The RTM is the legislative body of the town, with its powers vested by the Town Charter. Today’s RTM consists of 230 members elected by the voters in the town’s 12 districts. RTM delegates run on a non-partisan basis, serve without compensation, and are elected for a two-year term.
Twenty years ago the Town began a “Fire Station Improvements” program calling for a new station for northeast Greenwich, a new Central station, upgrades to all other stations, and a plan for a station in the northwest area. This program was completed—except for a northwest fire station. The idea that twenty years later this badly needed project remains a pipe dream is outrageous.
Trumpism is indeed alive and flourishing in our once sleepy and bucolic town, as one of its most outspoken disciples, Carl Higbie, lives – and now legislates – among us.
A freshman member of the RTM in District 8, Mr. Higbie’s reputation precedes him. However, he recently further made waves by authoring an ordinance which intends to make wearing a mask a choice to persons or businesses within Greenwich and to not compel individuals to wear a mask in businesses within the town of Greenwich. It also forbids the Town from closing or slowing down “commerce” due to “China Virus” protocols.
Since Mr. Higbie failed to submit his ordinance to the Town Clerk for inclusion in the September 21 RTM agenda, all 230 members of the RTM had to vote whether or not to take his non-agenda item up. If ⅔ – or roughly 152 members – of the full-body voted YES, the discussion would have ensued and a vote on the ordinance’s merits would have been taken.
Although 170 members voted NO, 22 members voted YES and 2 members abstained, we are not yet out of the woods. That vote was not a true referendum on his ordinance, as the hour was late and some supporters may have voted NO simply because they did not wish to debate it at the end of a 4.5-hour meeting. Additionally, 36 RTM members were marked absent at that point, perhaps due to fatigue. Therefore, when Mr. Higbie brings his anti-mask ordinance back to the full RTM next month on October 28, it will be a true litmus test of exactly how pervasive Mr. Higbie’s far-right brand of conservatism is on the RTM and in town.
Just as President Trump refuses to take the virus seriously, shuns the use of masks, and casually spews racist and xenophobic rhetoric at his rallies, Mr Higbie impressively manages to accomplish all 3 of Trump’s modus operandi in his simplistic five-sentence “bill.” He even goes so far as to call his ordinance “My Body, My Choice;” a hypocritical and puzzling nod to the well-known slogan of pro-choice activists. But the icing on the cake is Mr. Higbie’s choice (see what I did there?) to use the term “China Virus” as opposed to its actual scientific name. As an Asian-American of East Asian descent, I am angry and embarrassed to even have to consider a bill that boasts vernacular responsible for causing a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes. The Town of Greenwich should be too.
Fortunately, at next month’s meeting, there likely won’t be anything to vote on, as the Town Attorney has maintained that the ordinance is not in legal order since state mandates supersede local mandates. Nevertheless, keep a close eye on those RTM members who do vote YES to Mr Higbie’s bill, or any amendments to it. They are not only voting for radical, right-wing policy and principles; they are also voting against public safety, public health, and science.
“Nothing is more frightful than to see ignorance in action.”
America is under siege from climate change. Unprecedented wildfires from the west coast are sending smoke all the way to our Connecticut shores, while slow-moving tropical storms are relentlessly marching across the Atlantic. As of Sept. 23, with more than two months left in hurricane season, the US has been hit by 23 named storms—double its long-term average for an entire season. As an Atlantic coastal community, Connecticut is on the frontlines.
That is why, with an election for the State House and Senate, we must choose environmental leaders. The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters gave Alex Kasser (Bergstein) a 100% score for 2019. Steve Meskers has been endorsed by both the Sierra Club as well as the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters. However, none of the other candidates were in office at the time. So instead, we look at their statements and their votes in other offices to gauge their environmental commitment.
Ryan Fazio’s (R) plans include a nuclear power plant in CT. Kim Fiorello (R) voiced opposition to reusable bag legislation and support for bringing fracking waste to Greenwich. Harry Arora’s (R) career in fossil fuel trading and his support for leaving the Paris Climate Accord make him an unlikely environmental champion.
The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters ranked 16 legislative environmental champions in 2019. It also singled out six legislators for being “out of sync” with the environment. This November, vote like the whole Earth depends on it.
To help understand the importance of the decisions being made by the RTM, we are providing a summary of the agenda items. If you want to get involved or have your voice heard, you can attend and participate in the full RTM meeting and the district and committee meetings, which are all public meetings.
Residents Facing an Increase of Up to 31% in Their Bills
By now, like most residents in town, you have probably noticed that the fee you pay to your hauler to pick up your garbage has gone up. This should not be a surprise. Starting July 1, haulers were required to pay a tipping fee of $112 for every ton of municipal solid waste (MSW) they dispose of at the Holly Hill transfer station and they are passing these fees on to you and to other town residents and businesses. However, the amount hauler bills have increased is an eye-opener.
“I’m from the RTM and I’m here to help.”
Most municipal governments are run by a mayor, who has administrative and budgetary powers, and a council, which is the legislative body. Newcomers, to Greenwich, and even long-time residents, are often confused about the structure of our Town’s government, which is fairly unique to New England.
Today, when a prosperous town needs a capital improvement, such as a school, they will issue a long-term municipal bond to pay for it. A long-term bond lets a town address a specific need and helps maintain the value of the town’s infrastructure. It also ensures that citizens who benefit from the capital improvement pay for it over its “useful life” of 20 or 30 years.
Our Greenwich Public Schools are amazing in many ways. Embedded in the curriculum are numerous programs which benefit students who are gifted, developmentally delayed, or emotionally disturbed, as well as students who potentially could fall through the cracks and never obtain a college education due to socioeconomic factors or simply because they were born into families where English is a second language.