Letters to the editor
Published 1:03 am, Friday, January 29, 2010
Voters should know
The Town Planning & Zoning Committee (TPZ) recently voted down some revisions to accessory or in-law apartment regulations proposed by the Affordable Housing Committee, the first revisions in 20 years. An accessory apartment is a separate, self-contained unit within a single-family residence, accommodating one or two people without increasing the number of residential buildings.
The state mandates that each town allocate 10 percent of its housing as affordable, but between 2000 and 2008 not only did Fairfield home prices rise dramatically but the percentage of affordable housing units dropped to 1.97 percent. Today, it's approximately 1 percent.
Years ago, an assessment of affordable housing in Fairfield found that young people, the elderly and singles needed it. It's even truer today. The intent of the revisions is to open up potential housing to teachers, police and fire department, even small business employees, who otherwise could not afford to buy a house in Fairfield and to provide sufficient living space so that families could share their housing with grandparents or adult children who cannot afford Fairfield rents.
Seniors, now more than 17 percent of the town's population, could also house live-in companion caregivers, keeping the elderly out of nursing homes.
Of course, homeowners could also rent the apartments to defray the cost of a mortgage, possibly preventing some foreclosures.
The revisions would allow the apartments within any residential zone; remove the five-year and occupancy restrictions; and lower the minimum square footage (limited to two bedrooms per apartment), the only revision the TPZ approved. The apartments would continue to be subject to all applicable codes, which the TPZ was told could and would be satisfactorily monitored.
Two members of the TPZ, James Kennelly and Bryan LeClerc, proposed scary hypothetical scenarios of families with teens moving into densely populated neighborhoods, parking their cars on the street, and glutting the schools with new students. What family of four would move into an accessory apartment except on a temporary or emergency basis?
And here's a news flash: cars are parked everywhere already, Capes have become McMansions and Fairfield has changed and will continue to change. No one is proposing a massive housing development -- nor, based on past use, will these revisions propel massive renovations to existing homes.
Selectman Sherri Steeneck, a long-time Fairfield real estate broker, urged adoption of the revisions since in her experience the apartments have accommodated grandparents or other family members and not been used as rentals. Nearby towns have modernized their in-law apartment regulations without incurring any problems.
Either the barbarian hordes are at the town line or the vote projects a mean-spirited, provincial "we've got ours and no one else is getting in" attitude -- during the worst recession in memory and with increasing unemployment. The AHC proposals are not charity; they're practical, reasonable, revenue-smart, and benefit existing homeowners -- not hypothetical hordes.
We need more transparency in government, so I thought voters might like to know. TPZ, rethink your vote.
Member of the
Affordable Housing Committee,
Bipartisan efforts needed
As we face the prospect of another year of tax increases, a massive shortfall in pension funding, the need for millions of dollars in additional school projects and uncertainty over the Fairfield Metro Center project, First Selectman Ken Flatto stated in the State of the Town address that his top priority for 2010 is to "enhance quality of life initiatives." He referenced initiatives that "expand pedestrian safety" and "expand bicycle use."
Although it is easier and more pleasant to discuss quality of life enhancements, we must face reality. We are facing serious financial concerns and our residents cannot afford to continue to carry the burden of annual tax increases. We must focus on working in a bipartisan manner to set a long-term plan to deal with our budget and pension concerns.
The State of the Town address is a time to briefly reflect on the past and address the issues we face in the year ahead. Flatto failed to confront the serious issues we face moving forward and that is the cause of great concern.
On Monday, Flatto touched briefly on taxes and appeared to be backing off his call for zero increases across all departments. He now hopes they will be "fairly level." Without budget reforms and changing the way we do business, taxes will continue to increase due to contractual obligations. As Republicans, we put forth a budget reform plan that Flatto has dismissed.
