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"North Canaan is a town unlike many others in our area. Our school color is blue, to match the color of our hardworking industrial collar. Our school mascot is a Knight, to symbolize our courage, honor, and service to others. The prosperity of our town was built on a foundation of iron, fertile pastures, cavernous quarries, and raging rivers. Shortly after 1900 North Canaan saw a steep increase in population due to many Italian and Irish immigrant families settling here. Our town has seen many highs and many lows throughout its history. The freight train and our dairy farms are variables that have beaten the test of time. Many surrounding towns have had their identities and landscape completely upended and changed forever; for better or for worse.

I’m proud that North Canaan remains a cornucopia of hardworking individuals, multi-generational families, small businesses, and state of the art industrial innovators. I also feel that North Canaan remains ripe for so much more. Let us be the blueprint and example for how a true small blue collar town can survive. Ensuring our school remains a top choice for parents to send their children. Ensuring our families and businesses are safe from crime, and that our town is eradicated from the heroin and fentanyl that have plagued our streets for over a decade. Ensuring our businesses and farms have the technology and the access needed to be competitive. Ensuring our residents have all of life’s comforts and necessities right here in town, foregoing the need to take that 30 minute trip north or south just to support big box stores. Ensuring future housing and business development is still possible through sensible and equitable zoning practices. Ensuring that our environment and open space remains a bucolic destination for generations to come.

The formula for success isn’t black and white. It will take hard work and dedication. This shouldn’t scare us. Rather, it should excite us. We’ve never been known to back down from a challenge. No matter where our differences may be, we can rely heavily on the one common denominator that lives within all of us; that North Canaan is our home, it’s our love. Let that be the fuel needed to bring our voices and ideas together, in a way that helps write our next chapter, a chapter worth reading, a chapter worth living."

- Brian M. Ohler

  

My 50 Point Plan of Action!

Government Process and Function

  • A complete audit, examination, and vetting of all municipal departments, personnel, boards, and commissions will occur within 90 days of taking office. Identify areas for improvement, eliminate operational waste, and implement processes that ensure greater efficiencies; audit and critique current budgeting practices; identify and eliminate financial waste.

  • Create policies and implement operational controls that allow for more sensible strategies, long-term budgeting, and capital planning.

  • Adjustments to schedules and office hours will be made to ensure that departments are open and made accessible during the most accommodating and preferred times for residents and taxpayers.

  • All official meetings will be streamed live on a newly created and robust municipal social media platform; these meetings will also be videotaped and archived; official social media pages will be created for the Town of North Canaan and the Board of Selectman, so that timely and accurate information can be made available to residents.

  • Hire a Grant Coordinator that focuses intently on bringing critical state and federal financial opportunities to North Canaan; the coordinator's compensation will be determined on the percentage of success in obtaining such grants.

  • Grow North Canaan’s grand list by creating greater opportunities for new businesses and new homes to be built in approved areas; increase the opportunity for more homes to be built; drawing more families to North Canaan thus bolstering local school and sports programs; review the current list of town-owned properties in order determine what should be retained and what should be sold; in order to place expendable properties back on the tax rolls.

 

Public Safety and Public Health

  • Partnerships with local law enforcement personnel will be reinvigorated to ensure that crime, reckless driving, and drug trafficking are eradicated from our neighborhoods.

  • Excessive speed and erratic vehicle operations within the town limits and in our small neighborhoods will be stopped through increased enforcement, including the possibility of implementing certain speed control mechanisms such as speed bumps/tables in sensitive areas.

  • Increased placement and usage of high visibility LED pedestrian lights and signage.

  • Partner with leaders from the Canaan Fire District to repair sidewalks that need it, as well as create a feasibility plan for adding a sidewalk in front of two gas stations.

  • Create an opportunity for a shuttle transportation system that is dedicated to North Canaan.

  • Partner with local first responders to ensure that their facilities and existing infrastructure are adequate and reliable; create a strategic and financial plan for any potential physical relocation.

  • Create a more robust and modernized Emergency Management Department; identify leaders that are qualified, trained, and driven by the most current operational practices in order to ensure that North Canaan residents are properly prepared when emergencies arise.

  • Work with cellular companies to ensure that every corner of North Canaan is covered by cell service; preventing “dead spots” and increasing ability for residents to make emergency phone calls regardless of their location in town.

