The Board of Selectmen met again with public participation by Zoom and a Facebook live feed.
The board approved the minutes of the July 16 meeting. The board canceled its regular first Thursday in August meeting due to a lack of power at the Town Hall as a consequence of the recent storm.
opening public comment
At the opening public comment, there were four speakers. The first speaker addressed the proposed flag policy and recommended that only the US, Connecticut and Easton flags be permitted to fly on the Town Hall flagpole. The speaker questioned where a line could be drawn and, therefore, feels no other flags should be permitted to fly. This speaker also reacted to the proposal to declare racism to be a public health issue by declaring this is a dangerous idea. How do you decide what is a public health issue? Who decides that? She said racism is not a health issue.
The second speaker offered the board pictures of tree limbs resting on electric wires on Cedar Hill Road. This speaker expressed frustration with the electric company’s response to the storm and asked that the pictures be presented to the appropriate authority as evidence of the poor response.
A third speaker recommended the board follow the U.S. flag code in establishing any flag policy. This speaker also stated that the proposed Easton Diversity and Inclusion Task Force is worrisome and troublesome. She expressed support for the first speaker’s views on the idea of declaring racism to be a public health crisis. She said the idea comes from disturbing groups and individuals such as Black Lives Matter and George Soros. The speaker feels there is no racism issue as a matter of public health in Easton.
The board approved two tax refunds as recommended by the tax collector. The board approved the release of a driveway bond on Adirondack Trail as recommended by the deputy director of Public Works.
new natural gas boilers
The board awarded to McKenney Mechanical the bid for installation of two new natural gas boilers to replace older steam boilers at 660 Morehouse Road. This company was the low bidder at $77,910.
The board re-appointed David Smith to the Board of Police Commissions for a term running from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2023.
Emergency Management and Homeland Security grant
The board adopted a resolution authorizing the first selectman to enter into any documents and to take any action necessary for the town to participate in the state of Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security grant program. This is a routine annual action to allow the town to receive state funding and resources.
Gilbertown Cemetery kiosk
The board approved the request of Lucas Farmer, an Eagle Scout candidate from town, to construct a kiosk at Gilbertown Cemetery which will provide public information about the cemetery to visitors. This project is a part of his activities towards his Eagle Scout goal. The board thanks Lucas for his efforts on behalf of the town.
Diversity and Inclusion Task Force
The board agreed to create the Easton Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and adopted a charge for the task force. Resident Lise Fleuette proposed the idea, provided an initial draft charge and presented the proposal to the board. The goal of the task force is to be a resource for town leaders across all town departments, boards and commissions on policies and practices that most effectively undermine systemic racism in our institutions and our community. The task force will have five members and two alternates. Anyone who is interested in serving should submit a letter of interest to either political party or to the Office of the First Selectman.
Board declares racism a public health crisis
The board voted to declare racism is a public health crisis. Resident Elaine O’Keefe introduced the proposal to the board and advocated for its adoption. She presented a draft of the resolution to the board. Several other Connecticut towns have adopted similar measures. The goal of the resolution is to reduce adverse health impacts on people of color in our community by gathering and analyzing data, creating relationships, and promoting policies that enhance diversity and ensure anti-racism.
The board voted to adopt a flag policy that authorizes the Board of Selectmen to exercise its discretion in determining whether to allow flags other than the U.S., state of Connecticut or town of Easton flag to fly over Town Hall. The board considered whether to adopt a set of standards and whether to state in the policy that permission is unlikely to be granted but decided it would be best to simply require advance permission from the board and leave the decision to the board’s sound discretion.
The first selectman provided an update on coronavirus actions and reported that the town continues to do very well. The Town Hall will remain closed to the public with very limited exceptions and with appointments to be made in advance.
closing public comment
During closing public comment, the board heard from six speakers. The first speaker criticized the adoption of the resolution declaring racism to be a public health crisis. The speaker said there is no evidence presented to support the need for the resolution. It is not clear that racism is the cause of health issues in communities of color, he stated. The speaker feels this is political correctness and that the problem might be due, for example, to 70% of children of color being born to unwed mothers. The speaker said, as a member of a biracial family, he speaks with some authority and experience.
A second speaker repeated her original concern about the flag policy. She noted that there is no flag in the room where the Board of Selectmen meet and she feels there should be one. This speaker also raised a point she has made repeatedly in the past that the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited at the start of the Board of Selectmen meetings. The speaker again raised the issue of Black Lives Matter, George Soros and Saul Alinsky as part of something she references as “open society”. She said money raised by these groups and people goes to the Democratic National Committee. She said racism is not a public health crisis. Finally, she said that the last day for public comment or testimony regarding the performance of the electric utilities during the recent storm is September 24.
A third speaker thanked the board for their work during and after the storm and for being open-minded about addressing issues surrounding people of color.
A fourth speaker pointed out that the reference to George Soros by an earlier commenter is a well known anti-Semitic trope.
A fifth speaker applauded the remarks of the third speaker.
A sixth speaker applauded the remarks of the third speaker.
closing selectmen comment
Selectman Lessler reminded the public about the many activities celebrating Easton’s 175th anniversary and invited residents to go to the Easton175.com website for further information. Some upcoming events are the virtual 5K Fun Run and Bike Race sponsored by the Park and Recreation Department, fireworks sponsored by EMS, and a day of music and food sponsored by the Masons.
Selectwoman Sogofsky inquired whether the newly appointed member of the Board of Education would be resigning from her seat as an alternate on the Board of Finance.
Thereafter the meeting was adjourned.