Ask The Mayor
A message from Mayor Joseph Marchese:
In fall of 2020, the City of Darien launched a new campaign called “Ask the Mayor” to increase transparency and provide residents with facts to raise understanding and awareness about important issues in our City. I have received numerous emails from our residents presenting me with questions covering a wide variety of topics. While I will be providing a brief response to several of the major areas of concern expressed by residents, I want you to know that I read all submissions, and that I appreciate your feedback and insight.
Garbage Container Enforcement
I received a number of emails concerning our fall 2020 notice regarding increased enforcement of the City’s refuse container ordinance. A number of residents were concerned as to why we chose to increase our enforcement of this ordinance at a time when we are dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. I responded to these concerns by detailing how our City staff had advised us that despite our efforts to provide remedies to residents who did not have sideyards for storage or who chose not to place these receptacles in their garages, over 200 residences were not in compliance. In addition, we were receiving calls and emails from residents, who made efforts to be in compliance, complaining that many of their neighbors chose not to remedy the situation and continued to place their refuse containers in front of their homes. Based on these calls and our staff’s observations, the City Council discussed the issue and advised staff to take measures, including warnings and fines in an effort to alleviate the issue. After the first “wave” of warning notices, those in non-compliance were reduced to 60 residences, and after a second notice, the number was reduced to 30 residences. After the initial fines went out, the city provided these individuals, with an opportunity to have their violations reexamined by staff.
How Does the City Prioritize/Make Decisions Regarding Infrastructure Improvements?
A number of residents asked very specific questions with regards to City infrastructure planning; some asked about sidewalk repair, others questioned how we decide which streets were repaired each year, while still others inquired as to the installation of street lights in their neighborhoods. The variation in their questions, required very specific and individual responses, which would be hard to recreate in this format. I’ll respond with a broader manner, and hopefully provide a better insight as to how we address these issues. First of all, everything is governed by our budget, and the amount of funds available for each of these projects. Each year, we budget funds to repair at least 5.5 miles of our City streets. Close to 15 years ago, we evaluated the condition of all of our City streets, created a rating formula, and developed a priority list based on the rating of each street. Using this “catalogue” as we call it, we select those streets with the appropriate ranking as part of our 5.5 miles for that budget year. We do the same for our City ditches, we evaluated their condition, developed a rating system and budget to repair those requiring the greatest attention. Over the last 12 -15 years, we’ve repaired or rebuilt close to 25 miles of the 27 miles we identified close to 15 years ago. Other projects such as street lights and sidewalks are based on need. We evaluate our sidewalks every year, and based on need, we replace those whose present condition require repair. Overall, I can summarize my response by adding that all of our infrastructure work is based on objective data obtained by consistently evaluating and reevaluating our infrastructure on a year-to-year basis.
What is the Status of Our Economic Development Program?
When I assumed the Office of Mayor, the City did not have an established Economic Development working group. Our decisions for economic development were made through discussions between staff and elected officials and we utilized our 2006 Darien Comprehensive Plan as a guideline for our actions. As Mayor, I saw the need to establish a working group of business professionals, individuals who operated businesses within the City or individuals with significant business experience to examine our City and its current and future business needs. At the time that the Economic Development Committee (EDC) was approved by the City Council, our greatest charge to this group was to examine businesses that we should be attempting to bring into our Darien community. A secondary duty of the Committee was what we needed to do in order to maintain the businesses that we currently had in the City. For the first year of the Committee’s existence, they examined our current business community, visited or called owners of those businesses and obtained data as to how each of these businesses saw their role in Darien, and what needs they required in order to grow or maintain a strong economic condition. The Committee collected this data and made recommendations to City staff that provided a framework for our future growth. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, the charge for the Committee and the City focused more on maintaining businesses, especially our dining and entertainment businesses. Again, the Committee took time to call or meet with business owners regarding their status and communicated this information to the Mayor and City staff. During the spring months when we were experiencing the most severe aspects of the pandemic, many of our committees including the EDC, had their meetings put on hold and did not resume meeting until September 2020. The EDC, upon resuming their meetings, is now concentrating their efforts, by joining forces with the Darien Chamber of Commerce in an effort to bring another viewpoint into the discussion as to Darien’s business future.
Ask the Mayor