Fresh starts?

FI-EditorialNot only is it the start of the Christmas season in Greenwich but it’s a time of fresh starts as all our town boards begin new terms. So we can expect this feeling of renewal and optimism to last for a long time, right?

Yeah, right.

First the good news. It is Christmas in Greenwich. Those evil meanies fighting the war on Christmas have not brought their Grinch-like ways to Greenwich to interfere with the tree lighting at Town Hall, the holiday stroll this weekend or Saturday’s First Light in Old Greenwich or the Winter’s Eve Festival in Cos Cob. People are going to gather, have fun, share some holiday cheer, and people are going to say both “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” and no one is going to fight a war on anything.

Is it too much to hope that this feeling can sustain itself? Maybe, but at least we can still hope.

It is a time of renewal in town government. The Board of Education has its new members sworn in. The Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) and the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) will soon follow, and this past weekend the Board of Selectmen took the oath of office in a ceremony full of promises of bipartisanship and the spirit of cooperation.

But while board members put on public faces of cooperation, stories continue to whirl behind the scenes about who refuses to trust whom on the Board of Education, who demands too much as part of backroom deals and who is sniping at whom. Then there’s BET sniping over who will be Budget Committee chairman and who is fighting with leadership this week and whose ego must be soothed now.

And that’s not even getting into the hornet’s nest of charter reform. Fighting over board leadership is a Republican pastime in this town, but civil war over a charter reform effort that hasn’t even fully begun appears to be a Democratic one. Neither does the town any good, and it’s time for people to get on the same page.

That doesn’t mean false comity where Democrats simply go along with everything Republicans say because social relationships are more important than fighting for change. Nor does it mean letting loose the dogs of war at every imagined slight. There’s too much fighting in all caucuses and too little focusing on the public good.

This can be done, though. Look no further than the Board of Selectmen. The talk about cooperation and working together is backed up by four years of good relations between the three selectmen despite their political differences. No one would ever associate First Selectman Peter Tesei or Selectman David Theis with progressive political policies. They are conservatives through and through. And no one would ever call Selectman Drew Marzullo a wallflower afraid to bring up a differing point of view to challenge the Republican majority.

They are three men with strong and differing points of view. But they’ve been able to work together extremely well as Mr. Tesei and Mr. Theis adhere to the Republican principles on which the voters have supported them and Mr. Marzullo has pushed the board on vital issues like guns and bullying and the necessity to avoid rigid policies of austerity when it comes to spending.

That’s not to say the selectmen don’t know how to get under each other’s skin. But we don’t need people singing Kumbaya in town government. We need people who are able to work together. Mr. Theis was right when he said this was what the people of Greenwich expect and deserve.

This is the Christmas season. That means more than tree lightings and peppermint-flavored coffee drinks. It means an attitude of community and sharing. This is a time when we can all start fresh on our town boards with a renewed commitment to making things better.

The question is, will we?

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