.  

I had a close friend growing up, who, when I left for University, made the decision to enlist in the Army. Killed in action, Gary John Shea’s name is engraved on Panel 61E Line 2 of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, DC. I have visited the Memorial and seen the engraving. His death was a tragedy. He was neither a sucker nor a loser.

Each of our military services has a creed, or oath, that provides a value structure by which our men and women live and serve. 

In Gary’s honor, I paraphrase the Soldier’s Creed: “I am an American Soldier. I serve the people of the United States. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy.” Does the White House know this? Deployment of the military at racial justice protests is not mentioned in the “Creed”, “even as photo op props.” 

I also served, but never in harm’s way. My active duty years were mostly at the Naval Hospital at NAS Pax River, MD. In my clinical capacity, I once had the terrible honor to examine the burned remains of a Naval aviator in order to officially confirm his identity. His A-4 Skyhawk had gone down. His death was a tragedy. He was neither a sucker nor a loser. 

The A-4 is the same aircraft flown by another Naval Aviator and an American hero, Senator John McCain. He was neither a sucker nor a loser.

My son and his wife are graduates of the Naval Academy.  Brendan served on fast attack nuclear submarines. He claims to have once seen the “bright lights” of Murmansk. Emily was involved in missile testing on surface vessels.

Having fulfilled his active duty service commitment, Brendan continues his relationship with the Navy, in his role at JHU’s Applied Physics Laboratory. He works closely with them to develop “strategies and systems that support our Sea Control Mission”.  

My son-in-law is a Royal Air Force squadron leader and recently completed a multi-year tour as RAF liaison officer to the USAF at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. “Ruggy” has the dubious distinction, as a citizen of the United Kingdom, to have flown his USAF F-15E Strike Eagle over Syria and Iraq with the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It is a tradition to have an American flag in the cockpit for later presentation to family. We cherish that flag.

Brendan, Emily, and Ruggy are intelligent and honorable leaders and warriors, who have served to defend the United States. They are neither suckers nor losers.

I despair at the utter callousness and disrespect exhibited by a Commander-in-Chief who sees fit to use descriptors like “suckers and losers” as a means of insulting those who served in our military. 

Editor Goldberg had received some criticism for not naming his sources, although the Associated Press has corroborated the report. 

However, the history of disparaging rhetoric that has emanated from Mr. Trump, alone gives credibility to The Atlantic report. I will not bother to cite all of his words and the times that this president has made degrading, and insulting remarks about the military and its leadership.

However, the names that come to my mind include Alexander Vindman, John McCain, Generals Mattis, McMaster, and, just recently, Kelly. His words and feelings are clear.  To the best of my knowledge, nobody in the Trump family has served, which amazes me. Consequently, he has absolutely no reference point on the role or concerns of family who support our men and women, who may serve in harm’s way. How did my daughter, Erin, feel when Ruggy was flying over Iraq and Syria? How did my wife handle Brendan’s undersea deployments during silent periods? 

I have to wonder: “Where are his close advisors?” 

The VP has not served in the military, although his father served in Korea, and his son with the Marines. Mike Pompeo is a graduate of West Point and has served as an Army officer.

Why won’t you guys ask this president to cease his reprehensible insults?

God save the United States of America!

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka, who is a resident of Old Lyme.

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Op-Ed: A Gardener, “The Gardener’s Tale,” and Structural Racism in Our Towns

Editor’s Note: The author of this op-ed, Joseph CL Merola,  MD, MPH, is an active member of the Old Saybrook March for Justice.  He lives in Old Saybrook and is a semiretired Obstetrician and Gynecologist, having most recently practiced, taught and served as Chairman of the Department at the St. Luke’s University Health Network in Eastern PA and Western NJ. Dr. Merola also has been a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and Clinical Professor at the Temple University School of Medicine. He has an abiding interest in the public’s health, particularly for women and children, and for distributive justice in health care.           

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash.

At this time of year, I’m in my glory as an avid gardener in Coastal Connecticut.

So grateful to my Italian father and grandfather for sharing and showing, by example, a gardener’s passion  (and frankly requiring  me to participate by helping to sow, nurture, weed and pick!) Arising from that hands-on education comes a now more natural understanding of the elements of the growing environment for seeds and plants … temperature, soil quality, water, sun and organic principles. 

So here we are again, in early September, with an abundant harvest of herbs, greens, root vegetables, peppers and array of tomato varieties, sizes and colors. And we can still look ahead to corn, squashes and pumpkins for the fall.  How wonderful! But, giving credit where credit is due, these “fruits of one’s labor”, and their quality, begin and depend on the all-important environment.

So, let’s consider for a moment “The Gardener’s Tale,” an allegory, first appearing within an article in the American Journal of Public Health in 2000, authored by Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, PhD, MPH, the former President of the American Public Health Association and a Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. (An Abstract, and access to the full text is available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446334/ for further reference.) 

She develops a context for understanding racism on three levels. First is Personally Mediated Racism, i.e. intentional or unintentional prejudice and discrimination, including acts of omission and/or commission, structural boundaries, and societal condonation.

The second is Internalized Racism, wherein the members of the race in question accept notions of their own lesser intrinsic worth and ability.

The last is the so evident Institutionalized Racism, shown by sub-optimal material conditions (access to quality housing, education, employment, a clean environment and particularly health care). Also included in this category is similarly differential access to power, resources, information, and a “voice.”

As a demonstration, Jones presents the referenced allegory of a Gardener with two flower boxes, one with fresh, rich soil (and beautiful red flowers) and the other, unknowingly at first, with old, poor quality soil (and similarly poor quality pink flowers.) 

Personally Mediated Racism is reflected in the Gardener’s discard of the scraggly pink blossoms before going to seed, or removing pink scattered seeds that might be blowing into the more fertile soil. 

Internalized Racism here relates to the pink flowers telling the bees not to pollinate them with pink pollen, as they prefer red pollen, and thus red flowers.

The allegorical equivalent of Institutionalize Racism is most poignant … with the two flower boxes historically keeping the soils, seeds and flowers separate by color, the oversight of the gardener in not addressing the soil differences in the first place, and the belief that red flowers were intrinsically better!

This summer a light has dramatically been shone on our own “gardens”, in our own shoreline towns. The marches for social justice, arising from the Black Lives Matter movement, have grown in size and number. Privileged people, not directly impacted by racism, have materialized and raised their voices against racism. This has been a powerful maker! 

Towns across Connecticut, including New London, have adopted resolutions claiming that “racism is a public health crisis,” and used the opportunity for town hall conversations to bring about change. Why is all quiet in the Old Saybrook, Essex and Old Lyme Town Halls, despite their own residents’ protests and affirmation?    

Clearly, “the Gardener” here is our local government. They have the power to consider, act, and openly declare racism as a reality, a grave concern, and a public health crisis. They have the power to allocate more resources to mitigate this dilemma. Among other outcomes, these could take the shape of education, public culture, affordable housing and accessible healthcare. 

But, why are they so quiet? 

We need open recognition, and declaration: our various garden environments for growth must be optimized, and not different. Our racial soil quality, particularly new and fertile soil, is needed to permit pink flowers to flourish, as well as red. Then, flowers of all colors can be recognized equally, and have the same opportunity for contributing to a brighter and more meaningful life.  

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Op-Ed: An Open Letter to all the States on the Mandatory 14-Day Quarantine List

Anyone traveling to Connecticut from the states in red must quarantine for 14 days after arrival.

UPDATED 08/10: New Comment — Hi! This is Connecticut. You know, the little northeastern state with great pizza, high quality of life, and New England charm? Doesn’t ring a bell? We’ve got small cities and a beautiful shoreline and grouchy people and … still no, huh?

Okay, fine. We’re the one between Boston and New York with the traffic jams. Know who we are now? Good.

We’re having a hard time understanding why you let things get this bad. There’s a lot about the rest of the country that doesn’t always make sense to us, like the distinct lack of split-top hot dog buns west of the Hudson, but usually we just chalk it up to regional differences and get on with our lives.

But this is different.

The coronavirus is still raging out of control in most states, five full months after it first started showing up in the United States. In other parts of the world, things are actually going back to normal. In Taiwan they’re having baseball—with fans in attendance! And we here in the Northeast were actually on the same track.

We were beating this thing! We were hit early and we were hit hard, just like our neighbors in New York, but we had smart, capable people in government and brave, hard-working healthcare personnel, and by May we were seeing a dramatic drop in cases and deaths.That downward trend continued until mid-June, when things kind of stalled out.

Now our numbers are going back up. It’s slow, but it’s steady, and we’re bracing for it to get worse before it gets better. Given how bad things got for us in April, and how hard our people worked and how much we sacrificed, this is absolutely gut-wrenching.

Was it all for nothing?

Do you realize that by bearing the brunt of the first wave, the people of the Northeast bought you precious time to prepare? We had only days to decide what to do as the virus spread, undetected, through our population. Everything happened here in two panicky, rushed weeks in March, and then we shut it all down and coped as best we could.

