LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Protect Ballard seniors
We, the Commission on Aging are writing on behalf of the residents of Ballard Green to address their safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has come to our attention that the Ballard Green property is being utilized by the general public — walking paths, using the picnic tables, using the driveway as a cut-through for cyclists and skaters.
This utilization by the general public is putting older adults and people with underlying medical conditions living in the units at a higher risk of exposure for developing the COVID-19 illness.
According to CDC coronavirus safety guidelines, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. The residents of Ballard Green are a vulnerable population, as such deserve out protection form unnecessary exposure.
We are writing to request assistance in safeguarding these residents by limiting access to the Ballard Green common areas to the resident themselves. Ridgefield residents have the gift of a vast selection of green spaces to choose from. Let’s respect the Ballard Green residents and help to continue to provide a safe environment.
Trump’s smear strategy
Donald Trump and his supporters have only one campaign strategy. It is to smear former President Obama and former Vice President Biden. In the Press, May 14, Mr. Archambault accused the Obama administration of “setting” up General Flynn to be caught lying to the FBI, but Flynn by his own admission did lie to the FBI.
The accusation is part of an effort to discredit the Mueller Report and the notion that Russia interfered on Trump’s behalf in the election of 2016. Mr. Murray seems to exist in a separate universe from mine. In fact the impeachment of Donald Trump failed of conviction by vote of not guilty by all but one Republican in the Senate, though it is known that several Republican senators believe that the House prosecution made their case against Trump.
With the collapse of the economy and the bungling of Trump’s handling of the pandemic crisis, the administration has nothing upon which to campaign except for smearing Obama and Biden. Even the pre-pandemic claim of a thriving economy was based on the rising stock market and corporate profits beneficial to the super rich. Low unemployment is the result of low-paying jobs replacing what were well-paying middle class jobs.
And, such issues as climate change, the lack of adequate health insurance, grossly unequal distribution of wealth, pollution, the impending crises in Social Security and Medicare funding are not considered economic problems by Republicans. With no programs to address real problems, the Trump Republicans are left with what Trump likes best — smear the opposition.
Listen to all
For the first 18 years of my life, I lived in Ridgefield. Between the picturesque downtown and the tight-knit community feel, it really felt like the perfect place to grow up.
However, in my years after leaving RHS and entering the “real world,” I began to see past the charming façade of Ridgefield’s perfection to recognize its flaws and shortcomings. Recent events in the Ridgefield, CT Facebook group have been a stark reminder of the work yet to be.
For those who missed the action, on May 30 (a few days after the public lynching of George Floyd by police), 2016 RHS alumna Da’Misi Adetona shared a post that discussed the importance of having hard conversations and using our privilege to speak up. She ended with a call for productive, thoughtful, nondivisive dialogue. Her post was initially met with comments of support, empathy, and gratitude from many who were thankful she shared her perspective of how it felt to be a young black person in Ridgefield.
But the dialogue that Da’Misi encouraged never came to fruition, as her post was almost immediately deleted. Excuses can be made, but at the end of the day, a black voice was silenced by white moderation.
So, I’m writing to remind Ridgefielders that progress will not come until we truly listen to perspectives different from our own, even when the voices may be critical. Rose-colored glasses have never solved a problem; we need to be willing to acknowledge, discuss, and confront our shortcomings.
If we really are the tight-knit community I took so much pride in, it’s time to make sure that all of our neighbors feel like their voices are welcome, not just those who affirm the existing status quo.
With gratitude to Da’Misi,
I dutifully spent the last eight weeks in isolation as ordered by this state’s Democratic administration. Two neighboring states, also represented by Democratic majorities, primary centers of the recent plague, long in control of a filthy subway and train system, a primary avenue of the plague’s spread, made similar orders. Within the last five days, any sacrifice I made for the public good has been destroyed, all the time cheer led by that party and its media minions under the hypocritical guise of racial penitence.
According to a Jan. 23, 2019, article published in the Associated Press, Walter Williams: “Who Benefits From Democratic Control of the Cities” 19 of the 20 cities with the largest homicide rate have also controlled, for many years, by Democrats. These cities were also receptors of the recent plague.
The Democratic Party and their followers bear substantial responsibility for the administration, training, discipline and response of police, and other city departments which have long been under their control. They should be held to account.
In closing his piece, Professor Williams quotes Bobby Hesley and urges black people to “free themselves from the Liberal Matrix that has ruled their reality for over half a century.” An interesting thought in this deeply troubled election cycle.
