Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Results are In...

Results are in and we didn't win. Thank you all for your support over the last month. It was wonderful to hear from so many of you during the campaign, to hear your ideas and talk about what makes New Canaan great. My opponent Nick has done a great job with the Board of Education and I am sure he'll bring the same care and diligence to the job of Selectman.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Engel Has Ear to the Ground

Editor, Advertiser,

I am writing this letter in support of John Engel for Selectman. John is a person who's involved himself in the town of New Canaan for many years. By way of example, he's a regular at the New Canaan Advertiser coffees; but what's important for voters to know is that he's attended the coffees for years. Informed citizen first, John sees being selectman as a way to effect change, rather than a political endeavor. John is a civic leader with an indisputable downtown presence; it was no surprise to see the letter of support signed by so many merchants. Anyone in town on any given weekday will likely see him somewhere. He's a man with his finger on the pulse of New Canaan and the town will do well to have his thoughtful perspective and keen business sense in the Office of Selectman.

Mike O'Neill

Engel Thinks Without Bias

I am a realtor in town, active in the Republican party, a Saxe mom, and a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals. It is in that context that I urge you to vote for John Engel for Selectman. Anyone who has been to a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting knows that John comes prepared, takes a very active role in the discussion, and approaches each case with thoughtful consideration and without bias. Vote for John Engel this Tuesday.

Laura Edmonds

Engel: Integrity and Perseverence

Editor, Advertiser,

I was John Engel's roommate in college and best man at his wedding. Two words sum John up: integrity and perseverance. I saw John confronted with issues that might compromise his integrity. Each time he did the right thing. Faced with choosing dubious, short-term gain versus doing what's right, John always chose what's right. John never gives up. I remember a 1991 letter he wrote to me from Saudi Arabia where he was serving as an Army officer during the First Gulf War. Things were bleak: US forces were poised to enter Kuwait and they did not know exactly what they would encounter. It was frightening but John never waivered. Under enemy fire, John's unit moved through sandstorms and oil field fires until they liberated Kuwait City.

New Canaan will be well served with John Engel as Selectman.

Robert A. (Andy) Nilsson

Engel Has Intimate Town Knowledge

Editor, Advertiser,

As a third generation resident, graduate of the New Canaan schools, Rotarian and business owner in New Canaan, I urge you to support John Engel for Selectman. Both candidates have managed large budgets and negotiate on behalf of their clients every day. What cemented my support is John Engel's intimate knowledge of downtown and real estate issues that are such pressing issues for the town.

John's skills and experience will benefit our downtown immediately. He will bring new businesses (just as he did recruiting School of Rock to New Canaan) that energize our downtown and benefit our tax base. John knows our local business's history, and will advocate for our town. John knows and understands the wide range of issues in the town through his day to day involvement over the past 33 years. He brings not only a longer, but a broader perspective to the job than his opponent.

Scott Hobbs

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Recent NCHS Grad Supports John Engel

I grew up and graduated from New Canaan public schools this Spring, experiencing New Canaan’s change these last few years, particularly the loss of something in our downtown.

I don’t take for granted that the Gramophone will always be there, or that Waveny will stay a park. Will New Canaan remain the same town I love? My NC roots are why I identify with John Engel’s candidacy. John is third generation New Canaan, worked in Mead Park, Baskin-Robbins and Walter Stewart's. He knows New Canaan fundamentally better than Nick Williams. John is a businessman, parent, veteran and, like us, an alumnus of New Canaan High School. To the Class of 2011 this is an important distinction. He knows first hand what is being lost, and will restore some of what is essential, bringing back some life to my town.

Lauren Ross

A Vote for Engel is a Vote to Energize Downtown

I am the manager at Athletic Shoe Factory in New Canaan. A vote for John Engel is a vote to energize the downtown.

Engel is an experienced local businessman who understands what it means to be a small business. I feel comfortable talking with him to understand a lease or make changes to improve our business here.

Engel is an innovator, not a politician, willing to think outside the box to revive our downtown.

Engel is accessible because he works here every day, not just on weekends. We see him at the Athletic Shoe Factory and know that this is a priority for him beyond the election season.

We need a selectman like Engel.

Chris Sanford
The Athletic Shoe Factory
Forest Street, New Canaan

Friday, July 8, 2011

Business Owners Support Engel

Editor, Advertiser,

We are all local business owners in New Canaan. A vote for John Engel is a vote to energize the downtown. Engel is an experienced local businessman who understands what it means to be a small business. Engel is an innovator, not a politician, willing to think outside the box to revive our downtown. Engel is accessible because he works here everyday, not just on weekends. We see him in our stores and restaurants and know that this is a priority for him beyond the election season. Engel is positive. He is focused on how we can work together to improve our village. Engel will focus on the downtown.

