DARIEN — Newly elected First Selectman Jon Zagrodzky has launched a television show where he plans to explain key town issues to residents.
With many people consuming their news through “bite-sized” social media clips, Zagrodzky said he hopes the series will hold residents’ attention and clarify important town processes like property revaluations.
In collaboration with Darien TV79, the town’s community television station, Zagrodzky uploaded the first episode of the “First Selectman’s Report” on Tuesday, addressing residents’ concerns that taxes would skyrocket after receiving notice that their property values increased.
While many residents may not watch a two-hour Board of Selectmen meeting explaining the 2023 property revaluations, Zagrodzky said, his short episode clarifies that increased values don’t necessarily mean all residents will see higher bills.
“People who saw their assessment letters and the values of their properties going up 20, 30, 40, 50 percent about had a heart attack and said, ‘Wow, does that mean my taxes are gonna go up that much?’” he told CT Examiner. “I said, ‘Wait a minute, there’s a disconnect here, and this is actually not super easy to understand. Let me see if I can boil it down.’ This video is really the first attempt to do that.”
According to Jim Cameron, program director of Darien TV79, the reception to the first episode has been “off the charts.” As of Thursday, the almost eight-minute video has garnered about 300 views, more than 27 times the amount of people who watched a Tuesday recording of a Board of Selectmen meeting.
“It has definitely found its audience,” Cameron said Thursday.
Zagrodzky said he hopes residents will continue to tune in for future episodes, where he aims to explain complicated town issues like state-mandated affordable housing, transit, crime rates and the development of Great Island, a 60-acre property the town purchased for $85 million.
“The goal is that in a year, if people are interested and they’re watching these videos, they’re going to be a lot more informed about how town government works in Darien,” he said.
If the town had a series like this in 2011, he said, Darien could have avoided some controversy.
That year, town officials proposed a $7 million plan now known as the “shuffle,” in which the Board of Education would move out of a conference room at Darien Town Hall and into a former library, and the senior center would move out of a small building on Edgerton Street and into the Town Hall room. According to Zagrodzky, the plan sparked some pushback from residents.
“There were some cost overruns and a few other things that spun out of control in terms of how they were perceived,” he explained. “If we’d had somebody on video saying, ‘Here’s the three-minute update of what’s going on,’ … I think that would have been much less controversial.”
Cameron backed the first selectman’s idea, emphasizing the benefit of short-form, educational content.
“A quick video explainer will go a long way, probably more than putting it into a long, wordy newsletter,” he said.
Given the popularity of the first episode, Cameron said he’s hopeful the new series will introduce Darien TV79 to a larger audience.