Letters to the Editor
Published 2:35 pm, Thursday, October 27, 2011
Darien needs the
Open and candid debate about issues affecting our town is an excellent tool for disseminating factual information and opinions on both sides of the argument.
I have watched all of the shuffle discussions, and listened to Mr. Bayne's lengthy "campaign speech" at a recent board meeting. His remarks were clearly a summary of the prepared "talking points" used by his political supporters.
In my opinion, his commentary was rife with obfuscation, skewed and/or inaccurate information, exaggerations and, yes, scare tactics. Can anyone say, "Elections are coming?"
Most of the "anti-shuffle" proponents seem to support the policies of the previous administration, and it appears they care more about regaining political power than what is actually best for our town. How many of the "recruited experts" have watched the painstaking, bi-partisan, discussions of the volunteer Facilities Task Force and the Building Committee? How many have actually visited the three facilities involved in the proposed shuffle?
Dave Campbell, Jayme Stevenson and Jerry Nielsen are not seasoned politicians who stand to benefit from the decisions they make as a board. They had quietly volunteered their time and expertise to our town long before they were elected (without the need for media attention to tout their accomplishments).
These three dedicated public servants promised the electorate that they would make decisions based on what they thought was best for their town. They have kept that promise. In their short term in office, some of their accomplishments include:
Rescuing Baker Park (saving 400 mature trees in the process);
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Successfully securing a four-year moritorium;
Addressing flooding on a case-by-case basis;
Working with private developers to implement affordable housing in areas that will not destroy our residential neighborhoods;
Developing a well-planned, common-sense solution for the relocation of the senior center through efficient reorientation of existing town-owned facilities;
Proposing the demolition of the current senior center and establishing a public-private partnership to provide twenty units of affordable senior housing.
The previous administration had the opportunity to build a new senior center without results. I urge the Board of Finance and the RTM to vote an overwhelming "yes" for the proposed shuffle. Let's continue to move forward as a community by electing Jayme Stevenson as first selectman and Dave Campbell and Jerry Nielsen as selectmen. We know they have the best interests of their (and our) home town at heart.
Don't let the shuffle be
a missed opportunity
History has this remarkable tendency to repeat itself, even within a small community like Darien.
In 2005, the town faced an important land-use decision related to the purchase of the Procaccini property. At that time, David Bayne, an RTM member, wrote in the Darien Times, "It seems to me that while purchasing the property may slightly add to our property taxes in the near term, it will save the town money in the long run."
Mr. Bayne explained that if Darien purchased the Porcaccini property, the average homeowner would have experienced a tax increase of $115/year. He argued it was worthy investment because the costs of education, police, waste disposal and other town service burdens brought by market rate apartments would likely exceed any revenue benefits provided by property taxes.
Vickie Riccardo, also a RTM member in 2005, expressed her displeasure with the decision via a letter to the Board of Finance:
"In closing the Procaccini discussion, you glared at your assembled neighbors and asked if we are ready to accept a 12 percent increase in the mill rate, implying that many of us are frivolous spendthrifts for questioning the BOF's paternalistic conclusion that purchasing the Procaccini property is unwise. Well, sir, I am ready to pay higher taxes if they will give the town the financial resources it needs to make our lives here better.
"Since I moved to Darien in 1995, I've read and heard that the town prides itself on having one of the lowest property tax rates in the state. And, we've gotten what we've been willing to pay for. Until recently, we've had crumbling school buildings; limited parkland and open space; overcrowded and overused playing fields; no public pool; an inadequate senior center; etc."
As the construction of the 62 units on the Procaccini site commences, taxpayers should reflect on that missed opportunity (and others) so that we don't make the same mistake of selling 35 Leroy to a private developer. Darien's leaders must maintain their focus on providing reasonable financial resources which will make all of our lives here better over the long run.
John Sini Jr.
in town politics
As a mother of two young children, I have been busy for the past few years, engaging mostly in volunteer activities related to our family. Following local politics has been a challenge. I see the names on signs around town, yet I feel only vaguely familiar with the candidates.
That just changed for me.
