First Selectman Rob Mallozzi Q&A
Q: After New Canaan was notified of an award against the town in the Lakeview Avenue Bridge Arbitration, there was a breakdown in communication. First Selectman Jeb Walker took responsibility for not notifying all the town bodies about the award. As a result, residents have become uncomfortable regarding transparency in government. What steps would you take as First Selectman to ensure transparency across the board?
A: We had a similar situation occur a couple of years back with some unauthorized contract extensions in our Public Works Department and I was asked to help define the problem and implement controls to make sure these issues did not take place again. My recommendations were approved by the Board of Selectmen and are in effect today. Those recommendations are as follows:
1. Increased reporting on contracts, monthly updates now mandatory
2. Assign a project manager to each project, ensuring personal accountability
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3. Show life to date expenditures on projects (in this case litigation)
4. Immediate notification if any serious issues present themselves in the project
These types of controls can be applied to litigation/legal issues to avoid the surprises and questions that were raised in the Lakeview Avenue Bridge Arbitration. I would also refer to the solid recommendations Mr. Walker has made before the Town Council subcommittee. Those are available from Kit Devereaux.
Q: New Canaan residents seem to have a reputation as being resistant to change. In terms of maintaining the character and charm of town that may be seen as a good thing. However, when it comes to running local businesses, it may be a disadvantage. What changes, if any, must be made downtown so that the empty storefronts are filled again while not compromising the character of the town the residents feel so strongly about?
A: There is no need to compromise the character of our downtown. As I have mentioned during the debates, we actually are presented with a wonderful opportunity to position the town as a dining and culinary arts destination. We need to fund a PR campaign that is developed with volunteer marketing experts and our Chamber of Commerce that talks to the unique experience that our town can provide in the culinary arts in addition to the shopping, personal services and historical interests that exist here already. We need to key in on the "walkability" of our village and remind people that they are a train ride away from spending an entire day enjoying all New Canaan has to offer.
We can't just promote the shopping experience of our town as we need to differentiate ourselves and highlight the entire experience of being immersed in all New Canaan has to offer visitors, potential residents and businesses who have New Canaan on their radar screens.
Q: It is no secret that you are not in support of the Long Range Planning initiative. Supporters of the LRPC say that it will save the town money on its Plan of Conservation and Development and create a prioritized plan, with cost estimations, on which improvements should be tackled first and why. Many say the $200,000 being spent right now can be saved in the long run. If elected, are you willing to work to find a middle ground with the LRPC and the master plan?
A: There is some good information we have received from the LRPC and there are very competent and committed people serving on the committee. Information such as the Energy Usage Study and some of the space studies are certainly of good value. I voted against funding this LRPC as the spending of $200,000 on a review by paid consultants of work and studies that were already done was just a complete waste of money. I was also concerned that no matter what the findings were, we would not have the luxury of funding those ideas as we have so much debt already on the books.
I would immediately set the committee to work on a review of the "shovel ready" Town Hall plans that we have from 2006-2007 to determine what we can use from those studies to help us modernize our existing town hall. I will reiterate that I will not be supportive of the wholesale re-purposing of our town buildings and/or major parking superstructures. Our downtown is one of the crown jewels of our community and is one of the main reasons why most of us chose to live here. We need to commit to preserving the character of our village and, in my opinion, most of the ideas broached by the LRPC seem counter-productive to that goal.