How I Spent my Birthday Evening
I think I’m getting the hang of this.
This being an active voice on the RTM. Last night I gave up birthday cake with the family in order to attend the monthly meeting. Based on the committee meeting last week, I knew this was going to be a long, probably contentious one.
At caucus, I found myself rather vocal for one of the issues and then vented over the Board of Ed already pointing fingers in the press for the larger-than-expected enrollments, claiming if they only hadn’t had their budget trimmed they’d be able to have smaller class sizes. I see trouble ahead on that front.
Anyway, our meeting proper started off on a self-congratulatory note since Money Magazine named Fairfield the 9th best town to live in America (and first in the entire northeast).
The first item was a modification of language to the retirement documents for Firemen and Policemen, allowing retirees to do part time work for the town without their benefits being affected. Since the jobs under discussion are things like crossing guards, it’s not like people will be retiring early to get their pension and then fight one another for a $12 per hour job with crappy hours. Still, this merited some spirited debate as one suggested this would lead to cronyism and others worried that available non-former town employees would be ineligible for jobs. Of course, this all started because the jobs were being advertised because no one was lining up to be a Starter at the Golf Course.
The next item was the one I was most passionate about. For the second time we were dealing with a bonding issue, providing funds to buy technology for both the town and the schools. As I mentioned last week, the Board of Ed and Central office have a perception problem that needs addressing. Like I expected, my fellow Representatives jumped all over the bonding on several fronts including using this to beat up on the school side for all sorts of problems.
I had already been convinced by the town’s IT leader that the town side desperately needed the money to upgrade six servers among other issues. At caucus I argued several points, including the need to make sure the townside not suffer for the RTM’s frustration with the Board. We had discussed amending the item to just fund the town side and chose to pocket the notion until we had a sense of the body. Well, once the beating up started, I checked with our Assistant Majority leader and got the nod to try the amendment. So, feeling unexpectedly nervous about making the move, I got up, said my piece, proposed the amendment and sat down.
Sure enough, one official after another got up to stress the need and importance of the full funding measure. Only one person spoke out in favor or my plan. I could tell I was going to get shot down and a role call vote had it 7-29. On the other hand, the additional levelheaded debate seemed to work and the full measure overwhelmingly passed so I felt that I took one for the team and everyone got his or her money.
We moved through the other items without too much trouble until we got to the fire suppression expansion plans. We were being asked for additional funds to expand the program to cover additional streets plus make up the difference for rising paving costs. All well and good until one rep got up to argue things weren’t as they seemed. Some streets, he said, had been ignored, others not covered enough. He proposed an amendment to change some of the specs, the First Selectman asked him to alter the specs, which he agreed to. Then our Fire Chief basically said the Selectman’s idea wasn’t workable. And the debate raged on but at no time did the rep point out his street and home was affected, we had to figure this out late in the process on our own and to me that was disingenuous.
Five people sat through the entire proceedings since they wanted to make sure the funding was passed and their street was properly protected. As things heated up, our Moderator quietly suggested to the Minority Leader that we cool people off with a caucus. As we filed out, the neighbors admitted they were impressed by our volunteerism and putting up with the political process.
In the end, the silly amendment was withdrawn in lieu of three RTM members being appointed liaisons to the project, ensuring the money was being well spent and the right streets were protected in the right ways.
We gaveled business closed around 11:20.
Then, my second meeting started.
The Zoning Ordinance Committee convened for its organizational meeting, as announced, and we quickly reviewed what was required of us. I was named chair (largely because no one else wanted it) and we picked next Monday for our first meeting. This should be interesting.
I was one of four winding up going out for the “socialable soda”, a nice way to wind down a long, late night that ultimately left the town in better shape – we’re going to build some senior housing, we’re upgrading the technology in town, we’ve approved the final funds to finish rebuilding a bridge and more homes will be protected without endangering our firefighters. A long, tiring night, but certainly a worthwhile way to welcome my 48th year.