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Improve When Appropriate

Former CRC member believes that "good enough" is insufficient.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  We have been hearing this phrase by many opponents of the proposed revisions to the Brookfield Charter.  But should this be a guiding principle when looking to improve our town's operations?  I think not.  I still have a corded princess phone just in case we have a blackout.  It works fine.  It is not broken.  But does my family use it as our standard phone?  Of course not.

How about wooden tennis rackets?  You can hit the ball and play a game with them.  But is wood the material of choice for modern tennis players?  No.  There are too many other materials that perform better than wood.  Wood is not broken but there are clearly better options out there.

Businesses don't wait for things to break before they improve them.  If you doubt that, just look at Apply, the company with the largest market capitalization.  They must be doing something right.  They are constantly making improvements to the product line.  The original iPhone was released June 29, 2007.  A little over five years later, they release the iPhone 5.  Were the previous versions "broken?"  I don't think so.  Do you?  But they are always striving for better, never willing to rest with good enough.

We should want the best for our town.  Based upon the facts and evidence that we researched or was brought to the CRC, I cast my votes for proposals when I felt they would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our town government.  The performance of our government is too important to leave to "good enough."

Dave Propper

Member of the former Charter Revision Commission

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dr. Robin Appleby October 24, 2012 at 10:35 AM
Mr. Davidson, Lasser, Jaffe, Miller, Propper, et.al. are pushing for a really, really smart,... really, really educated person (even a LAWYER !) Town Manager to run Brookfield, instead of a citizen elected by the (really uneducated, really ignorant) people of Brookfield. This is the battle that has been going on for 2500 years, since Plato of Ancient Greece. Plato, like the above mentioned people, in his heart thought that we should be ruled by very educated, very just and altruistic 'Philosopher-Kings' (like themselves !). Of course their would be no corruption or cronyism or unintended consequences, because their motives were so pure and they were so smart. What they didn't want was to ruled by (in their opinions) the ignorant, uneducated,unwashed masses (also called Democracy or rule by the people). I have heard it said at the Board of Finance meetings that the average citizen couldn't make a 'correct' decision about the town budget as they didn't know enough (weren't wise enough)...unlike them. IN contrast, I believe that the average citizen, if told the truth, CAN make the right decision about how they want to live their life, raise and educate their children, worship God, vote on budgets and decide which people running for public office will best represent them and their values.
Dr. Robin Appleby October 24, 2012 at 11:37 AM
I better clarify the statement 'really uneducated, really ignorant' people of Brookfield before they twist the meaning of this. THIS is how the pure, always altruistic Elite (the Philosopher-Kings") think of the 'unwashed masses' that they wish to rule over (they wont admit this in public). The super-educated Elite, our social and educational 'betters', simply can't stand the thought of 'lesser' men and women ruling over them. Witness Pres. Obama (at a political fundraiser for the very wealthy in California) laughing at and looking down his nose at the "bitter clingers (in the heartland...who lost their jobs and feel threatened) and cling to their guns and religion".
David Propper October 24, 2012 at 11:52 AM
I never underestimated the education or intelligence of our residents. What I do wonder about is the experience to perform the job of public administration. I would not ask an accountant to defend me in the court of law. I would not ask a lawyer to design a jet engine. I would not ask an engineer to put together a marketing campaign. Their educational backgrounds and experiences do not make them the best candidates to successfully perform these tasks. There are degrees in Public Administration. There are nationally recognized Certificates in Public Administration. Why wouldn't we want a certified, professional managing Brookfield's day to day activities? This is not a statement about being elite. It is a statement about background and experience. Please don't imply that I meant anything more than that.
Matt Grimes October 24, 2012 at 12:18 PM
David, I will take the choice of the people - who is a resident of Brookfield just like the rest of us - regardless of any fancy degree and certification he/she has. The First Selectman should remain the person in charge, directly accountable to the voters for his/her actions. Any government where voters don't directly employ the person in charge would be bad for Brookfield. Degrees in Public Administration come with a hefty price, democracy in our community is priceless.
Hermann Zwergel October 24, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Like Romney's 47% that he doesn't care about?
Rob Gianazza October 24, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Perhaps one of your best posts Robin.
Rob Gianazza October 24, 2012 at 01:07 PM
