Over the years suggestions have
been made regarding environmental
; Aquifer protection is something the whole community
must care about.
The recent introduction of special
language for an overlay zone around the Aquarion well fields in the
south of town, based upon Connecticut mapping,
is something new for
us. Weston followed suggested DEP language in
developing this area.
Following upon the Dominski-Oakrock Study (Weston Environmental
Resources Manual, 1976) was the Weston
Water Resources Guide
while the water testing program was beginning, discovered PCE
and TCE down gradient from both the Town bus garage and the private
shopping center, reporting these finding to both the Westport-Weston
Health District and the CTDEP. Corrective measures were taken to
clear the water supply, and a
regime of groundwater monitoring was put
We note that Stamford
currently starting a well testing program in the northern part of their
Weston has taken the lead on
this effort, as it has on the Air Space redesign issue. It is in
our interest to see that water supply stays pure and abundant;
is no longer as peaceful and quiet as it used to be - anywhere, in
fact. But one new threat to the long term
preservation of the Weston life style is
LWV of Weston info meeting, P&Z Chair., Vice-Chair. and member in
charge of rewrite of Plan report; cluster development considered.
presently undergoing reassessment...
OFFICIALLY COMPLETE (APPEALS ONGOING TO B.A.A.)
LWV of Weston info meeting, P&Z Chair., Vice-Chair. and member in
charge of rewrite of Plan report; proposals regarding business
development for both boosting tax base and providing services
Check out your assessment here:
UNIFORM TWO-ACRE ZONING (15%
"About Town" unofficial map of
above, exclusive to this website (click here
residential zone to protect natural water cycle.
DOES NOT SEEK THE
LIMELIGHT. NOR THE DISRUPTION CONSTRUCTION FOR MAJOR
INFRASTRUCTURE SUPPORT FOR COMMERCE WOULD REQUIRE. READ
THE WORDS OF PLANNING AND ZONING IN THEIR DRAFT...
The Lunch Box doubles, the
pharmacy is reborn at reduced size, the bank is working as a small town
again. Without infrastructure, any more,
Bicycle-Pedestrian Committee appointed and on the job!!!
WESTON' IDEA MAKES IT INTO
DRAFT!!! At LWV of Weston info
meeting, P&Z Chair., Vice-Chair. and member in charge of rewrite of
Plan report; school superblock and specifically street-closing on
Sundays in the summer is a big policy for community-building
larger scale development
of a non-residential nature will not prove feasible, and as Georgetown
is on the
cusp of a rebirth at Gilbert & Bennett,
which is planning, we
believe, for a railroad station at their site, the words of the
last Plan are well taken: "So Weston finds itself somewhat
from the greater density and bustling activity of neighboring
towns in the region...Concern for development to the north, in
particular, is paramount.
What happens in Georgetown--at the
assisted living facility under construction at Gilbert Hill or with the
Gilbert and Bennett site--will have a
considerable impact on Weston"
OPEN SPACE AND
RECREATION: KEEP MAJOR PUBLIC
RECREATION FACILITES TIED TO THE CENTRAL PART OF TOWN
Public and private spaces and
link together and work to create an even greater protection for the
environment and natural creatures who
At LWV of Weston info
Chair., Vice-Chair. and member in charge of rewrite of Plan
report; implementation to be an ongoing, if voluntary,
responsibility (taken more seriously).
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 2020
PLAN: Always look out for change in Hartford...
live with us. Above,
Bisceglie Park (left) and right, Trout Brook Valley.
Then there is
- PRIORITIES: "Face of
- Implementation Programs and
Actions...numero uno is groundwater protection policies: How to
do it, from D.E.P here.
- Another way to implement a Plan is
to watch for small action of the C.G.A. - sometimes these eventually
pass! Not this
one, that we know of, however:
Pictured above at
Norwalk City Hall: This had to be the most lively SWR Legislative
Breakfast yet - Congressman Himes (r) called it "a partisan food
fight" and it was for new Darien Legislative Rep to put things in
2011 not to be
2 0 1 0 R E G I
O N A
L L E G I S L A T I V E B R E A K F A S
South Western Regional Planning
Organization meet with Legislators at the "Community Room," Norwalk
City Hall, January
Pictured above at
Norwalk City Hall: Senator McKinney, First Selectman (Wilton)
Brennan, Senator Boucher, Chair. of the MPO, First Selectman Woody Bliss
REGIONAL COOPERATION 2009: Remember
this fracas? The issue is back...
Another is to take a regional view of shared problems: please
note that First Selectman Bill Brennan of Wilton pointed out areas
where SWRPA towns
cooperate voluntarily! Watch the 2009 SWRPA-MPO
Legislative Breakfast here:
AVAILABLE FROM OUR FILES:
Through the reassessment project, the
best maps of Weston with lot lines will be available, eventually.
In the meanwhile, Where
to begin? Get
Some tools of the trade -
link to Town of Weston website.
As someone once said to me, "you gotta
have a map"...and
one that gives you a big picture.
On your mark, get
set, search and
survey!!! Mapping in the new
F R O M T H
E A B O U
T T O W N C O L U M N . . .
Making Order Out Of Chaos - April 20,
Weston has always been a very neat and orderly
Zoning makes order out of what could become chaotic construction, as
Plans are "built out" and the future becomes the present before our
very eyes. We are a society of laws, and the Zoning
Regulations--not to mention the Inland Wetland laws and the Building
Code and more general societal norms--are what keep us civilized.
In the case of the Town of Weston, the map of all our dreams is the
Town Plan of Conservation and Development. A short series of
regional workshops this Spring on the subject "Linking Land Use to
Water Quality" is being made available by the University of
Interested in land use? Norwalk City Hall (125 East Avenue,
Community Room #128) on May 2 and 24, from 7:30pm to 9pm both evenings,
is the place to be! Through the University of Connecticut's NEMO
("non-point education for municipal officials") instructors, protecting
against water quality degradation will be front and center. NEMO is
against land use "sprawl," and that topic will no doubt be
raised. Showing how other areas have used watersheds as the
framework for planning is part of NEMO's mandate. You can find
out more about just who "NEMO" is by visiting this column's
Action on Village District Bill
Remember the "Municipal Village District" idea discussed by
"About Town" here a few weeks ago? "Village Districts" revisions
are still alive in the Legislature! The village district proposal
this session is more applicable to Weston's needs than last year's
version, which became law. This year's bill, sHB 5177, is a
revision of last session's action. The new "Act Concerning
Village Districts" has now passed the House and is on the Calendar of
the Senate. What is different about the concept this year?
This year the bill works for Weston. Introduced into this new,
improved version is the required tie to the municipal plan of
conservation and development. Although zoning law, village
districts would be the kind of zoning only permitted by the Town
Plan. If your "village district" site does not show on the Town
Plan of Conservation and Development, it can't exist. The bill
this year has expanded "village districts" from those places within
communities distinctive for their historic virtues to just plain
"distinctive" locations around Town. Although the Town of Weston
may be exempt from its own zoning law, it must follow the guidelines of
its Town Plan!
For example, the just completed Final School Facility Plan creates a
"village district" combining Schools, Town Hall and Weston Library, as
illustrated on the Plan map. The School Plan "Option 4A" map (the
option selected by both the Ad Hoc School Facilities Planning Committee
and the Board of Education) could become a part of the new Town
Plan. Defining the limits of Weston's "Village District" and
establishing these in the Town Plan of Conservation and Development
2000 is an idea whose time has come.
The Town Plan thus is the key protecting Weston against "sprawl," by
allowing growth only at the "Village District."
One of the first steps in making a new Town Plan for Weston is
creating a map that can be viewed on the Internet.
What information do we need to start the planning process?
In the early stages of this effort, using a set of maps from the NEMO
website will do. Create a “Community
Online.” Start here: http://nemo.uconn.edu/
Is it good planning or just good luck? As the reassessment
rolls on, Vision Appraisals will be updating property maps online,
coded to new assessments. I can envision
the Planning and Zoning
Commission being able to piggyback its early planning efforts to
determine how much of Weston is yet to be developed, with this other
information being produced for the town.
Is it time to revisit Dominski-Oakrock? The Weston
Environmental Resources Manual of 1976 at least needs updating.
Its basic principles still hold water, no pun intended. However,
has development over the past quarter century eroded river banks?
Is rainfall more intense now, or is it that the increasing percentage
of impervious surfaces
townwide makes flooding a more common occurance?
In other communities around the country, information about lot
lines, natural features, infrastructure, land use, and links to other
information coded to each particular property
available. Most famously, Greenwich fights against
revealing public infrastructure data, and may be winning this battle at
the Freedom of Information Commission.
Some of this appears intrusive, and here in Weston we do not
have the ability to cross-index maps and data. Will any new Plan
provide this to the general public?
Perhaps most importantly, should the Planning and Zoning
Commission make this new Plan more comprehensive? By this I mean
including a section on Capital Planning.
Should there be discussions of taxes? How does land use
relate to taxes?
What do you think are other relevant questions to ponder?
Post your thoughts at www.aboutweston.com/aboutwestonforums
“Climate change” can be hard to envision. Treading water
on Main Street in Westport is one vision. Having this year’s
Presidential Debates run in a non-partisan way,
such as they would be
if the national League of Women Voters were to run them, would be
Julie Belaga said it best. Having recently been asked by
the Weston League to speak to the topic "Restoring American Leadership
in Global Environmental Affairs,"
she asked “what leadership?”
This former Environmental Protection Agency Region One (New
England) administrator was very frank. She pointed out that
E.P.A. is not an agency in the Cabinet on equal
footing with, for
example State, Defense, or Education. Until the next
administration in Washington decides to make Climate Change a focus for
all departments, America
will not be able to focus on its own
environmental crises, never mind achieving “leadership” status
Weston over the years, however, might be closer to leading the
pack. How does Weston come to be so smart and so lucky? Why
is it that we are able to politically unify
over almost any issue that
smacks of environmental concern? If Weston has a motto for
municipal government improvements, it is “Less is more.”
Our Republican First Selectmen is perhaps the most distinguished
nature lover I have ever met. He gets support from our Republican
and new Democratic Selectpersons.
They are thoughtful and
dedicated. The Board of Selectmen has our best interests at
heart. But it isn’t easy to keep a balance among competing
Can Weston navigate the waters of economic gloom and doom and
come out at the other end still the natural, unsullied “rural”
community we all know and love?
Will there be an ultimate happy ending to the Lachat saga?
This joint effort by the Town of Weston and the Nature Conservancy to
create a “Juliana Lachat Preserve”
entrance to Devil’s Den began with
initial purchase of part of the farm in 1997.