You had so much more time. You could have prevented the virus from ever becoming as bad as it was here.

But what did you do with all that time? Did you ready mask mandates, did you make sure to close bars and beaches, did you get what equipment you could for your hospitals and educate your people?

No. Too many of you decided that it was more important to protect the economy than the people. Too many of you fell for the anti-science, culture-war nonsense coming out of the mouth of the president. And look what’s come of that—the economy is still in ruins, and there are 150,000 Americans dead.

That’s why we’ve had to make our list. If anyone travels from one of those states to Connecticut, they’re required to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

But it’s not like we can put up guard posts on I-95 and I-84. We can’t wall ourselves off from the rest of the country. So the virus is coming back in, and descending on a population who thought, rightly, that they had done their job to defeat it already.

We’re not going to jump up and down and yell about how this is all your fault, even though we’d be justified in doing so. We will share what we’ve learned, and hope you can turn things around before they get even worse.

Masks and shutdowns work. Educating the people works. The leaders of states suffering from the virus now must not be so afraid of the political consequences of doing the right thing, of leading, that they simply allow people to die. Mandate masks. Shut down the economy. Close the bars. Forget about school. Test, report, and trace. You have to.

But here’s the most important and painful lesson we learned: you are on your own. The federal government did not care if we got PPE and ventilators. The people at the very top in Washington were content to let us die because of politics. They don’t care, and help is not on the way.

Which means it’s up to you, and only you, to stop this thing. We believe in you. You have a friend in us, and we’re rooting for you all the way.

Just please, for goodness’ sake, cancel your travel plans.

Editor’s Note: (i)This column was originally published Aug. 4, on CTNewsJunkie.com. It is republished with their permission.

(ii) Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats. Follow her on Twitter @whateversusan.

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It’s Juneteenth — But What Does That Mean? (from ‘The Boston Globe’)

LYME / OLD LYME — To be honest, we have never mentioned Juneteenth before on LymeLine.com but, in a sign of the times, we feel we can’t let this day pass us by this year without comment.

Quiet, overwhelmingly white Lyme and Old Lyme have already displayed a remarkable awareness of the changing world in which we are living with rallies for racial justice in each town on the most recent two weekends.

Something is happening — even in our peaceful, rural backwaters — that is touching the community conscience and sparking action.

We stumbled on this powerful opinion piece by Adrian Walker titled, What we celebrate this Juneteenth, published yesterday (June 18) in The Boston Globe, which digs deeper into this ongoing phenomenon and explains the history of Juneteenth far better than we are able.

Walker says,  “And this Juneteenth finds Americans in the streets, joined again in a battle for that elusive idea of freedom. Fighting, once again, for true equity in the land where all of us were created equal. As much as anything, Juneteenth is an observance of promises still waiting to be delivered.

He concludes, “If we are lucky and brave and bold, this insane year of pandemic, uprising, and upheaval might be another beginning. Americans stand on the shoulders of idealists, but grounded in the realities of the oppressed. Juneteenth, from its beginning, has been a monument to that tension.

For once, that drama is front and center.

Read Walker’s full column at this link.

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Op-Ed: Old Lyme EDC Completes Fact-Finding Stage of ‘Smart Growth’ Development Plan, Seeks Additional Public Input to Move Forward

Editor’s Note: The authors, Justin Fuller and Howard Margules, are the Co-Chairs of the Old Lyme Economic Development Commission.

The Old Lyme Economic Development Commission (EDC) launched three initiatives as its first step in crafting a “smart growth” economic development strategy for Old Lyme focused on maintaining the small-town character and charm of our unique town.

We realized the success of the plan depended upon providing opportunities for the public’s voice to be heard. Therefore, we designed the project with this in mind.

The three studies are now complete, and we are pleased to share the results with you.

We believe the findings in these reports will provide essential insights for not only the mission of the EDC but also will provide valuable information for the town’s other boards, commissions, and stakeholders.

The EDC has two main goals: first, attracting new businesses that fit the character of Old Lyme, and second, supporting existing businesses. These studies provided information essential in meeting these goals.

We were delighted by the community’s high level of participation, and we sincerely thank those who participated in completing the survey and to the SWOT attendees who gave up a portion of their free time to share their ideas with the commission.

We are committed to turning these findings into recommendations aimed at enhancing our town’s future.

Our efforts were greatly assisted by Advance CT (formerly known as the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, CERC) in crafting these three reports. They provide a comprehensive sound foundation to build upon, but will require adjustments for the impact of COVID-19.

We recognize the business and economic landscape will be altered, which will require adjustments to our future plans. We believe we are in a better position to confront the “new normal” that will result from the impact of the virus by having the results from these projects as a baseline to work with.

We invited all residents and all businesses to complete an Economic Development Survey, which provided the entire community an opportunity to weigh in on a variety of issues that will help shape the future of Old Lyme.

The response was overwhelming and the results of the Survey are contained in the report at this link.  Seven hundred and thirty surveys were completed (we anticipated 150 responses), the largest percentage response of any of the approximate 80 municipalities Advance CT has surveyed.

We conducted two economic Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) workshops designed to obtain feedback from a broad cross-section of town stakeholders, including a variety of businesses, residents, town leaders, nonprofit organizations, and clergy. The SWOT workshops gave additional opportunities for these stakeholders to dive deeper into critical issues.

The Old Lyme Economic Development Study provided valuable data and expert analysis of current economic conditions and recommendations for the future economic development of Old Lyme. It generated professional analysis and recommendations that will aid us in examining business opportunities that are both realistic and are a good fit for Old Lyme.

in carrying out our two EDC goals of both providing support to existing businesses, and attracting new business, while being mindful of maintaining the charm and character of our beautiful town.

Looking to the future, we will be discussing a game plan at our next meeting and the initiatives we have described here, which have already been implemented, will play a vital role as we move forward. In a nutshell, the EDC is now transitioning from gathering information to generating recommendations for a “smart growth” economic development strategy,

Our goal will be to come up with a specific recommendations for economic development keeping in mind our two EDC  goals of supporting existing business and attracting new businesses while being mindful of maintaining the charm and character of our beautiful town.

We will recommend that we include a vision statement that includes defining  both “the character” of Old Lyme and our sense of community.

We encourage you to review the results of all three reports. We welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Please feel free to email us at edc@oldlyme-ct.gov. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks again for your participation and interest in the future of the Old Lyme, a town we all treasure.

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Op-Ed: We Are Suffocating From Racism, But There is Hope for Resuscitation

Rev. David W. Good, Minister Emeritus of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme

Editor’s Note: The author, Rev. David W. Good, is the Minister Emeritus of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme.

When I was a senior in high school in 1967, our social studies teacher and debate coach, determined to teach us the importance of being engaged in the great struggle for human rights, taught us about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and a student, Ruby Bridges. Daily our teacher would ask us the same question raised by the ancient Greek philosopher, Thucydides, “When will there be justice in Athens?” The answer: “When those who are not injured are as indignant as those that are.”

The message was clear. There is such a thing as “White Privilege,” and those of us who are white have a moral responsibility to work for a “more perfect union” — to listen to people of color, to acknowledge our own complicity in racial injustice, and together with those who are injured work to transform our society.

Sadly, here in 2020, we are still dealing with the same racial injustices, police brutality, economic inequity, environmental travesties, failure of political leadership and the passivity of far too many that has characterized our nation for much too long. If we want there to be justice in our cities and towns, now is the time for those “not injured to be as indignant as those who are.”

For those of us who are Christian, we must show righteous indignation for a U.S. president who would defile our sacred spaces and use the Bible not only as a prop but as a weapon. For centuries, the Bible has been used in such a way. Bigots have held up the Bible to establish racist systems of slavery, Jim Crow and Apartheid. Biblical illiteracy has been used to articulate theologies of entitlement that have red lined Jews, people of color, women, Muslims, Native Americans and those of different sexual identities.

If President Trump would only open the Bible, he might read the prophetic indignation of Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream” or the lyrical vision of Isaiah, “they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain” or the teachings of Jesus and the primacy of love. Not love in general but love in great specificity, love “for those who are hungry and homeless.”

Sadly, we are led by a president who doesn’t listen to the wisdom of the prophets and has proven himself to be neither Republican nor Democrat, neither conservative nor liberal. Our collective voices, those of all political persuasions, need to rise in indignation against the creeping fascism of our president and those who would enable it.

The body of George Floyd should serve as a tragic metaphor for the broken body of our nation. We are suffocating from racism.

But, thankfully, there is hope for resuscitation.

In one of her books, Arundhati Roy writes,

“We must tell stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe… Not only is another world possible; she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.”

I can hear her breathing when I see police officers put down their batons and shields and, with tears in their eyes, hug people of color in the streets of our cities.

I can hear her breathing when I see the number of young people — white and black and brown — standing up against gun violence.

