Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thoughts on Money

In Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, there is a quote I love: "Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver."

Last night, at the Tax Board meeting, there were many opinions voiced, some for giving the schools more money [because it's the only option] and some for taking away the money [because our seniors can't afford higher taxes].

There was only one, lonely dissenting voice who said something like ... don't give the schools more money because it will just encourage them to continue on the same failing educational path ... take away the money and let us learn to be more resourceful, let the community realize that we have to share resources with other towns. Thank you Emre Akter for providing that voice, but I'm not sure that anyone heard you. Emre, by the way, is a well-educated teacher who isn't afraid to speak up.

We have some very talented, devoted teachers and administrators, but they are spending our money, not their money. When are our school officials going to start driving the education bus instead of being passengers on the money train?

I looked at the audience last night. I saw hardworking folks that more than likely grew up without a lot of extra money. I looked at the audience and saw the heart of Derby - good, honest people from a beautiful city whose roots are buried in a blue-collar, industrial past. I saw people who understand the value of money and know that money is only a tool.

I love it that so many people came out last night and voiced their opinion. Let's do it again, real soon!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mission Impossible

Parents, school administrators, and teachers, among others, want to increase our school funding every year. These are usually big increases of at least $1 million. This year they requested a little more than $620,000. The rationale behind these requests is that the Derby Schools are historically underfunded and they never quite catch up and that without more money we cannot provide a good education for our children. Many of these school funding advocates show up at the Tax Board budget workshops and hearings to speak their mind. I highly respect these people for their commitment to our children, although I don’t agree with their logic.

A large portion of Derby taxpayers want us to hold the mill rate down, i.e. hold taxes down, even if it means less school funding. These people don’t tend to go to the workshops or hearings and that is a pity.

Then we have the political side. Incumbents tend to keep the tax rate low while potential challengers try to drive up the rate as much as possible.

The ideal solution, put forth by many thinkers, is that we need to grow our grand list so we can afford to fully fund our schools and our public services without overburdening our taxpayers. I would have to agree with this idea but I don’t see where a significant amount of business is going to come from in order to meet that objective. Our economy has been flat for almost 5 years now.

We have our developer, Eclipse, for downtown. That could be our answer to a greater grand list. However, in order to bring that project to fruition we are going to need a City united, not a City divided. I’m not seeing that.

Making this all work truly seems like an impossible mission to me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Best Darned Peeps in the World!

I have such great peeps on Clearly Derby - I'm truly blessed! They take time out of their busy lives to pay attention, if even for a few moments each day, to a facebook page/blog dedicated to the topic of local government!

We have no fashion, no pop stars, no pizza offers, none of that good stuff - we mostly have meeting notices and polite discussion about what we're doing wrong and what we're doing right. Once in awhile we have something a little more exciting - but not that often.

So, why do people continue to follow this page? My theory is that I only have 195 fans so far but they are the best fans out there. I'll take quality over quantity any day.

Please don't feel bad peeps if you are working and can't get to a meeting! Just the fact that you check into facebook to see what's going on means that you care about Derby and you are on the road, if not there already, to being well informed.

You are the best! Take a little bow.

Monday, May 21, 2012


We held a Public Hearing tonight for Derby's proposed City Budget. The idea is that citizens will come forward and comment on the budget and the taxes so the Tax Board can see if they are on the right track. Nobody came.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why May is Important to Derby!

Rob Novak, one of the Derby Community Endowment fundraiser committee members, has done some research for us! Thank you Rob!