I once met Leon Lachat at the Lunch Box. He was a modest
and kindly gentleman. Mr. Lachat would have wanted Weston to be
at peace as a community. Let us try to
find a fitting middle
ground. One more time, let us join together to try to find a way
to make the Juliana Lachat Preserve the new entrance to the Den,
without destroying the neighborhood.
Call it municipal climate change.
Town Plan Progress
What’s happening at the Planning and Zoning Commission?
How is work coming along on the Town Plan update?
This Plan will have to pass muster with the Board of Selectmen
and possibly a Town Meeting. So that means that we all must keep
up with the planning process. Read the
most recent Plan here: WestonTownPlan2000.pdf
The Commission would do well to retain a consultant for this
summer. Set up a schedule and locational map for traffic
counts. Gather data from the Police Department and
the State of
Connecticut. The Fire Department is a big player in our community
New water testing has its schedule, too, and should be done
during Fall and Spring. The 1993 Weston Water Study needs
updating. Data gathering from secondary sources
of all kinds is a
nice summertime activity. While school is out is a good time to
sit down with the Board of Education and its staff to gather historic
information from their files.
And find out what to plan for in
Find out about infrastructure plans including the Kaestle-Boos
report. Capital Planning deserves a whole chapter for itself in
Town Plan 2010. And let us not forget to check in
Building Committee and its Alternative Energy Sub-Committee.
Part of the new Plan’s process should include general “meet the
citizens” events beginning this winter, too. And let’s not forget
Our zoning regulations need to be “tightened up.”
Development can erode the natural environment. The effects
of a “blow out” of soil and erosion protection devices at a
construction site can be shocking.
When there are steep slopes, there is always the opportunity for
heavy rainfall to get the earth moving downhill. And especially
if a building lot is being redeveloped. Bare
land is particularly
How to keep this from happening? One way that is sure to
minimize erosion is to simply not take down trees, bushes and
grass. This natural growth and its roots grabs the
anchors it against all but the most calamitous events.
There are mathematical models to calculate runoff. Some
features to consider are degree of slope; frequency, duration, and
severity of rain events; type of soil; and the natural features that
But make no mistake, whenever “engineered solutions” to
development are employed, you are walking a thin line between
“progress” and catastrophe. In order to make
zoning work for the future there must be changes made to our present
These changes involve a strict reduction in “coverage” on a
building lot. Presently a two-acre lot may use 15 percent of its
87,000 square feet for the house and other structures. Planning
and Zoning should reduce this percentage immediately.
There must also be provision made in one or more sections of the
Town code to provide for proper management of roof runoff, such as via
connection to underground drainage structures.
Lastly, boards and commissions that deal with land use must keep
in mind the need to always consider the impacts of their decisions on
the ultimate sustainability of the
planet. Beginning in Weston.
Green plan for Connecticut
What forms our environment? The answer is we do.
Weston’s next Town Plan should be green.
The terms “carbon footprint” and “sustainability” are very
popular now. Books and scholarly papers come forth almost daily
announcing the end of the world as we have
One “inconvenient truth” is that globalization of the world’s
economies has actually brought us into direct conflict with saving the
A global economy only works if the costs of cooperating in one
big market do not exceed those of the alternative of going it
alone. Could the United States, for example,
get by without
importing significantly from abroad? Has this country ever been
able to isolate itself?
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island bear silent witness to
the fact that the answer to my questions is “not really.” In
simpler times, before much of the industrial era,
Will we have to get used to a different calculus for job
creation in the future? The answer may lie in having a
plan. A green plan. I have confidence that American
that remain will find a way to redefine the old economic
Beginning in Weston, a “green plan” means being smart about how
much the human footprint mars the natural environment. No
clear-cutting. No bad chemicals on the
ground. Keep the
natural water cycle going every day!
Weston could get a complex about being a really small
town. With a limited tax base and unbridled appetite for spending
money on education. But what else is there to
spend tax money on?
No sewers. No public water, except for the 29 homes near
the former landfill off Godfrey Road. An excellent Police
Department, Public Works pros, devoted town hall and town
employees. A part-time First Selectman. Capital funding for
needs of the volunteer Fire Department/Emergency Services group.
The little city that is our schools complex mirrors in some ways
the rest of the community. Along its meandering spine or “mile of
safety” are speed bumps, stop signs, and
curb cuts. The Board of
Education works with the police to keep all modes of travel safe.
Cleverly designed loop roads help separate the different classes
of vehicles. Bus loading, service deliveries, emergency access,
parking for teachers and students and other
staff all are part of the
School Road plan.
Adjoining the more than 100 acres of centralized school system,
with no roadway cutting through, are Town Hall, Weston Library,
Department of Public Works, and the Onion
Barn. Have I left
This, in planning language, is called a “superblock.” It
is Weston’s Central Park.
What is infrastructure? Who wants it or needs it?
A quick tour of town just this week showed several types of
infrastructure in several places. There were significant clusters
of street lights at the town hall-school complex.
There are four
intersections with traffic lights and one with a “blinker.” We’ve
got bridges, one under repair and one waiting in the wings for its
So Weston is not what you would call a “bustling metropolis”
with a downtown and an “other side of the track” neighborhood.
There are no tracks. When you have no
infrastructure capable of
handling higher densities, developers will go elsewhere.
One kind of infrastructure that Weston has is a road
system. In fact, as the Town Plan rewrite gets started, one of
the first considerations should be how our road system is
and its prospects for the future. Road drainage is a
concern. Run-off in Weston eventually makes its way to Long
Island Sound. So we try to keep catch basins
and storm sewers
clear of silt.
There are two north-south State highways. Major and minor
Town roads meander east and west. And then there are private, dead end
streets. Most are paved but some are
Part of Weston’s charm, I have always thought, was how careful
the community has always been at keeping up the fine condition of its
roads. Weston is, if nothing else, neat.
One kind of infrastructure that Weston does not have is
sewers. That is why Weston maintains a system of large lot
development, with effluent disposed of parcel by parcel. Although
we do have a tertiary treatment plant on School Road, it is designed
for school use only, and its maintenance and upkeep are in the school
The original Town Plan of 1969 envisioned town and school
activity where they are today. The Plans of 1987 and 2000
reinforced centralization of municipal activities.
Infrastructure improvements in this next town plan should
include investment in alternative energy within the boundaries of an
“energy improvement district.” Such a district
the schools campus and town facilities.
This would be a bold first step.
Density is destiny.
Weston has 500 people per square mile. That’s 10,000
living on 20 square miles in the woods. Almost every piece of
land is spoken for. Whether by human
homeowners or by other
natural creatures resident in the vast, permanent open spaces in town.
In contrast, human density teems in a place such as Hong
Over 6,900,000 live in the 425 square miles of that port city.
That comes to more than 16,000 people per
The history of Weston during the last few hundred years has been
documented. Our form of government is the New England Town
Meeting. Hong Kong and its port have played a vital role in
China’s relationship with the rest of the world. Its governance
had long been feudal. Then it became a colony and part of the
British Empire. In 1997 it
became a largely autonomous part of
That autonomy was only agreed to last for a minimum of 50
Will Weston still be free in 2047? Will town meeting government
and a two-party system prevail much
longer in our town? Thinking
globally, I would answer my own question with a resounding “yes,” for
The first is that a lack of infrastructure, whether sewers,
or train tracks, makes us a non-starter in the larger economic
picture. Our “land capability” is nil.
Reason number two is that we are not foolish. No matter
Westonites disagree about small matters and money, we all recognize
that this training ground for the
next generation of leaders and
contributors to society must be nurtured and protected.
That is why the next Town Plan revision is so important.
Ironically, the next Plan must cover the years 2010 to
Calling it a “2020 Vision” for Weston sounds catchy and right!
This is our first Plan written in the 21st century. It
appropriate time for Weston to reexamine its goals. I am not sure
myself about some of them any more!
For example, as the “basic goals” I would only state four this
time. The first encompasses several of the older Plan’s
goals. It is: “RENEW: Weston, a residential
community, should renew its compact with nature and dedicate itself to
supporting the natural water cycle.”
The second goal for the new Plan should be: “IMPROVE
infrastructure and its maintenance to minimize run-off waste and
Goal number three links the voice of planning with the work of
Building Committee and the Global Warming Committee. “MAXIMIZE
efficient use of limited natural resources
in a time of climate
change: make the centralized school-town complex energy
This is where the Planning and Zoning Commission takes
part of work towards a new Plan, a study of feasibility for an energy
improvement district would fit right in!
The study could also
recommend suitable attendant technology.
Efficiency and economy are ways to MINIMIZE the human
In the new Plan we must find ways to reuse land and buildings and
resources. And recycle!
A legend for a land use map follows conventions. Land use
for Weston are primarily yellow, green and blue, with just a dash of
commercial red at the Center and at
Cobb’s Mill Inn.
And black. Black is used to represent
Weston that means roads. Thicker or thinner, in double strands or
even greater, planning maps are careful to place
Dotted lines are road connections planned for the future.
All you need to look at is a town map of roads and immediately
tell where you are. Only Weston looks like Weston from the
air! North of Godfrey Road is forest, the deepest of deep green.
Yellow is for low density residential properties. In Town
2000, this equaled 56% of all acreage in town. Second in area was
green, at 23%. Green space is of different
uses, such as Aspetuck Land Trust Property, are one shade of
green. Active uses, such as Morehouse Farm Park, are a different
tone of green.
Another 15% of our acreage was either undeveloped or
undevelopable. The aforementioned roads comprised 4%.
Public and semi-public land uses are shades of blue. In
this includes Town Hall, the Fire Department, Library, Transfer
Station, Public Works as well as school
property and churches.
These uses comprised the remaining 2% of total acreage.
Some colors not seen on a land use map of Weston are purple and
browns. Purple is the traditional color representing industrially
classified property. An example of industry
might be a
factory. Interestingly, in the 19th Century, Weston had a
functioning axe tool factory and a toy factory!
Brown is the color of higher density housing. Should
include this in the new Plan? Only if we plan to build the
necessary infrastructure, sewers and public water supply, and risk
changing the character of our town!
When it rains, it pours.
There is a science behind the weather events we’ve been having, and
their effects. Besides the fashionable explanation of global
warming. In addition to increased run-off
caused by bigger homes
and mounting coverage of paved areas.
Who can forget the graphic horror of Hurricane Katrina? So many
families and individuals and animals engulfed in the wet sorrow of that
disaster. But let us stop and think
for just a bit.
