Friday, October 30, 2015

News-Times: 'We Endorse New Milford Mayor Pat Murphy for Another Term'


At 62 square miles, New Milford is the largest town in Connecticut in terms of land area. The many farms and waterways — most notably the Housatonic River, Candlewood Lake and Lake Lillinonah — inform the town’s picturesque character, but New Milford also faces the challenges of a small city.

Seemingly uncoordinated development along the strip of Route 7, traffic congestion into downtown, a declining school population and social service needs also define the town of just under 30,000 residents.

Mayor Pat Murphy, a Republican seeking a seventh term, has ably led New Milford for a dozen years. She returned civility to town governance and has shown an ability to represent the town well with the Democratic majority in Hartford to produce cooperation and grants.

Murphy has not done so well, however, in painting New Milford as a compassionate place. The perception of her handling of the move of Loaves & Fishes from the town-owned Richmond Center on the Green was that it was a thinly veiled attempt to dislodge the homeless from downtown. Murphy maintains that was not the reality, but many found the controversy unsettling. In the coming term, the mayor must make efforts to portray the town as supportive of all its citizens.

David Gronbach, the Democratic challenger, is one of the strongest candidates fielded by the minority party in town in recent years. He is earnest in his concerns about the future direction of New Milford, including the ripple effect of closing Pettibone Elementary School. A practicing attorney, Gronbach asserts he would be a tougher negotiator to get what the town needs. But that displays a naiveté about how government works and shows his lack of elected experience.

Gronbach has articulated well the primary areas that need attention — particularly the sprawl of Route 7 retail development — but this is not the time for change for the sake of change.                            

Murphy is working on the traffic problem and we would like to see substantial progress in the next two years. We believe she should have the chance to continue leading the repurposing of the former Century Brass Mills — a key economic development opportunity — and to work with zoning to control growth along Route 7.

We endorse New Milford Mayor Pat Murphy for another term.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Lewin and Pilla: 'Decision to Close JPS Shouldn't Be Politicized'

The gross politicizing of the decision to close Pettibone School reached its apex with the recent letter in the News-Times from outgoing School Board Member David Shaffer.

Mr. Shaffer was a Member of the Facilities Utilization Committee, a hand-picked group of 25 that considered the closing of JPS and the redistricting that has been a success.  Among others, it included Superintendent Paddyfote, former Board Chair Wendy Faulenbach, Frank Wargo, Tom Esposito, Beth Falder, Mike Crespan, Walter Bayer and me, Tom Pilla.

The Committee voted unanimously to close JPS.   Mr. Shaffer's failure to disclose that he voted to close JPS is hypocritical and disingenuous.
Three studies over the past many years predicted with uncanny accuracy a significantly declining enrollment that is also being experienced in all the surrounding Towns except Danbury.

We salute Town Councilman Walter Bayer who on October 27, 2015, called JPS a "dinosaur."  The facility is decrepit and declining.  Among other problems, he noted that there's asbestos in the roof, a leaking boiler that should be replaced and miles of pipe that must be inspected.  There are concerns for safety and security. 

Ideas for the use of the facility range from the ridiculous to the sublime but all come with a hefty price tag...where will the money come from to pay for these ideas?  No one has addressed that issue and they ignore the cost-savings to the taxpayer that result from the closure and redistricting. The savings recognized are better utilized in the classroom.

The decision to close JPS shouldn't be a political issue.  It's common sense.

Jay Lewin 
Tom Pilla

New Milford

Friday, October 23, 2015

Gronbach Not Ready For Prime Time

There wasn't one person in the room  last night, including Mr. Gronbach, who doesn't agree with our Mayor's hopes and dreams for the Town.  But Mr. Gronbach thinks that he can get so much more done just by using his advocacy skills.  Read, one-man-show. The truth is that the only chance to achieve any of these lofty goals is through the cooperation of all levels of a very complex system.  The ability and willingness to work with others is of paramount importance. 

Mr. Gronbach needs to learn that it's great to have advocacy skills but the Mayor's job isn't like lawyering.  The facts and the law in our cases are narrowly defined.  One judge runs the trial using a defined set of rules and a small group of jurors decides the fate of our clients.

In our municipal Government, there are almost 30,000 jurors and layers of rules and influence including nine Town Council Members,  Boards and Commissions, thousands of pages of State Statutes, State government, Federal Government, mandated programs, mandatory employee positions and more. It's easy to see why every issue is what I call, "tentacular," meaning, all have repercussions and impacts beyond the resolution of the immediate problem and are hardly ever simple to resolve.  Just maintaining the status quo requires an exhausting degree of skill, vigilance, dedication and intestinal fortitude. 

