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What Does Stratford Want?

Stratford has been without a true identity for too long, enabling inactivity to define us. It's time to take control of the conversation and organize around what we want and what we want to be.

Motivated by a recent question series that friend and blogger posted on her own blog, What Does America Want?, I began asking the same question about our town.

In talking to residents, the obvious answer is lower taxes. But I challenge us to consider more deeply than that. Perhaps the real question is What Does Stratford Want to Be?

Residents are frustrated by what they feel is a lack of progress and cohesive vision. Additionally, the same departments and budget items consistently seem to draw ire for wasteful spending. The parties of "D" and "R" next to candidates' names have replaced what's most important: that we all belong to "S" -- Stratford.

Outsiders who rely on search engines and press to tell our story will find divisive politics, ghostly remains of theaters and Army buildings, an airport we don't control, and sleight-of-hand ownership with beach referendums.

When did Stratford lose control of the conversation? And how do we begin to regain ownership of our town and it's identity?

There are two obstacles that have prevented us from moving forward, I think. Individually, they are not insurmountable but they become quicksand when mixed together.

One, Stratford's compartmentalized geography makes it difficult to have a cohesive identity. We have some separate and very small pedestrian-friendly commercial areas; waterfront and beach; a nearly forgotten forest; a unique public park; light industrial and small manufacturing businesses; prominent empty and unused buildings; and an abundance of untapped potential.

Second, we haven't had a continuum of leaders maintaining focus on any one thing and seen it to fruition. Let's pick just one area of town, one project, one pie-in-the-sky idea from our wish list, rally around it and finally get it done.

We did it with the animal shelter but it's too easy to forget the hard-won success of building the new shelter when it's not in a high-traffic area with continued exposure.

Why not the next? An accomplishment of that magnitude would provide momentum for the next success, and the next. Finally, we'd be able to close chapters and move on instead of wallowing in years of inactivity.

I was able to see Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, speak at the World Business Forum last week, and his message was largely about the national economy, which he called an "emergency situation."

Stratford is a microcosm of the rest of the country, and I couldn't help see the similarities when Schultz talked about the dysfunction of political gridlock and asked, "Is this the best we can get? Don't we deserve more?"

As Schultz implored in his presentation, if you hear or see something that isn't right, you must stand up. "We are better than this, we deserve more than this. Please do not be a bystander," he said.

The people of Stratford need to become active partners with elected officials to work in concert defining what Stratford wants and what Stratford wants to be. It's up to us.

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.