I met Jayme Stevenson at a gathering hosted by my good friend Ciara Thurlow. Jayme was beyond impressive: articulate; positive; and knowledgeable. She is passionate about our town's issues, including the environment, affordable housing and traffic concerns.
I was struck by Jayme's confident, fresh approach, her ability to speak to and identify with the perspectives of men and women, as well as her numerous volunteer leadership positions in town. Most significantly, I was convinced of her commitment to doing what's best for our town. As a Darien native, that is particularly important to me.
I came away from that evening feeling enlightened, informed and inspired.
I also felt lucky to have people like Jayme Stevenson, Dave Campbell and Jerry Nielsen who have already made such a difference here. I hope others will join me in giving this team their vote on Nov. 8.
After all, that's what it is all about: getting involved.
Bayne has displayed proven leadership
David Bayne brings to the Board of Selectman four years of experience as a selectman, making him the most experienced of the candidates running for the Board. David has demonstrated an unwavering commitment and passion for the job of selectman -- his objective has been to take action and make decisions which improve the quality of life of all of Darien's residents in the most rationale and cost-effective way, thereby minimizing our tax burden.
David has repeatedly displayed intelligent, independent and strong leadership as a selectman. His exceptional performance as acting first selectman in the week after the March 2010 storm, when much of Darien was without power, earned him the gratitude of the entire town. His support of appropriately planned and vetted capital projects, such as the new police building and the redevelopment of Weed Beach, shows that David is committed to smart investments in our town's infrastructure.
David's rationale, thoughtful and persuasive objections to the shuffle, however, demonstrates his ability to be a careful steward of our tax dollars and an independent voice on the Board of Selectmen when it needs one the most.
Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike would benefit from David's re-election.
Current administration not getting job done
Although I have been a long-time registered Republican, I believe that the partisanship that characterizes the national debate rarely belongs in a small town like ours. Thus, I have been upset by the lack of both transparency and a cooperative attitude in the outgoing Darien administration. Its approach seems to reflect an influential part of the local party, but hopefully not a majority of Darien Republicans.
The results have been discouraging: Too little progress has been made on a host of pressing issues. More notably, an issue that had been acceptably vetted before (35 Leroy) was sent back to the drawing board. The tightly controlled process that ensued led to the confusing and bizarre shuffle plan. The complexity of the plan and back-room tactics embraced in the approval process are reminiscent of what went down with the recent national health care bill.
I am concerned that, since Ms. Stephenson and Mr. Campbell are merely switching positions in the prospective administration, they will continue the style and communication practices of the past two years. I urge moderate Republicans to send a message to their local party by supporting Mr. Lundeen, who promises a more open, co-operative and reasonable approach to governing.
Republican incumbents not fiscally responsible
I am dismayed and I am aggravated. Our current administration's potential lack of fiscal responsibility and use of our town monies is disappointing. Like most people in Darien, I agree that we need a new senior center. I also agree that debt is cheap and now is the time to do it.
However, building a new senior center does not need to turn into a $12 million project that requires shuffling people, departments and buildings. Debt might be cheap, but tax revenue and the ability to pay for our debt are also declining.
Also, the real capital expenditures that our schools are going to require to accommodate the ever-growing child population need to be considered. Is it OK to go so deep in debt that the real issues that exist in our schools cannot be addressed? Where are these administrations priorities? Why is it not sufficient to build a new senior center at the existing site, leave the Board of Education where they are and sell the old library property?
The cost of a "non-shuffle" would be incredibly less by only undertaking one capital project, and not three. The town could receive upwards of $4 million for the old library property if sold, and either build town homes/condominiums or build additional commercial space, both of which would bring in additional tax revenue and bolster our existing downtown businesses. To not utilize the old library space more effectively is simply irresponsible. I would hate for Darien to have at least an additional $4 million to perhaps build sidewalks, bury electrical lines, deal with flooding, bring languages to our schools, or hire more teachers thereby reducing our classroom size.
What certainly is the most disturbing about all of this is that the current administration is bent on forcing this issue through. Why is a special meeting of the RTM being called to vote on this shuffle project before the general town election? Darien citizens need time to educate themselves and decide how we would like to see our town monies spent. What truly is the rush?