What was the real bottom line awful part of Katrina? For me, it
was the knowledge that the very same thing could and probably will
happen again. I had not really understood
that New Orleans was
constructed below sea level prior to the storm.
How is this related to Weston? The flood plains in town are
mapped. Planning and Zoning presides over regulations controlling
development in these wet areas. But like
New Orleans, much of
Weston was developed prior to any zoning, subdivision, or Federal
Emergency Management Administration (F.E.M.A.) edicts.
In reviewing F.E.M.A. grant programs, one stands out. It is
“pre-disaster mitigation.” This is a planning program that sets
in motion, at all levels of government, the effort to
structures out of harm’s way.
Funds to elevate houses, pay for hydrologic and hydraulic studies, and
pay for storm water management projects come through F.E.M.A.
Qualifying for government funding, however, is not easy. The
available funds don’t go very far, and most projects down our way don’t
So it is ever more important to make our flood management regulations
as strong as possible, and try to prevent disasters if we can!
So cooperation among public and private sectors is the first building
block for a happy financial future.
Attention to detail in budget making is the second building block, in
my opinion. Lastly, wise land use planning is the capstone.
After all, keeping Weston Weston is the goal. These three factors
should guarantee us a happy future.
But we always must be prepared to ask tough questions. Such as
explanation of the cost-benefit calculations used to justify
expenditures of public funds. This kind of
question will be front
and center at the League of Women Voters of Weston’s “Speak Up” in
2009. Whatever the results of last Tuesday’s elections, there
will be at least one
new voice there to stand and address the questions.
Weston’s budget process may reach a climax at the Board of Finance
Public Hearing on March 31, 2009, which is held shortly before the
Annual Town Budget Meeting,
scheduled for April 20, 2009.
Westonites who may not be fully up to date on the community’s financial
position, and that means most of us, should use this opportunity to
grill the Board of Finance.
What is Weston’s situation? Is the General Fund surplus as high
as it was last year? Has the latest town-wide revaluation of
property shifted the tax burden from large
homes to small ones, or from
new ones to older structures?
Is Weston’s Grand List shrinking?
July 2008, I-BBC
A district in Manhattan has
the highest human development index in the US
slips down development index
live shorter lives than citizens of almost every other developed
nation, according to a report from several US charities.
The report found that the US ranked 42nd in the
world for life expectancy despite spending more on health care per
person than any other country.
Overall, the American Human Development Report
ranked the world's richest country 12th for human development.
The study looked at US government
data on health, education and income.
The report was funded by Oxfam America, the
Rockefeller Foundation and the Conrad Hilton Foundation.
The report combines measurements of health,
education and income into one measurement - the human development index
- based on that used by the United Nations.
The report, Measure of America, identifies
significant progress in the US in the last 50 years.
Life expectancy - which averages 78 - has risen
eight years since 1960.
Japan has the world's highest life expectancy -
82.1 years - according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD).
"Some Americans are living
anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we
all care about: health, education and standard of living"
Author, Measure of America
The US report identifies obesity and the lack
of health insurance for some 47 million Americans as the most
significant factors in premature death.
It also provides a snapshot of the inequalities
between the richest and the poorest Americans and between different
"The Measure of America reveals huge gaps among
some groups in our country to access opportunity and reach their
potential," said the report's author, Sarah Burd-Sharps.
"Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to
50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about:
health, education and standard of living.
"For example, the state human development index
shows that people in last-ranked Mississippi are living 30 years behind
those in first-ranked Connecticut."
Asian males in the US were found to have the
highest human development index score and were expected to live 14
years longer than African-American males, who had the lowest human
development index rating.
African-Americans had a shorter
lifespan than the average American did in the late 1970s.
More US babies die in their
first year than in most other rich countries
The report further breaks down its findings
into the US's 436 Congressional districts.
The 20th district, around Fresno, California,
was ranked last - with people earning one-third as much as residents of
the top-ranked US district,- in Manhattan, New York.
The US north-east has the highest overall
ranking because people there earn more, are more highly-educated and
have the second highest life expectancy.
West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama
are four of the five bottom states on the index. Mississippi is ranked
Among other findings:
- Of the world's richest nations, the US has
the most children (15%) living in poverty
- Of the OECD nations, the US has the most
people in prison - as a percentage and in absolute numbers
- 25% of 15-year-old students performed at or
below the lowest level in an international maths test - worse than
Canada, France, Germany and Japan
- If the US infant mortality rate were equal
to first-ranked Sweden, more than 20,000 babies would survive beyond
their first year of life
C.I.A. World Fact Book:
ANOTHER SOURCE: SIERRA CLUB ACTIVISTS*:
is a network of Sierra Club activists who support a comprehensive
approach to environmentalism within the Sierra Club. We support Sierra
Club policies and principles with the exception of current Sierra Club
U.S. population policy, which we believe is inadequate in addressing
U.S. overpopulation. A comprehensive approach to environmentalism must
include effective action for population stabilization in the United
Currently Sierra Club policies call for stabilizing U.S.
population but do not address the combined impacts of mass migration
and birth rates on U.S. population growth.
All-Time Low; Teen birth rate also falls to record low
By Robert Longley, About.com
See More About:u.s.
life span of americans; u.s. population growth
Continuing a 12-year decline, the U.S. birth rate has dropped to the
lowest level since national data have been available, according to
statistics just released by the Centers for Disease
Control (CDC). The
rate of births among teenagers also fell to a new record low,
continuing a decline that began in 1991.
The birth rate fell to 13.9 per 1,000 persons in 2002, down from 14.1
per 1,000 in 2001 and down a full 17 percent from the recent peak in
1990 (16.7 per 1,000), according to a new CDC
Preliminary Data for 2002." CDC analysts say the birth rate is dropping
as the increasing life span of Americans results in a smaller
proportion of women of child childbearing age.
The birth rate among women of peak childbearing age has also been
declining. Birth rates for women in their 20s and early 30s were
generally down while births to older mothers (35-44)
were still on the
rise. Rates were stable for women over 45.
Among teenagers, the birth rate fell to 43 births per 1,000 females
15-19 years of age in 2002, a 5-percent decline from 2001 and a
28-percent decline from 1990. The decline in the birth
rate for younger
teens, 15-17 years of age, is even more substantial, dropping 38
percent from 1990 to 2002 compared to a drop of 18 percent for teens
"The reduction in teen pregnancy has clearly been one of the most
important public health success stories of the past decade," said
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy
Thompson in a CDC press
release. "The fact that this decline in teen births is continuing
represents a significant accomplishment."
More than one fourth of all children born in 2002 were delivered by
cesarean; the total cesarean delivery rate of 26.1 percent was the
highest level ever reported in the United States.
Among other significant findings included:
In 2002, there were
4,019,280 births in the United States, down slightly from 2001
The percent of low birthweight babies (infants born
weighing less than 2,500 grams) increased to 7.8 percent, up from 7.7
percent in 2001 and the highest level in more than 30
addition, the percent of preterm births (infants born at less than 37
weeks of gestation) increased slightly over 2001, from 11.9 percent to
More than one-third of all births were to unmarried
The birth rate for unmarried women was down slightly
in 2002 to 43.6 per 1,000 unmarried women, reflecting the growing
number of unmarried women in the population.
Access to prenatal care continued a slow and steady
increase. In 2002, 83.8 percent of women began receiving prenatal care
in the first trimester of pregnancy, up from 83.4
percent in 2001 and
75.8 percent in 1990.
Weston selectmen approve new policy
Written by Brian Gioiele
Friday, November 21, 2008
The town is required to maintain drainage culverts, not replace them,
even in areas where nearby properties endure periodic flooding,
according to a newly established policy.
The Board of Selectmen on Thursday, Nov. 6, approved the final wording
of the new policy on culvert replacement on town roads, a move stemming
from the recent rash of requests from
residents asking the town to
examine specific areas of flooding in town.
According to the new policy, the town is “under no obligation, legal or
otherwise, to replace existing culverts” — an opinion town leaders
received this past summer from Town Counsel Ken Bernhard.
The policy does state that the town will “cooperate with residents in
order to determine the nature and location of the drainage problem.”
Property owners may work with the town to replace culverts, according
to the policy, if the project receives approval from the selectmen and
has been properly vetted by the town engineer, public works director,
and police chief.
“The purpose of this policy is to establish rules for private property
owners,” said Selectman Glenn Major. “It spells out what their
expectations about the culverts should be.”
But that was little consolation for one couple at Thursday’s meeting.
The Fischers, who live on Deep Wood Road, are among a handful of
property owners in that stretch who have
experienced four flooding
situations in the past two years.
“It defies any test of fairness,” said Barry Fischer. “It’s hard to
come to terms with — that this is a town road but the town won’t take
responsibility for it.”
Town Engineer John Conte, also present Thursday, told the selectmen the
culvert in that area was built according to town standards and was not
damaged. He then offered
recommendations that would help alleviate the
flooding, but the work would be at the property owners’ expense.
“We do take responsibility,” responded Mr. Major. “We try to mitigate
Mr. Bernhard had informed the selectmen at their August meeting that
the town is responsible for repairing leaking culverts or cleaning
those filled with leaves. But with respect to designing, planning, or
providing new drains, Mr. Bernhard said those decisions are completely
The legal opinion prompted the selectmen to move to create a policy for
handling requests from residents calling for repair or replacement of
aging culverts. And it also cast doubt on whether
the town would cover
the costs associated with two such projects presented at the August
At that August meeting, the selectmen reviewed two plans. The first,
and most serious, was the proposed replacement of three concrete
culverts with one box culvert on Deep Wood Road
near Davis Hill Road.
The second was for installation of a culvert at 4 Kettle Creek Road.
In all, the two separate projects would have cost the town as much as
$131,000. The project at Deep Wood Road would help eliminate flooding
issues for three of the four surrounding
properties; the work at Kettle
Creek Road would help one property owner.
It was these potentially large expenditures that led the board to
question whether the town needs to pay for all such work, which has
been adding up on the town expense list in recent
When asked why the town authorized expenditures for studies of the Deep
Wood Road flooding situation, Mr. Major said he wished the board had
sought the legal opinion prior to such
“Should we have asked on day one? In hindsight, yes, that was an
appropriate question to ask,” said Mr. Major. “Unfortunately, we
didn’t. The number of requests, coupled with the cost for replacement,
was, for me, cause to sit back and take pause.”
By TOM WOLFE
Published: September 27, 2008 (we only saw it today!)
Be aware that your correspondent is merely bringing you the news when
he reports how many people have besieged the author of “The Bonfire of
the Vanities” over the past week with the question, “Where does this
leave the Masters of the Universe now?”
