Tag Archives: Don Bergmann

[OPINION] Don Bergmann: “Police In Schools Is A Mistake”

Alert “06880” reader Don Bergmann writes:

Following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook School Elementary School, Westport undertook and paid for many school security actions.

One first step was to hire the Kroll security firm to generate a school security report. No member of the public, no members of the RTM and, I believe, no member of the Board of Finance was permitted to read the Kroll report.

Well in advance of the report, the issue of police in our schools was raised and discussed.  Then-superintendent of schools Elliott Landon made it clear that he did not support police in our schools.

I believe that judgment was supported by the then-Board of Education, and most in Westport. I believe that judgment evidenced a conclusion that the presence of police in our schools sent the wrong message, and was inconsistent with the function and spirit of education. My recollection is that the idea of police in our schools was viewed as something that had no home in places of learning, youthful interaction and openness.

Our present superintendent of schools, Dr. Colleen Palmer, may be proposing to assign, possibly even hire, 5 police to protect, may I say “guard,” our students while in school. I believe the Board of Education may support Dr. Palmer.

I believe this proposal is an unfortunate reaction to contemporary events. It comes about in part, if not primarily, because of the assertions of parents of students that “we must do something,” and the willingness of the school administration to respond to such cries for action by introducing a police presence into our schools.

I believe an ongoing police presence in our schools is a mistake. I believe it conveys a new and troubling feel to our schools, to education and to the interactions of all who are present in our schools: students, teachers, administrators, nurses,  cafeteria workers, and all others who contribute to the effective and joyous functioning of our schools.

Dr. Landon concluded that there should be no police patrolling our schools. Dr. Palmer appears to have concluded otherwise. The Board of Ed will have to make the initial decision, though roles for the Board of Finance, the RTM and maybe the Board of Selectmen are almost certain.

It is also important that the Kroll report be re-read. It would also seem sensible for the RTM and other elected officials to have access to the report, at least as to the issue of police in our schools. That particular aspect of the Kroll Report should probably also be available to the public.

In making a decision, I believe the input of our nearly 1,000 school employees is relevant. I also believe the voices of our students should be heard. In all cases, those voices must not be allowed to be pressured into silence by the actions and words of those who are so fearful for their children they do not welcome dialogue.

My concern is not cost, even though the cost for 5 police in our schools is significant. Even without new hires, but rather redeployments, the cost is significant since officers will be taken from present areas of responsibility.

The present thinking  appears not to include the cost of 5 police in the proposed school budget for 2018-19. I believe that approach would be wrong.

This letter (somewhat longer) was addressed to the school administration and the Board of Education. However, I ask others to weigh in. The views of the RTM, Board of Finance — indeed, of all elected officials and citizens — are important.

[OPINION] Don Bergmann: Ban Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers!

Don Bergmann is a longtime Westporter. A close observer of the town, his regular comments on “06880” are always clear and concise.

Today — with fall (unfortunately) right around the corner — he’s thinking about leaf blowers. Here’s a copy of an email sent to all RTM members, 1st selectman Jim Marpe, and challengers Melissa Kane and John Suggs. Bergmann writes:

Noise in Westport bothers many, with many items of concern. My only interest is leaf blowers. I do not seek to complicate noise issues with a broad-based approach or decibel measurements, though a manufacturer’s decibel standard could apply to leaf blowers.

I would like to see Westport adopt an ordinance that would ban the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers by commercial users from May 1 through October 15. The ban would not apply to individual homeowners or renters for their own properties.

Gas-powered leaf blowers have become very noisy, and in my judgment are overused. They address minimal meaningful needs, other than for the clearing of leaves in the fall and general cleanup in early spring.

The gas units are especially environmentally undesirable. The noise is extremely annoying, particularly in areas of Westport zoned other than 2 acres. (Those living in 2-acre zones who believe the problem exists there as well should advise all.)

The noise is a a quality of life issue. The banning of gas-powered leaf blowers has received a fair amount of attention over the years, with communities looking into the issue and many, I believe, taking action.

I have accumulated some useful background information. I am aware that Save Westport Now has, independently of me, raised the same issue and is compiling relevant research. I believe SWN would make available that research if requested.

Bergmann asked each RTM member and candidate to respond. Meanwhile, “06880” readers: What do you think? Click “Comments” below. 

Don Bergmann Resigns From RTM

Don Bergmann — a longtime Westport volunteer, who as an RTM member was never afraid to voice his opinion (and back it up with facts) — has resigned from that body. He sent this letter today to his District 1 constituents:

I have resigned as one of your representatives on the Westport Representative Town Meeting.  If anyone would like to read the letter of resignation I sent to RTM moderator Eileen Flug, please email me: donlbergmann@sbcglobal.net.

