Stonington Borough rights a wrong

I don't shy from crying foul when a government, especially little home town governments like we know here, overreaches or abuses authority.

You can't really wag enough fingers, for instance, at New London, as it pursues simultaneous blight prosecutions, civil and criminal, against a guy with an unruly patch of non-invasive bamboo in his yard.

It's especially egregious if there is any truth to suggestions from the homeowner's lawyer that the heavy-handed and misdirected blight enforcement is politically driven, born in the mayor's office.

Maybe one of the most offensive government misdeeds I've seen around here in a long while occurred in the fall of last year, when a burgess in Stonington Borough, one in charge of the streets, arranged to have some handsome antique crosswalks from the east side of the borough ripped up and placed outside his own home, in a grander neighborhood.

It was a remarkably self-serving and petty abuse of power.

The commissioner of the streets defended himself with lame excuses at the next meeting of the Board of Warden and Burgesses, when an angry group of residents from the neighborhood where the stone was lifted showed up in confrontation mode.

They got little consolation that night, I thought, as the gavel came down on broad suggestions that some day some new granite would be found for the crosswalk pieces taken from both Bayview Avenue and Summit Street.

And yet, I learned this week, when someone sent me a picture of the granite freshly restored to the Bayview and Summit crosswalks, that justice was indeed done.

It turns out the burgesses voted at a meeting subsequent to the one last year in which neighbors complained, to return the stones to their original settings.

"It was the right thing to do," Warden Jeff Callahan told me this week, when I called to check on the returned crosswalks.

It took until now, with the arrangement of street work schedules and budgets, but the bad deed has now been fully reversed.

As much as we should all be ready to cry foul, when appropriate, it is also satisfying to compliment the often-thankless volunteers who fuel little governments, when they do the right thing.

Bravo to the borough, for returning those handsome slabs of granite to the historic neighborhood they came from, where they were once helpful to ladies worried about their skirts trailing in the muddy streets.

While I had him on the phone, Callahan in fact reminded me how hard it is to find citizens willing to serve on the boards and commissions that oversee a little government like the borough.

Indeed, Callahan has been leading a public discussion about how to navigate the borough's future, as it becomes harder to find people to serve. The burgesses recently voted to create a charter revision commission to consider ways to reconfigure and empower the borough government for the next generations.

Meanwhile, I take some comfort from the whole granite flap in Stonington. Not only was justice done with the returning of the stones. But they have been well bedded and are now easier to cross, with flat new concrete on the adjoining sidewalks.

It is also a cautionary tale for government leaders who abuse their positions of authority, however small or ordinary those transgressions.

Voters in the borough reelected all the incumbent burgesses in a spring election, except the one who arranged to have another neighborhood's historic crosswalks pulled up and put down in front of his own house.

This is the opinion of David Collins

d.collins@theday.com

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