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For what it’s worth Flaws in the ‘crown jewel’

May 23, 2019

Why do I get the feeling that Stamford is spiraling out of control? Mold in some schools, and even at the Government Center. A late delay in paving some of the city’s worse streets. And recently, and inexplicable, announced staff cuts in schools at a time when Stamford’s population continues to rise. There won’t be a Memorial Day parade. A 3.2-percent increase in property taxes. And once again, the city will only have two parks police officers and three part-time regular police officers to cover all three beaches and Cove Island Park, Cummings Park and about a half dozen other parks in the city. Kind of bad timing for Mayor David Martin to proclaim, as he recently did, that Stamford is the crown jewel of Connecticut. Fortunately, the city’s Fourth of July fireworks display, which was canceled last year, is scheduled to be held this July.

I’ve rarely seen such a fierce backlash in Stamford as the one to the Martin administration’s decision to replace the Memorial Day parade with a three-mile run in and around Cummings Park followed by a ceremony to honor Stamford’s war dead. The city’s position is that, because of dwindling attendance at recent Memorial Day parades, something different had to be tried in the hope of attracting younger veterans. That decision hardly will ensure that more people will be in the park when the race starts at 8:30 a.m. and wends onto Soundview Avenue, Tupper Drive and Carter Drive, just east of Cummings. A road race, of course, has nothing to do with Memorial Day, and one of the six veterans groups in Stamford plans to boycott the race and the ceremony, as do scores of veterans angered by cancellation of the parade. I doubt the crowd for the race and ceremony will come close to those at Memorial Day parades, smaller though they have been in recent years.

Another blunder is the city’s inexplicably late reaction to an ordinance passed by the Board of Representatives last year banning the use of paving asphalt that contains fracking waste, which includes gas and oil. Incredibly, only recently and well into the paving season, did the city find itself unable to reach agreement with its hot asphalt provider. That could — ready for this — delay most of the paving until June and later, which is guaranteed to infuriate thousands of Stamfordites.

Speaking of roads, one of the worst in the city is one of most heavily used during the summer, the bumpy roadway leading from the main Shippan Avenue entrance to Cummings Park beach. Hundreds, if not thousands, of cars and other vehicles traverse that shocks-damaging road which looks and feels as if hasn’t been paved since the 78 acres was developed into a park in the early part of the 20th century. It’s urgent that it be paved before summer.

On a more positive note about the park, the newly renovated pavilion at Cummings Beach is now open. The biggest change is the new viewing and dining area on the second floor which offers a nice view of Long Island Sound and Westcott Cove. As for food, as Kevin Murray, operations manager for Parks and Facilities, told me this week, you have to bring your own or buy it from one of the trucks which will be positioned in front of the pavilion. “I think people are really going to like the new viewing area,” Murray said.

Stamford will be losing one of its best-ever police chiefs when Jon Fontneau retires tomorrow. As a Stamford native who grew up in Belltown, Fontneau was a rarity who rose from a foot patrolman to head the Stamford Police Department during a period of the city’s growth that has led to more crime, including gang warfare, and a sharp increase in drug use. Through it all, Fontneau guided the department skillfully while gaining the respect of the rank and file. He also proved anew that it was better for the city to have had a home-grown chief. We’ll miss you, Chief, as no doubt members of the department will, too. Thanks so much for your great service.

Finally, please don’t wish anyone a “Happy Memorial Day” this weekend..” We can rejoice that it’s the unofficial start of summer, but it’s also a solemn holiday, honoring Americans killed in wartime.

Jack Cavanaugh, a Stamford native and resident, is a Stamford Advocate columnist and longtime print and network reporter and sportswriter, college professor and author of six books.

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