Saturday, January 27, 2007

Greenwich Avenue to Become a High-Crime Area?

In his hubristic wisdom (or lack thereof), Jimmy Lash, acting more and more like a lame-duck First Selectman, is trying to push through a number of very unpopular changes to the way things are done in this Town. First, he rammed the new police headquarters down our throats (yes, we needed something better, but is a $60 million palace the answer?). Next, he decided to try to evict the seniors from their beloved quarters at the old Town Hall. And now, we learn, he wants to spend $560,000 to install traffic lights on Greenwich Avenue and get rid of the policepeople who have been there for decades, directing vehicular and pedestrian traffic and acting as a visible deterrent to crime on one of the richest streets in America.

Just a few months ago, a policeman directing traffic at the corner of Greenwich Avenue and Lewis Street helped to foil a $2 million dollar robbery at Terry Betteridge's jewelry store. OK, Jimbo probably figures that Terry can afford the loss, or that his insurance company will pony up. Hey, what's a couple of million compared to trimming a few thousand off the Town budget? The latter action helps to keep the mil rate down, even if Terry's insurance rates skyrocket.

Never mind the fact that to amortize whatever fictitious personnel "savings" Jimmy will present to us to bolster his airhead proposal, it will take years to offset the projected $560,000 cost of the three (count 'em - three) new stoplights. He claims his way will free up more police to patrol the Avenue, but no one on the force believes him. They are convinced it is simply a pretext to chop positions from their roster.

And what will John (or Jane) Q. Public think? Will s/he want to see armed policemen walking up and down the Avenue, assuming (dubiously) that Jimbo's claims are true? How much better, dear reader, to keep them at the corners where the traffic can ebb and flow like the tide, in a way that no mechanized stoplight could ever hope to cope with. Traffic duty gives them a plausible reason to be on the Avenue, and in fact as they shift from corner to corner, they do in effect act as a patrol - but a low-key, non-intimidating one.

Things are at the point, gentle reader, where your scribe is almost afraid to pick up the local rag to get his daily horoscope and comics fix. More and more, the headlines scream Jimbo's latest harebrained scheme to "improve" life in our Town. The cops refer to him as "King James", while your scribe has frequently alluded to the imperial presidency of Jimmy Lash. He has made enemies of almost every group in Town, including the RTM. But does he do anything to cut back the bloated bureaucracy at Town Hall? Of course not. Greenwich has the highest per capita number of municipal "workers" of any town in Connecticut, if not the entire country. And I don't mean by just a short nose - the difference is downright obscene. As RTM member Angela Hyland so quotably said the other day, "They have been allowed to grow their fiefdom with impunity."

These "workers" (well, to be fair, some of them *do* work, but if you wander through Town Hall on any given day, dear reader, you may have to look hard to find them) are unionized, well-entrenched, with excellent pay, health benefits, and a generous pension plan. No wonder so many people come to work for the town straight out of high school or college, get some credits on their resume, and then bail out in their early 40's to start a second career. At that point they can "retire" with more than half their salary payable to them every month for the rest of their lives. And you and I have to bear this as part of the cost of living in this Town.

If Jimbo really wanted to do something for Greenwich, he would pare down the civilian bureaucracy in Town. I know, or know of, people towards the top of the ladder who do nothing but goof off most of the day, sometimes carrying on affairs with co-"workers" on Town time and on Town property (one desk in Town Hall is particularly notorious for its extra-curricular usage). Are these people fired for what would surely be a firing offense in the private sector? Of course not. Don't make me laugh. One upper-echelon employee's secretary sued the Town for comp time when she realized she never got her lunch hour because the boss left her in charge when he left for his daily nooners. She got a nice cash settlement from the Town, but the boss in question still carries on, as it were, as before. Is this a great Town, or what? God bless America!

And God help Greenwich. Hamlet thought something was rotten in the State of Denmark; if he lived in modern-day Greenwich he would find it's not just something, but many things that are rotten around here. And the man at the top roils the waters by creating controversial straw issues instead of addressing the real problems. Is he, like Hamlet's uncle Claudius, a part of the rottenness? Or is he merely an ignorant time-server who just doesn't get it? Either way, dear reader, Jimmy Lash is certainly not doing this Town any favors at this point in his career.


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