The shuffle plan
The shuffle is a grandiose plan to fill empty spaces, not to meet essential needs. I have attended the facility tours and presentations. I have studied the drawings and the data. The shuffle is unnecessary. The Board of Education didn't ask to move.
The shuffle is too slow. The senior center badly needs better space, but can't move to Town Hall until 35 Leroy is remodeled, the Board of Ed moves, and their previous space is remodeled.
The shuffle is way too big. Costs are much higher than first estimated. The projected growth in the number of seniors is not credible. There is now about 9,000 square feet of space in Town Hall the Board of Ed does not use. That space, plus existing Town Hall gyms would be sufficient for the senior center/community center.
Let's leave the Board of Ed in Town Hall, use 35 Leroy for affordable housing, and remodel the unused space in Town Hall into a downsized senior center/community center ASAP. Seniors would get new space earlier. Affordable housing would happen sooner. Taxpayers would have lower costs. Everyone would win. What's wrong with that?
Shelve the shuffle shove
with your Nov. 8 vote
Thank you for this opportunity to ask the community to please support John Lundeen, Vickie Riccardo, and David Bayne on Nov. 8.
These candidates comprise a slate of tremendous intelligence, civility and fiscal prudence that we need for sensible stewardship of our town; whereas a vote for their opposition guarantees you multiple needless building projects, a resulting hefty tax hike and a loss of other potential opportunities.
The shuffle promotes three building projects, at a cost of at least $12 million, to replace one building: our senior center. In addition, they are promoting the under-utilization of the 35 Leroy site as Board of Ed offices, taking it off the tax rolls, and modifying it in a poor attempt to make it workable for the BOE.
As previously identified in the town plan, 35 Leroy should be used as affordable housing. Or, sell it -- let the market decide what should be built there -- and, (yes, despite misinformation disseminated, it is saleable) use the proceeds to build our senior center, either at its present location or at a new Town Hall site -- perhaps a $0 net cost to us.
It's a waste to overspend for this shuffle instead of employing more practical solutions in anticipation of future projects, such as building sidewalks, flooding mitigation, improving our children's education, bringing foreign language to our elementary schools, a town pool, etc. -- important future opportunities that may be lost for lack of funds. Opportunities lost -- yet another cost of the shuffle.
Don't be fooled by Mather Community Center smoke and mirrors, so named (or senior center depending on to whom they're speaking) in an attempt to give the project more universal appeal, while duplicating the efforts and competing with already-existing programs in organizations such as the YMCA, YWCA, Darien Library, DCA, etc.
Why is this project being shoved through the process without the proper due diligence? Count our seniors who use the facility, so our seniors can have a comfortable, correctly-sized facility -- a place all their own. How would dense affordable housing at Edgerton affect that neighborhood?
Don't let Stevenson, Campbell and Nielson shove their shuffle on you. It's not too late to correct this misstep. Contact your RTM members and tell them to vote "no" on the "shuffle shove."
Please vote John Lundeen for first selectman, Vickie Riccardo and David Bayne for Board of Selectmen for fiscal responsibility.
Susan P. Helms
Let the BOS finish
what it started
We have been impressed by the imagination of this Board of Selectmen.
They instituted a creative program for the development of Darien's future.
We urge voters to support the incumbent Republican Board of Selectmen led by the very able Jayme Stevenson on Nov. 8.
Don't change a winning game.
Sam and Carolyn Schoonmaker
Darien needs active voters, sound leaders
On Nov. 8, we will have the opportunity to exercise our fundamental civic duty of selecting those who will serve the public. In tumultuous times such as these, our responsibility to make an informed decision here in Darien is as important as the one we will make in Washington. Our lives are full of family and career obligations and our commutes may be long, but the responsibility to vote (including by absentee) is paramount.
I will support Jayme Stevenson, Dave Campbell and Jerry Nielsen. I have had the opportunity to witness their personal character, civic dedication, conservative financial strategy and ability to bring people together.
I applaud their tireless work and dedication to the development of a new senior center that will utilize the town's existing resources and produce countless additional benefits for our community. Furthermore, I put my trust in their non-partisan and open approach and their ability to develop solutions for the many issues that will face Darien in the coming years.
