LETTER: Let’s get a plan for Shakespeare

Letter-to-the-EditorNEWTo the Editor:

I support the revitalizing of the Shakespeare theater without impacting Stratford taxpayers. My words are not to undermine the Shakespeare sub-committee, who are very talented people and respected immensely. I agree with the subcommittee’s work to create a non-profit entity to support the theater. It is essential and should continue regardless of whichever theater development company is selected.

However, I do not agree that the Town Council should spend Stratford tax dollars to hire an architect to secure the theater without a comprehensive plan to fully open the theater. This would be bonded money and must be paid back with taxpayer’s dollars. Why embrace a piecemeal plan that may disqualify work from state funding when there are alternatives?

Per the original request for proposals, securing the building was included and funded through the bidder’s proposal without Stratford tax dollars or liability. A remediation proposal from “another” hired architect is unnecessary. We spend so much money on people for redundant work. Securing the theater from weather, animals, up to a full abatement for hazard materials was already documented, funded, and submitted by Elm Street Theater and Stratford Stage Group. Plus, I am concerned that town, rather than the developer, would be responsible for any potential legal claims in the future.

The state will reimburse up to 70% of repairs and abatement in tax credits if it is part of a comprehensive single project to open the theater for performances. That is what we all want – to open the theater. Even if you question the viability of tax credits, the town representatives have a responsibility to vet the Elm Street proposal as the second bidder especially if there is a chance to save taxpayers money.

I ask Ms. Daponte and the Shakespeare sub-committee to immediately re-issue the original RFP (minus any commercial development) with a 30-day window for return bids. There is no reason why the Sub-committee cannot continue to form a non-profit entity and become an advisory board simultaneously as a comprehensive RFP is pursued.

Stephanie Philips

Stratford Democratic Town Committee, Chairperson

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  • Joe Pedoto

    The current dysfunctional and incompetent Town Council continues to serve our town poorly. And please voters, remember that this fall when several of them may run for the top elected office in town.

    That Ms. Daponte and the sub-committee would even consider this plan “…bonded money… paid back with taxpayer’s dollars” amounts to gross negligence, in my opinion.

    It is a further abuse of the hard working citizens of Stratford, already saddled with THE HIGHEST TOWN TAXES IN THE STATE!

    For shame, Ms. Daponte and for shame on the sub-committee!

    Mayor Harkins has long maintained that NO TAXPAYER DOLLARS should be wasted on the ASFT. Despite the false claims of many, the ASFT never provided tax relief for Stratford and was never even a self-sustaining business.

    While reviving it is a legitimate goal, it has long been a political distraction. It is not the most important issue in town, by a long shot. DO NOT SPEND MY TAX MONEY ON THIS!!

  • Joe Pedoto

    I’d just like to add that hundreds of your neighbors lost their jobs this past year due to moves by Optimum and other companies in the area.

    Has the Town Council addressed this or tried to provide any assistance for these struggling families? NO! Not a single word or a single dollar!

    Yet they will fritter their time away and spend your money on the ASFT. If you can’t pay your mortgage or your rent, you certainly can’t buy a ticket to see Hamlet.

    It seems as if a requirement for being on the the Stratford Town Council is utter indifference towards the citizens of Stratford and their very real problems.

  • Friendly Fred

    I say tear that old garbage building down and build as many one bedroom condos as humanly possible. Young folks want to live in a place that is walking distance of the train station, pay stupidly high taxes and with a town publication that is for some reason very scared to publish police reports.

    • Joe Pedoto

      FF: My comment agreeing with you and detailing recent crime in Lordship was just deleted. Some one must be very scared.

  • VanessaFas

    Please, just sell the land for $1 and then collect the taxes on it. A wasted space serves no one. We could use a roller rink, a bookstore, a mini shopping center, anything that would be used year-round and have ample parking. Just not an abandoned eyesore. This has gone on long enough.

    • Joe Pedoto

      Vanessa, if the Town Council didn’t have the ASFT to waste time and tax dollars on, it would make it all the clearer that they are incompetent, do-nothings. No progress has been made on this theater in three decades!

      Yet they all pretend that it’s *vital* to the town. Nothing could be further forth truth.

      In the opinion of many that I’ve spoken to this is the least productive, most dysfunctional town council in 20 years.

      The chairperson, Ms. Daponte, has no concept of how to run a meeting and so they grind on into the night. Not one of them has ever read Robert’s Rules of Order. They even lose the agenda! If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be funny.

      Some councilors seem to have extreme hearing problems and lose all track of the discussion, which then needs to be repeated.

      If this bunch is allowed to continue every senior citizen and every middle class homeowner will be run out of town due to their absurd and unjustifiable increases in the mill rate.

      We pay the highest town taxes in the state. Are our services the best in the state? I know my answer to that question, what’s yours?

      • VanessaFas

        I used to live in New Haven. I just moved here. Stratford is amazing by comparison, taxes included. But government waste is wide-spread, and we need to fight the system (if it doesn’t work) and cut the fat. What is the ASFT?

        • Joe Pedoto

          I agree completely.

          The American Shakespeare Festival Theater was founded in 1955 and was in operation for about 30 years.

          It was never self-supporting and was funded by ambassador and philanthropist Joseph Verner Reed of Greenwich, CT. No one in Stratford was involved in its creation. The location was chosen simply because of the town’s name.

          Aside from some restaurants and a small fee paid for parking, the town of Stratford never saw any economic benefits despite the claims of some today. I know people, now in their mid-70s, who actually worked at the theater. That’s the source of my information.

          The way it was built it does not meet union standards for ‘bus and truck’ versions of Broadway shows. And so that lucrative market was never open to them.

          We now have many competing regional theaters and Broadway is just an hour away. In addition, there’s an order of magnitude of more options for entertainment today than existed in 1955.

          Some things are of their time and cannot be replicated or duplicated.

          The Town Council pretends this is not so. And so they have wasted time FOR YEARS debating and approving plans that have no chance of success.

          What’s needed is MILLIONS OF DOLLARS of investment to revive this theater. And the people who have that money see that this is not a viable proposition and so are not willing to throw their money away.

          You know, the Summer of Love in 1967 was a great time and we all wanted to go to San Francisco wearing flowers in our hair. But that summer is never coming back. And neither is the ASFT.

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