Michael Lamaker, Lamakers
Jack Trifero, The Gramophone Shop
Geoff Sigg, Pennyweights
Seth Leifer, The Filling Station Company
Art Kean, Mobil
Jim Berry, Mackenzies
Ann Chou, The Canaan Parish Sweet Shoppe
J. Gadzik, Sallea Antiques
Dorothy Mann, Dorothy Mann
Diane Roth, L'Amoire
Lucy Brown, Energy Saver
Daniel Bern, MacKenzies
Mr. Qahir, New Canaan Gulf
Susan Langfor, Soleil Toile
Ron Rosenfeld, New Balance
Carmen Carbos, Salon Kiklo
Nicole Yannien, DWR Consignment
Denise Friess, DWR Consignment
Melissa Lindsey, Pimlico
Damien Togridis, New Canaan Shoe Repair
Chrissy Smith, Aqua Spa
Wendy Diamond, Taylor's Luggage
Kathy Blankenship, Vineyard Gardens
Alicia Taylor, The Linen Shop
Reid Iannazzo, Reid's Country Cupboard
Karen Witmann, The Silk Purse

Monday, June 27, 2011

Polishing the New Canaan Brand

New Canaan is a brand. The value of everyone's home is intimately tied to the strength of that brand. If you want to improve home values, to the degree it's possible, that brand must be polished, marketed and improved. The downtown, the schools, brick sidewalks, freshly paved roads, even the dog walk are all ways to distinguish New Canaan from the other strong towns from Westport to Scarsdale. New Canaan must not just be the best but be KNOWN as the best town in Connecticut and, indeed, in the entire New York City area. Distinguished as the best, storefronts will fill and property values will rise.

I believe our brand reputation will far exceed that of Darien, Wilton, Westport and Greenwich as we continue to do three things well. One, we have shown that with the finest schools, beautiful parks and safe streets New Canaan is the best place to raise a family. Two, ours must be a brand of paved streets and solid infrastructure without raising taxes. Three, our New Canaan brand stands for a community, not just a collection of houses, a community that comes together to play on our ball fields, march in our parades, teach and coach our children, discuss over coffee, sing on God's Acre, honor our Veterans, protect our Seniors, and shop in our downtown. We are a loved, and loving community and this is perhaps our strongest asset to the brand.

This is the essence of the New Canaan brand. I know this as a real estate agent but I don't get the sense that the town government is marketing our town that way. We might not have had to in the past but we need it in this day and age if we are looking to revitalize our downtown and rebuild the equity in our homes.

Part of the solution to most of the issues is the personal time and energy the Selectmen must put into working with the merchants, landlords, citizens and experts. The role of a Selectman is much more than attendance at some meetings and votes on issues presented. The job SHOULD take a great deal of time and energy. Getting a group together to save the theater and bookstore may have been completed at a Town meeting but it was assembled through a lot of time and energy on the street, leading.

During the debate you heard from my opponent that New Canaan needs an advertising campaign. I said no. That is not a solution borne of personal time and energy. I countered that it would take more than advertising on Metro North to turn things around and I suggested that the solution will come about from successful public/private partnerships. What does that mean?

New Canaan has a long history of utilizing public/private partnerships to address community needs: the Outback Teen Center, the Schoolhouse Apartments, the South Avenue Cottage, the Millport Apartments, and the new EMS building to name a few. If New Canaan's downtown is to be the vital center we all want, we cannot sit back and wait for things to happen. Nor can we simply throw money at the problem in the form of more studies and advertising. New Canaan needs a Selectman who will listen to ideas and then lead with a sense of urgency. New Canaan needs a Selectman who sees the role as an ombudsman for the town---a true representative, one who seeks continuous input and does something about it.

New Canaan needs a Selectman who is PROACTIVE, not one who merely weighs issues and reacts. New Canaan needs a Selectman who works closely with the Chamber of Commerce, who is constantly downtown, listening to merchants & residents, discussing current & upcoming challenges. New Canaan needs an action-oriented leader. The role of Selectman is defined by the person who fills it.

The people most vital to a vibrant town, the merchants and tenants downtown and the residents who shop there, don't have the time to come to all the town meetings. I make the time to come to them, talk to them, and I give them a voice despite their busy days.

