Jeff Curtis, President of Stamford Board of Reps: Vote ‘YES’


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To the People of Stamford,

My name is Jeff Curtis, and I am honored to serve as President of the 31st Board of Representatives and proud to serve you, the people of Stamford. On Tuesday, November 7th, you are being asked to go to the polls and to vote. The most important item that you will be asked to vote on is the question of Charter Revision.

Let me preface my remarks with the following caveat… These are my thoughts and I do not speak as President of the Board of Representatives, but rather as a resident of Stamford. I have attempted to stay above the fray, but I now find it necessary to speak out.

The people of Stamford who are behind the vote yes movement are average people like you and me. We do not have a great deal of money, but we are proud of our small piece of Stamford. The grassroots effort behind the vote yes movement want Stamford to thrive, we want good schools, we want well-maintained roads and well-maintained parks. We also want the proper number of first responders to emergencies, we want an infrastructure that can manage smart and responsible growth. We genuinely want deeply affordable housing for those who are working paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to live in a $3,000 or $4,000 a month rental apartment. Is this too much to ask?

The late Tip O’Neill, the 47th speaker of the United States House of Representatives is credited with saying “All politics is local” and even wrote a book titled as such. When it comes to Stamford’s Charter Revision, he couldn’t have been more right. This charter revision process is extremely important to the future of this city. The deep pockets of the people funding the Vote NO effort seem to have no bottom.

We have all been bombarded by mailers telling you that we must Vote NO. I urge you to take a moment and to think about where the money is coming from to fund all of these Vote NO mailers and advertisements. The short, simple answer is that it’s coming from wealthy friends and donors of Mayor Simmons. The money is also coming from wealthy land and property developers such as BLT. I ask you does this sound legitimate, or does it sound more like wealthy people and greedy corporations trying to preserve their power and the status quo?

Charter Revision is mandated by the state to be engaged at least every 10 years. As President of the Board of Representatives, I was tasked with naming a charter revision committee consisting of members of the Board of Representatives. That committee asked for resumes and then interviewed 60 people who submitted resumes to be part of the Charter Revision Commission. From those 60 people, the charter revision committee chose 15 members (the maximum allowed by law) to serve as the Charter Revision Commission. This Commission has been the most diverse charter revision Commission in recent memory.

Colleagues and others have voiced their opinions on how to vote publicly (perhaps more eloquently than I) There have been many op eds written against voting yes. In many of these op Eds, the allegations and insinuations that have been made are untrue. Commentators responding to these op Eds have found it necessary to resort to defaming members of the Board of Representatives, calling them names, casting aspersions, and calling for the abolition of the Board of Representatives. These keyboard warriors hide behind fake names and most likely have no clue as to what goes on in Stamford government. It is easy to sit at the keyboard and criticize without having to properly identify themselves. Members of the Board of Representatives and the Charter Revision Commission are volunteers who give up their time to stand for their constituents and we expect a certain amount of criticism.

The vitriol that is being spewed has reached an all-time high during this charter revision process. Desperate times call for desperate measures. For far too long, mayoral administrations have allowed members of the planning and zoning boards whose terms have expired, very often by several years, to remain seated. These people have no responsibility or accountability to the people of Stamford. Why would this, or any other administration allow this to happen… The short and simple answer is that real estate developers both large and small benefit from having the same old people {whose terms have expired} stay seated. This borders dangerously close to greed and corruption. Those who are telling you to vote no, have made the accusations that the charter revision committee and the charter revision commission are anti-development, anti-mayor and anti-everything … that could not be any further from the truth. We want responsible development, we want our infrastructure to keep up with development, we want deeply affordable housing, and we want Stamford to be everything it can be to you, its citizens. What we do not want is a city that is overdeveloped and held hostage by developers who have their hooks in Stamford and refuse to let go. We want a city infrastructure that can handle responsible growth. Do we have the right number of emergency first responders? Do we have the capacity to handle the increased amount of garbage that will be generated by further growth? Do we have a water supply that can handle the increased growth? Why does it take more than 30 minutes to go from the mid ridges to Shippan point?

There are those who say that the oldest of us will soon need senior housing with certain health care capabilities. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong. Having grown up in Stamford, I remember urban redevelopment and the stir that it caused. I also remember the drive to make Stamford corporate headquarters of the world. I remember the Stamford Town Center being built and hailed as a jewel in Stamford. We brought in UBS and RBS among others, and that influx of corporate headquarters was fine until the bubble burst and these corporate headquarters started moving out. What happens when the next bubble bursts and all of these people who are occupying the buildings that have and continue to go up all over and around town suddenly decide they can move somewhere else where it might be cheaper? What do we do then? Many of the people supporting the vote no effort are millionaires, wealthy real estate developers, and large property development companies. Many of the vote no supporters are wealthy enough to live in areas of this city that are not subject to the rampant overdevelopment that many other neighborhoods in Stamford are experiencing. Is that fair?

There are those who say that the omnibus question on the ballot should have been broken up into separate questions. I want you to know that Stamford did not invent the omnibus question and we are not unique in the use of such a question. As a matter of fact, other municipalities including Norwalk and New Haven this year in Connecticut have used and are using similar questions with less clarity than there is in our ballot question. We also went to great lengths to develop a very definitive explanatory text to answer your questions.

As I stated at the beginning of this op-ed, I am proud to serve the people of Stamford. I have no further political aspirations. I do not want to run for higher office.

Your vote on Tuesday, November 7th is critical to the future of Stamford, our children, and our grandchildren. Voting YES on Tuesday is a gigantic step forward for THE PEOPLE OF STAMFORD.

On Tuesday I will be voting YES, and I urge you to join me in voting YES!

Jeff Curtis, D-14
President, 31st Board of Representatives