New Canaan voters will cast ballots this Wednesday (4/27) to either support or reject one decision of the Town Council which was made on advice of the Board of Finance and the Town's bond counsel. I urge you to vote “no” first on the merits. But I also urge you to vote “no” as a statement of support for the crucial role that the Town Council plays in making such decisions. Managing our paving budget and setting line-item priorities can and should be made with all the facts at hand, something that voters cannot achieve through a yay or nay vote on a one-sentence referendum.
But the bigger issue is what vision do we have for New Canaan? I believe that New Canaan will make good on its vision set forth in the 2003 Plan of Conservation and Development and make improvements for pedestrians where needed and cost-effective. We have been doing so for the past six years, and have added longer stretches of new sidewalks without hand-wringing or political blowouts. Let's not let the safety of our neighbors be the victim of me-first factionalism. The voters of New Canaan should and will defeat this referendum overwhelmingly by voting “no.”
There has been a lot of confusion about the question on the ballot and the facts in support of a “no” vote. I helped form New Canaan Families for Safe Street and Sidewalks to try to offer the facts. You can find them here. l
Anyone who thinks safe sidewalks on Main Street are a good idea should vote “no,” keeping the Town Council's decision intact. Sidewalks are necessary to keep pedestrians safe on Main. Teens and tweens walk home along Main after-school or sports. Babysitters push strollers up the road along the blind curve. Commuters walk on Main each morning and evening to get to work or the train. To connect the existing sidewalks along Main to those on Farm Road completes a long standing plan for a walkable loop, connecting three schools, the YMCA, Kiwanis and Mead parks, and everything downtown, including the library.
I supported installing sidewalks on lower Main Street for some time. I have gone to meetings, argued my case, enlisted my neighbors and followed the development of the debate. I think it's a good idea to put in these sidewalks and to do it now. The decision of the Town Council does not mean those sidewalks will be built. It was merely one step among many. The referendum sponsors claim they aren't against sidewalks, just that we should wait. Yet, these are the same people I have seen at meetings all along, arguing against the sidewalks. They claim that a large number of roads will go unpaved, even though town officials say that isn't so.
Even if you could go either way on the sidewalk issue, vote “no” to keep government-by-referendum (like California's disastrous experiment) out of town politics. It only takes 25 people getting fewer than 30 signatures each to force the next decision of Town Council to go to referendum. What's the next decision 25 people won't like? How much time and money will we waste then?