Flatto never mentioned our pension fund shortfall, where we suffered a monumental loss in the Bernie Madoff fund. We now must deal with that situation. The tax impact projected over the next three years will be massive. We can not just hope the securities markets gain ground in the year to come. We must plan of the worst and hope for the best.
Flatto failed to mention that every union contract is up for negotiation this year. We have held the teachers and administration to zero percent increases in 2010. We call on Flatto to hold the other contract wages to the same standard.
Flatto never mentioned the expansion at Fairfield Woods Middle School that is projected to cost around $24 million. Flatto told us a year ago that spending on large capital projects was complete. He also stated that there was more than enough space within our middle schools. He was mistaken and we will have to address this in 2010.
The Fairfield Metro Center is the largest economic development project that we have undertaken in decades. Flatto gave mention to it in one line of his speech. There is a great deal of uncertainty and many questions regarding this project. I have officially requested that the Moderator have Flatto come before the RTM in February to answer our questions and provide a detailed update. We are also considering other courses of action to enhance the flow of information on this project to the RTM. The RTM approved the tripartite agreement and we have a responsibility to see it through to completion.
We have a responsibility to move forward, put aside our differences and work together over the next two years to chart the course for Fairfield's future. The year ahead will be filled with difficult decisions, deep cuts and shared sacrifices in every sector of government. We must face these challenges head-on and focus on long-term solutions, as anything else is unacceptable.
RTM Majority Leader (R-9),
I have observed with great interest the recent media reports regarding announcements that Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal intends to seek the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. Senate. I vigorously oppose Blumenthal's intentions.
In 1788 James Madison said the following: "In our governments the real power lies in the majority of the community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents."
This statement gives a good distinction between the positivist theory of constitutional government and the natural law theory upon which our nation's Constitution was created. According to Connecticut General Statutes, Section 1-25, the oath of office that Blumenthal gave when he became Attorney General included a provision that he support the Constitution to the best of his abilities.
For my long-term role, stemming from my banking background, of being a critic of activities of the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA), in 1995, I filed in federal District Court a lawsuit against the CRRA. Several other defendants were named including the Office of the Attorney General (for actions occurring under the earlier administration of Joseph Lieberman).
The lawsuit included well-supported claims of mail fraud, bond fraud and bid-rigging. Under Blumenthal's authority, Assistant Attorney General Charles Walsh (who was never hired in accord with the requirements of the State Personnel Act) presented a motion to dismiss the lawsuit using quite expansive claims of defective service of the complaint, statutes of limitations and standing.
Without those issues being fully resolved, District Judge Dominic Squatrito (who less than six months prior to the filing of the lawsuit was Senator Lieberman's campaign treasurer) dismissed the case. I promptly filed an appeal with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals applied a procedural issue to dismiss the appeal (without prejudice).
This is one of several examples that I can provide of clear excesses of statutory and constitutional limitations by the Office of the Attorney General under Blumenthal.
It is curious that other recent media reporting offers background information of Blumenthal with curious detail that he graduated from Yale Law School as a classmate of Bill Clinton, that he earlier worked as partner for Cummings & Lockwood (the law firm that, just prior to the 2001 CRRA/Enron debaclec was contracted as outside legal counsel to the CRRA), that he served as law clerk to then-federal District Judge Jon Newman, and further that he was appointed by Pres. Jimmy Carter to be U.S. Attorney.
What is clear of Blumenthal's role as attorney general is that he will do just about anything in pursuit of his objective of elevating a political agenda and the interests of governmental organization over those of basic citizen rights (i.e., the positivist theory of government). He plays to a perceived position of governmental bias in the courts, a situation to which he has actively contributed, and he and those under his administration abuse their offices to influence officials of state agencies and the courts as collateral attack against those of us who might have legitimate federal claims against the state or state officials.
In short, Blumenthal's long-term practice of respecting the Constitution only when it is politically convenient means that he really doesn't honor it at all. He has violated his oath of office and he should not be promoted to the higher office of the United States Senate.
Ethan Book Jr.