“This” refers to the current credit panic. The Masters of the Universe
is a phrase from that book referring to ambitious young men (there were
no women) who, starting with the 1980s, began racking up millions every
year — millions! — in performance bonuses at investment banks like
Salomon Brothers, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Morgan
Goldman Sachs. The first three no longer exist. The fourth
is about to be absorbed by Bank of America. The last two are being
converted into plain-vanilla Our Town banks with A.T.M.’s in the lobby
and, instead of Masters of the Universe, marginally adult female
cashiers with wages in the mid-three figures per week, stocked with
bags of exploding dye to hand the robbers along with the cash. American
investment banking, the entire industry, sank without a trace in the
last few days.
So where does this leave the Masters of the Universe? In Greenwich,
Conn., mainly. The hottest, brightest, most ambitious young men began
abandoning investment banking in favor of hedge funds six years ago.
Your correspondent can describe scenes of raging carotid-aneurytic
anger as the young hotshots resigned. Security goons seized them by the
elbow and marched them
off the floor at six miles an hour. They
couldn’t touch anything in or on their desks — not even the framed
picture of Mom and Buddy and Sis, propped upright from behind by little
wings covered in synthetic velvet — so furious were their
superiors. Their biggest producers and future leaders were walking out
Greenwich is the center of the Masters’ hedge-fund world, replacing
Wall Street. For five years, the heart of Wall Street, the fabled Floor
of the New York Stock Exchange, has been gradually emptying out. A
hundred years ago, the Floor was a club for gentlemen oligarchs. Only
men with social credentials could have one of the insider “seats” on
the Floor. By last year, when your correspondent paid his one and only
visit to the Floor, one member came up to another and informed him that
he, like so many others recently, was leaving the Exchange for good.
“What will you be doing?”
“I’m joining the Fire Department.”
“The Fire Department? In what capacity?”
“I’ll be a firefighter. The pension plan is awesome.”
Incidentally, there are no seats on the Floor, none that this
correspondent ever saw. The Exchange is already an anachronism, like
Broadway. Everything is done by computer today.
Hanging out on the
Floor of the Exchange is like hanging out at OTB. Broadway and the
Exchange are like the first thing you see when you enter Disneyland in
California. You find yourself
in a turn-of-the-last-century town with a
trolley and an apothecary and a barber shop. That’s Broadway and Wall
It may dash your hopes for that nice warm feeling called Schadenfreude,
but the Masters of the Universe are smarter than the people they left
behind at the investment banks. Their hedge
funds have blown up here
and there, but unlike the investment banks, they are still very much in
business. They have hurriedly pulled themselves into defensive
positions inside their shells,
like turtles. Their Armageddon, if
will not come for two more days, which is to say, Tuesday, Sept. 30.
Most hedge funds open up a crack on Sept. 30, Dec. 31, March 31 and
June 30 to give investors the chance to “redeem” their investments,
meaning take their money out. These moments
are called gates, like a
series of gates in a prison. The gate is the limit, the fixed
percentage of your money, that the fund will allow you to take out at
one time. Even with these strict caps
on withdrawals, some funds may
end up nothing but shells.
Shed no tears for the Masters of the Universe, however, not that your
correspondent actually thought you might. Most of the young Masters
already have their own personal nut free and clear. “Nut” is the term
for the amount of money you need salted away in weather-proof
investments in order to generate enough interest to live comfortably in
Greenwich on Round Hill Road,
Pecksland Road or Field Point Road in a
house built before the First World War in an enchanting European style,
preferably made of stone featuring the odd turret, with a minimum of
acres around it and big enough to be called a manor. Every Master
of the Universe knows the number.
Fairfield County still
area in country
August 12, 2008
REGION -- The U.S. economy may be struggling as a whole, but Fairfield
County residents still have money -- and lots of it. In fact, the
region is the richest in the country.
It may not be equally distributed among all its residents, but the
Bridgeport-Norwalk-Stamford metropolitan area had the highest average
total income per resident at $80,192 in 2007 --
up from $74,281 in
2006. The 8 percent increase in per capita personal income also topped
the national average increase of 6.2 percent.
The figures are according to data released last week by the U.S. Bureau
of Economic Analysis.
Fairfield County retained the top spot, while Naples-Marco Island,
Fla., was second, and San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif., was third.
The national per capita personal income (total income divided by number
of residents) in 2007 was $38,632, less than half of Fairfield
County's. In Connecticut, Hartford ($47,641) was the
county and ranked 17th among the U.S.'s 363 metropolitan areas.
Connecticut was the highest-earning state with an average of $54,117 --
40 percent above the national average. New Jersey, Massachusetts, New
York and Maryland followed Connecticut
as the richest state.
Mississippi was the lowest-earning state at $28,845.
In another report disseminated via e-mail Monday by the Connecticut
Business and Industry Association, Connecticut taxpayers pay the
third-highest state and local taxes in the country,
behind only New
York and New Jersey. Citing results of a report from the Tax
Foundation, Connecticut residents paid 11.1 percent of their salaries
to state and local taxes. New Jersey
residents paid 11.8 percent and
New York residents paid 11.7 percent.
Professional services, health care, state and local government, and
finance contributed the most to personal income growth in both 2006 and
2007, according to the Bureau. The
construction industry contributed
almost nothing in 2007 after contributing heavily to growth in each
year from 2004 to 2006, according to the Buruea.
In Fairfield County, the financial sector plays a large role in the
inflated per capita personal income figures.
Economy is no drag on vacancies
By Peter Healy
Article Launched: 08/05/2008 02:42:39 AM EDT
As developers work on grandiose plans for projects that might attract
the next UBS AG or Royal Bank of Scotland to Stamford, the city's
office availability rate has remained virtually flat
About 16.9 percent of Stamford's 14.5 million square feet of office
space was up for lease or sublease as of June 30, compared with 17
percent in this year's first quarter and 16.1 percent
at the middle of
last year, according to averages from figures taken from five real
A 1 percentage point rise means 145,000 square feet of office space
became available for lease or sublease in Stamford. Available office
space includes vacant or set-to-become empty
As of June 30, 2006, 19 percent of Stamford's office space was vacant
or about to become so. One local real estate executive, however,
said he expects the market to improve.
"The office market is behaving well, considering all the bad news that
you read," said Jim Fagan, senior managing director of the Westchester
County, N.Y., and Connecticut operations of Stamford-based Cushman
& Wakefield Inc. "There is a slight uptick in employment, which is
"Tenants have showed continued interest in occupying space in
Stamford," he said. While the market has slowed down considerably on
smaller deals, there are a lot of big deals that are happening."
Fagan did not disclose the deals because leases have not been signed
Stamford's largest vacancies include the 96,000-square-foot Building
One of High Ridge Park, where MeadWestvaco Corp. headquarters had been,
and 243,000 square feet at 181 and 208
Harbor Drive at the Harbor Plaza
office complex. NatWest, a financial services company that is now part
of Royal Bank of Scotland, had leased the Harbor Plaza space but never
occupied much of it.
General Reinsurance plans to move its headquarters from 695 E. Main
St., also known as the Financial Centre, to 120 Long Ridge Road in
Stamford in 2010. That move and expiration of subleases in the building
would leave a 575,000-square-foot vacancy in downtown Stamford.
The office market was tighter in Greenwich. About 8.1 percent of the
town's 4.8 million square feet of office space was vacant or available
as of June 30, compared with 7.9 percent in this
year's first quarter,
11.4 percent in the middle of last year and 14.3 percent in June 2006.
Hedge funds, private equity firms and other financial services
companies have fueled the Greenwich office market in recent years.
"Greenwich still remains a tight market despite a general level of
uncertainty in the economy," said John Goodkind, managing principal at
the Greenwich office of Newmark Knight Frank.
"Demand remains steady, while quality product, which can accommodate
today's discerning tenants, remains scarce," he said, referring to
financial services companies.
Similar to Stamford and Greenwich, little changed in Norwalk's office
availability rate this year. In the second quarter, 13.6 percent of the
city's 5.7 million square feet of office space was up
for lease or
sublease, compared with 13.5 percent in this year's first quarter, 15
percent a year ago and 16.7 percent in June 2006.
The future of the Norwalk office market is uncertain, according to Fred
Brown, chairman of DVB Commercial Realty in Norwalk.
"There doesn't appear to be a lot of prospective tenants looking," he
Brown added, however, that one large lease can revive the local office
market, and slower times could help tenants negotiate lower rent.
"Landlords are hungry and will be more accommodating," Brown said.
to our state
Article Launched: 07/12/2008 02:39:30 AM EDT
Get ready for some competitive congressional races in Connecticut soon
after the 2020 Census. That's the time officials say the state is
likely to lose one of its five remaining U.S. House
seats - we
originally had six - and with it one of its seven electoral votes.
The state showed growth over the past year that could charitably be
called "anemic." The population rose 0.19 percent in the past year, the
equivalent of adding about 6,500 people. In a
state of almost 3.5
million, that's almost like going backward.
A multigenerational trend is emptying out the Northeast and filling up
the West, specifically places like Arizona, Colorado and Nevada. Those
states stand to pick up the congressional seats,
and the national
clout, that Connecticut and its neighbors appear on track to lose.
None of this is a surprise. However, it was only recently that
Connecticut had six seats in the House, losing one after the 2000
Census. To drop another one so soon would no doubt increase pessimism
about our state's economic viability.
Officials like Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the mayors of Stamford and Norwalk
challenged the idea that Connecticut is in a downward spiral, saying
the state and its cities are either holding their
own or poised for a
comeback. Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy said an increase in housing
stock has his city on a path for population growth. Mayor Richard
Moccia, meanwhile, said the
same of Norwalk's redevelopment plans.
But the nationwide mortgage crisis has put a serious crimp in the
state's housing market.
The reasons for the statewide lack of growth are legion, but not easy
to change. Connecticut is expensive, for people and businesses. There's
little to keep young people here. The weather is
nice for a few months,
but why settle for that when you can get year-round sun? If we're not
careful, the Land of Steady Habits will become the Land of Rich and Old
People. Most of the
places in Connecticut where people would like to
live - i.e., in close proximity New York City - are far out of reach
for most people wishing to buy a home, or even obtain an affordable
In much of our region, the housing slump has not caused a
significant reduction in average home prices.
The warning signs for Connecticut are there. No one will be able to say
we didn't see it coming. But time is running short to take effective
action to halt if not reverse these trends. Job retention and creation
must be a major focus involving cooperative efforts by state and local
officials. That should include a rigorous review of state taxing
policies, as well as the state spending that drives them. Affordable
housing, a topic that produces a lot of talk but little progress, needs
to be confronted too.
