To The Editor:
For as long as I can remember, Trumbull politics has been a part of my life. I have witnessed the good and the bad but never have I witnessed the ugly…until now. The actions of Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst surrounding the Trumbull Housing Authority (THA) and Stern Village have been utterly atrocious. His unethical treatment of THA members shows why people’s attitudes toward local politics, and Herbst himself, have soured. Stern Village is not an assisted living facility. It is a low-income, municipal housing project where people live just as would any rent-paying tenant. The THA has no obligation to its residents other than what you could reasonably expect from a landlord. In spite of that, members of the THA routinely went above and beyond for the residents of Stern Village – a long-standing tradition that began when Stern Village opened. Herbst does not grasp this concept.
First, some background. For decades, long before Tim Herbst or I were even born, my family dedicated itself to making the Town of Trumbull a great place to live. It all began with my grandparents, Henry S. and Ann Stern – the namesakes of Stern Village. Throughout their lives, they donated their valuable time and offered their services in any way possible so Trumbull could be a model town.
Following in their footsteps was their son, my father, Bruce. Determined to further their efforts, he entrenched himself in all-things Trumbull. Whether it was his 7 terms (14 years) as Town Treasurer, 10 years he spent fighting for the expansion of our great library, maintaining the visions for Stern Village, activism for Veterans with the American Legion and even volunteering at Trumbull Day, you will not find anyone to argue the fact that he was one of the most ethical, friendly, honest and dedicated members of Trumbull’s society.
Next is my mother, Judith. While she supported her husband’s efforts, she never got involved in town politics. She took the appointment to the non-political position of THA Chairwoman so the work of the family would continue. She spent countless hours volunteering for the THA, cultivating meaningful relationships with its residents while maintaining and improving upon the high standards the community is used to. As with her husband, you will not be able to find anyone in the town who can say anything negative about her. She is the type of model citizen that sadly goes unnoticed in the community until someone like Tim Herbst meddles with something with which he is not familiar.
Unfortunately, the current regime in Town Hall is quickly destroying everything my family has worked so hard for – and doing so publicly with inappropriate, misinformed personal public attacks.
In a December 27, 2012 article in Trumbull Patch, Tim Herbst was quoted: “…Mrs. Stern showed her true character and her clear lack of concern for the residents of Stern Village by placing politics ahead of people…” What is her “true character?” Does Tim know my mother? Has he ever spent time getting to know her and what she stands for? As for a “clear lack of concern for the residents” – without her, and the family, there would be no residents. Beyond the normal, expected duties of Chairwoman, how about the piano she donated to the residents for their enjoyment? How about the desserts she provided at the annual resident picnic? Why did residents lovingly honor her earlier in February?
In the ensuing weeks and months since his changes, Herbst has proved his lack of knowledge about Stern Village, vilified good, hard working people for no reason and placed people in positions on the THA who obviously do not care about anyone currently involved with Stern Village or its history. One example is the appointment of Joyce Meehan as resident member of THA. She was in the process of being evicted from Stern Village for repeated violation of the no smoking policy. Not only was she smoking where she was not allowed to, but she was doing so in the vicinity of residents who use flammable Oxygen tanks. And then there are these examples from Harriet Polansky, the new Executive Director:
- Dismantling a security camera trained on an exterior doorway of the meeting hall;
- Ordered portraits of the founders of Stern Village to be discarded;
- Drove the long-standing secretary (she started in 1992) to quit her job within days of Polansky starting because of asinine and picayune tasks;
- Told the secretary not to bother come to work at her normal time one occasion because the Executive Director was “having people over;”
- Closes the Director’s office at all times;
Whenever faced with criticism, Herbst responds the only way he knows how - to cowardly demean those who block his megalomaniac pursuit of total control of this small town. He never offers concrete evidence to back up his claims. He just blames and he does not care who he hurts.
When he chose to call out Judi Stern, he may have thought he his words were aimed at one person. He was mistaken. When you attack my mother, you attack me. You attack my family by cheapening our contributions to the town. You attack every upstanding, conscientious citizen of Trumbull. Judi Stern and the other THA members will never get the public apology from Herbst that they deserve. But they know who is right in this situation and so do the residents of Stern Village. The contributions of my family over the past decades will outlive and outshine anything Tim Herbst has done or will do as First Selectman – a position he hopefully will no longer hold come November.
- Gregory Stern