Hal Baird October 11, 2011 at 11:48 AM
My perception is a majority of our citizens work in other communities, so I believe we need to focus on the recreational and cultural activities we can offer. There are certainly many inexpensive and in many cases free things to do "after work" here. One needs merely to check the Patch and other sources, both printed and on line to discover what Stratford offers from forest to shore as our motto says. Of course we need businesses to want to operate within our borders for the obvious tax relief they bring, but I believe we need to promote the outside of work opportunities that are found here.
max October 11, 2011 at 12:28 PM
Live Stratford, don't just sleep Stratford. Residents do seem to work in other towns, the issue becomes where do they shop, spend their time, go for entertainment etc? With few exceptions, people will rave about the latest new food place, bar, trendy store all being out of town. Why not support the various businesses and entertainment venues in town by truly "living" Stratford rather than just being a Stratford sleeper.
Jezebel282 October 11, 2011 at 01:07 PM
Errr...how many Stratford residents work at Sikorksy, Ashcroft, Bridgeport Fittings, Encon or UPS? How many Stratford residents would prefer to not get on 95 or Metro North every day? Better yet, how many Stratford residents would like to work....period? While we all need more pizza shops and delis (there may be a block or two left without one) what Stratford needs and has needed for decades are replacements for Avco and Raybestos. The last major development in this town was the remediation of the Raybestos site into Home Depot/Shop Rite/Walmart thanks to the efforts of Elaine O'Keefe and Diane Toolan. Naturally they were fired.
Mike October 11, 2011 at 01:11 PM
What Stratford wants depends on who you ask. Most people want to pay their bills and be left alone. Some people want to meddle in town affairs. Some bureaucrats want to rule their subjects, using every resource the town has to force them to comply with with their whims. Stratford has always been a corrupt little jerkwater berg, and it always will be.
Olivia Gombar October 11, 2011 at 01:39 PM
Great post. Great question. However, if you attend any of the budget forums and open forums at council chamber, you will see how Stratford’s residents DO speak out and voice what they want. And they do it in chapter and verse. The problem IS that nobody listens. As I see it, what I want and need is lower taxes so I can afford to live here. And I don't think I'm alone on this one.
CuriousOrange October 11, 2011 at 02:04 PM
I remember moving to Stratford years ago. I was attracted by the Shakespeare theater, in part, the schools, and the library. At the time, the city line MacDonald's even sported famous quotations. After witnessing close-up the town's inability to revive its famous attraction and enjoy the mystique of the Stratford name, I realized that the town is actually a cultural extension of Bridgeport. Look at the political messes that occasionally make headlines. The theater is long-dormant and MacDonald's has painted over the quotes. Short of a major purge, Stratford will continue to sink into oblivion.
Ron Moreau October 11, 2011 at 02:19 PM
Mke, You are absolutely correct. Most residents just want to be able to pay their bills and be left alone. What concerns me is the bureaucrats from outside Stratford consuming town resources. Bridgeport, with their airport runway expansion, lobbying the Federal government for more of our land. Shelton and Trumbull developers building on our borders consuming valuable Stratford resources such as the limited capacity of our sewage system. Outside developers willing to take over the AVCO, Stratford propertys, as long as Stratford conceeds to give them property tax relief,again consuming our more valuable Stratford resources. Milford hasn't gotten in on the action because there is as shared resource between us the Housitonic river. It's just a matter of time.
Hal Baird October 11, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Wow, such negativity. In the 6 comments following my initial one it seems no one has anything good to say about Stratford. I guess we should just evacuate and drop a nuclear bomb on the place. I will agree there are lots of problems here (If you are bored with network TV try channel 79 sometime. Depending on your frame of mind the Council meetings are (1) the funniest or (2) the most tragic things you'll ever watch). I'm not at the point of giving up yet, however, and I choose to continue calling this place "home".
Ron Moreau October 11, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Robyn,"Why not the revitalization of Stratford Center next?' ????? As a candidate for The Stratford Town Council.What is your vision for Stratford center?
Elizabeth Howard October 11, 2011 at 05:16 PM
Robyn I recently worked with a leadership consultant who said something deeply profound and simple: we can write and tell our own story. If we don't, other people will do it for us. Colin and I lovedStratford because it was the anti-Fairfield County. It felt very "normal" and middle class. But it also seems like people are very angry; why? Why don't neighbors love and trust each other? That's the question I have. Is it chronic, communal self- esteem issues? We have to look at ourselves and see our beauty and say: wow. We are great. And believe it.
Elizabeth Howard October 11, 2011 at 05:28 PM