Connecticut ignores these concerns at its economic and political peril.
from State Data Center at UCONN...
Growth stalls in the state
By Kate King, Special Correspondent
Article Launched: 07/11/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT
Fairfield County saw a small increase in population despite a drop
statewide, according to census figures released yesterday.
Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien and Westport all saw minor
increases, according to the data. Norwalk posted a decline of 0.1
percent. But the statewide picture isn't promising, experts say,
pointing to a shrinking work force, loss of jobs, an aging population
and a potential reduction in state representation in Washington, D.C.
"This population growth is consistent with our slow growth in the
recent past," said Lisa Mercurio, director of the Business Council of
Fairfield County. "New England as a whole has been
growing more slowly
than the rest of the U.S."
The population in Connecticut rose 0.19 percent over the last year,
according to the census data. Connecticut's population growth is
the eighth lowest in the nation, according the report.
Nevada had the
highest growth rate since 2006 at 2.9 percent, and Rhode Island had the
lowest at minus 0.36 percent.
Within Connecticut, Milford's population grew the most, by 532 people.
Bridgeport showed the biggest population decline, losing 252 people
over the past year.
Though 35 percent of the state's 169 towns declined in population,
Fairfield County's population grew 0.1 percent. Stamford and Darien's
population grew by 0.1 percent, and Greenwich
and Westport grew by 0.4
percent. New Canaan's population increased by 0.5 percent.
Local leaders remained optimistic. Despite the city's losses,
Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia said the city's redevelopment plans put
Norwalk on a course toward growth.
"From a statistical point of view, in my mind it's virtually no loss
whatsoever, so I'm not worried," he said. "I don't see this as a threat
to our economic viability. I think with our new development projects in
place, with more affordable housing going in down the road, you might
see an increase in population."
Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy painted an equally bright picture,
estimating a 10-year growth rate of 6 percent for the city, coming from
an increase in housing stock. Malloy also suspected
census counts miss some of the city's population.
"As much as I think these reports are interesting. . . . I respectfully
would argue that it probably undercounts our immigrant population,"
The slow statewide growth comes on the heels of a population boom,
which lasted from 1995 to 2003, said Orlando Rodriguez, demographer and
manager of the Connecticut State Data
Center. The population
growth during those eight years was abnormal, a reaction to the end of
a deep economic recession that took place in Connecticut from 1990 to
The population growth rate that Connecticut has experienced since 2004
is "more normal, looking forward, than what happened between 1995 and
2003," Rodriguez said. But the return to
normal of Connecticut's
population growth rate isn't necessarily a good thing for the state.
"One of the things that's concerning us is that we're seeing a decline
in population in urban areas, which is counter to what we had
expected," he said.
A declining urban population means a smaller work force to replace the
growing elderly population in the state, Rodriguez said.
Connecticut has one of the nation's oldest populations,
meaning a high
number of senior citizens.
Before the 2007 census, demographers had projected a job loss of 60,000
workers by the year 2030, he said. However, if urban areas continue to
lose population, that worker loss will be
even greater. Also
contributing to the slow growth rate in Connecticut is a net loss of
population to other states.
"We send more people to other states than we get from other states,"
Rodriguez said. "You've got a lot of elderly people, not a lot of
children being born, and folks leaving - it's lucky
Connecticut has any
population growth at all."
The only reason Connecticut has not dipped into negative population
growth is the 15,000 foreign immigrants who have been coming to the
state yearly since 2004. In addition to contributing
to a decline
in the work force, slow population growth could cut Connecticut's
representation in Congress.
"By 2020 we will lose a congressional seat," Rodriguez said. "For 2010,
we'll probably be OK unless the bottom really falls out and Connecticut
goes into major population loss."
Although Connecticut will most likely remain a five-district state for
the next 12 years, uneven population growth within the districts will
probably force a redrawing of the districts before then,
Uncomfortable Answers to
Questions on the Economy
By PETER S. GOODMAN
Published: July 19, 2008
You have heard that Fannie and Freddie, their gentle names
notwithstanding, may cripple the financial system without a large
infusion of taxpayer money. You have gleaned that jobs are
disappearing, housing prices are plummeting, and paychecks are
effectively shrinking as food and energy prices soar. You have noted
the disturbing talk of crisis hovering over Wall Street.
has clearly gone wrong with the economy. But how bad are things,
really? And how
bad might they get before better days return? Even to many
economists who recently thought
the gloom was overblown, the situation
looks grim. The economy is in the midst of a very rough patch. The
worst is probably still ahead.
Job losses will probably accelerate through this year and into 2009,
and the job market will probably stay weak even longer. Home prices
will probably keep falling, shrinking household wealth
“The open question is whether we’re in for a bad couple of years, or a
bad decade,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the
International Monetary Fund, now a professor at Harvard.
Is this a recession?
Officially, no. The economy is not in recession until a panel at a
private institution called the National Bureau of Economic Research
says so. Unofficially, many economists think a recession started six or
seven months ago, even as the economy has continued to expand — albeit
at a tepid pace.
Many assume that if the economy expands at all, then it isn’t a
recession, but that’s not true. The bureau defines a recession as “a
significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy,
lasting more than a few months.” If enough people lose their jobs,
factories stop making things, stores stop selling things, and less
money lands in people’s pockets, it is probably
Whatever it is called, it is a painful time for tens of millions of
people. Indeed, this may turn out to be the most wrenching downturn
since the two recessions in the early 1980s; almost surely worse than
the recession that ended the technology bubble at the beginning of this
decade; perhaps worse than the downturn of the early 1990s that
followed the last dip in real estate prices.
But, despite what some doomsayers now proclaim, this is not the Great
Depression, when unemployment spiked to 25 percent and millions of
previously working people woke up in
shantytowns. Not by any measure,
even as your neighbors make cryptic remarks above dusting off lessons
passed down from grandparents about how to turn a can of beans into a
How bad is housing?
Bad in many markets, awful in some, and still O.K. in a few.
The downturn has its roots in the real estate frenzy that turned lonely
Nevada ranches into suburban ranch homes and swampland in Florida into
condominiums. Speculators drove home
prices beyond any historical
connection to incomes. Gravity did the rest. After roughly doubling in
value from 2000 to 2005, home prices have fallen about 17 percent — and
more like 25
percent in inflation-adjusted terms — according to the
widely watched Case-Shiller index.
Even so, most economists think house prices must fall an additional 10
to 15 percent to get back to reality. One useful measure is the
relationship between the costs of buying and renting a home. From 1985
to 2002, the average American home sold for about 14 times the annual
rent for a similar home, according to Moody’s Economy.com. By
early 2006, home prices ballooned
to 25 times rental prices. Since
then, the ratio has dipped back to about 20 — still far above the
With mortgages now hard to obtain and speculation no longer attractive,
arithmetic has replaced momentum as the guiding force for housing
prices. The fundamental equation points down:
Even as construction
grinds down, there are still many more houses on the market than there
are people to buy them, and more on the way as more homeowners slip
By the reckoning of Economy.com, enough houses are on the market to
satisfy demand for the next two-and-a-half years without building a
single new one.
The time it takes to sell a newly completed house has expanded from an
average of four months in 2005 to about nine months, according to
analysis by Dean Baker, co-director of the Center
for Economic and
And many sales are falling through — more than 30 percent in some parts
of California and Florida — as buyers fail to secure financing,
exacerbating the glut of homes, Mr. Baker said.
No wonder that in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix and Las Vegas,
house prices have in recent months declined at annual rates of more
than 33 percent.
When will banks revive?
So far, they have written off more than $300 billion in loans. Many
experts now predict the toll will rise to $1 trillion or more — a
staggering sum that could cripple many institutions for years.
Back when home prices were multiplying, banks poured oceans of borrowed
money into real estate loans. Unlike the dot-com companies at the heart
of the last speculative investment
bubble, the new gold rush was
centered on something that seemed unimpeachably solid — the American
But the whole thing worked only as long as housing prices rose. Falling
prices landed like a bomb. Homeowners fell behind on their loans and
could not qualify for new ones: There was no
value left in their house
to borrow against. As millions of people defaulted, the banks
confronted enormous losses in a bloody period of reckoning.
In March, the Federal Reserve helped engineer a deal for JPMorgan Chase
to buy troubled investment bank Bear Stearns. Many assumed the worst
was over. But, this month, the open
distress of Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac — two huge, government sponsored institutions that together own or
guarantee nearly half of the nation’s $12 trillion in outstanding
sent a signal that more ugly surprises may lie in wait.
To calm markets, the government last weekend hurriedly put together a
rescue package for Fannie and Freddie that, if used, could cost as much
as $300 billion. The urgent need for a
rescue — together with another
round of billion-dollar write-offs on Wall Street — has unnerved
economists and investors.
“I was a relative optimist, but I’ve certainly become more
pessimistic,” said Alan S. Blinder, an economist at Princeton, and a
former vice chairman of the board of governors at the Federal Reserve.
“The financial system looks substantially worse now than it did a month
ago. If the Freddie and Fannie bailout were to fail, it could get a
hell of a lot worse. If we get more bank
failures, we have the
possibility of seeing more of these pictures of people standing in line
to pull their money out. That could really scare consumers.”
In one respect, Mr. Blinder added, this is like the Great Depression.
“We haven’t seen this kind of travail in the financial markets since
the 1930s,” he said.
More than two years ago, Nouriel Roubini, an economist at the Stern
School of Business at New York University, said that the housing bubble
would give way to a financial crisis and a
recession. He was widely
dismissed as an attention-seeking Chicken Little. Now, Mr. Roubini says
the worst is yet to come, because the account-squaring has so far been
to bad mortgages, leaving other areas remaining —
credit cards, auto loans, corporate and municipal debt.
Mr. Roubini says the cost of the financial system’s losses could reach
$2 trillion. Even if it’s closer to $1 trillion, he adds, “we’re not
even a third of the way there.”
Where will the banks raise the huge sums needed to replenish the
capital they have apparently lost? And what will happen if they cannot?
The answers to these questions are unknown, an unsettling void that
holds much of the economy at a standstill.
“We’re in a dangerous spot,” said Andrew Tilton, an economist at
Goldman Sachs. “The big threat is more capital losses.”
Banks are a crucial piece of the economy’s arterial system, steering
capital where it is needed to fuel spending and power growth. Now, they
are holding tight to their dollars, starving
businesses of loans they
might use to expand, and depriving families of money they might use to
buy houses and fill them with furniture and appliances.
