Editorial: A Change of Leadership on the Parking Commission


“Leadership is about vision and responsibility, not power.” —Seth Berkley

New Canaan needs a change of leadership on the Parking Commission. 

Chairman Keith Richey is to be commended for the length of his volunteer service on the appointed body, which works closely with the New Canaan Parking Bureau and makes recommendations about traffic circulation and off-street lots, including fees for permits and violations, and also hears ticket appeals. He was appointed July 21, 1998, according to records on file in the Town Clerk’s office, and elected chairman March 3, 1999.

Yet Richey has failed to create a long-term vision for parking in New Canaan at a time when such forward-thinking is sorely needed, has failed even on minor matters to build consensus within the Commission and has failed by temperament and in practice to collaborate with or support his counterparts in Town Hall—a shortcoming that crystallized last week in his gross mishandling of an important matter now before the town, punctuated by menacing and inappropriate treatment of a municipal department head.

New Canaan needs to have a frank discussion about whether its parking rules should change—the times at which enforcement starts and ends, for example, whether those who overstay should be granted a fixed “grace period” or even whether the town should introduce some form of free parking. 

Yet in railing against officers for enforcing parking rules that he himself is responsible for recommending, in wrangling with a parking manager at a public meeting after forcing her into a defensive stance and, after that department head stood her ground and attempted to lighten the mood of the meeting, in issuing a vague and menacing admonition for her to “be careful,” Richey showed himself to be unfit to hold the office of chairman. 

He should step down. If he won’t, we call on the Board of Selectmen to vote him off of the Commission, as per the Town Charter. Should the selectmen decline to do so, the Commission itself should re-elect its officers and relegate Richey to the role of regular member.

To be clear, this is in no way a personal attack, and we acknowledge Richey’s contributions as chairman. He typically is an affable commissioner and, within the group, votes most consistently to void tickets at appeal hearings, though he is often in the minority. In recent years, the Commission has supported the creation of a new type of parking permit designed to get downtown workers out of the free spaces on Main and Elm (a successful idea that originated with the Chamber of Commerce) and also upped the parking limit time throughout the business district from 90 minutes to two hours (a recommendation that originated with the Parking Bureau).

Yet such changes amount to chipping away at chronic, pervasive parking problems that call for fresh, creative thinking, and Richey’s unacceptable treatment of Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg is indicative of a larger problem.

If there’s a track record of Parking Commission excellence that could justify a pass for the poor leadership that Richey demonstrated at the May 2 meeting, he doesn’t have it.

In submitting its annual report with recommendations to the selectmen and Planning & Zoning Commission, the Parking Commission in 2017 called for decking both the Lumberyard and Locust Avenue Lots—costly projects that First Selectman Kevin Moynihan scuttled within mere months in office after studying actual parking needs in New Canaan. The following year, the Commission’s thin report contained just five bullet points, including the copy-and-paste of an item that had appeared in past years regarding P&Z’s fee-in-lieu option for project developers. 

The lack of vision from the Commission is manifest, and good ideas are coming from other quarters of the town. Last month, for example, the Chamber and Moynihan gathered some of New Canaan’s most affected stakeholders—those who own commercial property downtown—for a brainstorming session that yielded several sensible recommendations on matters that included parking.

In Richey’s hands, however, those recommendations were weaponized against the very department he’s charged to help direct, and in doing so, he failed not only the first selectman and Chamber, but also commercial property owners, the wider community and Parking Bureau itself.

As Moynihan noted recently in announcing his re-election bid, town departments are run with exceptional courtesy and professionalism. The Parking Bureau is no exception. We’re calling on Richey to step down, and if he won’t, we ask the selectmen to show the Parking Bureau the respect and regard that Miltenberg and her team have earned.

8 thoughts on “Editorial: A Change of Leadership on the Parking Commission

  1. I totally agree with your comments. It is outrageous that Ms.Miltenberg should be challenged by Mr. Richey for enforcing parking rules fairly and consistently. By the way, I recently received a parking ticket because I carelessly overlooked a no-parking sign. Instead of appealing the ticket with preposterous excuses, I paid the ticket and moved on. Others should do the same.

    Mr. Richey – please step down.

  2. Well said. “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do”. We expect our leaders, all of our leaders, to model for the citizens, the staff, and the world at large by word and by deed the highest standards. Leaders are role models and set the tone for those who look towards them.

  3. Michael,
    I suppose I must respond to your unwarranted attack against me. Let me try to address the points in your “editorial.”

    One of the Parking Commission’s official duties is to hear parking appeals to parking tickets. Thus, virtually each ticket we vote to waive could be viewed as saying that we think the ticket should not have been issued. Our responsibility is to try to judge each appeal fairly. Consequently the Parking Commission’s discussions whether to uphold or void a ticket are often contentious. That should not surprise anyone. Also, as I have voted to void more tickets than any other member and have asked the other members to be more merciful my entire term, my position on these matters should not surprise anyone either.