One thing it is tough to convince leaders and neighbors alike is that when we think first about our town in terms of monetary value -- ie taxes, costs, property values, etc. -- we immediately DEVALUE it. People don't live inside a DOLLAR BILL. They live inside a HOME, with all their heart and guts poured into taking care of it. Even renters who love where they live paint and take care of their place. Thinking about Stratford in terms of "taxes" or "dues" or "funding" is a recipe for failure, in any economic climate. Additionally, a main ingredient in that failure is listening to TOO many individuals. Steve Jobs succeeded wildly at Apple because he was a visionary who insisted in quality and beauty, without demanding the lowest prices. He didn't take a poll from his employees to find out how to design the iPhone. Yes, leaders DO need to listen to their constituents, but not about the water bill, but about the best and most beautiful vision they can imagine for their town. The leaders' jobs is to find the best way to make that a reality -- for this generation and for the next ones. We don't live in our houses -- we live in our homes, to which a big part of that is our neighborhood, our street, the trees and the roads, schools, the community centers, the bike trails and the parks, the great amenities that bring us together. That is how we LIVE. If leaders can't spend our tax dollars creatively to build that, then they do fail.
Jezebel282 October 11, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Ms. Howard, While we do not live in a dollar bill, it does take an inordinate amount of them to stay in a home in Stratford. Debate about the inability of our elected officials to even account for the $188 Million we gave them is very justified. Perhaps our visions for the future have been downgraded to the point that we, as Stratford residents, would be very pleased if we could simply afford to live in our homes.
George E. Mulligan October 11, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Hal, Ron & Mike were concentrating on effects of controllers of R + D Town Committees, & their relationships with surrounding municipalities, state, & fed political committees, elected, & appointees. - Most people seem to not want involvement in local political, like everywhere else. However, when it comes to volunteering for their childrens' school & other activities, you can't find a better town than Stratford & her people! Many as good! NONE BETTER! . I was allowed to help create money & publicity for the WW II Memorial. Bob Mastroni's merry band raised about $ 200,000 with huge help from Ray O'Connell led BoE. (I am not a fan of Ray's-but he deserves props!) . Virtually NO PUBLIC MONEY - ALL $ 200,000 was raised privately. - Tony & Dan Ross among others did exceptional Masonry & Landscaping. (I am critical of the ross involvement in Defined Benefit Pension) - I collected signatures at the train station to run for political office. I had many disqualified as out of towners. In another patch post - Denise on Economic Development Commission wrote 75 % of train commuters are out of towners, who come to Stratford to take the train. - I ran for office 2005, 2007, & 2009 Stratford doesn't seem to want to become YUPPIE DUMB Westport/Fairfield, Over priced shops. - Historic District - nice homes/nice lots - Condos - Many bucolic qualities. Top 3 (may #1) Waterfront CT. Superior transportation matrix - access nature - 50,000 person - still small town
Ron Moreau October 11, 2011 at 11:10 PM
George,What's wrong with (Stratford) "Historic District - nice homes/nice lots - Condos - Many bucolic qualities. Top 3 (may #1) (w)aterfront CT. Superior transportation matrix - access nature - 50,000 person - still small town"? Reply
Robyn Greenspan October 12, 2011 at 02:37 AM
Hi Ron, I like the Transit-Centered Development idea, and to make it a destination. A great example is what's occurring in Hudson, NY. It was a town without growth, and even declining, and then some shops and galleries opened. People began investing in the properties and revitalizing them. Now it's becoming upscale, as tourists, day trippers and second home owners buy antiques, art, gourmet food. Stratford already has many advantages over Hudson -- we're not on a decline; we have the RR; buildings are not in disrepair, etc.
George E. Mulligan October 12, 2011 at 11:14 AM
Ron - Glad to correct Those are part of what's RIGHT with STRATFORD. It's part of what I found STRATFORD's PEOPLE seem to love about STRATFORD. - Unlike what has become YUPPIE DUMB fancy stores on Westport & Fairfield main streets, Stratford's Paradise Green is quaint with LOCAL stores, except 7-11 & Rite Aid. YUK to STAR BUCKS: Whale of YUPPIE BRAND NAME. - Westport & Fairfield are highly transient. Stratford? - Except for Oronque - everyone in Stratford is either related or went to school with each other, or brothers/sisters went to school with others or babysat. > They played sports with/against each other. > They know neighbors: condo-block-apartment > They know pta, School, Church, Socials groups. - While political parties also know people to give jobs to in order to build their network, there's been considerable hiring of Town & BoE, outside Stratford of people who don't PAY PROPERTY TAXES & have NO VESTED INTEREST in Stratford. - Political situation in the US and in Stratford is like a TEA POT KETTLE that's SEALED TIGHT, by CONTROLED POLITICS & is being HEATED by a very LOW FLAME. - When the CITIZEN TAX PAYERS and BUSINESSES finally PAY attention & get FED up ... IT AIN'T GONNA BE PRETTY. - People losing their HOMES, FAMILIES being BROKEN UP, & GRAND THEFT by certain people. - Who has the biggest ALUMNI in the US? It ain't COLLEGE - It's the MILITARY. - I'm glad I've never been on Town Committees/secret backers. Gonna get UGLY!
max October 12, 2011 at 02:39 PM
