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?