    As I said over and over at the meeting and elsewhere, Stacy and her team do a great job under difficult circumstances. I would like them to throttle back and to give them more discretion. That certainly was not intended to be a reprimand. Also, note that the “creation of a hostile environment created by parking enforcement” was on the Agenda as a result of the Chamber of Commerce input that you described with favor in your editorial. Thus the discussion should not have blindsided anyone.

    Your statement that says that there is no record of accomplishment reveals that you may not have been paying attention. During my term, we finally got the Talmadge Hill lot expanded, we created different rates for the different municipal parking lots (higher at train station, we created inexpensive parking for town workers at the Center Lot , we created commercial parking permits at the Morse Court and Park Street lots, we changed the parking times on Elm and Main, etc. You focus on whose ideas these were but the focus should be on the fact that they got pushed through despite some opposition in many cases. The price estimates for the potential tiered parking at the Locust Lot and at the Lumberyard came in too high to justify their construction in view of the un-utilized parking spaces available via BoxCar, which did not exist a few years ago but at least we got the process that far. Unlike the other commissions, the Parking Commission is solely an advisory body with no budget and no power except to make recommendations and hear appeals. We have made many recommendations – the fact that they are not accepted can hardly be entirely laid at our feet. I also take pride in having fought off proposals to park school buses in the Talmadge Hill parking lot, to sell the Richmond Hill parking lot, to put a roller blading park in the Center Lot, to put the Library in the Park Street parking lot, and to put senior housing on the Lumberyard Lot. I have waged many letter writing campaigns in these efforts – but not in the Newcanaanite, sorry. I am one of several long serving members of the Parking Commission. I think we have done good service in a thankless, difficult, and unpaid role. We work closely with Stacy and the notion that any initiative has been weaponized is absurd.

    At the Parking Commission meetings we argue about parking permit rates, hear ticket appeals, decide on policy recommendations, etc. Consequently, portions of each meeting are tense. You could have attended any meeting and made a recording out of context of something that would make me look bad. The same could be said of many people serving in the various volunteer roles. I urge everyone to actually listen to your recording and decide themselves if anything untoward occurred.

    I have been appointed and reappointed by the elected Board of Selectmen unanimously for all of these years, including this year. I have been elected as Chairman by the other members of the Parking Commission, again unanimously. Serving as Chairman has been a time consuming and difficult role in which one receives frequent criticism from residents, merchants, other parts of the government, etc. and now personal attacks from the media. I have tried to keep an even keel and seek consensus within the Parking Commission and with Stacy and with the other arms of town government. In fact, we are friendly despite the challenges.

    I have thought about resigning for years because it has been a long time and due to occasional frustration in the job. Giving up the position could make my day but I would prefer that it not be a result of your tawdry hatchet job which is unworthy of you and your newsletter.

  4. Mark Twain said, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see”. Our leaders need to ensure that in their deeds and their words, the right message is sent. What message was and is being sent?

    • Kindness should and does apply to all parties in our community: the shoppers, the parking enforcement agents and the commission. I greatly respect and appreciate the efforts all of our volunteers and town employees which make our town such a wonderful community. At the same time, clearly the election cycle has begun and it is likely worth taking into consideration the underlying intentions of comments made going forward.

  5. As former NC resident and Parking Commission member, I can attest to the value Keith Richey added as Chairman. It is a thankless job, just like enforcing parking by the incredible Parking Bureau staff New Canaan is lucky enough to have. Keith always ran civil and professional meetings. As Chairman, he worked hard at his volunteer job, and made my volunteer job much easier through his leadership, organizational skills, and laser focus on the objective of serving the New Canaan community through facilitating parking for commuters, shoppers, business owners, and all other constituents. My perspective was broadened on many matters by listening to him and other volunteer commissioners as well as Karen, who headed the Parking Bureau staff at the time. I remember in particular Rick Franco always speaking up for the delivery people, who had to choose between doing their jobs, often for paltry wages, and incurring a fine for double parking. I also recall Keith constantly sticking up for the Parking Bureau staff. I never witnessed any coldness or lack of compassion directed at anyone, nor did politics ever enter our discourse (I did not even think about who was a “Republican” or “Democrat” – it did not matter!). Keith and Stacy are both good, honorable people, and I have no doubt they can find a solution that will best benefit the town, an objective they share. Regarding the comments above, citizens have every right to express their opinions, but it is much easier to complain than to solve a problem, which is what the Parking Bureau and the Parking Commission work tirelessly to accomplish on behalf of all New Canaan constituents It was an honor to serve the New Canaan community with these people.

  6. First Richey votes that handicap people—who he thoughtlessly says have the “privilege” of parking in more convenient locations—should walk over to pay stations so the town can charge them for parking. Yet he votes against charging for the most convenient spaces on Main and Elm? I have difficulty understanding his decision making process.

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