A little over three years ago, as someone who had only recently moved here, I wrote to the Voice with my perceptions of where West Haven was and where it ought to go. The Voice published the letter, and I imagined it might be the beginning of a conversation about how to plan a more vibrant future for West Haven. Sadly, it was not.
The energy that surrounded the development of the Plan of Conservation and Development has dissipated, and The Haven has become the butt of jokes and jibes on Facebook. Our financial situation has deteriorated and — seemingly — no one is interested in taking a look at the big picture. Where there ought to be exploration and vetting of opportunities, there is inertia and fault-finding.
We have run out of raw resources to exploit and there will be no revival in real estate prices if there is no reason for young people to move here. We have to become a place that welcomes innovation while enhancing the well-being of long-time residents.
I recently urged the City Council to pass a resolution to join Sustainable CT, an organization that costs nothing to join and offers support of all kinds to municipalities that want help in working towards sustainability. Sustainability is a fancy name for not taking out more than you are putting in. It means it’s not smart to pay money to attract a business that is only interested in its own bottom line and will move to greener pastures whenever they get the chance. It means that you want businesses that will be partners with your town or state, not exploiters. It means that you want young people to have as good an opportunity to live and work in their home town as any previous generation. It also means taking care of the resources you do have —air, water, soil, people— so you don’t create expensive liabilities to pass on to later generations. It’s like preventive medicine —only for communities.
One of West Haven’s charms is that it has not moved along with the times. Unfortunately, that is also one of its drawbacks. It calls to mind two sayings. The first will be familiar to all as a popular definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and imagining you will get a different result. The second is from Albert Einstein.
“The world we have created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them.”
Our fiscal crisis can be an opportunity, if only we will start thinking in new ways. We pay over $1 million a year for electricity for our schools. Why don’t they have solar panels to offset that cost? We pay for tipping fees — garbage going to the incinerator or dump. Why don’t we have an aggressive recycling program? Our No. 1 attraction is our shoreline. Why are we squandering it by paying so little attention to the water quality there? Milford has already made a move in the direction of sustainability. They even have a kelp farm, started with the assistance of the non-profit GreenWave. Has anybody in this city explored that kind of opportunity? Kelp cleans the water, protects the shore from wave action, offers cover for fish, AND is a cash crop in high demand. Why don’t we have community gardens at our elementary schools where there is so much sod doing nothing but costing money to maintain?
Fault-finding is not the way to move forward. Opening our eyes to the possibilities around us while preserving the resources we have —natural, historical, and cultural—is the only way we can become a thriving community in the 21st Century. Westies are generous and helpful to those in need; it’s time for them to learn how to pull together for themselves.
Plant a tree, clean up the city
Earth Day is April 22 and Arbor Day April 27. I would love to see a citywide clean-up for Earth Day: particular areas of need are the beaches and wetland areas. While some of the trash is blown out of recycling bins, much is still thrown out of car windows. “No littering” laws much be enforced.
For Arbor Day I would ask every property owner in West Haven to consider planting a tree on their property. People can donate money to the West Haven Tree Committee.
In recent years, we have lost so many trees to storms, disease, insects and the UI. I would also like to see more Westies request that their friends and relatives plant in tree in their honor when they pass on.
If you wish to submit a letter to the Voice, our policy is here.