Letter: No Place for Partisanship in Discussion on Housing

To the Editor:

I was saddened by Gail Lavielle’s presentation at last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting. Her stated goal was to discuss certain affordable housing and zoning proposals which she finds concerning. Certainly, legislators should bring important matters to our attention, but often the choice of what is highlighted is telling, and how the discussion is structured is informative.

It’s important to note that zoning changes are not on the current agenda in Hartford. Further, Lavielle acknowledged that she doesn’t believe the proposals will be on legislative agendas later this year and confirmed:  “Who knows whether any of this will come to light, it may not.” So instead of focusing on relevant concerns, she brought up an issue that has no more probability of becoming a legislative priority than a multitude of others. Why then the focus on affordable housing? If Gail believes affordable housing is an urgent threat to Wilton, where are her own proposals? Why not highlight all the constructive measures Wilton has already taken and is studying, in order to be a model for other towns?

Equally curious was the language Lavielle used, ominous references that housing proponents are looking to leverage “a moment” and are using “heightened rhetoric” in their advocacy. It is true that more people are focusing on affordable housing in reaction to recent local and national events, but that is a discussion that Wilton and Connecticut should embrace, not fear.

Any doubt about the partisan motivation for Lavielle’s PowerPoint presentation at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting was erased by Rep. Tom O’Dea’s (R) follow-on assertion that people should vote for “like-minded politicians” and Councilman [sic] Josh Cole’s (R) comments that people should “take these things in consideration when voting.”  The political insertions appeared coordinated to support Lavielle’s speaking points. Thanks goes to First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice for admonishing that “we should not talk about the campaign” during a Board of Selectman meeting.

Affordable housing is a broad issue that is full of nuance and has lasting implications. It should not be a partisan issue and our political leaders should look to constructive dialogue rather than divisive posturing with thinly-veiled language.

Ceci Maher