I can hear her breathing in soldiers “who more than life their country love” and so break their silence for the human rights violations they have witnessed.

I can hear her breathing in health care workers who love “mercy more than life.”

I could hear her breathing when I took part in a peaceful march for justice in Old Saybrook, led by Maryam Elahi, a longtime human rights activist and teacher in our communities.

I can hear her breathing in the people of war-torn Syria who, despite their own tragedies, have created memorials to George Floyd.

I can hear her breathing in the strident, indignant testimony of Greta Thunberg who has quickened the conscience of those who struggle for environmental justice.

I can hear her breathing in our precious teachers who keep alive the ancient wisdom of those such as Thucidides.

To honor the tragic death of George Floyd and so many others who have died, we all need to do what we can to breathe life into the body of our nation.

 

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Op-Ed: TV News? Turn it Off

Jim Cameron

I can’t watch TV news anymore.

I used to be a news junkie, a control freak who thought that by knowing everything that was going on everywhere in the world I could somehow control it.  Hah!  Was that ever a naïve view.

Having worked in local and network newsrooms, what was coming over the AP and UPI newswires was like heroin for my news habit. 

I used to read two or three newspapers a day, listen to CBS Radio Network news almost hourly and never miss the networks evening newscasts … at least two or three of them a night, including the BBC. 

But now, I know that none of that matters.  My world has shrunk to the size of my house and I don’t need to know anything happening in the world that doesn’t directly affect me and my family.   

It was Simon & Garfunkel, who said, “I get the news I need on the weather report.’  My information consumption pattern is only slight larger now.  But it’s only “news I can use”… news I need to know.

Are my town’s parks still open?  What hours is the grocery store open?  Are my immediate neighbors OK?  Is my family alright?  That’s hyperlocal news.

I am so tired of watching CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell start every newscast with an emphatic “Breaking News!”, only to regurgitate hours-old stories that could be “news” only to someone living under a rock.  And I won’t even go near CNN or Fox News.  Their coverage is purposely designed to scare me and keep me tuned in for more.

I don’t trust TV news anymore.  Not the networks, not the local Connecticut stations and certainly not our local cable company’s offering.  So I’m not watching any of it. 

And forget about the rumor-mongering on social media.  “Unfriend” and “unfollow” are my defensive mechanisms there.

But I still read the papers, on paper and online.  I try to catch New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings and anything that Dr. Fauci has to say.  C-Span and CT-N are my few remaining “reality TV” options as they are unfiltered and non-opinionated.  Just give me the facts.  Don’t tell me how to think.

(At this point, dear reader, you can stop reading this screed if you think I’m telling you how to think … but you’ll miss the good part.)

Over 30 years ago I changed my life in a program led by a simple prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept those things I cannot change.  The courage to change those I can … and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It’s known as The Serenity Prayer and it has brought me a lot of inner peace in the past few weeks. 

I know I’m not in control in this crisis, beyond protecting my family and myself as best I can.  I can’t change this virus, its lethality or effect on my community.

But I can keep my social distance, maintain my immune system, get plenty of rest and just take this world one day at a time.  Beyond that, I’m resigned to my fate and I hope that’s a sign of wisdom.

There’s no planning for the future … next week or next month.  It’s just making the most out of every single day.

And by avoiding the hysteria of TV news, my shrinking world seems a little less crazy and a lot more calm.  And that’s kinda nice.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media.

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  For a full collection of  “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Op-Ed: Old Lyme is in Good Hands; Keep It That Way by Ignoring Mis-truths, Giving Reemsnyder, Nosal Another Term

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted by Eileen and John Mueller of Old Lyme.

There is a broad consensus in Old Lyme that our town is doing very well. Our mill rate is low, our quality of life is high, and our schools are among the best in the state.  Under the leadership of Bonnie Reemsnyder and Mary Jo Nosal, infrastructure has been maintained, economic development has been encouraged, and the high-speed rail threat was stopped in its tracks.  Why, then, should there be a change at Town Hall? Tim Griswold and the Republican Town Committee have offered no strategy for the future; indeed, it seems they would like to roll back progress, and in the absence of a substantive plan they are trying to seek your vote by questioning Bonnie’s character.

Anyone who knows Bonnie, or who has worked with her over the 16 years she has led the town (8 of those as First Selectman), can vouch for her absolute integrity.  It is truly unfortunate that the Washington practice of manipulating the truth has seeped into Old Lyme with the innuendos and mis-truths spread by the RTC. If you want to review the relevant facts, they can be found here on the Democratic Town Committee’s website.  Suffice it to say, Bonnie engaged in no illegal or unethical conduct and has always represented herself and the Town of Old Lyme with the highest of ethical standards.

Contrast this with the behavior of Tim Griswold and the RTC.   Although their campaign slogan is “absolute integrity,” they apparently have no interest in following Connecticut law regarding campaign financing.  They have utilized contribution and election forms, and advertisements that omit the legally-required disclosures. More concerning, Tim is both the treasurer of the RTC and a candidate for two offices it is funding.  This is a blatant violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 9-606(d), which provides in part that “A candidate shall not serve as the candidate’s own treasurer.” If these violations were not intentional, they nevertheless raise serious questions about Tim’s understanding and compliance with the law and the likelihood that he would exercise the care, diligence and attention to detail required to discharge properly the duties of first selectman or treasurer. 

With many rumors and misinformation flying around town, we sought out clarification and here are the facts that should correct the following false claims:

  1. What is the status of the plan for Halls Road? Currently, there is no master plan for Halls Road.  Although the ideas shared with the public by the Halls Road Improvements Committee have enjoyed widespread support, the committee is still in the process of gathering public input and has not begun to put a plan together.  Whatever plan is developed will not position the town as a developer nor impose any obligations on private landowners. Instead, the purpose of the plan will be to provide additional opportunities for the business owners to improve their properties, if they choose.
  2. What about sewers? Bonnie has not discussed and is not advocating sewers to any portion of Old Lyme other than the beach area.  David Kelsey’s CT Examiner asserted that Dan Steward, First Selectman of Waterford, had made a contrary claim in his interview.  The reporter made an error and Dan Steward sent the reporter a correction. Subtext of the correction read, “My discussion with the reporter was very generic when it came to sewers, and I did not intend to imply that Bonnie has talked to me about any plans to sewer areas of Old Lyme other than the current beach community project.”  Rest easy homeowners, there are no discussions to expand sewers in Old Lyme.
  3. What about affordable housing? Bonnie supports affordable housing generally but expressed no view regarding HOPE Partnership’s proposed project and she took no action with respect to town approvals.  Bonnie has never concealed the fact that she, like other local first selectmen and Devin Carney, our state representative, sat on HOPE’s honorary advisory board.  

We’re grateful for the hard work and dedication demonstrated by Bonnie and Mary Jo, and felt it is important that our community members have the true facts, not the false or misleading information that is perpetuated by some in the community.  If this behavior is what the RTC means by “Absolute Integrity,” we suggest you take another look. Change for change’s sake makes no sense.  

The continued health of Old Lyme can be assured only with a vote for Bonnie and Mary Jo on November 5.

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Op-Ed: A Conversation That Needs To Occur

This op-ed was submitted by R. A. Nixon of Old Lyme.

I attended the debate Wednesday evening between Bonnie Reemsnyder and Tim Griswold.  In listening carefully, one issue stood out like a sore thumb: Our First Selectwoman repeatedly claimed that recent actions taken by the Town were only conversations based on input from her constituents – the people of Old Lyme.  She addressed the questions on Affordable Housing, the Halls Road Improvement Plan, and amalgamating the Old Lyme Police with the East Lyme Police Department in this manner. She kept saying: These were conversations that needed to occur.  If you attended the debate or see it televised later and are not well informed, you could infer that she has only undertaken such initiatives based on a groundswell of public interest. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ms. Reemsnyder was fully in support of and behind the Affordable Housing project next to Exit 70.  That project which was in every way inimical to the interests of this town, had overwhelming opposition from the citizens of Old Lyme. Most people are in favor of affordable housing, but not in an unsafe location.

The Halls Road Improvement Plan currently being developed with the Yale Urban School of Design at Town expense is a pet project of Ms. Reemsnyder and a few carefully chosen allies.  This Master Plan, as she called it, was developed without the support of the majority of the private land owners along Halls Road (a State road). There is ample resistance to this foolhardy exercise by town residents as well.

The latest Yale School renderings of the plan are completely incongruous with the charm and rural character of Old Lyme.  Check this out before you vote. 

The concept of scrapping the Old Lyme Resident Trooper Police System and having Old Lyme’s Police become subordinate to the East Lyme Police Department was not the brainchild of town residents.  Rather, it was Ms. Reemsnyder who promoted this further concept of regionalization (loss of local control). True leadership is listening to the needs and desires of the citizens, the taxpayers, not leading the Town down rabbit holes.  This is the conversation that needs to occur.