David, my concerns with the Charter Revisions are highlighted by the lack of attention to details. I have pointed out several technical, not philosophical, issues with the proposals. Just as you typed "Apply" instead of "Apple", the Charter Revisions are not fully thought out and leaves a lot of ambiguity in the language proposals. Change can be justified, but first it has to be change for the better. I for one do not believe that the positives out weigh the negatives. I would be in support of Question 4, however that same lack of attention to detail appears in the ballot stating "Appropriate" and the Charter Revision Final Report stating "adequate" in section C9-1C, which by the way, wasn't referenced on the ballot. I find it difficult to support a committee which put forth a final report with such blatant errors, and then expect the community to support those recommendations even though many of them have been rejected several times in the past. To me it seems that the majority of proposals limit or restrict community input and grant more authority to those that are elected or appointed.
Kathie Schilling October 24, 2012 at 01:18 PM
I have no idea who or what you are talking about here. I don't personally know anyone in Brookfield who fits this description. Having a difference of opinion on what would benefit the town shouldn't justify such silliness as is demonstrated in these comment threads. No wonder most Brookfield residents have stopped looking at the Patch. This has become a gathering place for nonsense.
Dr. Robin Appleby October 24, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Saying you "would not ask an accountant to defend me in a court of law....lawyer to design a jet engine," etc. is setting up a strawman argument to demolish. I am pretty sure that most people dont want a dog catcher doing their brain surgery. However,the question should be, given the quality of the people working in Brookfield government, can the average bright, honest, hardworking First Selectwoman run our town government ? It's all about the quality of the people. We are very fortunate to have an incredible group of very qualified people working for us. Mr. Leverence has a degree in Finance & Management (and is working on a Masters in Public Administration). Mr. Tedesco is a Reg. Prof. Engineer, Dr. Sullivan has saved hundreds if not thousands of lives. Ms. Hames is a CCMA II. Demi and Don of the 'Building Dept.' are very knowledgeable, honest and hardworking. Joan Locke is one of the best Certified Town Clerks in the state. Chief Montgomery is U.S. Marines, FBI, Navy Cross (how many people know that he was put in for the Congressional Medal of Honor), College professor, etc. Mr. Plummer and Mr. DePinto are excellent. So the question is, with this quality of people working for us, can Brookfield be competently managed by a smart Brookfielder or do we need to bring in an out of town, (out of state) person, and set up a whole additonal level of government/bureaucracy between the citizens and their government ?
Ray DiStephan October 24, 2012 at 04:12 PM
This is one of the big misunderstandings: the Town Manager would NOT be "running our Town government". The people of Brookfield and BOS does that and the BOF is the fiscal authority and that would remain to be true under these revisions. The Town Manager would be running the operations of the Town. Of course, we have talented, smart individuals that can run the Town operations. The question is if they are the best we can get to do that job? I believe that a trained and experienced professional can run the operations in the most effeicient and professional manner (are we always looking for more effeciency???). So many of us may not agree.... fine. I don't know why some posters feel the need to demonize people that have a difference of opinion regarding what is best for the Town (and I am not directing this at anyone in particular). We all want what is best. We differ about how that should be accomplished. Let's not regress into childish non-sense about "secret agendas" and hell-bent power plays. That is just a waste of what should be good, healthy debate.
David Propper October 24, 2012 at 04:34 PM
I am glad that (it appears) we agree that we want qualified people performing tasks and that BOS has hired qualified people. However, there is one further point of the value of the Town Manager and that is the continuity that they provide. We have several examples of projects/negotiations that would have benefited from such continuity. While nobody can guarantee it, the evidence from other towns is they choose to maintain their Town Managers for longer than 2 or 4 years. As we go forward with the Four Corners projects, if having that constant administrative presence encourages developers to expedite their efforts and pulls their efforts in by a year or two, there will be a tangible benefit to the grand list. Again, no guarantees but that is a benefit that I believe we would gain by separating the policy leadership and town administrative roles current bundled into the First Selectman’s position. By the way, if there are any spelling/grammar errors in this post, I apologize. I grew up an engineer and nobody ever complemented me on my spelling.
Gary Goetz October 24, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Why buy a new phone or tennis racket, if the one you have had all this time served you well and still works just fine - especially at a time when you can't afford to pay your current bills, feed your family and are worried about losing your job? Given that the people of Brookfield have repeatedly elected to preserve this representative form of democracy, this effort to once again change our charter seems like an Obamaesque attempt to force through change which is good for the minority seeking to control the majority.
