To the Editor:
On Monday night, October 16, 2023, the Fairfield RTM held a meeting to discuss and debate a proposed “Safe Streets Ordinance.” The main sponsor of this ordinance happens to be the Democrat Candidate for First Selectman, RTM member Bill Gerber.
On its face, a Safe Streets Ordinance sounds like a wonderful idea. Who would not want Fairfield to have safer streets? In fact, as a caucus, we fully support the concept of “Safe Streets”, but unfortunately the proposed ordinance is just not ready for prime time in its current written form.
The Democrats, and more specifically Bill Gerber, admittedly have been working on this ordinance in secret and under the cover of darkness, without seeking input or feedback from the Republican RTM members for over one year. Instead of initial collaboration, Mr. Gerber’s invitation to open the ordinance up for a bi-partisan process came essentially after he finished writing it and securing the majority votes of his caucus to pass it. In other words, the fix was in.
Worse, there is no transparency or accountability of authorship, in fact, Bill Gerber admits that he has consulted with “individuals and experts” over the course of the last year in seeking input on the drafting of the proposed ordinance, but under questioning, on Monday night he refused to disclose who the purported “experts and people” are that were consulted.
Mr. Gerber admitted that he intentionally refused to consult with the Town Attorney, the chief legal professional representing the interests of the RTM and the citizens of Fairfield, on the drafting and terms used in the proposed ordinance to ensure that the ordinance is written so that all legal and financial considerations and impacts are considered and addressed. This is the standard operating procedure for when legislation is before the RTM. It’s virtually unheard of to have a proposed ordinance on the floor of the RTM that has not undergone legal review by the Town Attorney to protect the Town’s interest, limit any potential legal exposure, and ensure consistency and clarity.
When asked why he refused to consult with the Town Attorney on the proposed ordinance Mr. Gerber refused to give a reason.
Additionally, prior to submitting this proposed ordinance for review and a vote before the RTM, Bill Gerber admits that he did not seek input from any of the relevant town departments that will be most impacted by such a law until he was forced to at the RTM committee level. Only under duress did he meet with the Plan and Zoning Department, Police Department, and Engineering Department. He has yet to schedule a meeting with Public Works. He neglected to meet with the Bike and Pedestrian Committee, a key advisory board on bike and pedestrian safety.
When asked how much the Safe Streets Ordinance will cost the taxpayers of Fairfield, Bill Gerber responded that he did not know. Town officials, however, have estimated it could cost an additional $5 million in road improvement expenditures in the first year alone. When asked about the language for exemptions pertaining to key components of successful implementation, he admitted they weren’t there. In fact, after two hours of questioning Mr. Gerber, most of his answers to substantive operational questions were, “I don’t know” or “maybe.”
This is not the proper process or procedure to enact a law that will have far-reaching effects on our citizens and our taxes.
The process to enact an ordinance in Fairfield needs to be open and transparent with full review and input from the town attorney and all stakeholders. It needs to be legally sound. Anything short of that is a reckless abuse of the power held by the Democrat majority RTM Caucus.
We implore the Democrat sponsors of this proposed Safe Streets Ordinance, and Mr. Gerber, to acknowledge the flawed process undertaken here, the legal exposure having not been fully vetted by the Town Attorney, the lack of input from all department stakeholders, and to table the Safe Streets Ordinance to be taken up by the RTM at a later time so that all of the impacted departments and town experts, including the Town Attorney, can properly weigh in on the ordinance as proposed.
Members of the Republican Caucus of the Fairfield RTM
Editor’s note: Because Fairfield RTM Republican Caucus member Karen McCormack submitted this letter to CT Examiner, she is listed as the primary author, but the letter is from all listed members of the Republican Caucus of the Fairfield RTM.