Tim Griswold is an experienced Town Leader in Old Lyme with a proven track record of fiscal discipline and sound management practice.  He will listen to the needs and desires of the people in this town before setting new courses for the Town. 

Put simply, I want straight talk from our First Selectman, not hollow platitudes and schemes inconsonant with the special character of Old Lyme.  I expect other voters will feel the same way if they know the facts.

Vote for Tim Griswold for first Selectman on November 5th.

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Opinion: Vote Tuesday in Old Lyme’s Referendum on Sewers, Then Respect the Result

OLD LYME — Tomorrow Old Lyme voters will go the polls to decide whether the Town of Old Lyme should bond $9.44 million to fund the installation of sewers on three streets in Sound View. The facts of the proposal have been widely reported, for example, Mary Biekert of The Day authored a comprehensive article on the subject published Saturday on TheDay.com at this link.

As a community newspaper that cares passionately about the community we serve, we never endorse politicians and rarely choose sides in town referenda. Therefore, we will not be making any recommendation on how you should vote tomorrow, but we will, however, take the opportunity to make a few comments.

This sewer issue has polarized the town with the residents of Sound View understandably not wishing to pay the whole installation cost of sewers saying that is unfair and the cost should be divided between all town residents.  Meanwhile, most townspeople, excluding the Sound View residents, do not see why they should pay for someone else’s sewers when no one would pay to fix their septic system if it failed.

It is important to remember that the Town is under a state mandate to install the sewers and so doing nothing is not an option. The volunteers on the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA)  have dedicated an incredible number of hours to this project and our impression is that they have no political agenda. Rather, they are simply hard-working individuals trying to solve an extremely challenging problem and we salute their efforts. If the referendum fails tomorrow, there seems to be a fairly general consensus that the costs will rise in any subsequent plan.

Some have argued that the Town, that is, all Old Lyme residents, should be paying for the work in the streets since they are town-owned and the Sound View residents should only be paying for the hook-ups to their houses. This sounds logical but does not seem to follow the precedent set elsewhere in the state, nor significantly in the four other beach associations in Old Lyme that have already signed on for sewers to be installed at their own expense.

We have enormous sympathies for the residents of Sound View, who — if the referendum passes — will have to pay a median cost of over $31,000 to pay off the loan that the Town is taking out on their behalf. This can be paid in full right away or financed over 20 years at 2 percent interest. The key question is what is a home worth after sewers have been installed?  The assumption is that the sewers will increase the value of any house by more than the homeowner has paid. No one other than the owner benefits from that increase in value, but we also recognize many of the houses in Sound View are never sold but passed down from one generation to the next.

Finally, we are intensely distressed by the deep rift opening up once again in our community over the sewer issue. We recall the green ribbons of yesteryear when residents publicly displayed their support of the first school building project brought to referendum by Region 18 to the anger of those who were not in favor of the proposal. Those were difficult days with palpable mistrust and resentfulness on both sides. 

But back then, there was no social media to fuel the argument and too much has been said on the sewer issue on this virtual town square, some of it inaccurate and/or laced with political venom. This mounting tension spilled over into last Monday’s Special Town Meeting at which  procedural confusion sparked some most unfortunate behavior.

There is no place for this in our beloved town so, regardless of how you are going to vote tomorrow, let us quietly and respectfully take our differing opinions to the ballot box … and then treat the result in the same manner.

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Responding to Last Weekend’s Mass Shootings, Sen. Murphy Authors Op-Ed in ‘The Hill’ Titled ‘The Violence Paradox’

US Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

WASHINGTON –- Following last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), authored an op-ed in The Hill focusing on America’s unique legacy of violence and how Congressional inaction is a signal of endorsement to would-be shooters. Since his time in the Senate, Murphy has been a vocal critic of our nation’s gun laws and have proposed commonsense gun violence prevention legislation.

Excerpts from the op-ed are below and can be viewed here.

“It is a deeply uncomfortable fact that inside some humans lies the ability to rationalize the decision to walk into a Walmart or a crowded bar and start firing a wildly lethal weapon indiscriminately, with the goal of ending as many lives as possible.”

“But as these slaughters – from Newtown to Orlando to Las Vegas to El Paso and Dayton – continue unabated, we need to start asking questions about what within our own makeup explains this mass shooting epidemic, and what control society has over these outlier actions that seem, with each new mind-bending massacre, less like outliers. The answer is that violence is inside us, but so is the ability to end this epic-scale carnage.”

“First, we must face a foundational fact – humans are uniquely hardwired for violence.”

“Our rates of violence over the millennia have gone up and down, but long ago, humans figured out that violence was an effective means of social and economic advancement.”

“Here in America, our legacy of violence is even more pronounced than the rest of the world. Once Europeans landed on the continent, violence as a means of social order became standard order.”

“First, it was the settlers wiping out the local tribes, then it was slaveowners using massive scale violence to enslave African-Americans, and then ethnic groups turned on each other, using violence to contest economic and social space in America’s crowded cities.”

“Along the way, it was the guns that made it easy for the dominant groups to control the subordinate groups. One historian suggests that without the flood of weapons that came with America becoming the early home of the global arms industry, America would be 50 percent less murderous over our long history.”

“Here in America, we are nowhere near as violent as we were in our early years, in large part because of government intervention. It is not a coincidence that the two steepest periods of decline in the rate of murder in the United States occurred right after passage of the two most significant gun laws in our nation’s history – the first national firearms control acts in 1934 and 1938, and the background checks and assault weapons ban bills in 1993 and 1994.”

“The success of those two legislative efforts to significantly depress violence levels in the United States should give us hope as we grieve over these most recent American mass shootings.”

“Laws that keep weapons away from dangerous people, and keep uniquely dangerous weapons – like the AR-15 – away from everyone, work.”

Data shows that states with tougher gun laws have lower gun murder rates. At the federal level, during the 10 years of the assault weapons ban, America’s mass murder rate was almost half that of the following 10 years.”

“At the federal level, during the 10 years of the assault weapons ban, America’s mass murder rate was almost half that of the following 10 years.”

“As the minds of these mass shooters descend into a dark place, unimaginable to you and me, where they rationalize the decision to exorcise their personal trauma through mass violence, I believe they take note of the silence at the highest levels of their nation regarding the choice they are contemplating.”

“Yes, presidents and governors and senators send out statements condemning each mass shooting, and offer “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families. But these are empty words, and everybody knows it, especially after no actual policy changes are enacted as the mass shooting era continues to grip America.”

“The absence of any interest in passing laws to condemn mass shootings sends a signal of unintentional endorsement to would-be mass murderers.”

“When it comes to the instincts that lie inside humans, this weekend’s shootings represent one side of the coin. But on the other side is our ability to stop violence. It’s our choice which side lands face up.”

Read the full op-ed here.

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Opinion: If You Do One Thing Today, Visit Old Lyme Town Hall to Give Your Thoughts on the Halls Rd. Project

This file photo shows Halls Road today. How do YOU want it to look in five or 10 years? Go and give your thoughts today!

Today the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen (BOS) and the Halls Road Improvement Committee (HRIC) are hosting an Open House at Old Lyme’s Memorial Town Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  They really do want to hear from the residents of Old Lyme what their current thinking and opinions are regarding the future of Halls Rd.  Or maybe you just want to ask questions about how we have reached the point where we are now and find out the tentative ideas the committee has already discussed.  Or perhaps you want to vent about the project because you don’t think it’s necessary at all.

We would urge two things:  first, take a minute to read Mark Terwilliger’s insightful op-ed on why, in his opinion, things have to change at Halls Rd.  He explains in simple terms why (again, in his opinion) sticking with the status quo is not an option, making the point clearly and succinctly that the world has changed since the 1950s when the Halls Rd. strip-mall was built.  He argues — and we agree — that if we fail to plan for the future in light of these changes, then change will happen anyway, but in an uncontrolled fashion and not necessarily in the best interests of the town’s residents.

The second thing we would ask is simply that you go to the Open House — whatever your opinions are about the project.  If you don’t go and share your thoughts, how can you then complain when a proposal is finally made?  It’s like that old adage, “You can’t win it, if you’re not in it” — the HRIC has deliberately made this Open House a non-threatening, informal environment so that people are comfortable speaking their minds to committee members.

We’ve heard plenty of comments both on and off the record about the HRIC and the BOS supposedly acting in isolation on the project and taking unilateral decisions.  This Open House is designed to put those rumors to rest and represents a great opportunity to give your input to the future of our town.

Don’t miss it … carpe diem!

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Op-Ed: What’s Happening With Halls Road? Looking Back, Looking Forward, a Personal View of the Project

The view (minus traffic!) looking up Halls Road today — how will it look in 10 year’s time?