Jayme, Dave and Jerry -- thank you for the past two years, for running your campaign in a respectable and open manner and for not turning serious issues into cartoons.
Editor's note: James Palen is a member of the Darien RTM Finance and Budget Committee, Deputy Treasurer of the Darien Republican Town Committee.
Shuffle would take away from school enhancements
I have heard it argued that Darien can "afford" the proposed $12 million facilities shuffle. Though the shuffle cost would push up our town debt to almost $100 million, the chairman of the BOF said she was comfortable because she saw no major capital projects for the town coming down the pike, and no big hikes in operating expenses.
If we can afford it, why doesn't Darien have an elementary foreign language program? Why are some of our teachers sharing classrooms? Let's think about what is before us. The student population in Darien increased 80 percent between 1990 and 2010. The Board of Education has consistently underestimated the number of children joining our schools for the past several years. The Allen O'Neil project is expected to add many students to our school population, and the 60-unit housing development on the Procaccini property is currently under way.
How many kids will that add? Our class sizes are larger than ever and will likely increase. Are we really "done" upgrading our schools, hiring more teachers, improving our programs? I don't believe we are. However, if this shuffle project is approved in its current form funds for education will be even harder to come by. Let's find a more economical way to serve both our seniors and our students. Ask your RTM representative to vote no to the facilities shuffle on Nov. 1.
Elect Jayme Stevenson for first selectman
I am writing to urge you to vote for Jayme Stevenson for first selectman of our town. Having worked closely with Jayme as co-chairmen of the Darien High School PTA and with the Community Funds' Thriving Youth: Connected Community Initiative, I have witnessed firsthand her effectiveness as a leader. She has been very active in our community for many years. She has done a tremendous job each time she has either volunteered or was asked to lead organizations (Darien Nature Center, The Depot, Royle PTA). In addition, she is raising five active children in the town's public school system.
The three qualities that I admire most about Jayme are her judgement and stable, rational decision making ability, her competence at clearly articulating her thoughts and ideas and her general ability to work with people. She, Dave and Jerry have a vision for our town and it's many constituents. I am confident that Jayme will be a great first selectman. I encourage you to please get out and vote on Nov. 8.
of the environment
The care and protection of our environment has taken a serious beating at the national level. The EPA is under constant attack, and Congress is doing its best to weaken clean air and clean water laws. The president has reneged on his campaign promise to make the U.S. a leader in addressing climate change.
In this anti-science and anti-environment atmosphere of political priorities, it is refreshing to meet John Lundeen who is willing to stand up and declare his support for the environment. John Lundeen, has made the protection of the Darien environment -- of our land and waterways -- an integral part of his platform. As a member of Choose To Reuse, I thank John Lundeen for supporting our initiative to ban plastic shopping bags and for stating that he would be proud for Darien to take a leadership role on environmental matters.
I urge all those who are concerned about the environmental legacy we leave for our children and grandchildren to vote for John Lundeen and his team on Nov. 8.
not fiscally prudent
Many supporters of the shuffle project are either financially ignorant, or financially disingenuous. Here's why:
1. Sunk costs are funds expended on a project that are utterly unrecoverable if the project is cancelled. The purchase price of 35 Leroy is not sunk cost because its value on the open market is clearly greater than $0. A sale of the property would recover some or all of its original cost.
2. The current market value of 35 Leroy must be included in the shuffle costs, because the property is required to do the shuffle, and if it weren't required, we could sell the property.
3. The price tag for the rest of the project has ballooned from about $4.5 million to about $7 million. That's an increase of more than 50 percent from initial to current plan.
4. When the whole project is completed, the only thing different in town will be a new senior center that cost between $175,000 and $300,000 per current user, depending on how you value 35 Leroy, and the Board of Education will have suffered the distraction of a completely unnecessary move.
We need a new senior center, few doubt that, but the shuffle is just overkill.
Does it make sense to run if you can't catch a train?