From last June to this June, commercial bank lending declined more than
9 percent, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by Goldman
“You have another wave of anxiety, another tightening of credit,” said
Robert Barbera, chief economist at the research and trading firm ITG.
“The idea that we’ll have a second half of the
year recovery has gone
by the boards.”
Is my job safe?
Economic slowdowns always mean job losses. Unemployment already has
risen, and almost certainly will increase more.
The first signs of distress emerged in housing. Construction companies,
real estate agencies, mortgage brokers and banks began laying people
off. Next, jobs started being cut at factories making products linked
to housing, from carpets and furniture to lighting and flooring.
But as the real estate bust spilled over into the broader economy,
depleting household wealth, the impacts rippled out to retailers,
beauty parlors, law offices and trucking companies,
throughout the economy, save for health care, farming and energy. Over
the last six months, the economy has shed 485,000 private sector jobs,
according to the
Labor Department. Many people have seen hours reduced.
The unemployment rate still remains low by historical standards, at 5.5
percent. And so far, the job losses — about 65,000 a month this year —
do not approach the magnitude of those
seen in past downturns,
particularly the twin recessions at the beginning of the 1980s, when
the economy shed upward of 140,000 jobs a month and the unemployment
But Goldman Sachs assumes unemployment will reach 6.5 percent by the
end of 2009, which translates into several hundred thousand more
Americans out of work.
These losses are landing on top of what was, for most Americans, a
remarkably weak period of expansion. From 1992 to 2000 — as the
technology boom catalyzed spending and hiring —
the economy added more
than 22 million private sector jobs. Over the last eight years, only 5
million new jobs have been added.
The loss of work is hitting Americans along with an assortment of
troubles — gasoline prices in excess of $4 a gallon, over all inflation
of about 5 percent, and declining wages.
“In every dimension, people are worse off than they were,” said Mr.
Roubini, the New York University economist.
Are consumers done?
That is a major worry.
The fate of the economy now rests on the shoulders of the American
consumer, whose spending amounts to 70 percent of all economic
When people go to the mall and buy televisions and eat out, their money
circulates through the economy. When they tighten their belts,
austerity ripples out and chokes growth.
Through the years of the housing boom, many Americans came to treat
their homes like automated teller machines that never required a
deposit. They harvested cash through sales,
second mortgages and home
equity lines of credit — an artery of finance that reached $840 billion
a year from 2004 to 2006, according to work by the economists James
and Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman. That
allowed Americans to live far in excess of what they brought home from
But by the first three months of this year, that flow had constricted
to an annual rate of about $200 billion.
Average household debt has swelled to 120 percent of annual income, up
from 60 percent in 1984, according to the Federal Reserve.
And now the banks are turning off the credit taps.
“Credit is going to remain tight for a time potentially measured in
years,” said Mr. Tilton, the Goldman Sachs economist.
This is the landscape that has so many economists convinced that
consumer spending must dip, putting the squeeze on the economy for
“The question is, will it get as bad as the 1970s?” asked Mr. Rogoff,
recalling an era of spiking gas prices and double-digit inflation.
Long term, Americans may have no choice but to spend less, save more
and reduce debts — in short, to live within their means.
“We’re getting a lot of the adjustment and it hurts,” said Kristin
Forbes, a former member of the Council of Economic Advisers under
President George W. Bush, and now a scholar at
M.I.T.’s Sloan School of
Management. “But it’s an adjustment we’re going to have to make.”
Who’s to blame?
There is plenty to go around.
In the estimation of many economists, it starts with the Federal
Reserve. The central bank lowered interest rates following the
calamitous end of the technology bubble in 2000, lowered
after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and then kept them low,
even as speculators began to trade homes like dot-com stocks.
Meanwhile, the Fed sat back and watched as Wall Street’s financial
wizards engineered diabolically complicated investments linked to
mortgages, generating huge amounts of speculative
capital that turned
real estate into a conflagration.
“At the end of this movie, it’s clear that the Fed will have to care
about excesses,” Mr. Barbera said.
Prices multiplied as many homeowners took on more property than they
could afford, lured by low introductory interest rates that eventually
reset higher, sending many people into
Mortgage brokers netted commissions as they lent almost
indiscriminately, offering exotically lenient terms — no money down, no
income or job required. Wall Street banks earned
billions selling risky
mortgage-linked securities around the world, aided by ratings agencies
that branded them solid.
Through it all, a lot of ordinary Americans borrowed a lot more money
then they could afford to pay back, running up enormous credit card
bills and borrowing against the value of their
homes. Now comes the day
boasts highest GDP
By Elizabeth Kim, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 07/20/2008 02:31:14 AM EDT
Call it a triumph of brains over brawn.
The region consisting of Stamford, Bridgeport and Norwalk has the
highest average gross domestic product per capita in the country,
according to a new economic study from the Federal
Reserve Bank of New
In their report, "Human Capital and Economic Activity in Urban
America," economists Jaison Abel and Todd Gabe cited the 20 highest
average gross domestic product per capita of
metropolitan areas from
2001 to 2005. They based their list on data provided by the U.S. Bureau
of Economic Analysis.
The Stamford, Bridgeport and Norwalk area, considered a contiguous
employment zone, had an average GDP per capita of $74,261. In second
place was the San Jose, Calif., area with
$66,708. The greater New York
area, which includes northern New Jersey, came in 15th, with an average
More than the rankings themselves, Abel and Gabe were interested in
explaining the variations. They focused on their examination on "human
capital," what Gabe refers to as "the knowledge
and skills embodied in
"Our study confirmed that human capital is a very important determinant
of economic activity," he said.
Moreover, Gabe observed that Stamford specializes in the industries -
administration and management, economics and accounting, technology -
that require high levels of human capital
and generate high levels of
"You could say it's the recipe for success in the region," he said.
Those familiar with the region said the GDP findings were positive but
not especially surprising.
"This is a characteristic that we have always understood
nonempirically. Our region has grown as a knowledge-based economy that
competes globally," said Lisa Mercurio, a director at
Council of Fairfield County.
Stamford, in particular, has paved the way toward becoming a
"For the last 10 to 15 years, the Stamford area has had rapid growth in
the financial services industry," said Nick Perna, an economic adviser
to Webster Financial Corp. who teaches at
Yale University. "These are
all jobs that require a high level of education and which provide on
the job training skills."
But there is a dark flip side to growth. Edward Deak, an economics
professor at Fairfield University, said high incomes typically push up
the cost of homes, which in turn, makes life tougher
"It becomes a story of two economies," he said. "You have many people
who are doing well, and you have others who are falling by the
And ultimately, the city's specialization means the fortunes of all the
residents may rest on one group in particular.
"Let's hope the financial sector doesn't get too far in the doldrums,"
This is not the first time the region has gotten attention for having a
brainy work force.
In February, Forbes.com named the Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk
metropolitan area the 15th "smartest city" in the country. According to
the article, 39 percent of residents aged 25 and
older have bachelor
degrees, while 84 percent have graduated high school.
Report: Westport Commercial Real
Estate Takes Hit
July 11, 2008
Reflecting tough economic times, the Westport office vacancy rate
stayed at around 7.5 percent for the third period in a row but
availability rates went up to 12.5 percent as of July 1, a
Westport commercial real estate broker said today.
Ted Hampe: office market showing “disturbing trend.” Dave Matlow/WN
Ted Hampe, chairman of HK Group, said his company tracks some 172
office buildings, with square footage totaling about 2,620,000 square
feet, of which 191,300 was vacant on July 1.
However, Hampe said an additional 131,000 square feet was being offered
for sub-lease or future direct lease, reflecting planned tenant moves.
Therefore, the office availability rate was 12.5 percent on July 1, he
“The Westport office market is showing a disturbing trend with
relatively few leases in the first half of 2008, predictive of higher
vacancy rates in future periods,” Hampe said.
On the retail front where a stable 5 percent vacancy rate was reported
in January, several sublets are now being offered on Main Street and
along the Post Road, he said.
“While we have not yet compiled the actual figures, we feel that the
availability rate is about 10 percent,” Hampe said.
For comparison purposes, HK Group issued the following figures for
July 2007 = 7.4 percent vacant, 10 percent available
January 2008 = 7.6 percent, 8.9 percent
July 2008 = 7.3 percent, 12.3 percent
Towns can’t be stricter with big
subdivisions; Windsor ‘Lord’s Woods’ case sets statewide precedent
By Alex Wood, Manchester Journal Inquirer
Published: Friday, September 5, 2008 11:36 PM EDT
In a Windsor case with statewide significance, the state Supreme Court
ruled this week that local planning and zoning commissions can’t impose
stricter standards on large subdivisions
than they do on small ones.
The decision overturns certain conditions that Windsor’s Town Planning
and Zoning Commission had placed on a 60-lot subdivision to be built on
what is now a wooded tract between
Prospect Hill Road and Pierce
Boulevard. The developers of the planned “Lord’s Woods”
subdivision are Lord Family of Windsor LLC and Suffield developer
Robert A. Daddario.
Daddario is the son-in-law of N. Philip Lord of 245 Prospect Hill Road,
the manager of the family development company and a former member of
the TPZC and the town’s Inland Wetlands
and Watercourses Commission.
In a separate decision this week, the Supreme Court agreed with the
state Appellate Court that the wetlands commission overstepped its
bounds when it rejected a revised plan for the
subdivision that reduced
the number of points of access to surrounding roads from three to two.
That decision sends the proposal back to the wetlands commission for
further action. Richard A. Vassalo, the local lawyer representing the
town in the cases, explained that the court
sent the case back — rather
than simply ordering the wetlands commission to issue the permit —
because wetlands regulations change over time.
Lord said Friday that the disagreements with the town have caused the
developers to miss “the top of the bubble” in the housing market.
But he added, “It’s going to be a really fine development.” He said the
site is one of the nicest in town.
“They’re not going to build shacks in a nice neighborhood,” Vassalo
agreed. “He would be wasting his land.”
Windsor zoning regulations require a “special use permit” to subdivide
property into more than 30 lots. Using that authority, the TPZC imposed
28 conditions on its April 2005 approval of
Lord’s Woods, six of which
the developers appealed to court.
Hartford Superior Court Judge Lois Tanzer overturned three of the
conditions in 2006 but upheld the other three. The developers appealed
the latter part of the decision, and the Supreme
Court took the case
without having the Appellate Court decide it first.
The Supreme Court decided that imposing extra conditions on a
subdivision of more than 30 lots violates a state law governing zoning.
The law requires that zoning regulations be uniform for
each “use of
land” throughout each zoning district in a town.