Editor’s Note: We felt it would be helpful to our readers to provide some context to Saturday’s Open House on the future of Halls Road and the important discussions it involves about the future of Old Lyme. While we were working on an article, Mark Terwilliger submitted his own thoughts on the project. We are publishing his piece here and will now publish our own later in the week.  In the interests of full transparency, we note that Terwilliger is the partner of Halls Road Improvement Committee member Edie Twining.

What’s going on with Halls Road?

The Halls Road Improvement Committee (HRIC) is tasked with leading a town-wide discussion on the future of the Halls Road district. The ultimate goal of these discussions is the creation of a master plan that will guide future outside investments and development in that area.

How did this come about?

Some people in town were pushing for road and traffic changes to improve pedestrian / bicycle access to the shopping area on Halls Road, and asking the town to allocate money for those purposes. The town seemed amenable.

Other people said, “Wait a minute. Why should we make a non-trivial investment in this when we don’t even know what other (private or state) changes are planned, or in the offing, for this district? For that matter, we don’t even know what the town as a whole wants or needs from the future of this district.” And that began the process of looking in a more formal way at what changes we might want to see in the Halls Road district over the course of the next decade or two.

Why not just leave it alone?

Change is coming, whether we want it or not. No one can stop it. Our only choice is either to try to shape that change in the directions we want, or to let the changes happen to us without our input. The only outcome that is flatly impossible is “no change.”

The grocery stores of Old Lyme make a good example of change. In the early 20th century there were multiple grocers, meat markets, and general stores in various districts of Old Lyme. Main Street (as it was called then) had several, one of which was the A&P. The A&P was still the main grocery (and still on Lyme St.) in the 1950s. They told the town they needed to greatly expand their store and nearby parking to stay in business. Eventually the town responded by making two major adjustments.

A group of local investors raised money for a “modern” strip center along Halls Rd., and the town changed the zoning in that area to make it only suitable for such use: they zoned it for commercial use only, and required a 60 ft. set-back from the road to leave ample space for cars. When the A&P expanded further, new investors were sought and the original community investors held only a minority interest.

The A&P eventually went bankrupt, but the owners of the shopping center found a new anchor tenant in the Big Y.

Attracting and keeping businesses requires cooperation and responsiveness on the part of the town. The Big Y has a much larger store nearby in Old Saybrook and several more along the shoreline. I have no idea what the Big Y’s plans are for their smaller Old Lyme store, and anyone who is privy to that sort of information might not be at liberty to say.

Businesses make their own decisions based on their own interests, and that is as it should be. And that is the point. The environment changes, and businesses adapt or die. The town itself has a role to play in creating an environment that favors the kinds of businesses, the kinds of investments, and the kinds of development that will create and support the town as they want it to be.

What should we, as a town, hope to accomplish?

There is more to the town’s role than simply reacting to some proposed change or hustling to stave off a bad outcome. The whole object of the current process is to point to the most positive future for the Halls Road area and devise a sound set of measures to help create it.

If we (with the help of the HRIC and others) can put together a solid picture of the economic advantages of locating certain kinds of businesses in Old Lyme, and if we can demonstrate that we are in broad agreement as to what kinds of development we would like in the Halls Road area, and show that we are prepared to make the changes necessary to permit and promote that kind of development, then we have a much greater chance of attracting developers who will make the significant investments of money and time required to make our plans a reality.

All of these “ifs” will take time, effort, and involvement from many different groups and individuals. The Halls Road Improvement Committee is looking for broad-based participation, particularly in the processes leading to the creation of a master plan that can guide future developments along Halls Road.

A master plan does not create anything by fiat. The objective, rather, is to create a plan that has broad support, has a firm basis in economic realities, and offers attractive opportunities for reputable developers and current owners alike.

If we do not make this effort, if we simply leave the future shape of Halls Road to the uncoordinated, one-point decisions of each current and future property owner with no guidance from the town, we will have no room to complain when things do not go as we wish. That could happen in a big way if we do not plan ahead. Changes well beyond the control of the town or any particular business are already under way.

How have things changed?

Retail stores, particularly in strip malls and big box malls, are under severe pressure from online shopping. More than half of U.S. households are Amazon Prime members. I would guess the percentage is even higher in Old Lyme. The online-centered lifestyle has nearly killed the bookstores and wrecked retail giants.

Curiously, it has also created a new demand for what Old Lyme once had: a centralized meeting place with a mix of stores and homes, public buildings and public parks — a place where one could park the car and walk to do errands, meet friends, hear the latest, or just watch the world go by. It’s the meeting places and public life that are missing in the online-focused world.

Retailers and developers have taken notice and altered their plans accordingly. “Mixed use” is the one environment in which bricks-and-mortar retail still seems to flourish. It is a mix of residential, shopping, dining, entertainment, supermarkets, offices, and walkable public spaces that provide a place to linger and meet with friends.

When cars were the center of life, shopping required a huge parking lot. Now it takes a cell phone. More and more parking lots are half-empty or dead. It turns out you can’t have a neighborhood without actual neighbors, no matter how clever the marketing. When an area includes real, full-time residents, it feels different and alive. It isn’t just a place to run errands, but a place with a full life of its own.

People want the amenities of shops and so forth, but they also want the experience of other people around them. This is the one thing they cannot get when they are online — as they increasingly are whether at work or at leisure. Mixing residential and commercial, public and private spaces creates a more attractive environment for both businesses and residents.

Unmet needs and Halls Road

Older people who have lived in Old Lyme for decades find they must move to another town if they want to downsize. Mixed use housing in the Halls Road area could be an attractive alternative for many in this situation. It would also be attractive for younger people just starting out in life. Adding new uses to the land near Halls Road will also create new sources of tax revenue, providing some relief for existing tax payers.

What next?

The zoning we created to serve the 1950s’ car culture mandates nothing but strip malls — and that may now be an economic dead end. If we want anything new or different, we will have to make the changes to support it.

We as a town are a long way from having a shared vision of what is best for Halls Road. That process will take time and active participation. The HRIC works to lead the process, to make it transparent, and to keep people informed and involved. As a part of that effort, they are hosting an Open House at Memorial Town Hall this Saturday, June 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

I urge you to stop by for a few minutes and take a look at some of the ideas that are in discussion. The future shape of Halls Road is not a simple yes or no question. Most of us depend on the services available there, and many of us have ideas about how it could be better.

The HRIC Open House on Saturday is the latest opportunity to get involved in the discussion.

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Op-Ed: Avoiding the Tragedy of Brexit

Photo by A Perry on Unsplash.

This op-ed by Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) was first published Feb. 25, by TheHill.com.

In view of the MV2 (Meaningful Vote 2) regarding Brexit, which is being held today in the British Houses of Parliament, we felt its re-publication was highly relevant.

US Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

British Brexiteers and their U.S. cheerleaders promised a return to Britain’s glory days once they shed the bureaucratic constraints of the European Union. Steve Bannon celebrated Brexit as a victory for far-right nationalism and called for other countries to follow. The reality of Brexit, of course, is turning out to be entirely different. The economy will shrink by 7-10 percent, consumer prices will increase, unemployment will rise, and Britain will likely have to pay the EU to leave – not the other way around. Brexit will weaken Britain, the EU, and the entire Western alliance.

The question now is whether we will throw our lot in with those who want to break up hard-won international alliances, or take a stand in favor of a closer partnership between America and Europe. It would be a disaster if the United States reacted to Brexit in a way that encouraged more countries to leave the EU or other international organizations. We should not take seven decades of European peace for granted. After centuries of never-ending warfare and two world wars, stability in Europe is a core interest of the United States. We should also not take for granted how the allure of future EU membership has kept countries on its periphery promoting positive economic and democratic reform.  And Russia hawks in Washington should remember that one main goal of the Kremlin is to weaken the EU, the primary check on Putin’s hopes to restore the Soviet empire.

This is why the promise of a U.S.-Britain trade agreement, as a reward for Brexit, is such a bad idea. We have no better friend or ally on the planet than Britain. But this special relationship does not require us to jump off the same building they are. Those arguing for Britain’s hard exit from Europe claim that the United States will ride to the rescue and deliver a trade agreement that will repair the economic damage done by Brexit.  Russia cheers on this talk, because they know a U.S.-Britain deal might encourage other countries to leave the EU and expect a bilateral agreement with the United States as well.

At the very least, U.S. supporters of a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain should make clear the negotiated Brexit arrangement must protect the Northern Ireland peace process. A key pillar of the Good Friday Agreement was eliminating physical barriers and security checkpoints between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Pulling the legs out from this agreement by reestablishing a hard border risks upending the delicate balance of compromises that has maintained peace for the last twenty years. Even new technological infrastructure to monitor movement could be inflammatory. Recent surveys have found extreme antipathy in Northern Ireland for any type of north-south border checks. With our large Irish-American population and uniquely close relationship with the UK, the United States played an important role shepherding the peace process and must continue to safeguard the Good Friday agreement. We should be firmly against any Brexit agreement that doesn’t include the Irish backstop or other arrangement to protect the peace process.