multiply what you pay yearly in taxes times the number of years you've lived in town, that is your "lifetime value" and revenue stream to the town, any town. Hey there Robert, I've lived in my "starter" home for over 20 years, guess I don't count as having interest in what stratford is about?
George E. Mulligan October 12, 2011 at 04:13 PM
Yeah: Max, Mike, & Robert A. Hal is right about BAD politics & GREAT town. Elizabeth is justly an idealist - Curious Orange wrote Stratford is a "cultural extention of Bridgeport." It's actually a "political extention of Bridgeport," affecting culture. . Esq Burturla & Berchem, Moses, & Devlin represent BOTH Bridgeport & Stratford according to their website. They rep 12 municipalities & 26 Boards of Educations. 26! That's political connections. Only 169 municipalities in CT. - I believe Stratford RTC leader was given preferred vender 1998 to AVCO SAEP (Weird anagram=SAVE CAPO > Capo=Mafia leader) - I believe Esq. Willinger & Bucci rep each of 3 failed AVCO bidders - Aaron Hochman - Montiposilico - Natera / Dogstar. Bucci: former Bridgeport Mayor. CT POST wrote Willinger is cousin to Nancy (D-Trumbull) DeNardo - Chair of CT D party & Bridgeport developer Sal DeNardo. - 3 former ARMY LAWYERS are involved - 1 with Montiposilico - 1 partner to Berchem - 1 partner to Florek (town attorney office since 1991) - Mr. Birney just retired from ARMY undersecretary. He/His family long time Stratford Residents. Dodd retired. Lieberman retiring. - Will any/all become lobbiest related to SHAKESPEARE + AVCO SAEP + AIRPORT + LBW and 744 acres of Bridgeport's East Side as Moses Wheeler Bridge & I-95 Construction get completed? - Robyn, Ron, & Jeze are bloggers on stratfordcharter.wordpress (Jeze's blog) Ron ex-Town Councilor. Robyn & Olivia are candidates.
Ron Moreau October 13, 2011 at 09:40 PM
Mike, What's disconcerting is that our elected officials are letting all this happen.
Jezebel282 October 13, 2011 at 11:16 PM
Ron, What's more disconcerting is that we keep electing them without question.
Ron Moreau October 13, 2011 at 11:35 PM
Jez, Sad. Isn't it?
George E. Mulligan October 14, 2011 at 02:39 AM
I hate being outsmarted by idiots. Where are veterans & patriots? . Boss Tweedle Dumb, Boss Tweedle Dee, Boss Tweedle Dumber, We pay the Lawyer Fees . Republicans replaced by Republican'ts Stirring reasonable and calm into rants. . Democrats replaced by DEMON-cRATS They PARTY. Their wealth grows FAT! . Judges claim to be honorable. Yet have courts become contemptible? . Why are they named Congress? When ACTS are contrary to Progress. . Our government is subordinated to our Constitution Yet our government is staffed by intellectual Prostitution. . What good is it to vote for Hobbson choices. True independents must run for populist voices. . Sit back and leave control of your rights to others, hastens an end to Freedom and Liberty lovers. PASTOR NIEMOLLER First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Jezebel282 October 14, 2011 at 09:32 AM
Ron, We get the government we deserve. As long as we do not ask questions and keep voting for lawn signs, it will never change. I count only 3 candidates out of more than 20 who even bothered to express any opinion.
gail jarvis October 14, 2011 at 09:36 PM
Robyn Greenspans' article was SpotOn.This was article was written in a very thoughtful manner. This article should be posted on the FrontPage of Stratford Star. Her analysis of 'compartmentalized geography' of the Town was insightful. We all have wish lists--but if we all work together all our wishes can come true. Again thank you for a great writing.
Robyn Greenspan October 14, 2011 at 10:27 PM
Thanks, Gail, and to everyone who posted such thoughtful comments and ideas. It's clear that people who live here care about Stratford but there seems to be a sense of "disheartenment" that's permeated us. I'd like us to work on re-energizing the town together.
George E. Mulligan October 16, 2011 at 08:44 AM
May Occupy Wall Street > peaceful protest > lead to more "real candidates" on ballots who obey their conscience, public interests, & self respect, rather then HOBBSON CHOICES of the same ole / same ole Merry-go-Round of Party Hacks. - I respect people who make their positions known. - RepubliCAN'TS are NOT Republicans DEMONcRATS are NOT Democrats - In the RTC & DTC (& resigned from them), are CREATURES who look human, but are (financial & political) ghouls & vampires, much like John Carpenter's 1980s movie with wrestling star Roddy Piper "They Live." - When the finance problems destroy the pensions, jobs. and gravy train for Teachers, Police, Fire, Lawyers, and Town Committee power, JUST WATCH HOW THEY WILL TURN ON EACH OTHER after DECADES of BLUE WALL & OMERTA. - I think & pray Olivia & Robyn are who they appear to be. - Stratford, CT., & America need true INDEPENDENCE .
Robyn Greenspan October 16, 2011 at 04:24 PM
George, I am who I am and I have no personal agenda for my campaign. Like other Stratford residents, I'm suffering from "expectation fatigue" and want us to make the right decisions to drive progress. Elected officials don't have to always be right or have all the answers, but they should be honest, accountable and listen to those they represent. That's what I want to do as a Council member. Robyn
gail jarvis October 16, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Robyn You are so On-Target with your analysis. While you are a Stratford Resident your thoughts and comments can be applied to "AnyTown USA" that is suffering from enuii. Your thoughts are not only Great--They are Necessary. GJ
Robyn Greenspan October 16, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Thanks, Gail! I can only hope you are a 9th district voter! :-)

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