Mike Warner What Greenwich really needs
Confronted with town capital spending requests, budget hawks in the Board of Estimate and Taxation and Representative Town Meeting are fond of asking one question, “Is this improvement really a “need” for the town? Or is this an improvement that’s just a “nice to have” item? Because our town can’t afford to spend on “Nice to haves.”
This is entirely the wrong question, however. Just ask yourself, does Greenwich really “need” an Island Beach Ferry? Of course not. Or a Byram Pool? Or a Tod’s Point? Clearly these are not “needs,” they are simply delightful amenities beneficial to our citizens. More importantly, they are the things that fundamentally define our town as unique and make it distinctive in the larger world. Who else has an Island Beach Ferry — and with a jazz band! This is just one of the things that makes Greenwich, well, Greenwich.
So aren’t we all just lucky? We have it all, a picturesque shoreline town composed of five villages overlooking a sparkling inland sea, and if that weren’t enough, we also possess leafy back-country enclaves with four-acre zoning surrounded by fieldstone walls, all within easy reach of a vibrant world capital city.
But with 60,000 residents, we’re not just a small seaside town, we’re a small city. Yes, we have areas of affluence, but we also have a sizable working middle class many of whom work in that world capital city. In addition, we have an immigrant population, and retirees and low-income housing neighborhoods and its these citizens who have real “needs.” If we can meet their “needs” with an up-to-date educational system with modern schools, good transportation and growth opportunities then we all benefit, and we also define ourselves not only for unique recreational facilities but for the character of our people.
So, as we approach this year’s budget deliberations and address how much we should spend on our capital projects, we need to start asking ourselves the right questions. The question should not be, what we “need” to have, just to get by, the question should be, what “should” we have to provide our community first-rate facilities and services that match that small city situated on a lovely piece of real estate beside a shimmering inland sea.
Mike Warner is past chairman of the RTM Finance Committee.