When the UK government held the initial Brexit referendum, Brexit promoters implied that Britain could have its cake and eat it too. They claimed that Britain would make money by no longer having to contribute to the EU; that Britain would still be able to trade on favorable terms with the rest of Europe while being free from EU regulations; and that investment would continue to flow to Britain once it scrapped EU rules that were supposedly stifling their economy. It’s now clear that none of those things are true, and that very tough choices are now required. With this picture now clear, it would be wise to allow for a new referendum.

In the United States, instead of cheering on Brexit and promising individual agreements that weaken the EU, we should be doing the opposite – binding ourselves closer to the EU and negotiating a trade agreement that establishes the U.S.-EU bloc as a dominant force. In the coming decades, the size of China’s economy and military will continue to grow. The only way to prevent China from dictating terms in a world where they have significantly more influence is to join forces with Europe to agree on global standards going forward. While the special relationship will endure, Britain’s position will be stronger from within the EU rather than outside it.

The Irish poet Oscar Wilde once said there are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. Nigel Farage, Steve Bannon, and their allies in the White House are close to getting what they want in Brexit, but the tragedy may yet be avoided.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy is a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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Op-Ed: Forced Regionalization of Our Schools Will be a Disaster For Our Communities

This op-ed was submitted by Tina C. Gilbert of Lyme. It was also sent as a letter to State Senators Paul Formica  (R-20th) and Norman Needleman (D-33rd), and State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd.) Gilbert has children in Lyme-Old Lyme Schools and is Vice-President of LCN USA located in Deep River, Conn.  

I am seriously concerned about the lack of awareness and sense of urgency in the Lyme-Old Lyme communities regarding the proposed Bills to force school regionalization, specifically Bill 454 (SB 738). It is a grave mistake for any tax payer in Lyme or Old Lyme  to think this doesn’t affect them just because they don’t have children attending the schools. We know the chances of this getting approved are strong, if not, at this point, unavoidable.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the recent BOE meeting where I would have addressed my concerns. At the BOE meeting I understand that it was said that Region 18 had “good representation” at last Friday’s hearings on the proposed bills. We had, from my count, 5 children and 5 adults (2 without their children) at the hearing. The town of Wilton, conversely, had well over 100 – if not 150 constituents there. That is good representation. The hearing required three overflow rooms apart from the primary hearing room. Each of them packed with floors occupied by children. I could be mistaken, but I believe that is a very rare occurrence.

Next week, the Committee will vote on whether these Bills move forward. If they vote to move forward, the consequences to our two communities will be devastating and irrevocable. Our local BOE is concerned about the attrition rate of students in Region 18. However, imagine if you will the entire school population coming from the Town of Lyme no longer attending the Middle School or High School. No amount of marketing for out-of-region students or pre-K applicants is going to fill that void. What then are the effects? Jobs gone. Shared programs gone (LYSB). Culture, history, community …. compromised. Taxes increased. Residents leaving. Property values tanking. Parents putting themselves into debt to send their children to whatever private school they can find.
The Town of Old Lyme will follow the Probate system and will be regionalized with East Lyme, Salem and Montville. There will be a regionalized BOE and one Superintendent (that means 3 lose their jobs.) Governor Lamont specifically called out wanting to reduce the number of Superintendents. East Lyme is a large and powerful school. I don’t think it takes a deep thinker to figure out who is going to have more power in the new regionalized district.
We live in the Town of Lyme. We moved here from Deep River so that our children would be in the Region 18 schools. With this forced Regionalization, Lyme will join Deep River, Chester, Essex, Haddam and Killingworth. Children from the farthest reaches of Lyme will be bussed across the river to attend schools there. Bus rides will be well over an hour. Parents who want to be active in their children’s schooling will be challenged with having to follow suit and drive either over the bridge to Rt 9 (and soon pay tolls to do so) or over the bridge in Haddam.  My husband and I recently moved our business to Deep River, so we know how time consuming it is to come back to Lyme Consolidated in the middle of the day for a school event. This is the first year of the last seven that our children have been in the school that we’ve missed nearly every program. Frankly it would be easier for us to have our kids going to school on the other side of the river. But we don’t want that – we moved here for the quality of the education.
From the hearing and follow up discussion, it has become clear that the Forced Regionalization concept is in fact not about the state saving money. The Committee members supporting the legislation made their opinions on that clear. And a Bill supporter who has the ears of these members (including the Chair) put it succinctly as follows:
“Connecticut has too many school districts, and the richest ones are fortresses that have pulled all the ladders up after them while the poorest sink deeper and deeper. Town-based school districts drive wealth inequality and force towns to compete against one another instead of cooperating. Worst of all, they embody institutionalized and systemic racism. They enforce de facto segregation, which is the toxic legacy of redlining and exclusionary zoning, and we will never be able to move forward until that changes.”
In summary, this infers that we residents of Lyme and Old Lyme are a bunch of privileged racists who only want the best for their children and none for others. This tired tactic is offensive and reprehensible.
I am happy that there is broad bipartisan support against these Bills. But that’s not enough. If these Bills fail, the Governor has proposed his own Bill SB 874 with 32 pages of detail on a very powerful school consolidation commission that will make decisions that may or may not have to be put to vote by the legislators. The Governor stated he will sign it into law. There is also discussion of a new Regional Tax layer – to add to our Federal, State and Local taxes – to support all of this.

In the end, Forced Regionalization equals Forced Equalization equals Forced Marginalization. The sum is Disaster to our communities.
The word needs to get out to our communities, so at the very least they are educated on the subject and not blind-sided when they learn of the fate of their children’s education or are shocked when they see their future tax bills.
How can we make this happen? How can we get the word out? We have very little time.
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Op-Ed: Region 18 School Budget is Cause for Concern, Public Forum Tonight is an Opportunity to Raise Questions

This op-ed was submitted by Emerson Colwell of Old Lyme.

As a taxpayer in Lyme/Old Lyme, I am writing today because I am extremely concerned about the 2019/2020 School Budget. I feel like there should be a great deal more discussion around a town funded preschool program, something that will directly affect our taxes forever if adopted. Below are just a few of the questions and concerns I have about the proposal.

Region 18 has a large responsibility with the highly achieving academics in our K-12 programs. While the idea of free preschool is one that most people would feel positive about, is $400,000 an expense that you feel should come before our current program needs?

At the last Board meeting on January 16th, Mr. Neviaser clearly stated that he would not take the preschool program out if the budget does not get approved. Region 18 is willing to spend $400,000 + of taxpayer money (that has not been approved by the town) to start a preschool for 17 children and take money out of programs for our currently enrolled 1200 students to fund it?

How is spending $400,000 on a new program that will require yearly funding and take potential funds away from existing programs “for” our kids?

Why is it necessary for taxpayers to pay for every kid to go to preschool?

One “fear” brought up in favor of rushing the proposed plan is that if it’s not done this year, the cost of remodeling Center School will go up. Let’s counter that with the “fear” that the longer our facilities are left unrepaired, the larger those costs will be on the taxpayers.

For less than $400,000, Lyme Consolidated could have a new hvac system and gym floor, two costs identified as necessary in the five year plan. For $250,000, Region 18 can fully fund the entire cost of the tennis courts which were deemed unusable. Why isn’t there a rush to repair our existing facilities that are servicing our 1200 students? Why can’t either or both of these costs be in this year’s budget instead of a new program that services so few children?

I’ve heard that the school board is going to ask to borrow money in a few years to cover all the facility costs. Does it make sense to push through a new preschool program that will need continuous yearly funding when we aren’t putting money in to repair our existing programs that need immediate repair?

There was a lot of talk about kindergarten readiness. Chances are that, here in CT, most kids have been provided with some form of early education. Does anyone know exactly how many of our current kindergarteners have had zero school exposure before entering Region 18? Do we know how many people would willingly pay to send their kids to preschool? Is it really necessary for the taxpayers of Lyme and Old Lyme to pay $400,000 for all of the 17 four year olds to have a preschool experience? Especially when we have current programs that are not being funded in the 2019/2020 budget?

The proposed preschool expansion cost of $400,000 is approximately $22,000 per child for 17 children. This cost is not just this year, it’s forever. Have  they forecasted the complete annual costs for the program including facilities, repairs, teachers, IAs’, and the cost of the specials programs? Will the program require an administrator? Have they created a twenty year projection of the tax impact on the people who live in town? Have the BOE thought about using existing classrooms at Lyme Consolidated or Mile Creek that already have age appropriate toilets? Then Center School wouldn’t need $180,000 for a four to three room makeover, that’s a large amount of money that could be saved. Just because a space is empty doesn’t mean that you spend $400,000 to fill it.

