Greenwich Gossip

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Michael Mason Midwives MISA

The hugely-important issue of the projected Music Instructional Space/Auditorium, aka MISA, came up for one final vote in the RTM (Representative Town Meeting) late last night. Despite many cost increases over the years because of budgetary delays and rising construction costs, the measure passed. Greenwich High School, which has what is undoubtedly one of the finest music programs in the country, if not the world, will finally have enough classroom space for its programs, and a concert hall worthy of the incredible talents of its teachers and students.

This project has been a long time a-birthing. Multiple votes in its favor by the BET (Board of Estimate and Taxation, the Town's financial authority) and the RTM have suffered the perils of Pauline each time some negative news has surfaced. Everyone knew that Greenwich High School was built on a toxic waste dump, but back in the 1960s nobody cared. Nor did any environmental laws worth the name exist at that point.

Fast forward to 2013, when the soil remediation problem has finally come home to roost, at the cost of many millions of dollars. Even though MISA has all the necessary state and federal approvals, the nattering nabobs of negatavistic nay-sayers were doing their best (worst?) to try to derail the project for that reason.

But last night the RTM convincingly voted one last time to support this all-important project. Simply put, you can't put a price tag on excellence. Greenwich High School embodies excellence in a myriad of ways that the recent dumbed-down "educational" standards imposed by the state simply can't begin to measure, and even the son of Isaac Stern, world-famous violinist, took the podium last night to remind us of that fact. Lloyd Hull, an unsung hero of World War II, spoke of the importance of the GI Bill and of education. Winston Churchill was quoted to the effect that the reason wars are fought is to protect the educational rights of the next generation.

And speaking of unsung heroes: the only reason that so many people turned out for the Town Meeting last night is that one man had the courage to bring the issue to a popular vote. That man is Michael Mason, all-powerful chairman of the all-powerful BET. He and his five fellow Republicans voted unanimously to kill the project. But the the six Democrats on the BET voted unanimously to allow it to go forward. Mr. Mason had entered the meeting determined to bury MISA. But then he called a recess, conferred with his fellow Republicans, and came back to cast the tie-breaking vote, as is his prerogative under the BET rules.

He voted to keep the project alive long enough to send it on to the RTM. This allowed for one more round of citizen input on the matter, and it was overwhelmingly favorable. One could almost feel the the mood in the room swing from 50-50, to 55-45, to 60-40, as each speaker, pro or con, spoke their piece. And finally, just minutes before the midnight deadline, the result was announced: MISA will be built.

And so your scribe would like to propose a huge vote of thanks to Michael Mason, whose personal courage and integrity, despite his own reservations about the project, allowed the matter to be brought to the floor of the Town Meeting. Generations of future Greenwich High School students, and indeed the whole Town, will be deeply in his debt for decades to come. Thank you, Mr. Mason!