Farricker: Long Years of Service May Not Be What Greenwich Voters Need from Selectmen Candidates

Submitted by Frank Farricker, former Greenwich Democratic Town Committee chair and former candidate for Greenwich First Selectman

We have heard some wonderful sentiments from the declared candidates for First Selectman and Selectman regarding our Town. Among many other planks, Fred Camillo seeks to fix parking problems, Mike Mason looks to increase efficiency in town government through better technology, and Jill Oberlander seeks to preserve our enviable bond rating.

All tout their long service to Greenwich as volunteers or very low paid elected officials, of which we should all be grateful.

However, I am not sure that deep experience in the nuances of Greenwich government is what the residents of the Town may be looking for in 2019. Instead, I believe the residents of Greenwich deserve what respected town resident Ray Dalio refers to as “radical transparency.” We need a new kind of honesty between Town government and the town residents that invigorates a feeling of mutual trust and respect.

For example, there is a widespread feeling, rightly or wrongly, that Greenwich is being overdeveloped, and its historic character is being stripped away while we stand powerless against the rules and ordinances that govern us.

Working to preserve Greenwich’s character would be very hard work for a First Selectman, but laying out a firm position, first as a fellow resident, then as a leader is what we need, not the presentation of a litany of obstacles that mean little at this late date.

A First Selectman that states a clear and honestly held position is where we start to find resolution, not engagement in rhetoric that may be pleasing, or the continued presentation of vague positions that solve nothing, again.

We need truth on the issues that appear intractable, as there is little patience for a lack of real transparency on critical issues. The School Board needs to be honest about their thinking on educational plans for disabled students. Town residents need to know if the Board is battling these parents because they are afraid of out of control costs, which would be difficult to hear if true, but would at least be honest enough to set the table for discussion. If you are against how we do or do not tackle the issue of affordable housing, just say so and spend your term backing it. Same for school racial balance, the lunacies in our Harbor management and flooding prevention to name issues that our government has not truly been transparent about, and have lingered negatively in the community and all of which we feel confused and at the mercy of forces not under our control.

As I mentioned, our current First Selectman candidates are current long-term elected officials.  As a past member of town government organizations and boards, I know how a bunker mentality can develop around the group in which one serves. A sense develops that residents can’t fully understand the nuances and specifics of the subject ones board is tasked with, and that working in good faith is enough, and it is very rarely worth the bother or, frankly, abuse to tackle uncomfortable issues. Making matters more difficult is that these people are all volunteers, and we all have trouble criticizing people who in some cases invest full time work at no cost for our Town. Nonetheless, the growing pile of issues where the disconnect between us and our governmental officials is just getting worse. I strongly hope our candidates for First Selectman and other offices can rise to the challenge of leading with truth and honesty over the next 2 years, or I hope that others will step forward between now and the primary election deadline of August 7th to do so.