Mike Warner A time for leadership in Town Hall

December 28, 2018

One wonders why the first selectman would schedule a “Public Hearing” during the height of the Christmas rush (Dec. 18) 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)?

How much more guidance is necessary for our leaders to recognize our town’s well-documented unmet capital needs to take a stance on the 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, 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 upgrade of our tired Havemeyer building, the construction of a Northwest firehouse and more.

Now is not the time for more listening sessions, it’s time for leadership. (The simplest definition of leadership I’ve 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 update our crumbling town buildings and begin to catchup with other Gold Coast towns (our competition), then by championing a change to our outdated Debt Policy that arbitrarily punishes today’s taxpayers for investing in long-term capital improvements with high-debt burdens required to pay off a school in five to seven years, when we could reduce the impact on taxpayers by sharing the burden with future users, over its “useful life” of say 20 years.

Working collaboratively with the Board of Estimate and Taxation and the Representative Town Meeting, this is an opportunity for the first selectman to lead.

Mike Warner is past chairman of the RTM Finance Committee.

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