The current success of our K-12 schools and programs has nothing to do with whether the children attended preschool or not. It has to do with the education and support they are receiving during those years. Is the current Region 18 staff 100% happy? Are they being provided enough support? Is there money that should be used to better support our current teachers and administrative staff? I understand that they are working on a review program, that’s great. I hope they really hear the concerns of the public

I highly encourage everyone opposed or in favor of this proposal to attend the BOE meetings tomorrow night at Center School at 5 pm for facilities meeting and 6:15 pm for the proposed 2019/2020 budget.

Editor’s Note:  Information we have received indicates that the Special Board of Education Meeting, which includes a Public Forum on the proposed 2019-2020 budget for the Lyme-Old Lyme Public Schools, is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. in the Board of Education Conference Room at Center School.

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Op-Ed: Time to Re-evaluate Town Priorities in Old Lyme

SEE ADDITIONAL COMMENT ADDED 1/30

As a concerned citizen and taxpayer, I pay attention to where and how our Town Government spends our tax dollars.  The reader should take the following facts and expenditures into consideration when assessing the effectiveness of our current Town leadership in the next election cycle:

  1. The Town is currently spending $26,400.00 on The Yale Urban Design Workshop to develop conceptual designs for reconfiguring and developing Halls Road under the auspices of the Halls Road Improvement Committee.  Further, the Town has approved expending an additional $38,500.00 for consulting fees to determine the means for utilizing TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) for this same redevelopment concept.  In addition, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted 2 to 1 for a CERC (Connecticut Economic Resource Center) economic development study that will cost $47,000.00 plus $16,640.00 for a year’s worth of Town Economic Development support.  The Board of Finance for the Town had previously voted against these CERC related expenditures.

  2. The Halls Road Improvement Committee was established by the Board of Selectmen to develop Halls Road.  This initiative which has never been vetted by the Town’s Taxpayers has taken on a life of its own.  The proposed redevelopment concept includes 3 and 4-story mixed use buildings – commercial and residential, narrowing of road to accommodate along-road parking, many new shops and stores at the edge of the road, and structures flanking the entrance to Halls Road from Rt. 156.  Photos can be seen on the SECoast.org website.  All of this development will require substantive zoning regulation changes.  The development will need to be funded by private business and taxpayers’ dollars.  What makes no sense:  Not only haven’t Town residents been asked for concurrence with such plans, but neither have the business owners along Halls Road.  I know this because I have spoken to several of those business owners.

    The total cost expenditures to date for this unsanctioned initiative which will, in my opinion, irrevocably and detrimentally affect the character of Old Lyme are $128,540.00.  Did you know this is how your money was being spent? I, like many, do not oppose sensible aesthetic improvements to Halls Road.  But I will not support unfettered development such as that being proposed currently.

  3. Between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, the Town of Old Lyme will spend $102,000.00 on the services of the Lyme Youth Services Bureau (LYSB).  I think as Town citizens, we can all agree that LYSB is a valuable and worthwhile investment for our tax dollars.  The Town’s future rests in the success and health of its youth.  Yet, the Town spends far less on LYSB, a time proven asset to the children in this Town, than it has on the Halls Road redevelopment initiative.

When I talk to friends in Town with children in our school system, I hear about a lack of after-school activities for kids, marijuana and other drug usage concerns, and non-involvement issues for kids that aren’t on school sports teams.  These issues should have priority status in how this Town spends its money.

While as a taxpaper in this Town you probably were not aware of the Halls Road Run-Away-Improvement Train, you undoubtedly recognize the need to invest in a better community environment for our young people.

So, getting our spending priorities right seems like a No-Brainer to me.

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted by Robert A. Nixon of Old Lyme.

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Op-Ed: HOPE Believes They Have Satisfied Questions Raised by Zoning Commission, Public

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted by Lauren Ashe, Executive Director of the HOPE Partnership, Kristin Anderson, Development Manager of the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development, Inc., and Loni Willey, Executive Director of the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development, Inc.

As you are aware, HOPE Partnership and Women’s Institute are nonprofit organizations committed to providing affordable housing options, and have a combined 50 years of experience providing high quality housing in urban, rural, and suburban communities across the state. Our experience has taught us how to create housing that meets the diverse needs of the communities we serve and the best practices for management that ensures our developments contribute to the overall fabric of the community for decades to come.

As nonprofits, our bottom line is our mission. Our volunteer boards do not personally profit from the success of our developments, and we are held accountable to our public and private donors to ensure that we have the best interests of the community in mind.  As such, the River Oak Commons development was brought to our organizations by concerned Old Lyme residents who saw the opportunity in this site to provide much needed housing to the town.  We have explored the feasibility for this site and have put forward a strong proposal to the commission for a development that will meet the community’s needs.

We believe that we have successfully satisfied the questions raised by the commission and public, and have taken extra measures to ensure that concerns by the community are addressed.

Specifically:

  • We have undertaken extensive traffic reviews to ensure that the development will not negatively impact existing traffic patterns nor cause dangerous or risky behavior on the part of drivers.  We heard the concerns from the public as to the reality of summer traffic, and intentionally conducted a follow up study on the most heavily trafficked weekend of the summer.  Per the recommendation by the town’s traffic engineer, we conducted additional reviews to understand the speed of exit on the off ramp and ensure that we could reasonably provide sufficient sight lines.   Both the traffic engineers retained by us, and that retained by the town, confirmed that there would be no significant impact on existing traffic in all these scenarios, and provided suggestions to ensure that safe sight lines are maintained.
  • We took seriously the claims from the public around potential contamination, despite original LEC reports concluding this was not probable. We provided additional studies, including soil tests and drinking water tests which confirmed that there were no contaminants that would risk the health of residents living in this future development
  • The development as proposed meets the various regulations and standards put forth by state agencies to ensure that plans of conservation and development are maintained. To date the proposed development has been reviewed by the Dept. of Housing, DEEP, Dept. of Public Health, CT Water Authority, State Historic Preservation Office, and Office of Policy and Management. The team has also worked cooperatively with the local  public works, the fire marshal, and public health departments to make significant accommodations. For example, we have designed to a public road standard, despite being a private road which will not receive the benefit of public services such as plowing services and trash removal. We have also worked with the school and bus company to identify a method of school pick up that will allow buses to come onto the site and off of the main road. We have reduced the size and capacity of our community room for residents to prioritize parking requirements dictated by occupancy.  We have worked every step of the way, and will continue to do so, to accommodate the professionals who are tasked with the responsibility of implementing codes and standards of the town beyond an approval of zoning.

River Oak Commons will be located in an already developed part of Old Lyme, and in close proximity to the Halls Road commercial district, transportation, and local amenities.  By constructing infill housing that does not require building on previously undeveloped land, we are adhering to best practices to concentrate development among the existing commercial and residential corridors. Our site plan mirrors the surrounding neighborhoods and our design considerations reflect the historic and cultural character of Old Lyme.   The reviews of the market, conversations with community members, and the extensive evaluation from experts as mentioned above confirms that this location offers many benefits to the future residents of River Oak Commons and does not create health or safety risks to the community.  The end result will be 37 brand new units, that meet the existing housing needs in your community, and are well managed by reputable organizations for decades to come.

While we have also heard from the community their concerns around what it will cost the taxpayers, we want to be clear that the town of Old Lyme has not offered any subsidy for this development. River Oak will contribute Real Estate taxes as a property owner in the town, and our taxes will be used to support the schools, police force, and other town amenities that the families living in River Oak Commons will benefit from. Old Lyme is losing out on the benefit of bringing public investment back into your own community, so that teachers, grocery store workers, town employees, or your grown children can live here. Because Old Lyme only has 1.5% of its housing stock restricted as affordable, we support the town’s interest in pursuing additional locations that have been raised during the public comment period for future affordable housing developments. River Oak Commons is just one part of the long term solution.

Development is a back and forth process with many checks and balances along the way to get from concept to completion. We’ve provided a road map that outlines how we will achieve the goals to provide 37 affordable housing units and have demonstrated that the project will be safe and healthy for the residents who will live there and the surrounding town. We look forward to continue working with the town of Old Lyme.

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Op-Ed: ‘A Project Without Solutions’: SECoast Director Questions Possible Approval of HOPE’s Affordable Housing Proposal

Editor’s Note: The author is the executive director of SECoast.

If the ends justify the means – and supporters are willing to overlook a flawed planning process, a dubious subdivide and shell corporations designed to skirt environmental regulation – we ask simply that the public and Zoning Commission members consider carefully the true character of those ends.

Surely, it’s never been the case that a failure of ends can justify a failure of means. But failed—and at best uncertain ends—are exactly what Hope Partnership, Women’s Institute, and attorney David Royston asked members of the Commission to approve last night in an effort to establish an aura of inevitability and bureaucratic momentum for the project.

At the very least, we expected the applicants to resolve those issues directly acknowledged under health and safety rules as the basis for their request for a continuance on July 11, 2018. Pedestrian safety? Months later, still crickets. Really, how is it possible, that plans submitted last night included a crosswalk between residences and the community center within the development, but failed to address pedestrian safety and a crossing of Route 156 to the nearby shopping district?

