Not the New Canaan Way

The following was published as a Letter to the Editor in the New Canaan Advertiser.

Vine Cottage, Town-Owned? (TBD)

Vine Cottage, Town-Owned? (TBD)

 

I don’t know when New Canaan discussed with the town residents the future of Vine Cottage. Do you?

The 2017 Comprehensive Building Review recommended “deferring a decision … pending a decision on the potential relocation of the [Board of Education],” yet I don’t recall that being discussed or fully resolved either.

By piecing together a research-intensive patchwork quilt of statements made at various Selectmen and Town Council meetings, as well as a smattering of local interviews, it seems that last November First Selectman Kevin Moyhihan — as CEO of the town — felt that the building should be disposed of and the appointed Board of Finance then approved funds to repair the Outback — but only subject to the town’s selling Vine Cottage.

This is not the New Canaan way. Putting aside the fact that we have yet to engage as a town to create a true long term 20-plus-year master plan outlining our shared vision for a thriving New Canaan (which is not what the Plan of Conservation and Development is or is supposed to be); as of now we do not even have a coherent set of criteria upon which Town-owned properties will be evaluated for potential disposition, nor do we have an established process by which those properties will be slated for potential sale. Vine Cottage included.

There are many different opinions about the Town’s properties. But, a democratic, transparent, full and public discussion of everyone’s viewpoints and all the options is the way that we allow all of us New Canaanites to have input into our town’s decision-making processes.

To make matters worse, once the decision to sell Vine Cottage was taken from us, our “First CEO” decreed that responses submitted to the RFP (written by a closed group he led) will be reviewed by himself and four others: Chair of the appointed Board of Finance, Todd Lavieri; Building Superintendent Bill Oestmann and Director of Public Works Tiger Mann — both of whom report directly to him — and Town Council Chairman John Engel, a member of his own party, but who is at least elected by New Canaan residents. To be clear, the selected members of this ad hoc review committee are all good people and responsible stewards of town business, but that does not make Mr. Moynihan’s “plan” any less arbitrary, nor open, nor diverse, nor representative.

To paraphrase perhaps one of the greatest shows ever made on government and politics (Yes, Minister): “If we are going to do this darn stupid thing, do we have to do it in this darn stupid way?”

I know we can do better.