Letters to the Editor: Ox Ridge Field = The government we deserve?
Ox Ridge Field equals
To the Editor:
The June 19 Planning & Zoning Commission hearing was the only public forum for Darien’s taxpayers to offer their opinion on the Board of Selectmen’s official usage plan for this $6.25 million property (Ox Ridge Field). It is telling that during this 3.5-hour special hearing that not one taxpayer spoke in support of the BOS’ plan. The BOS has completely shunned all public input on their specific plan. Oh, a few months ago they invited a few neighbors, out of public view, for a “courtesy” meeting, where they presented their plan, but no input or questions were allowed. Nor has the BOS ever addressed the inconsistency between their plan for an athletic campus and the Parks & Recreation survey completed by over 10 percent of town residents (conducted after the town purchased the property), which overwhelmingly supported more “Open Space/Natural Areas” over more “Athletic facilities..
Skillful backroom political maneuvering by the BOS (did someone say cabal?) has also kept a formal, public discussion of the BOS’ plan far, far away from the RTM. Only a few, select members of the RTM were allowed to view and comment on the original purchase process and documentation which hard coded the BOS’ intent for this property from the very beginning. In fact, only one member of the Planning, Zoning & Housing Committee of the RTM was ever allowed to view and comment on the purchase documentation — a fact was hidden from the other committee members until only a few months ago. The RTM never approved the usage plan put forth by the BOS. In fact, Mrs. Stevenson said (Feb. 27, 2017 video: https://vimeo.com/206149365) that the usage would be determined by the Parks & Recreation Commission! In short, had the RTM known that the BOS planned to turn this iconic property into an athletic campus, the RTM would have stopped this process dead in its tracks and the BOS knows it. Why else would the BOS fund this project from its own budget (using transfers from other budget lines) rather than seek funds (and public scrutiny) from the RTM?
Now the BOS is moving forward with their plan for an athletic campus and has asked for the blessing of the Planning & Zoning Commission. If you doubt that this property will turn into an athletic campus, just watch video of this hearing (https://vimeo.com/276027503). You’ll hear that the mandate given to the three engineering firms hired by the BOS was to “engineer the property to accommodate 3 concurrent U-12 soccer games.” In the face of that mandate, the statements by town officials and so-called experts amounts to nothing more than continued obfuscation. It was all almost “Caddyshack” comical, if it wasn’t so disturbing. The town hired two traffic engineering firms to “objectively” opine on the applicant’s plan. Oh, wait, the applicant IS the town and these two traffic engineering firms have a long history of business dealings with the town. No objectivity should have been expected from their findings, and none was provided. Why would either firm ever say anything against their client’s expressed desires which might disrupt their town of Darien consulting gravy train? What was the conclusion of their deep, “independent” analyses? “There will be essentially no adverse impact from the introduction of up to 30-40 percent more vehicular traffic for hours on end every Saturday, and many weekday afternoons during the school year on Middlesex Road & Mansfield Avenue.” This, by the way, will coincide with a substantial increase in traffic from the chock-a-block schedule of events from the new Ox Ridge Riding & Racquet Club that the P&Z Commission has already approved.
The BOS’ consistent obfuscation and denials on the ultimate usage of this property have been truly mind-boggling, but nothing new. The BOS used this same obfuscation approach on the Short Lane property (adjacent to Weed Beach) a few years ago and on the “Shuffle” before that. The common thread? The BOS thinks they already know what is best for the town — they neither want nor need voters’ opinions. The BOS have never invited public input on Ox Ridge Field because it would be superfluous to them — they wouldn’t listen to it anyway. A statistically significant survey of voters’ Parks & Recreation wants and desires? Who needs it? While some believe Darien deserves the government it elects, I believe we can do better — much better.
Patrick M. Keane
Spirit of Democracy under a threat
To the Editor:
What can anyone make of the surprise win by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the district that runs through Queens and the Bronx, in New York? She won over 10-term powerful Congressman Joseph Crowley. Is it because Joe did not put much effort in taking Ocasio-Cortez seriously? I don’t think so; in my opinion this win is about the shifting demographics in the district, Ocasio-Cortez’ socialist message and the anxieties many are feeling in a Trump era.
It is my notion that across the country many surprise wins will continue to come out of an awakening that the very spirit of democracy is under a threat by the current White House occupant.
Marstons Mills, Mass.
Assure Madison’s warning does not become reality
To the Editor:
“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” So wrote James Madison in his introduction to Federalist Papers: No. 41 (1788).
Do Madison’s words scare you? They do me. A tyrant often exercises his power oppressively and cruelly. A majority leader who relishes crippling the judiciary, but refusing to allow the Senate to debate a ninth Supreme Court justice, acts like a tyrant. A Congress which prefers to see infants imprisoned rather than legislate, invites tyranny. A president who delights in embracing tyrants, learns to become one. And the Supreme Court which justifies discrimination against Muslims by renouncing discrimination against Japanese annihilates the rule of law.
At the risk of confronting the First Amendment, we should all pray in our diverse way that our ship — our survival — endures the perfect storm. But we all must do more. We must find a way to be active, to tolerate risk, to become revolutionaries and thus assure that Madison’s admonition does not become our reality.
Eugene E. Cederbaum
State Senate upholds
To the Editor:
The Legislature, and the Senate in particular, did something remarkable. They voted not to override Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s veto of Public Act 18-89, an Act Concerning Classroom Safety & Disruptive Behavior, a bill which received a unanimous vote in the Senate earlier in the session.
While well-meaning in its intent, if passed into law, this act would have resulted in a tremendous set-back for our state in the area of school discipline and climate and would have also led to flagrant violations of students with disabilities qualified under the Individual with Disabilities in Education Act
P.A. 18-89 empowered teachers to use their individual discretion to remove children from their classrooms for violations of what was an ill-defined new term, “daily classroom safety.” This discretion could be applied, and could prevent the student’s return to the classroom indefinitely, without putting into place additional resources for teacher support or considering the necessary interventions needed by that individual child.
No doubt this discretion would be used implicitly against children of color. Moreover, exercise of such teacher discretion would interfere with the rights of students with disabilities and detailed plans under the IDEA. In short, this act, if passed, would have been a disaster.
We shared our legal and practical concerns and were overwhelmed by the amount of support individuals and organizations alike showed. Thank you to everyone who took the time and made the effort to have your voice heard on behalf of Connecticut’s most vulnerable children, urging legislators not to override the governor’s veto.
Center for Children's Advocacy
Director, Juvenile Justice Project