In defense, attorney Royston leans heavily on the letter of the law, but what he does not explain is that a street design can be defective—and thus unsafe—even if the design is otherwise legal. Years ago, the design for I-95 between Exit 70 and Exit 74 met the letter of law, but as we understand now, the geometry of the roadway was fatally flawed. Oh the irony, that we might repeat a similar mistake in the very same location.

We understand that many of the numerous issues of health and safety considered separately may not rise to the high bar of outweighing the real public good of affordable housing, but to be clear as a matter of the law, these issues should not be considered separately – a practice called segmentation – but rather as a meaningful whole. As Ms. Marsh, and others have pointed out amply in questioning safe exit and entrance to the property, it’s possible that each sightline considered as a piece is sufficient, but considered together, lack commonsense and safety.

We believe that this project makes that same error of segmentation not once, but many times over, aided too often by fibs and later revisions along the way to secure the aid and approval of various boards, commissions, and bodies, including (but not limited to) misleading filed papers to secure the subdivide, the promised recusal of counsel and ‘completed’ water testing to secure approval of wetlands, the use of shell corporations and the subdivision to avoid DEEP oversight and regulatory standards for a project of this size, the steady growth of the project over the course of months from a dozen or 16 units to 37 units and 950 ft of retaining walls reaching to eight feet in height. You might ask yourself why these retaining walls were never a serious topic of conversation at the Inland Wetlands hearing earlier this year. Perhaps, it’s because they weren’t in the plan approved at the time.

Now the applicants ask that the commission members and the public put this all aside and approve a project without solutions in place even for automobile traffic, water or septic; without designs which comply with the 2018 Fire Code. If this constitutes sufficient planning, truly we wonder what an incomplete or inadequate plan for the applicant would be. Really, are we to believe that nonexistent or endlessly variable plans better meet the rules of health and safety, than mere bad plans? We remain unconvinced.

For months, the best defense this plan had was the apparent – we were repeatedly promised – lack of a better location. We fully understand those who might embrace the good of affordable housing when presented with such a solitary opportunity. But it appears that even this is untrue, as already last night Kristin Anderson of the Women’s Institute made clear that this project was the first of others already contemplated or in part planned in Old Lyme. We strongly advise the community, the Commission, and the applicants to leave aside the current project, and embrace these other alternatives.

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Op-Ed: Higher Ground; More Thoughts From SECoast on the Old Lyme Affordable Housing Proposal

This Op-Ed was written by Gregory Stroud, Executive Director, SECoast

Location … location … location … as the saying goes. Why build an affordable housing development wedged beside the Exit 70 off-ramp — one of the more problematic stretches of road in southeastern Connecticut?

About a month ago, we put this directly to Hope Partnership and Women’s Institute in a meeting with board members and project leaders. And we didn’t really get a clear answer.

We do know that in the process of joining forces with Old Lyme Affordable Housing Corp., Hope Partnership promised to prioritize a project in Old Lyme. Tom Ortoleva and Lauren Ashe described an ongoing search for suitable properties, which apparently included a query at some point to the owners of Cherrystones, four miles to the south on Route 156.

Of course, it’s not often that a property of this size comes on the market at this price. And although we don’t know the exact terms of the proposed sale by Graybill Properties, it’s likely relatively modest.

But 16 Neck Road is not the only property at that general price point, and in fact we have been contacted by one local property owner with 20 acres already zoned for multifamily housing, and eager to sell. The property has ample green space, nearby jobs, a nearby park, and beach. In fact, the property has everything that many people would pay much more for, so what’s the catch?

At this point, we have to admit, we’re not entirely sure. We have asked… without any solid answer. What’s the appeal of a development at Exit 70?

Let’s start with the obvious. 16 Neck Road is slightly over 1500 feet from the nearby Halls Road shopping district. Take a look at Hope’s own literature on affordability, and you’ll see that affording a car is almost as much a burden for families as affording housing. Two cars make the burden that much greater. With tolls and higher gas taxes on the horizon (yes, they’re coming), easing the burden of transportation simply makes sense. Walkability–it’s a goal we support.

Unfortunately, although Old Lyme is obligated to provide affordable housing — also a goal we support — there just aren’t very many opportunities to build walkable affordable housing in Old Lyme.

But here’s the problem. When you re-zone, and build a project on a foundation of walkability, the developer, and the town, and the state (remember Route 156 is a state road) are obligated to provide a timely and safe walkable solution.

The easiest rebuttal would be to say that 16 Neck Road is no less walkable than most any other property in Old Lyme. Which is fair and true…. however… expectation matters, and brings with it not only a legal responsibility (liability), but also an ethical responsibility (safety).

People being people… children being children… the location being what it is… the cost of a second car being what it is… there is no doubt that with this development will come significant numbers of people daily, at peak times, and at night, crossing Route 156 near Exit 70 on foot.

This is not an extraneous argument, but rather an issue which gets to the heart to what 8-30g is all about — what’s called a “competition of goods.” By that, we don’t mean “goods” like groceries… we mean “goods” like worthy goals. In a legal sense, there are lots of worthy goals: The environment is a worthy goal. Pedestrian and traffic safety is a worthy goal. Historic preservation is a worthy goal. Open space is a worthy goal.

There is nothing in 8-30g which says that any of these goals no longer matter. In fact, just the opposite. The law states, that zoning approval may be based on “health, safety or other matters which the commission may legally consider.” 8-30g has not transformed the Zoning Commission into a Health and Safety Commission. It’s still Zoning.

But here’s the catch. All worthy goals — “goods,” if you will — aren’t created equal. And the law, 8-30g, establishes a clear priority for the purposes of Zoning approval. In the competition of goods, affordable housing has a higher priority than most. So… for example, Historic Preservation can still be considered, but Historic Preservation alone is unlikely to outweigh the public good of affordable housing.

In practice, the courts have established a trio of key competing concerns: Affordability, Health, Safety.

That said, 8-30g does not provide a shortcut on procedure and law. The applicant still needs to file the correct forms on issues small and large. The applicant still needs to gather the appropriate permits and approvals in a timely manner. Every portion of the law still applies. Zoning can still consider all the issues zoning normally considers. It’s just that after jumping through all the appropriate hoops, and after following all the governing laws, just like every other applicant and for everything other project, good or bad, the Town of Old Lyme pretty much can’t deny approval without a reason or set of reasons which “clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing.” In a legal sense, that’s a high bar. And it’s a bar we support.

Our frustration with Hope Partnership and Women’s Institute, and with proponents of the plan, is not with the issue of affordable housing. We strongly support that goal.

Our frustration is that proponents have chosen to ignore or breezily dismiss every single other worthy and competing goal, even the other portions of the trio… health and safety.

If the issue of pedestrian safety can be solved, then solve it. If you can’t solve it, then explain how the benefits of this particular project outweigh the dangers to pedestrians. That’s how 8-30g is meant to work. That’s a competition of goods. That’s an honest discussion.

After a month of asking, a responding Op-Ed by Hope Partnership in Lymeline, and an hour and a half of presentation, how is it possible that neither project leaders for Hope Partnership and Women’s Institute, nor their extraordinarily-experienced traffic advisor, have even once mentioned the words “pedestrian” or “pedestrian crossing”?

We’ve looked at the latest traffic report, submitted at the last minute, and there too, no mention of pedestrians. In fact, the latest study only makes matters worse, with the apparent failure to approve a stop sign in place of the yield at Exit 70. If I-95 traffic does not matter for this development, nothing is a clearer statement of the opposite than CTDOT’s unwillingness to add an extra stop sign (much less a traffic signal) at the intersection of Exit 70 and Route 156.

And when we questioned the basic accuracy of statements by Hope Partnership regarding Fire Code approvals, didn’t it amaze you — it amazed us — that not one proponent of the project bothered to raise a hand, to rebut our statement, or to care? We actually wanted to be proved wrong, and instead… crickets.

To be clear, if there is some balance between the cost and the procedures and requirements of Fire Code, why not just explain it? A competition of goods…here’s how we justify our approach…

We’ve heard numerous comments from proponents of the plan that the audience, and the commissioners themselves, were uncivil (or worse). And as much as we encouraged the public to turn out — 503 people is a remarkable number — we will not stand to defend the behavior and motives of every member of that audience. However…

Instead of focusing on hurt feelings, isn’t it remarkable how little concern has been shown for any other issue than affordability? Isn’t it remarkable that no one has said, you know, we care about fire safety, and we’ll get to the bottom of this? Isn’t it remarkable that no one has even bothered to say, you know, we care about children crossing a busy road, and we won’t build this project until we have a real solution in hand?

From our perspective, that’s what the moral high ground looks like. It’s a realization that the right choices, that moral decisions, are complicated; that even the best intentions and the better goals, often face worthy, competing, even contrary claims; that the heaviest and hardest moral burdens come often with challenging the ones and things you love the most.

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