Column: Nonpartisanship for a stronger Ridgefield
Something exciting is in the air in Ridgefield. Over the past couple of years, some residents have been putting partisanship aside to support pro-Ridgefield issues. Ridgefielders who have become increasingly concerned with the planning and preservation of the town are gathering to identify and support pro-Ridgefield candidates for the November 2019 election.
Last fall’s overwhelming referendum vote to split the Inland Wetlands Board (IWB) from the Planning and Zoning Commission spurred the formation of the IWB Candidate Search Group. (IWBSearch@gmail.com)
This group is an assembly of non-partisan, environmentally-minded folks hoping to help identify and support highly qualified candidates for the new IWB. Registered Republican, Jack Kace, was pleased to find himself in a room with Ellen Burns and Daniel C. Levine, registered Democrats, all committee members working towards a shared goal.
“So far we are thrilled to have coordinated with six extraordinarily qualified Republican and Democrat candidates, including three from each side, that we look forward to supporting in November,” Kace said. Ellen Burns added, “We’re pleased to have identified and encouraged so many environmentally credentialed individuals from both political parties interested in serving our community and willing to run for public office.”
The IWB Candidate Search Group plans to share its bipartisan candidate slate with another newly formed nonpartisan group of residents called Ridgefield Voters United (RVU). RVU will share candidate recommendations on its Facebook page and email distribution list (email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive email updates.)
RVU spokesperson, Lori Mazzola, is excited to share the IWB Search Group’s recommendations as well as promote unbiased Planning and Zoning Commission candidates who will “advance an exemplary balance between sensible retail and commercial development, 8-30g housing needs and laws, and residential zoning protections, and value the retention of Ridgefield aesthetics and charm.”
The last couple of years have also seen the formation of neighborhood alliances joined by a common goal of opposing commercial enterprises in residential neighborhoods within the broader context of zoning and preservation, again without any desire to advance political posturing. The groups, Ridgefield Neighborhood Preservation Alliance (RNPA), Circle Drive Neighborhood Alliance (CDNA), and Peaceable Neighbors Alliance (PNA) have email distribution lists that they will use to promote candidate credentials before the election. RNPA spokesperson, Catherine Neligan encourages residents to tune into this important conversation in the community.
“I hope that residents will join the effort to cross party lines to vote for the best candidates, rather than voting strictly along party lines, which has historically resulted in some interest-conflicted elected officials. RVU seems an ideal place to learn about the candidates on both sides of the ballot,” said Neligan, who is a Republican. PNA leader and Democrat, Jeff Hansen, plans to support candidates who have an interest in updating antiquated and incomplete zoning regulations that leave homeowners vulnerable.
“Most currently we see the consequences of incomplete/loose regulations regarding the use of ground-mounted solar panels. Our regulations still have undefined terms like ‘private clubs’ that leave too much discretionary decision-making authority to the whims of the commission members, when nearby Wilton, Darien, and New Canaan defined the same term for the protection of their residents long ago.”
Most importantly, both the Republican and Democratic town committee Chairmen are also making nonpartisan strides to identify, vet and endorse environmentally credentialed and concerned candidates for the new IWB. Both town parties are always on the lookout for qualified candidates they will assess, which by law is their responsibility and role. They are each pleased to see the grassroots efforts of resident groups rallying around the same nonpartisan cause they are initiating. Republican Town Committee Chairwoman Hope Wise shares her hope that both parties will support a slate of bipartisan candidates.
“I’ve been in touch with Mr. Harris, and we are both excited about working together toward what I believe will be an exciting first for Ridgefield,” expresses Ms. Wise. Democratic Town Committee Chair Alex Harris says the DTC is very enthusiastic about receiving recommendations and said, “All Ridgefielders, regardless of party, hope for public-minded boards--these efforts help fulfill that shared hope.”