"As the lilacs, which were first introduced to the British colonies by Dr. John Durand of Derby in 1680s begin to bloom, we reflect upon other events that took place in May in the City's history. There are traditions which have passed, such as the Yale's "Derby Day" regatta, as well as those which thankfully continue, such as the honoring of veterans' sacrifices in one of the oldest continuing Memorial Day observances in the State. Here are some little known tidbits highlighting Derby's history of generosity and public service in the month of May:

- May 13, 1675 – Derby incorporated as a Town
- May 27, 1847 – A public meeting is held at Birmingham Congregational Church (Second Congregational Church) to raise funds for the victims of the Irish Famine.
- 1859 – A private citizen, Mr. H. Atwater, donates the funds to replace the “Liberty Pole” on Derby Green ( Birmingham ). At 136’ high, it is the tallest flagpole in Connecticut , and is a local landmark for years.
- May 27, 1909 – It is announced that the yet to be opened Derby Hospital will change its name to Griffin Hospital, after one of its major benefactors, and that its board of directors will be 1/3 each from Derby, Ansonia, and Shelton.
- 1910 – Derby residents band together to beautify the Derby passenger station grounds, turning an ugly mess into one of the most attractive spots in the City.
- May 10, 1912 – Col. H. Horton Wood dies in Brookline , MA . He donated the funds which built the Derby Public Library a decade earlier, in memory of his late son.
- May 26, 1932 – At this time, the John H. Collins American Legion Post continues to distribute used clothing to needy families in Derby . They are also maintaining gardens for food.
- May 4, 1933 – The Derby Relief Fund, a pre-New Deal local charitable group designed to keep unemployed men working and feeding their families, employed 82 people this week, a record, and paid them $550.40 Most of them are working on beautifying local cemeteries and improving Academy Hill Road at this time.
- May 16, 1935 - The St. Mary's Church Community House opens on Seymour Avenue , free of debt, in the former Fitch Smith mansion. Outbuildings have been removed, and there is a tennis court and picnic grounds. The residence has been remodeled, with 2 kitchens, restrooms, sitting rooms, and 2 large meeting halls or ballrooms. This is where St. Mary’s St. Michael's School is today.
- May 2, 1957 - John H. Collins Post, American Legion, is soliciting funds to build a new home on Caroline Street .
- May 20, 1957 – The Grassy Hill Men's and Women's Club donate a new stretcher to the Storm Ambulance Corps
- May 31, 1957 – It is announced that the Housatonic Council, Boy Scouts of America, will conduct a campaign to raise $200,000 to purchase a camp site in Goshen, as wel as construct buildings, and buy equipment there.
- May 31, 1958 – After a year of fundraising, formal ceremonies are held to lay the cornerstone of the new home of the John Collins Post American Legion Post on Caroline Street .
- May 1960 – Griffin Hospital celebrates its 50th anniversary, and opens a newly constructed wing which includes the newly inaugurated Self Care Unit.
- May 13, 1960 - An anonymous donor has come forward to donate the cost of installing a water dispenser at site of old town pump on Derby Green, at corner of Elizabeth Street and Fourth Street . (I believe the donor was later revealed to be a member of the Yudkin family)
- May 26, 1960 – At its 44th Annual Meeting, the Directors of Recreation Camp approve capital fund drive to replace buildings which have been in place since the Camp started in 1916.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Easy Way Out

We love our children - no doubt about that! We know that a good education is the most wonderful gift we can give our children for their future. I would think that our citizens in general, and parents in particular, would be willing to do whatever it takes to make sure our children are taken care of. But, time and time again we choose the easy way out and try to throw more money at the problem. Why on earth do so many of us think that giving the schools more money each year will produce better results? We've been doing this for decades and the results are pretty flat. So, why give them more? Because it's easier than looking deeper and working harder. Education has become a huge, voracious, poorly managed industry that can't deliver. We have good teachers but we don't know how to deploy them. We have enough money but we don't know how to invest it. We have good administrators but they don't have any motivation to try something [radically] different. Children are not the same as they were even 10 years ago. The education system needs to drastically change to effectively deal with these "new" children. Parents need to get much more involved. Taxpayers need to say, "no more money - try something else!". Educators need to be bold and dare to fly in the face of tradition. We need to think about this and work on it.