Justice Richard N. Palmer, who wrote the Supreme Court decision,
considered what would have happened if the property at issue had
consisted of two parcels, under different ownership,
with a 30-lot
subdivision proposed on each.
If the proposals met requirements set in the regulations for the AA
residential zone, the TPZC “would be required to approve them with no
further inquiry into the effects of the subdivision on
utilities, or municipal services,” Palmer wrote.
“It is clear, therefore, that the application of the regulation is
predicated on the character of the land’s ownership, not on its
proposed use,” he continued. “It is well established that the
power can be exercised only to regulate land use and is not concerned
Vassalo said the issue of whether special use permits can be required
for large subdivisions is important for developers across the state.
In explaining the rationale for such regulations, he said, “Just
because they buy land in our town, they can’t dump a huge subdivision
The wetlands commission’s concern about the revision of the subdivision
plan to reduce the number of points of road access was that it would
require access via an old wood road during construction. That road
passes over a narrow culvert over a brook between two ponds. The
commission was concerned about pollution of the brook as heavy
construction vehicles drove
over the culvert.
But the Appellate Court concluded last year that it was mere
speculation that the culvert might be compromised by construction
vehicles. The Appellate Court reversed the local
and the Supreme Court agreed this week.
Discussion of affordable housing and Selectmens' vision at March
12, 2009 Town Plan work session...review of workshop.
Weston's Plan of Development: What is
the town's vision?
Written by Patricia Gay
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
School expansion, adequate municipal septic facilities, and the need
for active recreational areas.
When the town of Weston put together its Plan of Conservation and
Development (POCD) 10 years ago, those were three major public concerns.
But are they the same concerns people in town have today?
That’s what land use experts are hoping to find out at a special
planning workshop being held Thursday, Feb. 26, at the Weston High
School cafeteria. The purpose is to gather public
input on land use
issues for development of the new plan.
The workshop will be moderated by Glenn Chalder of Planimetrics, an
Avon-based planning and consulting firm. “Ultimately, the new plan of
development should reflect the town’s vision,
and you need to know what
that vision is,” Mr. Chalder told members of the Planning and Zoning
Commission at a recent meeting.
The commission hired Planimetrics to conduct the workshop to gather
information during the scoping phase of the plan’s development. The
commissioners are also interviewing local officials
officials to get their thoughts.
After the scoping phase, the commission will begin to write a new plan
for the town.
Based on state legislation, every town in Connecticut must come up with
an updated Plan of Conservation and Development every 10 years.
Weston’s most recent plan was prepared in
2000, so the town has until
2010 to adopt a new one.
The POCD will include a review of the town’s demographic data, land use
policies, transportation needs, open space and recreation needs,
housing needs, and special study area
It establishes a guide for the town on how to make decisions concerning
its development policies.
At the upcoming workshop, the public may weigh in on such topics as
expansion of commercial development, fence and pool house regulations,
cemeteries, public swimming pools,
affordable housing initiatives,
sewers and public water mains, and Lachat and the use of town
Another topic may be the town’s home occupation zoning regulations,
which have recently come under scrutiny in connection with questions
raised by the Planning and Zoning Commission about the number of
employees working at a local pediatrician’s office.
Stephan Grozinger, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said
he hopes a lot of Westonites will attend the workshop and express their
opinions about home occupations
or other zoning restrictions. “P&Z
is dedicated to making the POCD a reflection of the entire town’s
vision of the future and to make the plan a valuable and dynamic
document,” he said.
Weston is one of the lowest density residential communities in the
greater New York metropolitan region.
According to the town’s 2000 POCD, some of the factors that keep Weston
primarily a “bedroom community” are its absence of public sewage
disposal systems, zoning regulations that
require a minimum two-acre
lot for each residence, absence of commercial and industrial
development, and more than 3,400 acres of land set aside for parks,
open space, conservation,
or watershed protection.
Under current zoning laws, most of Weston is zoned for use as
single-family, detached residences at a density of not more than one
house per two acres.
However, there are a number of other uses allowed in the residential
zone by special permit approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Those uses include schools, churches and
places of worship, town use
and municipal recreational facilities, firehouses and police stations,
public library, not-for-profit museums and art galleries, private
schools, nursery schools
or day camps, private nonprofit recreational
clubs, riding stables and academies, farming, nursery gardening and
truck gardening, watershed facility or water supply, public utilities,
parks, conservation and nature uses, and drainage or water control
The town is also zoned for a Neighborhood Shopping District, which
allows commercial businesses. That district is small and covers the
Weston Shopping Center, and no other properties
At the planning workshop, Westonites may discuss if there should be
more commercial business in town or if they would like to see the
Neighborhood Shopping District expanded.
P&Z commissioners said they have heard from some residents that it
would be good to have more services and businesses in the community,
while others have asked the commission
to keep the town as it is, with
little commercial activity.
The planning workshop will be held next Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m.
in the Weston High School cafeteria at 115 School Road. In case of
inclement weather, check local Channel 79.
Public nixes idea of expanded
district in Weston
Written by Patricia Gay
Thursday, 23 July 2009 00:00
A large majority of residents attending a town plan workshop were
against the concept of forming a village district in the center of
Harold Halpin, a 16-year resident of Weston and member of the Weston
Village District Coalition, appeared before the Planning and Zoning
Commission Monday night, July 20, to discuss a multi-zoned, village
district plan that would allow for a mix of residential, municipal,
religious, and business uses in the town center.
The town is currently zoned residential, with one exception — the
Neighborhood Shopping District, which houses Weston Center.
Mr. Halpin asked P&Z to consider incorporating a village district
into the town’s 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development, which the
commission is in the midst of reviewing and updating.
He said the district would be a good thing for Weston and give the town
flexibility to add things like medical offices, sidewalks and cafes.
“The idea is not to turn the center into a commercial district, but to
protect the distinct character of the town while adding some more
services,” Mr. Halpin said.
Another benefit he said was that land values within the district would
increase — if and when residents decided to sell.
P&Z member Don Saltzman did not care for the idea. “It’s too broad
a concept. It’s difficult to encumber people’s houses and I don’t
understand why churches are included,” he said.
Several residents with homes within the proposed contours of the
district said they did not want to risk someone next to them putting up
a commercial structure.
Others who spoke against the idea said it was unfair that houses within
the district could benefit and profit by selling their homes for
And several other others said they wanted Weston to stay as it was,
without more development.
Mr. Halpin explained that business and commercial development was a
major topic of discussion by the public at a planning workshop in
February. At that workshop, approximately two-thirds of the 100
participants said they would like to see more goods and services in
Christine Lomuscio, who attended the February workshop and spoke in
favor of more businesses, had a change of heart Monday night. “I know I
said I was in favor of more services back then, but that was at budget
time and when the economy was really bad,” she said.
Mr. Saltzman polled the audience to find out how many favored the
proposal. There were seven votes in favor, and approximately 35 against.
P&Z member Katie Gregory said to keep in mind that the village
district was only a concept and there was no application pending for
it. “What you are bringing to us is an idea,” she said.
“Yes, this is a just tool for Planning and Zoning to consider as they
review the town plan,” Mr. Halpin said.
Read it now!
water crisis will grow worse if action not taken
By Judy Benson
Published on 4/4/2009
New London - Friday's intermittent rain and dense fog suited the
occasion: the first of two days of a conference featuring scholarly
talks about water.
The conference, “Water Scarcity & Conflict,” focused on a commodity
many Americans take for granted and often waste, but one that is
increasingly the source of tensions and supply
problems across the
”I think there is a water crisis, and it's getting worse, not better,”
said Peter Gleick, a leading expert on the sustainable use of water,
who gave the opening address. Gleick is co-founder
and president of The
Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan policy research group focusing on
environment and development issues. He is also a member of the National
Academy of Science
and a fellow of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science.
Gleick noted there is good news about water - Americans consume less
than 20 years ago, for example, thanks largely to water-conserving
toilets and a shift away from industries
that use large amounts.
It's not inevitable that water problems will get worse, if action is
taken, said Gleick. There is ample water to fill human needs, he said,
and the technology and wealth exist to solve
and distribution problems. But actually doing so requires directed
political and social will that has too often been lacking, he said.
One billion of the world's people don't have access to safe drinking
water, and 2.5 billion are without adequate sanitation, leading to the
spread of water-borne diseases like cholera
and chronic diarrhea that
result in thousands of deaths each year.
”All of them are preventable, and most of the victims are under age
five,” Gleick said.
The overuse and misuse of water also impacts ecosystems, causing
wildlife declines and extinctions and the loss of natural system
functions that benefit humans but are often unseen,
Another recent troubling trend, he said, is that pharmaceutical and
chemical residues are increasingly being found in public water supplies
as well as natural lakes, rivers, estuaries and groundwater.
”Water quality is deteriorating with industrial waste and
pharmaceuticals in mixes we don't expect, and with consequences we
don't understand,” he said.
Climate change is also affecting water supplies, he said. As the planet
warms, hydrological cycles change, and with them, rainfall and storm
patterns are disrupted. That could have direct impacts on agricuture
and drinking water systems.
Population growth is also stressing water supplies, he said, noting
that populations are growing fastest in the parts of the world with the
biggest water problems. The present world
population is estimated at
6.7 billion. In some areas, aquifers are being pumped faster than they
Cutting wasteful water use with higher water and sewer rates is one
way, he said. The rate structure, he added, should be tiered with lower
rates for low-income households. He said he
strongly believes that
access to clean water is a basic human right, but that doesn't mean it
should be free.
”Everything we do with water we can do with less water,” Gleick said.
Investment in aging water-supply, distribution and water-treatment
systems is also needed to increase efficiency and remove more
contaminants. To increase supply, he advocated more harvesting of
rainwater and reusing wastewater for watering lawns, golf courses and
industry to increase supply.
”Where we're heading is where we don't want to go,” he said. “But the
good news is that there is a path to a sustainable system.”
The conference, held at Connecticut College, was organized by the
college's Goodwin-Niering Center for Conservation Biology and
At Forum In Hartford, Planners Talk
About Reshaping State's Future
The Hartford Courant
By DON STACOM
June 1, 2009
Clustering new housing around Connecticut's job centers, transit lines
and existing commercial hubs would significantly cut greenhouse gas
emissions and reduce the cost of infrastructure in the decades ahead,
regional planners said at a forum in Hartford.
Starting from that basic premise, the group Friday exploring possible
approaches to the state's future that ranged from the innocuous, such
as tax incentives for building apartment towers near Union Station, to
the semi-revolutionary — creating a streetcar route from downtown to
the University of Connecticut Medical Center via Farmington Avenue.