Mr. Gronbach admitted that he appeared only at the first night of the Budget proceedings because  -- I think these are the words he used -- it was boring and exasperating.  Well, I agree with him but the process is mandated by State Statutes and, to some extent, by Charter.  Mayors can't abandon these processes and Mr. Gronbach aired his impatience with and ignorance of them by not making a contribution, especially as a candidate.  Remember Bill Wildin?            

There are very few people who know what goes on in the Mayor's office every day.  Meetings, calls, resident issues, personnel issues, management issues, union issues.  You name it.  It happens and they're all tentacular.

Mr. Gronbach said that he owns two businesses in Town, a book store and a law practice.  He didn't say last night that he would give up both of them if he wins the election and he certainly didn't commit to abandoning his representation of drug dealers and sex offenders who we are working so hard to keep off our streets.  The Mayor's job isn't part-time.

To lower taxes, Mr. Gronbach said that some employees need to be cut and that he'd review every position in Town.  Specifically, in what is sure to endear him to those who are responsible for nearly 70% of our Budget, he said that the School system is top-heavy and some administrators should be cut.  Good luck with that one.  He obviously doesn't understand that the Mayor doesn't have control over the Board of Education.

As an attorney, Mr. Gronbach has a unique perspective on the drug problem but his comments evidence that he hasn't researched what the Town has been doing about it.  For example, the New Milford Police Department has been doing a great job.  Just last week, it arrested another major supplier and has done so in a majority of the overdose death cases. Not a lot of PDs are able to do that.

Mayor Murphy is not one to toot her own horn and her style doesn't include an attack mode.  She let Mr. Gronbach off the hook last night many times.  To each of his claims, she could have said "Dave, we do that now" and "Dave, you don't understand how things work."  She showed class and restraint by not doing so.

Here's a perfect example.  Mr. Gronbach complained about the Loaves and Fishes process.  The Mayor responded that the Zoning Commission did what it was required to do, applying the Regulations to the facts and holding Public Hearings.  She also explained that John Roger, one of its founders, asked her to help find a new location because it wanted to expand its facilities.  This, of course, puts the lie to the allegation that the Mayor told Loaves and Fishes to leave.   What she could have added was that Mr. Gronbach's wife was one of many who spoke against the Loaves and Fishes Application, claiming that it would be bad for her business.  Comments made at the Public Hearings are a vital part of the process and Zoning Members are bound to consider them.  This takes time. 

I think that Mr. Gronbach would make a satisfactory Council Member.  The irony is that if he does his own homework instead of relying on others and gets a first-hand understanding of our Government by serving at least one term without getting bored or exasperated, I wouldn't be surprised if he were to thereafter abandon his Mayoral aspirations.  What I saw last night was that he has neither the patience nor aptitude for the job.



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tom Morey: Attorney Gronbach Tries to Keep Drug Dealers and Sex Offenders on the Streets

The Constitution guarantees adequate legal representation and a fair trial even for major drug dealers and sex predators. How do lawyers who represent them sleep at night and how do they get paid?

I understand that lawyers have families and need to support them but why take these cases and not just stick to other crimes?  Helping to put these fiends back out on the streets seems to me to be dead wrong.  

I was told by a lawyer that under various codes of ethics, lawyers are supposed to scrutinize their clients' payments to make sure that they're not from the fruits of illegal activities.  If a lawyer represents a heavy-duty drug dealer, isn't it a given that the money comes from selling drugs?

According to a story in the, an East-Hartford resident named Daniel L. Drummond was arrested at gunpoint on State drug charges and indicted on a Federal charge of distribution.  The story says that he was carrying a red duffel bag that contained 20,000 ecstasy tablets.  More drugs were found in his apartment together with several guns, "including a 12-gauge shotgun that was on a kitchen counter, loaded and ready to fire..."

Who was Drummond's lawyer in the federal case?  Democratic Mayoral candidate David R. Gronbach.

In another case,  the Journal American reported that Ryan Puzinski, a Torrington resident  "who sold the heroin that passed through a courier's hands before causing the death of a man who craved it will be sentenced in December to 18 months in prison."  
Who was Puzinski's lawyer?  Democratic Mayoral candidate David R. Gronbach.

In a 2013 appeal of a conviction in a horrifying case against a father (Douglas F., Appellate Case Number AC34322) who sexually abused his five or six year old son in the shower, a lawyer used all kinds of procedural tricks and arguments to get the father off the hook but the appeals court rejected all of them. 

Who was the father's lawyer?  Democratic Mayoral candidate David R. Gronbach.

Let your conscience be your guide when you vote on November 3.  I'm not voting for someone who helps keep the drug dealers and sexual predators on the streets.  I want to sleep at night.