If this resonates with you; if you agree that the role of Selectman is something more than playing a waiting game; if you want a Selectman who gives you a voice, who makes the time to connect, listen, and then lead in town hall, then please vote for John Engel for Selectman. New Canaan is a brand and I pledge to connect, listen and lead in order to build that brand.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Brief Video Highlights from the Selectman's Debate

The two candidates for the Republican Selectman seat, John Engel and Nick Williams, faced one another after the First Selectman debate.

Video clips from all four candidates were posted on the Patch today. The image above is linked to John Engel's closing remarks.

The Republican caucus will be held at Saxe Middle School on July 19 at 7 p.m. Early voting will be available at Town Hall on June 25 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and July 12 from 5 - 9 p.m.

A More Efficient Market: 10 Questions I asked of the Market Demand Study Presentation

Here is the link to NCTV Channel 79 coverage of the Market Demand Study presentation on June 7th. Selectman candidate John Engel asked these questions following the presentation:

1. What is the vacancy rate of retail space in the downtown right now? We have census data to tell us that we have a 7.2% residential vacancy rate but no information on retail vacancies.

2. How many stores are in the downtown? And, how many of them are small, medium and large stores and how are those defined? We need metrics in order to understand the scope of the problem.

3. How many restaurants do we have? Restaurant licenses are issued and I seem to recall the number is over 80 food establishments of all types in New Canaan. How do restaurants draw traffic to the downtown and what impact does it have on shopping? On parking?

4. Is it part of the scope of the Market Study Committee to tell us how to take action, or recruit, desirable stores?

5. What tools, besides zoning changes, does the Town currently have to influence the marketability of our town?

6. Have you or will you survey the rental rates now and historically, and can that be made available to us as a tool for merchants, landlords and realtors to form a more efficient market?

7. What technologies will we have to monitor changes? From the top of my head I can suggest modern online parking meters, online traffic counters, online accessible rental databases of historical prices and vacancy rates, sales receipt databases.

8. How will an aging New Canaan population affect our Market Demand in the future?

9. Have we identified model communities from which we can glean best practices?

10. What is the effect of the Glass House on tourism? on the presence of a Metro North train station in our downtown? Are we doing all we can to leverage those two assets?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why Run for Selectman?

"Why on earth do you want to run for Selectman in New Canaan? You'll never make any friends that way and you might lose a few."

I'm running because I'm passionate about New Canaan. We live in a great town. But, the economy has been an enormous challenge for most of us and we have some difficult decisions ahead in Town government, decisions navigating a course of fiscal responsibility while preserving many of the qualities that make New Canaan special. I've lived in New Canaan for the last 30 years and am looking forward to working with our new First Selectman and the Town Council to deal with those challenges and make the most of the opportunities before us.

My interest in the job of Selectman spans at least five main areas:

Taxes and Finance.
New Canaan has done a pretty good job weathering the storm of the recent economy. It could have been alot worse but we've benefited from low interest rates and a relatively stable housing market. Our MIL rate (to calculate property taxes) is third lowest behind Greenwich and Darien. I'd like to see that MIL rate go down further, keeping property taxes in check as property values improve.

Seniors. I have been a board member of Staying Put since it was founded. My parents live in this town. I am at an age where my friends and I are thinking about what's best for our parents and how can we help. The population is aging and this is one of the most important issues New Canaan is facing now and over the next 30 years.

Real Estate. As a Realtor I've seen how important real estate values are to the people of this town. If houses aren't selling or prices go down then we all suffer. As a Realtor I pay attention to home values and whether we have a healthy and efficient market for real estate in New Canaan. New Canaan is and must remain the community of choice in lower Fairfield County.

Downtown New Canaan. As a landlord of commercial space in our downtown I am very interested in the health of our downtown business district. Is the traffic and parking situation getting better or worse? Does it impact our downtown merchants and offices? It pains me to see empty storefronts, for lease signs and businesses struggling. New Canaan loses when that happens. I make it my priority to work to landlords and to business owners and find out what we can do fix that situation and improve the health of the downtown.

Education. I went to Saxe and New Canaan High School, two jewels in the public school system recently ranked as number one in Connecticut and second in the nation. My four children have attended Saxe Middle School and St. Aloysius School in New Canaan. Two of my children are entering New Canaan High School this year. Our schools are a major reason people move to this town and why property values remain strong. A great school system is a priority for New Canaan because it supports property values, and for my family because it prepares our youth for anything that may come next.