Chris Scott October 24, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I do not wish to engage in the above fray, I just wish to say on some items its not what can you afford to do its what can you not afford to do? With current developement and the potential we have in the 4 corners project we are in a unique position to grow our commercial community which will spread the tax burden over a larger group while providing additional jobs. The end result of that growth is a Brookfield that is better for all residents and visitors alike. This may require a town manager to execute properly as the attention to detail and time required to implement the decisions of the BOS may take more time in the short term than an elected Selectman can devote. If we can see the big picture it may be a sound investment in our future to bring a dedicated resource on board to make it happen the way we want. If we fail the towns around us may out pace us and we could miss an opportunity to be a commercial hub and instead become that town folks drive through going shopping in other places.
Matt Grimes October 24, 2012 at 07:07 PM
There is zero guarantee that having a Town Manager will do anything to improve development at the 4 corners. Even if there was, it still wouldn't make sense. What Brookfield CANNOT afford to do is give up its right to hire and fire our CEO and replace him/her with an employee that has no direct accountability to the voters. Remember, Ronald Reagan always said "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction." The idea that we would not be directly employing the person in charge of running Brookfield unquestionably circumvents the power of the people.
Retired October 24, 2012 at 07:33 PM
It is not difficult to run a small town like Brookfield. All that's needed is sound common-sense approach to get things done. Throughout the years, Brookfield has progressed with the current form of government. To the extent that elected officials use common sense and have the best interest of the residents first and foremost in their heart, no need to have a town manager. It will only add to the beaurocracy and is totally unwarranted let alone the effect on the finances of the town. We've had people in the past who held the office of the First Selectman for years because residents were satisfied with the job they did. The same is true today. As long as the First Selecman keeps doing a satisfactory job, the voters will keep electing the incumbent. The opposite is also true. And that's democracy. The residents must have the power and the right to elect someone else if they are not satisfied.
Dr. Robin Appleby October 24, 2012 at 08:24 PM
I didn't mean to imply that any town employees not mentioned are not excellent and doing a great job.....I just ran out of characters (only had 25 characters left) in the comment. I think Dah-Min Yau of I.T. is a treasure, Art Colley is worth his weight in gold (please God, could you clone him), Mr. Bivona is superb. I dont want to forget the secretaries: Ginny, Diane, Gina, Fiona, and the ladies in Joan Locke's office, Mr. Leverence's office and the ever pleasant and helpful ladies of the Assessor's office, the police, etc. etc. etc. Many of you I dont know. Your employees are your MOST important asset. My 3 nurses and support staff have been with me for over 20 years. If you treat people right and value them as your most important asset....you will be successful beyond belief. And since we all have to work, we might as well have fun doing it.
Michelle October 24, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Pardon me, however comparing our beloved town to phones, technology and rackets is absurd. They don't compare. Let's just stop and think for a moment. Can we? We reside in a small town in New England. We don't live in a small city such as Danbury, Bridgeport, Hartford, Stamford etc. You get my drift. We live in Brookfield. Many of whom refer to it as the, "bubble". Why on Earth would we NEED to hire a Town Manager? Spend more money, littered with more bureaucracy and closed door agendas. Oh, yeah. That's right. We DON"T need to. Why would we as a town and community vote to silence our voice? Our voices are important! Why would we vote to make it harder for us as residents to have a petition to advocate for ourselves when interests arise? Why would we need five Selectmen? Certainly, three has shown to be highly successful. Five is simply ludicruos. Quite frankly, these revisions don't serve us as a town. Any fool can see right through the lines. So, who do these revisions serve? It is not us. They do not serve Brookfield. They must serve somebody or someone for them to be suggested. They seem to only serve the man behind the curtain.
Rob Gianazza October 24, 2012 at 08:38 PM
You chose to enter the fray, yet fail to identify yourself. There are several "if's" in your post. First of all, Four Corners needs to be developed by entrepreneurs, people with the vision and drive to make a profit. Government does not, except in socialistic nations, create businesses. We have Zoning and Economic Development Committees to guide the growth of Four Corners. This is not the responsibility of the First Selectman or a Town Manager. We are not hiring a utopian administrator, just someone to shuffle the papers. As Jerry Friedrich pointed out, if we need an town administrator, we can do that by process of the Board of Finance. No need for a Charter Revision. Look at the facts and don't be bullied into a permanent bad decision.
