Letter: Herbst must work for regional development
To the Editor:
Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst recently took over as chairman of the Greater Bridgeport Regional Council, a planning agency that includes Bridgeport, Trumbull, Monroe, Stratford, Easton and Fairfield, and looks for regional approaches in economic development, transportation, housing and other issues.
This is a huge opportunity for Mr. Herbst, but I’m concerned there isn’t much reason to hope that he will seize the moment and push an essential agenda for regional economic development.
You see, Mr. Herbst doesn’t get along with our neighbors. It doesn’t matter if it’s sewers or the magnet school. Cities or towns. North or south. Republicans or Democrats. Mr. Herbst, for instance, is suing Monroe over its approval for a big-box store on Route 25. The Monroe first selectman, Steve Vavrek, a Republican who has been a significant Herbst ally, took to social media recently to condemn the suit, calling it an example of “wasting taxpayer dollars on stupid lawsuits.”
Mr. Herbst has long pitted the interests of Trumbull against Bridgeport. Last year, he said, “the same political operatives that now run Bridgeport used to have their claws in Trumbull.” On another occasion, he said it would be over his “dead political body” that he’d allow Trumbull to get “screwed” by Bridgeport.
Words like that are not constructive. And they have consequences. Last week, the Southwest Regional Planning Agency, consisting of the towns along the Fairfield County coast, opted to consolidate with towns in the Danbury region rather than the Greater Bridgeport Council. Can there be any doubt that Mr. Herbst’s running down of our neighbors played a role in poisoning the well?
So now First Selectman Herbst will direct the regional agenda and develop a strategy for regional cooperation. The GBRC is updating its regional plan, but its 2008 plan laid out three development scenarios through 2020. First, was a continue-as-is approach, with growth occurring on the periphery, for the most part (and requiring an expansion of Route 25 in Trumbull). Second was a focus on the center city-Downtown Bridgeport. And third was exploring a light-rail network along the Merritt Parkway and up the Pequonnock Valley. Which of these scenarios does Mr. Herbst support? What is his broader vision for the region?
Cooperation is critical to our region’s future. The six-town area has 315,000 people. It has five colleges and universities. It has more college-educated people than the national average, and it enjoys an average household income that is $26,000 higher than the national average. Think of the potential if we could really work together. Let’s create a regional economic powerhouse that drives jobs for Trumbull residents closer to home.
For the next 10 years at least, the U.S. economy will be driven by the booming energy, data technology and software sectors. There is likely to be an American resurgence in manufacturing.
The spotlight is on Mr. Herbst and the entire GBRC. Let our region develop plans aligned with those economic drivers that bring innovation and jobs here. Why not us?