To seek political office, and once elected, question the time required to serve, raises the issue of putting self interest ahead of responsibility. Then to politicize the issue, claiming that adhering to established practices demonstrates a lack of empathy for a certain group (in this case, commuters) is disingenuous at best. I compare this to a college graduate applying for a job that, once hired, complains the hours conflict with his personal life.
The response to the "issue" of scheduling selectmen meetings is telling. The Republicans offered a clear and thorough response from Jayme Stevenson detailing scheduling protocol. Some Democrats and the DTC attacked, trying to manufacture a lot of sound and fury about early executive sessions and published a political cartoon implying Jayme Stevenson doesn't care about or want help from commuters. Really?
Darien faces bigger issues than this. Real issues. Let's not waste time inventing fake ones to score cheap political points. Look no further than this "non-issue" to judge how each party will approach the political process, and how they will communicate their views.
I'll choose character over cartoons every time. Vote Republican.
Editor's note: Matthew Troy is a member of the RTC.
Republicans have proven dedication to Darien
Again we have the opportunity to select our town leaders. Two years ago we elected the GOP team of Jayme Stevenson, selectman, Dave Campbell, first selectman, and Jerry Nielsen, selectman. Now Jayme Stevenson is running for first selectman and Dave Campbell and Jerry Nielsen for selectmen. Their past performance has shown outstanding leadership in accomplishing much for the town of Darien.
One of the notable accomplishments was obtaining a four-year moratorium on state statute 8-30g pertaining to affordable housing developments. They have initiated open dialogue with Hartford legislators concerning revision of 8-30g so as to provide an equitable housing solution for all residents of Darien.
Our selectmen are doing a great job in balancing the needs of our community while limiting tax increases. We need intelligent, rational, competent and committed people with integrity and common sense who will reflect the will of the people of Darien. We have such candidates in Jayme, Dave and Jerry. Please join me in supporting them so that they can continue their record accomplishments from which we in Darien are all beneficiaries.
Charline V. Dale
Dems would be
an asset for Darien
My wife Giovanna and I want to express our strong support to John Lundeen, David Bayne and Vicki Riccardo in their run for Board of Selectmen. We have personally and closely known both John and David for years, and are outright impressed by the quality of the team they have put together along with Vicki for the leadership of our town.
I have known John Lundeen for more than two years, and have worked closely with him on various projects. John has an impressive breadth of expertise which makes him uniquely qualified to be first selectman. His credentials include 20 years of work experience in government and financial services, a strong academic background that includes a master's in public policy from Harvard and local expertise and firsthand knowledge of our town's issues as current vice chairman of the Darien Chamber of Commerce and local entrepreneur.
Having lived in Darien for 25 years, John is deeply committed to improving our town and its management.
David has an impressive eight years of involvement with the town's government, including his elected positions as RTM chairman and his past four years in the Board of Selectmen. Giovanna and I have known David for more than 10 years since our sons became close friends in kindergarten. As our friendship grew, so did our admiration for David, seeing him become more and more involved in the community despite a full time career and daily commute to Manhattan. We remember among his many achievements David's outstanding performance and commitment following the March 2010 storm, as he worked tirelessly to restore normalcy to our savaged town.
The issues that Lundeen, Bayne and Riccardo have set as priorities concern us all: fiscal responsibility while enhancing the town's services; increased state school funding; sidewalk improvement; affordable housing; commercial and business development; and environmental preservation. This team is profoundly committed to and passionate about public service. Their combined expertise in budget planning, analysis and control, public policy, legal issues, financial issues and environmental matters make this group of individuals exceptionally well prepared to tackle any complex issues and challenges that our town may face in the upcoming years. This is the team we need and deserve in Darien.
Victor H. Peña
Lundeen, Bayne, Riccardo equals $7M for Darien
John Lundeen understands that the shuffle plan rammed through by town boards gives us, for $7 million in debt, the same result we could have simply by selling the Leroy property to help finance facilities for seniors.
Instead of trying to fill all available town space with the people on its payroll, the town should have used criteria based on the number of staff, and perhaps doubled-up offices, used cubicle workstations and scanned files to reduce storage requirements. A closer look at the plan reveals an increase of 2,692 square feet, including one meeting room of 2,574 square feet with 76 seats for "professional development."
