Preface by The Red Line: In a smart and forthright manner, Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo has written an op-ed in the fashion of a report card on progress in his town during his first year in office.
In essence an open letter, Camillo’s op-ed shows due respect to the citizenry, by whom he was elected to manage the town’s affairs. Other local leaders should follow his lead and his manner.
As an op-ed, Camillo’s message commands an essential assurance of accuracy. Newspaper editors may not force contributors to swear on a bible about truth and nothing-but, yet neither do they countenance overreaching claims, outright falsehoods, egregious omissions or empty puffery.
Nor, of course, are newspaper columns partisan communications, which are generally exercises in boosterism and are often vehicles for fundraising. By eschewing partisanship, Camillo gains a wider audience, including independents, and, at the least, he disarms those of the opposing party.
By the same token, Camillo’s column is not an official document of the town, which he could control, but rather a message conveyed through a medium which he does not control.
Camillo’s op-ed benefits from its unadorned directness as compared, for example, to the president’s annual state of the union address which has become a carefully staged and highly stylized affair.
Camillo made a wise choice of a medium through which to communicate with the broadest spectrum of Greenwich citizens in the most straightforward manner.
Nevertheless, politically, Camillo’s approach is smart, reaching the widest possible audience with a message conveying an agenda of his choosing and his own self-assessment before critics inevitably emerge, and before, in what is now municipal election year, political opponents begin to attack. Preemption is a smart strategy, leaving critics and opponents having to play catch-up.
In essence, good governance is good politics. Herewith, Camillo’s letter to the citizens of Greenwich.
As I finished my first month in office one year ago, neither I, nor anyone, could have imagined what was in front of us. The year 2020 began – we were excited, enthusiastic and energized. Then, the progress of the first few months of 2020 suddenly halted as the Town, state, nation, and the world needed to shift gears and prepare for something not experienced since 1918: a worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19.
While this unpredictable virus presented one of the most challenging years in anyone’s memory, it also offered silver linings in the form of opportunities.
The possibility of a complete government and economic shutdown was discussed in mid-March. That scenario would have led to an economic collapse and caused just as much misery and suffering as this deadly virus itself. Facing that and other uncertainties, Town officials, the business community, and our residents stepped up, acted quickly, and averted the feared worst case scenarios.
Holding virtual meetings began almost immediately, after just a few short trial runs. Working with Zoning and Public Works officials, options such as outdoor dining, something being planned for the future, was now urgently needed if our restaurants were to survive. This resulted in the transformation of the look and atmosphere of Greenwich Avenue and a few other parts of town where restaurants went outdoors. This is something we are committed to continuing on a permanent basis, too.
Long-standing issues, concerns and problems were addressed. Projects and ideas including:
- A new Eastern Greenwich Civic Center
- The complete redesign of Roger Sherman Baldwin Park
- The beautification of Greenwich Avenue with public safety enhancements
- Enhancement projects in each section of town
- The establishment of a town energy policy advisory committee tasked with developing a town energy policy
- Recycling of additional items out of the solid waste stream
- The embracing of public-private partnerships (P3)
- Following the P3 initiatives, supported the acquisition of 73 acres of Aquarion land
- The selection of a new fire chief
- The reorganizations of both the Greenwich Police and Fire departments and increased public safety initiatives
- The creation of a storm preparedness policy
- Empaneling a committee that addressed and resolved the Greenwich Plaza air rights issue, saving the town a valuable asset
- Working with developers and property owners in downtown area with focus on enhancing properties under private ownership to compliment town improvements currently under way and being planned
- Multiple public parking solutions aimed at improving access to shopping and dining
- The first ever night meetings of the Board of Selectmen, which will resume when in- person meetings are allowed
- Increased and daily presence on social media
- Weekly and consistent communication with the town’s residents were established
While the ship of state is alive, well, and following a prosperous and healthy course, the new year will present challenges related to normal pressures as well as those associated with the virus. We need to maintain our vigilance, staying focused and determined, standing strong in the face of the health threat this disease will bring in 2021.
The coming new year also will continue to offer a landscape fertile for more innovation and progress. Our collective efforts will yield benefits that will be enjoyed by both the present and future generations of Greenwich residents. It is with this optimism and gratitude that I thank the people of Greenwich for keeping their eyes on the ball, and for working together to ensure we come out of this pandemic in a more efficient and effective state.
I also would like to wish everyone a happy, healthy, safe, and successful new year. Together, we will make the town of Greenwich an even better place to work, visit and in which to call home.