"It's about giving people freedom to choose, and preserving long-term
value for our communities," said David Kooris, Connecticut director of
the Regional Plan Association.
Planners throughout the country have debated urban development for
decades, but the conversations have taken on a new urgency in the midst
of the ferocious financial downturn, erratic fuel prices, deepening
concern about global warming and widening dissatisfaction with
relentless suburban sprawl.
Changes in streetscapes, building design and municipal zoning are
necessary, but they don't need to be as jarring as some traditional New
England suburbanites might think, according to speakers at the
Too often, towns impose development rules that discourage efficient
growth and create miles of isolated cul-de-sacs and inaccessible
neighborhoods, creating ever-worsening traffic congestion as people
relocate farther and farther from job centers, downtown commercial
zones, medical offices and mass transit routes, said Patrick Condon, a
professor of landscape architecture at the University of British
He recommended encouraging interconnected streets with good bike and
pedestrian lanes, allowing apartments and multifamily homes and
one-family houses on the same streets, and conserving land by rewarding
Connecticut has relied too long and too hard on sprawling subdivisions
of big-acreage tracts in remote suburbs and semi-rural towns, creating
isolated pockets of low-density development that mass transit can't
reach efficiently, according to several speakers.
Kooris said that with Connecticut's population shifting from
predominantly young and middle-aged families to more elderly, young
couples, single people and one-parent families, the housing market is
undergoing a long-term shift.
"We bet the bank on one-family, detached houses with big yards. The
demographics tell us we need to make our portfolio more robust — the
Connecticut of five or 10 years from now will be demanding a different
product," Kooris said. "But we're not talking about doing away with
established one-family-home neighborhoods, not at all. We're talking
about what we build, where we build, we're talking about tweaking
underperforming strip malls and dead or dying malls, brownfields, dying
Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant
Paris Journal: A Paris Plan,
Less Grand Than Gritty
By STEVEN ERLANGER
June 11, 2009
PARIS — Every president of France’s Fifth Republic has had his
Pharaonic project, by which he believes he will leave his mark on the
capital and French culture.
François Mitterrand, a fierce Socialist known as the Sphinx,
left the new French national library and, to continue the Ozymandias
theme, the controversial glass pyramid in the Louvre. Jacques Chirac
left the Musée du Quai Branly, an anthropological museum, with
an argumentative design by the French architect Jean Nouvel.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, no slouch, wants nothing more than to leave
behind “Le Grand Paris.” In more than a year of discussions, there have
been some spectacular ideas and drawings by 10 teams of famous
architects, drawn by the president’s invitation to reimagine Paris as a
city integrated with its suburbs and responsible in its environmental
Antoine Grumbach imagines Paris stretching along the Seine to Le Havre
and the sea. Roland Castro, whose team included a sociologist and a
philosopher, proposed a 250-acre park circled by skyscrapers in La
Courneuve, one of the grimmest of the poor Paris suburbs. Richard
Rogers plans rooftop gardens and parks built above railway lines. Yves
Lion sees Paris sprouting with fields and forests, with citizens able
to cultivate their own vegetable patches, an unfortunate similarity to
the necessities of Soviet cities.
The architects have provided the ribbons and the balloons, but few if
any of the plans are likely to be carried out. Pressed by politics and
financing, Mr. Sarkozy has concluded that he will reach for reduced
goals that are grittier and essentially practical. The ambition remains
the same: to try to bring about a significant improvement in the city’s
transportation and housing stock, stimulate economic development and
break the stranglehold of an artificial “wall” around a relatively
small city. The wall is represented by a roughly 22-mile circular
highway that separates Paris from a “crown” of suburbs — legally
separate cities — where many Parisian workers live.
Mr. Sarkozy has even given up on an effort to reorganize the government
and incorporate some of these smaller towns into what really would have
been a Grand Paris. A plan for local government reorganization he
commissioned from former Prime Minister Édouard Balladur proved
so unpopular with the mayors and local councils of the rest of
Île-de-France, the administrative region that includes Paris and
its suburbs, that the agile and realistic Mr. Sarkozy simply shelved it.
But that left Mr. Sarkozy with a problem. What would be so grand about
his Grand Paris?
His answer was, simply, infrastructure. In a speech at the end of
April, Mr. Sarkozy said he would leave the dreams of reform to another
generation. He said that the state would provide around $50 billion for
what he said were complementary proposals for extended subway service
that would allow people in the suburbs to travel between them without
having to enter Paris, improve existing and saturated subway and train
lines, tie some of Paris’s most marginalized and poor neighborhoods
into the grid and finally connect all three Paris airports to efficient
But construction is not expected to start until at least 2012, and it
would take at least 10 years.
The regional council had already drawn up ideas for a circular subway
line called the Arc Express, with an estimated cost of $8.4 billion, to
connect the inner “crown” of suburbs.
But Mr. Sarkozy’s idea is for a more extravagant automated subway line
known as the Grand 8, because it both goes around Paris in a wider
circle and also cuts through it, looking like a figure 8 on its side.
Some joke that the Grand Infinity might be a better name for it, given
the length, some 80 miles, the difficulty of acquiring the land and the
cost, around $25 billion, including needed improvements and extensions
to three existing lines.
While Mr. Sarkozy has concentrated on transportation, housing is
another crucial component of the plan. Paris is already badly
overcrowded, with its poorest minorities largely placed in big public
housing projects in the outer rings or suburbs of the city. Still, with
only 41 square miles in land (just 1.7 times the size of Manhattan) and
a strict height restriction of 121 feet for buildings, there is a
severe housing shortage.
To meet demand, the government and private industry are supposed to be
building 70,000 housing units a year inside Paris, but in fact have
been building only 35,000. Mr. Sarkozy has now backed the 70,000 annual
goal as part of his plan, including 19,000 more public housing units.
Officials have been talking about a public-private partnership to
create new poles, or magnets, for development and housing, made
possible by easy transportation and intelligent investment.
Skyscrapers are an inevitable part of the answer, despite extraordinary
aesthetic and cultural opposition to them from many French, who like
them in New York, Tokyo or Shanghai but detest the few that have been
built in Paris. One reason is the architectural nightmare of the Tour
Montparnasse, which is generally regarded now as a mistake.
The Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, already has
courageously begun the debate over building skyscrapers on the edges of
Paris and finally won the support of Mr. Sarkozy, who said he was not
against building tall “so long as it’s beautiful.”
The economic crisis has created all sorts of difficulties in every big
city in terms of financing, investment and empty office space. But the
state is the dominant player in France, and the president is
practically royal. The secretary of state for development of the
capital region, Christian Blanc, said that the crisis “simply obliges
us to think differently,” adding that even in the private sector,
“money for good projects, that exists.”
As for the vision thing, Mr. Blanc said that “grand architectural
gestures” would be an important “signature of the Grand Paris project.”
But he gave no specifics, saying that “they will be studied with local
elected officials in the framework of existing projects.”
There is another aspect to the plan. Mr. Sarkozy, who made a name for
himself with some tough talk during the suburban riots of 2005, when he
was the interior minister, is also moving to create a “Grand Paris of
police.” He is ordering up a super prefecture to coordinate all the
police in Paris and the “small crown” of innermost suburbs —
Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-St.-Denis and Val-de-Marne — that he failed to
incorporate politically into Paris.
“Only 45 percent of delinquents live in the interior of the capital,”
he said. “Delinquents don’t have borders, particularly those belonging
It may be a long way from visions of rooftop gardens and urban forests,
but it is good politics.
Page last updated at 08:44 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 09:44
US city to start
By Maggie Shiels, Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley
Atlanta is the 33rd largest city in the US
Atlanta, the capital of the US state
of Georgia will soon be the world's most digitally mapped city,
according to organisers of a massive "mapathon".
OpenStreetMap, or OSM, is behind the effort to produce a map
more accurate than anything else on the market.
In addition, all the data will be given away free for others
aim to map everything from bike paths to emergency phones and police
precincts," said Frank Howell from the Office of Research and Policy
The office is part of an umbrella group of Georgia's
the Atlanta area, we have new buildings and streets being built all the
time and this notion of sneakers on the ground going around mapping
everything means you get up-to-date data.
"And what is neat
about it is this information is free. It will be owned by the community
- not by Google or other mapping services like Tele Atlas. These two
things together really captured my imagination," Mr Howell explained,
when asked why Atlanta wanted to get involved in the project.
Atlanta mapathon will take place this weekend, with around 200
volunteers armed with global positioning devices mapping the city.
"The way to think about it is as a really big mapping party,"
said OSM founder Steve Coast.
OSM map showing Boston Common
"We will have about 15-20 mapping stations throughout Atlanta
start by noting all the freeways and motorways, then the main roads,
smaller roads and eventually go right down to the footpaths, bars and
Mr Coast said the success of the project was down
to the passion and enthusiasm of the volunteers, who carry on working
on the map once the weekend mapathon is completed.
over 160,000 people around the world constantly updating the maps. In
Germany, the people there have done so much work that they are mapping
trees and overhead wires."
OSM is described as the "Wikipedia of maps".
"Unlike Wikipedia we don't have the same problems of
providing this passive neutral point of view," Mr Coast told the BBC.
OpenStreetMap it is not a case of whether Jesus did or did not exist.
The fact is there are either 25 exits off Highway 101 or there aren't."
One of the big attractions for Atlanta
getting involved is the fact the data gathered for OpenStreetMap is
free and open for users to edit and mash up any way they like.
A Google map showing Boston Common
"If you are an iPhone developer and you want to make a map of
joints in San Francisco or Atlanta, you basically have two choices,"
said Mr Coast.
"You can use Google maps but there are
restrictions on what you can do with the data or you can pay tens of
thousands of dollars to license the data from other organisations.
OpenStreetMap, it's basically plug and play. We want you to take that
data for free and use it how you see fit," added Mr Coast.
Atlanta, Mr Howell said that approach opened up all sorts of
possibilities for the city that is home to global brands from Coca-Cola
to CNN and AT&T.
"When you have a lot of bright minds like
we have here, give them a new toy like OpenStreetMap and they will come
up with new applications and winning innovations around that
information," said Mr Howell.
In San Francisco and Oakland, OSM
data is used to draw up crime maps. The White House leverages the
information to show where stimulus money is being spent.
former professor of geographic information systems said he thought
Atlanta would be able to lay claim to the title of the most digitally
mapped city by the new year.
"We understand the symbolism of
achieving that aim and the currency it gives us as we try to persuade
companies to set up here," Mr Howell said.
"We also think it
will encourage other cities to follow our lead and improve that spirit
of community as we all play a part to really put Atlanta on the map."
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