As far as I can see, the Democratic Party and its followers aren’t fit to protect a shoe store, much less a nation.
A tax solution
The Board of Education should stop using the argument that investment in education helps real estate values; they fail to acknowledge the flipside.
The property-value argument (as justification for more spending) ignores the downside of the financial burden it imposes. When property taxes become unsustainably high, there are fewer buyers and property values decline. Just ask those who (use to) own million-dollar-plus homes in Fairfield County. High costs are driving people out of Connecticut.
Furthermore, there has been a significant decline in household formation in the last 15 years. The reasons are economic, in no small part due to the high cost of education. The best arbiter of the real truth is both the distressing relocation and demographic data.
A solution to unsustainable tax increases is to end binding arbitration in public-sector contracts. A few years ago, I negotiated labor contracts as chairman of the Ridgefield BOE’s Negotiating Committee. This one provision structurally skews the negotiating process in favor of public-sector employees, trapping taxpayers in a never-ending, circular firing squad.
Binding arbitration integrates economic terms from 1) prior contracts and 2) all the other equally-unsustainable contracts from around the state. Negotiations do not “start fresh,” lead to real “compromise,” and they rarely reflect current local fiscal circumstances.
Seek an end to binding arbitration and watch how hard unions resist. Achieve an end to binding arbitration and witness the end of ever-increasing property taxes. Witness education improve as resources are more efficiently allocated. Witness increased household formation, inward (not outward) migration and improving real estate values.
Schools still waste
No tax increase is great news. But it accompanies bad news that will require work.
I and many others are strong supporters of education for our children. We are also strong supporters of their nutritional needs. But we don’t feed them better by loading the grocery carts with empty calories, and we don’t educate them better with spending that does not improve their performance.
The school budget is riddled with waste — $4,600 waste per Ridgefield household. We need to work on removing waste for next year. BOE expenditures per student in inflation-adjusted dollars have risen more than 50 percent in 15 years. At the same time, there has been no improvement in objective measures of academic achievement. The highest SAT scores were 12 years ago!
Fixing most of this waste problem is not hard. The administrative staffing and physical plant supported a student body that was 935 students larger than it is now. Multiple supervisors (who supervise other supervisors supervising supervisors), excessive assistant principals, curriculum coordinators, coaches to teachers, clerks, and gaggles of administrators teach students nothing. “Curriculum” revisions are mostly wasteful, serving as revenue generators for textbook companies and people who majored in education but can’t teach.
The 1.75 percent increase in school spending is an increase in waste. The decline in enrollment more than offsets any inflationary effects. The result should not be called a compromise. It’s better than the hyper-wasteful 3.96 percent the BOE wanted, but it is still more inflation-adjusted dollars per student and added waste. The superintendent and BOE should stop calling this budget a “cut.”
Only in government double-speak is an increase a cut and merely less waste a compromise. In the real world, the rest of us know that, but school administrators need to learn it too.
Keeler Tavern thanks
On behalf of Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center (KTM&HC), I send a heartfelt “thank you” to everyone who supported our first virtual Cannonball Gala To Go on May 23.
For centuries Keeler Tavern has been a gathering place where people enjoy company, good food and libations, renew acquaintances, and make friends. Because of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on gatherings, our usual sources of revenue have dried up, including one of our biggest fundraisers. Undeterred, we took the event online.
The evening featured a gourmet take-out dinner by Sarah Bouïssou Catering @ Bernard’s, a feature film called The Gilberts & The Gilded Age of Entertaining made exclusively for KTM&HC by hosts Daniel C. Levine and Bryan Perri of ACT of Connecticut, and examples of new virtual programming.
Visitors picking up meals at the Garden House “drive-thru” were greeted by “Timothy Keeler” and “Ester Keeler” wearing appropriate masks.
When we started this journey, we could not guess how well the idea of a virtual gala would go over, how many people would participate, or how many funds could be raised using a virtual platform. Thanks to the tireless efforts of executive director Hildegard Grob, Gala chairwoman Mary Ann Connors, and an energetic and forward-thinking Gala committee, the event exceeded expectations.
We send a special shout-out to our Colonial Sponsors — Fairfield County Bank, Nick and Anita Donofrio, and Joel Third for their significant support.
Funds raised will provide critical operating support to:
Create online offerings for the community at large; Develop curriculum-aligned school programs for online learning for school children and teachers; Maintain and preserve our historic buildings, collections, and gardens; and prepare for a strong reopening in accordance with state and town guidelines.
We are grateful to everyone. Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center will continue to provide the quality offerings.