Letter: First Selectman, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”

Letter to the editor from Mike Warner, Past Chairman of the RTM Finance Committee, Dec 17, 2018

One wonders why the First Selectman would schedule a “Public Hearing”, during the height of the Christmas rush (December 18 th ) to “guide the development of the final FY20 CIP” (Capital Budget)? Also puzzling, given the huge backlog of unmet capital needs for the town, why select such a small room, (Cone)?

One might also want to know how much more guidance is necessary for our leaders to recognize our town’s well documented unmet capital needs in order to take a stance on the immediate steps we need to take to respond to this obvious and growing problem.

We already know the deplorable condition of our schools, on average constructed in 1953 in the middle of the last century, and we also know that modern schools incorporate larger “collaborative spaces,” where kids can collaborate in hands-on learning and where teamwork is developed. Further they meet today’s standards of student safety, air quality, handicap access and security, all important elements for learning and safety that the BOE consultant confirms our kids need.

We also know, a proposed 15-year, $750 million plan to upgrade our schools is now on the table. In addition to a replacement of our Old Greenwich Civic Center, the tired Havemeyer building a Northwest firehouse and a skating rink.

Now is not the time for more listening sessions, it’s time for leadership. (Books have been written about how to define leadership but the simplest definition I’ve ever heard came from a combat Marine, it was, “Follow Me!”) This is what we need now from our First Selectman.

He should first acknowledge the problem that we need to catch-up to our Gold Coast competition, then recommend a realistic solution that taxpayers can live with. First by championing a change to our outdated Debt Policy that arbitrarily punishes taxpayers with high debt service burdens because the policy requires them to pay for a school in 5
to 7 years when the debt could easily be extended over its “useful life”.

Working collaboratively with the BET and the RTM this is an opportunity for the First Selectman to lead.

Even in the middle of the Holiday Season, considering the recent Cos Cob School disaster, the leaky Old Greenwich Civic Center and the need for a northwest firehouse and other improvements, our Selectmen could find the Cone Room isn’t big enough to contain the citizens who want action, it could be he’s gonna need a bigger boat.

Mike Warner
Past Chairman of the RTM Finance Committee