Parents, teachers and students have their meetings at the individual schools. BOE meetings, we can assume, involve their own staff. The Darien High School auditorium can accommodate large meetings. And how is the BOE going to use all the parking space at Leroy?
Income from the sale of Leroy could be used to build in partnership with a developer. There is still time to vote for change in November and reverse the decisions on the shuffle. Be sure to vote for John Lundeen, David Bayne and Vickie Riccardo on Nov. 8.
Why the rush on the shuffle vote?
Why is the current administration so anxious to get the shuffle plan passed just days before the election? If it's such a great idea, why won't it wait until after the election -- or are they afraid they won't be around to make sure it gets done?
This bizarre plan, which now costs $12 million (including the cost to buy the property at 35 Leroy, a fact often left out of current calculations) to create new offices for the Board of Education and create a senior center in Town Hall, leaves us with no new senior housing, and keeps valuable property off the tax rolls.
Darien taxpayers purchased this property and are now being "asked" to place city employees there. A "best use study" of 35 Leroy was never conducted and the shuffle plan evolved out of a lack of critical thinking. Now is not the time to rush through a vote on something this controversial simply to satisfy one's ego.
Elect Lundeen first selectman Nov. 8
The qualifications of those seeking elective local government office include proven career experience, sincere interest in the well being of the community at large and an ability to lead town government for the common good of its constituents. First selectman candidate John Lundeen has these attributes as demonstrated with his proven leadership roles in the public, private and Darien community sectors.
My support for John is based on my personal experience working with him on the Darien Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors where, as vice chairman, he has shown unique creativity in problem solving and a collaborative, open and consensus leadership style which together have combined to help the Chamber accomplish its business and community mission to Darien. His leadership as President of The Friends of Gorham's Pond further demonstrates his interest in tackling local issues and problems.
A vote for John Lundeen for Darien first selectman is a vote for sound, earnest and collaborative town government.
Richard L. Kelsey
PTO Pumpkin Carnival thankful for support
On behalf of the PTO and the families of Tokeneke Elementary School, we would like to give a heartfelt thank you to all of the families, friends, staff members and local businesses who came out to support the Tokeneke Pumpkin Carnival on Oct. 15. In continuing more than 40 years of tradition, the school community came together to create festive day filled with parent run games, carnival rides provided by Stewart Amusement, music and a "spooktacular" haunted house.
To our parent volunteers who worked tirelessly to run everything from food, sponsorship, operations, staffing, publicity, raffle, accounting, games, sand art, dj/emcees, hairspray, face painting, tickets, merchandise, books/media, baked sale/candy store, as well as creating and setting up another amazing haunted house, your energy and dedication never ceased to amaze us. Thank you.
To our community supporters, your generosity toward this event is outstanding and we couldn't be more thankful to the following businesses: Darien Sport Shop; Heights Pizza/Tasti D-Lite; David Osherow DDS; East Coast Irrigation; ITown Store; Better Lists, inc; SP&G/Speed Printing and Graphics; Darien News; Blue Ocean Worldwide; Flowers & Flowers; Vernal's Service Station; ORVIS; Infinity Fitness Studio; Pure Love Portraits; Plumdistrict; Whole Foods; JAM SONO; Michael Kramer; and Ornemaniste & Popped, LLC.
Also, the Darien Police Department for directing traffic and Post 53 for being on hand. We appreciate your time and enthusiasm.
This year's food vendors kept hungry revelers satisfied with a wide selection of food options. Thank you to the owners and staff of UCBC, Heights Pizza and Burgers, Shakes and Fries. You did an amazing job.
Finally, we would like to thank our incredible administrators, Mary Michelson, principal, and Kathy Schultz, vice principal, for their support and energy on making this day a success. Thank you to our custodians, Roger, Paul and Dominic, who helped us set it all up and take it all down, we couldn't do it without you. Rose, our lunch lady, thank you for your help and big smile on the day.
This was an exciting community event and you all made it a huge success. Proceeds from the event support enrichment programs and supplies for the students of Tokeneke Elementary School.
Wendy Hopper and Alisa Kuhn, co-chairman