Suffice it to say for this communication, I have concluded that I can be more effective in addressing town, District 1 and constituent issues as a private citizen.  

Don Bergmann

Don Bergmann

The major factor underlying my conclusion involves a neighborhood matter which, by reason of the reaction and advice given to me with respect to my conduct, I concluded that I would be uncomfortable in addressing that and similar matters as a member of the RTM. 

I will continue to be engaged in town and citizen issues, but as a private citizen.  That engagement will include District 1 concerns when asked, or on my own initiative. Some examples are the Compo Beach Improvement Committee efforts, a petition for a speed hump on Harbor Road, and planning and zoning activities, including actions of the Zoning Board of Appeals that trouble me. 

I also hope to contribute to the Downtown Steering Committee efforts, to promote and improve our parklands and, most dramatically at the moment, to prevent the siting of a 120-foot cell tower at 92 Greens Farms Road. I expect also to express my concerns with our superintendent of schools and Board of Education.

Thanks to all.

Don Bergmann, Former RTM member, District 1

RTM Rep Walks Out

I wasn’t at last Friday’s meeting about the Kemper-Gunn House, and its possible move from 35 Church Lane to the Elm Street parking lot.

Don Bergmann, an RTM member who serves on its  Planning & Zoning Committee, was. For a while.

But he walked out — protesting what he called First Selectman Gordon Joseloff’s “indecisiveness” — and said he would not longer work on the project.

The other meeting participants — Joseloff, members of his staff, RTM P&Z Committee chair Matthew Mandell, Historic District Commission chair Francis Henkels, and State Representative Jonathan Steinberg — stayed.

35 Church Lane -- also known as the Kemper-Gunn House.

35 Church Lane — also known as the Kemper-Gunn House.

In a press release, Bergmann said he was “frustrated by the lack of support of the project by the First Selectman, including an unwillingness to go on record in support of, and actively work for, the success of the project.”

According to Bergmann, the house will be moved across the street to the Baldwin lot, with all costs borne by Bedford Square Associates (the firm redeveloping Church Lane). “Once moved, the house will be renovated by a developer and then made available for commercial rentals, including obligations to provide for ‘mom and pop’ occupancies and to exclude ‘chain’ stores,” Bergmann says. He adds:

The Town will lease a portion of the Baldwin parking lot for the new site and will receive payments under that lease. The Town will also benefit by the real estate taxes that will result from the change of use of the site from parking to an historic commercial usage. The Town will not take title to the Kemper-Gunn house and will have no responsibility for the renovation….

The Kemper-Gunn house will be preserved, the new site on Elm Street is part of a transitional zone that “softens” the shift from downtown commercial to residential structures and our Town will receive lease payments and additional tax revenues.

Bergmann “loves the project,” his press release says, and he hopes to continue working on it.

However, he notes,

the efforts to date to get the First Selectman to support, drive and take ‘ownership’ of the project have been unsuccessful. Hopefully, the public and others will now convince the First Selectman to take the leadership which this project demands. Without that leadership, the Kemper-Gunn house may go the way of the wrecking ball.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff was asked yesterday morning to comment. He did not respond.

However, at last night’s Board of Finance meeting — where several Westporters and RTM members spoke in favor of moving the house — Joseloff was less than enthusiastic.

“There’s some concern that the town, even if we lock in all the ifs, ands and buts in the lease, there is some potential exposure to the town for taking care of this house down the line,” Joseloff said, according to the Westport News.

One Man’s Many Thanks

RTM member Don Bergmann sent this email to First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, Police Chief Dale Call, Fire Chief Andrew Kingsbury, Public Works director Steve Edwards, Parks and Rec director Stuart McCarthy, and Human Services head Barbara Butler — plus all town employees and volunteers.

It’s a sentiment worth repeating, loud and often, by every Westporter:

As I have said to some of you personally already, you all did a terrific job during and after Sandy. All I have spoken with have expressed the same sentiment.

While some of you may simply say “that’s my job,” your performance was so much more than that. I and the whole town thank you. Please share my thoughts with all of your people.

Nate Gibbons — the face behind the voice.

Whether it was the emergency radio information (Nate Gibbons is ready for “prime time”), the advance warnings, the regular flow of information, the incredible cleanup of our roads and especially our beach areas, the pressure applied to CL&P, the efficient and effective manner in which the electrical issues in our low-lying areas were addressed and the work of people such as Barbara Butler, Sue Pfister and so many others (and of course all within our fire and police departments, most of whom are not known to us by name), all became a testatment to the skills and commitments of you and the many who work for and with you.

Thank you.