Saturday, October 27, 2007

Does Sebby owe Middletown residents an explanation?

Mayor Sebastian Giuliano spoke passionately before the Planning and Zoning Commission, some might say in an intimidating manner, about his support for the new Rite Aid pharmacy to be built on the corner on Main and Union Streets.

The plans were passed by the P&Z.

Attorney Ralph Wilson represented the plans of Centerplan Development before the P&Z and the Zoning Board of Appeals. From the minutes of the ZBA meeting:

Atty. Ralph Wilson presented the proposal. Bob Landino, President of Centerplan Development, explained the application.

Attorney Ralph Wilson was noted as the mayor's "chief fundraiser" by The Hartford Courant.

Politics as usual?


Anonymous said...

Why can't it just be that the project is a good one for the city and that's why it was unanimously approved by the P&Z, mayor, and biz community?? Are you going to check all the campaign contributions to people on the P&Z Commission as well? The mayor did not have a vote on the commission so what's your point?

Ed McKeon said...

I think its important for politicians who declare that they are going to be different than their predecessors to, in fact, be different. To vocally, and passionately support a project sheparded by your chief fundraiser, without acknowledging the connection is no different then what hundreds of political hacks have done before. To be so hotheaded as to "scold" residents who might have legitimate criticisms, shows a lack of leadership.

So the mayor supports the project because it's good for the city. Great. He should show his support, and acknowledge the connection with the developer, so as not to give even the hint that there might have been any other motivation.

As for the support of the P&Z. I think it's a great idea that members recuse themselves on any vote where there may be a perceived or actual conflict of interest.

The support of that body is not, by the way, proof positive that any project is, in fact, good for the city.

For the record, I think the project is good for the city, but the drive-thru window, and the retaining wall on Union Street, are not. I simply thing the town needs to have firm standards for downtown development, stick to those standards, and pressure developers to adhere to those standards. Town leaders and residents should be shaping the town's future, not developers.

Vijay Pinch said...

The point, in response to the comments by anonymous (and to elaborate on Ed's own response), is that the mayor seems to have used his privileged position as mayor to intervene in a public commission -- of which he is not a member -- to speak on behalf of a major development project that is being presented (and potentially litigated) by his single largest fundraiser. The mayor had a right, like every member of the public, to speak beforehand, and did so. But his ability to speak immediately after the commission's deliberations, and right before the vote of the commission, is predicated on the fact that he is mayor. It all certainly has the appearance of what used to be called "a conflict of interest" if not "abuse of power". Do the commission's procedures allow for the mayor to intervene in this manner? Doubtful, but possible.

I wasn't at the meeting, and have been trying to follow this story from a distance. So I am happy to be educated on the events -- especially the degree to which the mayor was intimidating in his language (as was alleged) and whether he acknowledged his connection to the developer's legal counsel -- and the procedural guidelines that (were supposed to) govern the meeting.

Why does this issue matter? Well, at one level, it doesn't. The mayor is running unopposed. But on a larger level, it matters a great deal: many people, including some of our elected officials, feel very strongly that special dispensations for well-connected developers should not determine the fate of Middletown. Many objected to the special arrangements made on behalf of the Richman Group. Then on behalf of Landmark Development. Then on behalf of the Liberty Square Project. In all of these cases, the developments had serious implications for the historic fabric of the city, and the degree to which our downtown streets are safe and welcoming to pedestrians. This project, similarly, has serious implications for both those issues. Possibly more so, since I can imagine very few things less friendly to the historic downtown and to pedestrians than a "drive-through". As was pointed out in the meeting, this represents a terrible precedent for the downtown.

What amazes me is that no one in the print press has picked up on this issue.

Vijay Pinch

Anonymous said...

I was at the meeting - some people spoke in favor of the project, some did not. Sebby sounded like an idiot. THe project passed, probably due to the public support and the fact that it will be a much better alternative than what's there now. I was able to see many views of project that were on display and the building has an historic feel, it will fit well with rest of the buildings there.

Ed McKeon said...

I don't think it's fair to say someone "sounded like an idiot" and fail to sign your comment. That's plain rude.

Seb was definitely irritated by those who opposed the project, and he would have served himself and the public better by keeping his irritation to himself.

As for the project passing because of public support, I suppose you're right. The problem is not whether it passed or not, it's about developers coming to town and getting exactly what they want with no changes, no modification and no resistance from town boards and committees.

Money is power.

Anonymous said...

Hello, does anyone know when this new building will be finished and who I can contact to lease space? It looks so nice and would love to be able to move my shop there.