David Propper October 24, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Obviously, I did not make myself clear. When it comes to Apple (spelled correctly), I was talking about their attitude toward product development. The latest product is never good enough for them. They are always developing a better product. Always trying to get better. To get back to the point of the letter, I was trying to counter the claim that "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I have never seen that attitude successful in business and I don't want it applied to our town. Disagree with the conclusions if you want. That is your right and I will defend that. But the members of the CRC after many months of careful research and deliberations (I wish you had been to one of our working meetings to have seen this bipartisan group at work) reached this recommendations, unanimously. That also says something.
Rob Gianazza October 24, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Interesting analogy. Android phones seem to have some features before the iPhone. Maybe it's just advertising? Let's not start an Apple tangent, I know how Apple followers are very sensitive about their iGadgets. BTW, how does a flawed process benefit the community? You seem to not care that there are several flaws in the ballot and final report.
Dr. Robin Appleby October 24, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Five previous First Selectmen and Selectmen (Mr. Murphy,Foncello, Kerley, O'Reilly and Walker) have said that Brookfield can be well run as it is presently set up. That we dont need a Town Manager and dont need 5 Selectmen. They have a many years of 'on the ground' experience and I think that their opinion on these issues should be given a lot of consideration.
Rob Gianazza October 24, 2012 at 11:05 PM
To borrow from your example Robin, I think that Mr. Murphy and Mrs. Park exemplified your point. They served as selectmen together, a bi-partisan arrangement if ever there was one, and the Town survived for two years. I cannot speak for Mrs. Park, although smart money says she's in support of the Charter Revisions, but I cannot think of a better example of bi-partisan leadership for our town. I think the Town of Brookfield learned a valuable lesson about electing its' leaders. One I hope will not be forgotten.
Steven DeVaux October 24, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Chris, That time has come and gone when Brookfield was "bypassed".
Steven DeVaux October 24, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Michelle, Remind me to hug you at the next meeting.
Steven DeVaux October 25, 2012 at 10:34 AM
Robin, How soon people forget that a cabal of bipartisans, agreeing on something - were elected to - the German government in 1933 by the people with the idea of improving the lives of the German people. That's how totalitarian governments are born. For all the right reasons.
Bob McGarrah October 25, 2012 at 11:30 AM
All this "discourse" yet no one has demonstrated, described of given examples of the compelling need so often talked about when it was still the Charter review commission. As for the Four Corners, so much of that property is contaminated by over 300 years of heavy industry that development there will be exteremely costly or impossible. Just look at the bill to remediate the BJ's site and that was just one Dry Cleaning store. Four Corners has old hat factories, lime kilns, foundries and a multitude of similar heavy industry sites going back 300+ years. Visit the Brookfield Historical Society and learn for your self. Better still, visit the EPA web site and view the currently identified polluted/contaminated sites. Why do we keep talking about Four Corners when most Public officials are well aware of the environmental problems (or certainly should be). Bob McGarrah
Steven DeVaux October 25, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Bob, Developers don't want to suffer cathestrophic loses on their holding at Four Corners so anything is something. I hope there's no conflict of interests though. Without recusal, it's back to the Ethics Commission.
paul gonzales October 25, 2012 at 12:12 PM
you have to have heart an soul to make any thing in this road of life to work it cant be bought.- throughout the age of time- man forged his way to where we are now= by being creative an being physical an spiritual. just look at our history. what does a so called highly educated person from another part of the country no about our town, an has long has i am on a tear let me add - lets stop the growth an lets take take care of what we now have which needs attention =infrastructure development an management most important of all education
Steven DeVaux October 26, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Paul, Exactly we need to focus and keep it simple. Not chase problems we don't have.
Susan Balla October 26, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Since living here in Brookfield for the last on and off sixty years we have always had a first selectman with two other selectman. The town was run with percission. Every person that was elected took care of our town; even when I lived in Candlewood Shores which was originally with New Fairfield. The people of the shores asked Brookfield if we could splinter from New Fairfield and come to Brookfield because the families did not want to bus their kids all around the lake to go to school. The kids would be on buses for more than an hour. Back then everyone knew everybody in Brookfield even back in the fifties when there was only three thousand people here. We have always relied on everyone to pull together even our government employees. We do not need a town manager to hire or fire people. This is another buracracy. With what they are planning for the salary of this person that means our taxes go up again. Where will it end when you tax everyone out of the town? I was glad that I had a chance to serve the people of Brookfield. It was a real eye opener to know that I was making a difference in seniors lives which trickled down to the families.

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