Thursday, July 17, 2008

Common Council and the Military Base

At Wednesday's Common Council meeting, the primary topic of discussion was the Military Base on Boardman Lane. There was extensive coverage of the meeting in both the The Middletown Press and The Hartford Courant.  Three local news channels also ran 2 minute segments on the controversy, Eyewitness News 3, NBC30 (no link), and Fox61 (no link).  Their reports are largely accurate in conveying the story, but because of press or air deadlines, all of the reporters left prior to some testy exchanges towards the end of the Military Base discussion.

It seemed clear that the Mayor and the Common Council were shocked to see 150 residents, 5 reporters, and 3 TV cameras at their meeting.  At the beginning of the meeting, Councilman Daley said the Common Council would be taking up a resolution at their August 4th meeting to oppose the use of the Boardman Lane site for a Military Base, he felt that this resolution would pass with overwhelming support. Mayor Giuliano tried to head off public comments by stating that he does not think this is a good site, but the Mayor did not repudiate his statement on July 1st to The Hartford Courant, where he was quoted: "I don't think it's a bad site, and I don't begrudge Cromwell some economic benefit."  Nor did he take the opportunity to clarify his statement earlier yesterday to Eyewitness News 3 (towards the end of the video), "Overall a good thing, ... unlike some of the residents out there who think this is going to be a big negative for them, I really don't think it is." 

The ambiguity in the Mayor's position infuriated many residents, and after the public comment period of the meeting, there was a period of heated discussion between residents, Mayor Giuliano, and Councilman Pessina.  Residents asked that the Mayor very forcefully tell our federal elected officials not only that this land is unsuitable for the building of the military base, but also that there is NO suitable land available in Middletown.  Councilman Pessina and the Mayor defended their lack of action by blaming federal officials for this situation, but many in the room did not buy it. Paul Torop said it was a strategic error by the city to oppose the siting of the Army Base in Maromas while at the same time generically supporting the construction of the Base in Middletown.  Residents demanded that this error be corrected.

Readers of the Middletown Eye will be interested to know the response to residents' frustration at the lack of public notification of this or other public meetings in Middletown.  Mayor Giuliano claimed that this special meeting was posted on the city web site (it is not).  Councilman Daley then said that the one thing that had changed in his 30 years of public service was that there is no good newspaper coverage of city meetings.  This was thankfully not true of this meeting, but his point is valid and underscores the vital role that news coverage plays in civic engagement.  


Anonymous said...

The excuses against the base are all phoney. The Boardman Lane land is zoned industrial therefore it is suitable for a military base. An industrial use such as a factory would have just as much traffic.. sewer.. water.. issues but I would bet the tax hungry common council would be all over it! All the coverage of the poor farm animals never mentioned that the land is not zoned for farm land yet was being treated as a loss of farm land. The location to 91 isn't bad as the base will be pulling people from all over the state. This is a NIMBY issue. So typical of our myopic citizens. Sad.

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

Name one advantage of having the base in Middletown, except to the developers who are sitting on a piece of property they haven't been able to develop. You're likely right that any gargantuan development would be opposed by neighbors. But at least with other developments, the town would have some say over what could happen on the property. Once the army gets it, they can do what they want, and the people in town have no authority to regulate. Finally, NIMBYism is not necessarily bad in a town which hosts the state's only statewide mental health hospital, a prison, many state properties, and a shrinking tax base. BTW, if you're so much for the base, tell us who you are.

Anonymous said...

There would be job opportunties for Middletown. A shuttle bus running from downtown to the base would be a great idea. The Maromas site would have been better for downtown and Middletown buisnesses. Perhaps a second look at that location is needed. No town has authority over the Army, so that excuse is just passing the buck.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to see Middletown awaken to the problems of siting an Army Base that is a regional consolidation in a small central Connecticut city like Middletown. When the news became public at the end of 2007, all the citizens should have pulled together along with city leaders to resist the Army's insistence on Middletown. To some extent I feel the leaders were lax in their duties because this BRAC 2005 document was known to them long ago. They did nothing until the Army Corps said ,"It's time, here we come." The mayor, to his credit, first said that the town had no suitable site but has since then embraced every choice! Now, the two geographic ends of the city have been awakened to the serious problems the large Army base presents to the entire city. In some ways it is a NIMBY issue insomuch as citizens in all of Middletown will suffer or gain, depending on your point of view, from the installation no matter where they reside. Additionally, the Army which needs and deserves an excellent site, is required to put the best face on it and set themselves down in Middletown even if another central Connecticut location would be better. Is there a winner here? The City Council tried to steer the Army to a couple of dubious sites that might have been considered useful as development tools but the Army, seeing the obvious difficulties presented, did not embrace these choices. Now, will the city go through the same rigamarole over the current choice? Better to enlist the Commander of the Connecticut National Guard, Governor M. Jodi Rell, and demand a regional site search instead.