Greenwich RTM should postpone MISA funding

As a recovering Greenwich parent, I should sport a bumper sticker that says, “I survived a GHS concert.”

At least that’s what the supporters of the $37 million project to build a fancy concert hall at the high school would have you believe: the current auditorium is so inadequate that forcing our children to perform there is akin to child abuse. Just read the self-referential letter to the editor today from the solipsistic choir director at GHS. OMG, you would think the holding cells at Guantanamo Bay are better.

C’mon people! Thirty-seven million dollars is a lot a money. It’s roughly $4,000 per student in the district. How about we buy each student a laptop, an iPad and give them $2,000 each in cash for private music lessons? (Oh, and BTW, if you believe that the final cost is $37 million, I have some great stock in a company called Enron to sell you.)

Given Greenwich’s penchant for capping capital spending (we’re just cheap, folks), the money for MISA will mean that we won’t be able to invest in some truly deserving projects in the future. Only in Greenwich would we consider spending that kind of money on a high school auditorium while the restrooms in our parks are in Third-World condition and we can’t even take care of our ponds and rivers properly.

The RTM exists as a body to say no to spending hogs like the MISA insurgents. I hope RTM members do their jobs.

Generations of children performed well in that auditorium. They went on to become perfectly well-adjusted adults.

I’m not so sure about their parents.

Categories: General
Lincoln Millstein

3 Responses

  1. Curious says:

    I agree with spending money to keep our schools in better shape, but maybe the decision-makers could embark on a tour of the elementary and middle school restrooms. It is not only the restrooms in town parks that are in sorry shape; the school bathrooms are a sorry sight. It seems ridiculous to spend $37M on a new auditorium when some of the essential facilities are decrepit.

  2. Five Rings says:

    @ David Decker – your analysis is as correct as Mr. Millstein’s is misguided. He assumes that the cost of the project benefits only the current generation of GHS students, whereas this will be an enduring legacy that will benefit multiple generations of students.

    Our school infrastructure is mediocre or worse, subpar, and unfortunately, our youth do not have a vote in this matter. Accordingly, town expenditure in Greenwich is skewed towards the needs or desires of the voting (and given our demographics) increasingly older generations. We do not serve our school going population well if we do not provide them with facilities that allow them to develop themselves.

    It is my personal belief that the whole debate about MISA is skewed because it is viewed as an “elitist” facility. MISA’s opponents have frequently targeted the “music” aspect of the space, conveniently ignoring the fact that the project is multi-purpose, serving the needs of the entire student community at GHS.

    While we are on the topic of MISA, let us get off the “MISA costs $37 million” tagline. That is about as manufactured as statement as “clean coal” or the infamous Bush “Clean Sky Act”. MISA was originally budgeted at $31MM (I think – the actual number may be smaller) and since then, the actual costs have increased by under $500K. The balance of the amount cited is largely due to the pollution which was there in the first place, and which we are obligated to cleanup. Further, if we are funding this at today’s historically low rates, I believe (and this is a back of the envelope calculation – I am not a finance person) that the annual “nut” on a 10 year fully amortizing note for MISA is somewhere in the region of $5MM. The amount will be less once we factor in the State contribution for the cleanup costs.

    BTW, Mr. Millstein, $2,000 buys you about 6 months’ worth of music lessons (less if you count the cost of renting music equipment). Certainly not a long term solution to lack of music instruction.

  3. David Decker says:

    Makes FAR more sense to me to spend this money on a great facility that will be used by thousands of high school students and their parents–over a 30-40 year lifespan this means tens of thousands of people will use the auditorium, and it will also be a resource that can be used by the entire Greenwich community for other performing arts and events—than spending $20 million on renovating Nathanial Witherell which only benefits a few HUNDRED people at a time–with much less turnover in the user population.

    The fact is that our public schools’ infrastructure is falling further and furhter behind surrounding towns–this is a problem that will affect all of our property values, along with the recent decline in the schools’ acadmeic performance. So let’s be a little more supportive on spending money to keep our schools in better shape–they are community assets and have been neglected for a long time.