  • Ensure that timely attempts are made to make North Canaan roads passible and accessible during episodes of inclement weather.

  • Partner with area health care systems to draw more primary care providers and family practice providers; to also include medical professionals specializing in mental health, dental, optometry, and physical therapy.

  • Work with local property owners to create a portfolio of pre-existing buildings and vacant lots to prepare for medical based companies and contractors who quickly seek areas of opportunity.

 

Business Support and Continuity

  • Work with Economic Development Commission and all stakeholders to champion initiatives that allow North Canaan businesses to operate and succeed in a town that understands and appreciates their placement and purpose; Broadband internet connectivity should be made accessible to all commercial and residential properties throughout the town.

  • Review current planning and zoning regulations; and work with commission to reduce and/or eliminate antiquated regulations that have become burdensome and unappealing to existing businesses, and uninviting to new businesses who want to consider North Canaan as a commercial option.

  • Review the town parking structure with stakeholders; create greater opportunity for business patrons to gain access to local businesses in a faster and more efficient manner; stopping North Canaan’s reality of being a “pass-through” town.

  • Work with Eversource and infrastructure related companies to develop a feasibility and action plan to run all utility lines on Railroad Street (Route 7) and Main Street (Route 44) underground or behind the street facing businesses; greatly enhancing the beauty of the current facades and removing unsightly power poles and transformers.

  • Ensure that the local farming community receives the support and stability necessary to sustain operations for generations to come.

 

Sports and Recreation

  • Review and evaluate the Region One sports program with all stakeholders; in order to establish a more attainable and fulfilling vision of future options for North Canaan’s youth.

  • Review and evaluate the current state of North Canaan’s Recreation Commission, identify areas for improvement, and help facilitate the development of more camps and instructional programs.

  • Install lighting at Lawrence Field and the Steve Blass Field as mechanism to draw twilight events.

  • Create a feasibility and replacement plan for the Town Pool.

  • Relocate the Lawrence Field playground to an area that is in greater view of the public, increasing a sense of welcoming and security.

 

Roadways, Environment, and Beautification

  • Revitalize local green spaces and create a draw that makes North Canaan a true destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Ensure that all town properties are mowed, trimmed, and esthetically maintained on a weekly and as-needed basis to ensure that our town’s image remains bucolic and eye-catching.

  • Create stronger and more enforceable policies to curtail blight and create the position of Blight Enforcement Officer.

  • Review and create a strategic plan for the maintenance and reliability of North Canaan’s roads.

  • Work with local arborists and environmentalists to ensure that North Canaan’s open spaces remain vibrant, inviting, and healthy for generations to come.

  • Partner with established Beautification Committee to identify the main entrances of North Canaan and create robust gardening areas to welcome travelers to town.

  • Partner with local veterans and Scouting organizations to refinish and refurbish all Flag Poles; to include any necessary lighting, paint, and pulley systems. (Finally replace the Sam Eddy Field flagpole after 20+ years)

 

Education and Vocational Programming

  • Audit current position within the Region One budgeting model and determine feasibility options for a future that offers a greater return on taxpayer investment.

  • Work with NCES leaders and Board of Education to invest capital that enhances the current school facility and property, creating a safer, healthier, and more secure environment to learn.

  • Create a strategic planning committee to determine the need for any possible expansions of the current NCES interior and exterior footprint.

  • Partner with area labor advocates and businesses to create vocational training programs for middle school students, giving youth an earlier exposure to high demand trades.

 

Civic Engagement and Volunteering

  • Maintain a work ethic and reputation of being straightforward, accountable, reasonable, and transparent; remaining fully engaged with everyone: Democrats, Republicans, Unaffiliateds, and anyone else who is committed to making North Canaan an even better place to live and work.

  • Encourage volunteering at all levels. North Canaan was founded on the very principles of volunteerism and community spirit.

  • Encourage civic engagement and expect civil dialogue at all official town meetings, boards and commission meetings, and workshops.

  • Remain fully committed to finding common ground and compromise, no matter how big or small disagreements may be.

  • Create a work group that considers the feasibility of offering residents tax credits as an incentive for volunteering with non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations that are registered in North Canaan.

  • Partnership with the Douglas Library to create a strategic plan for the future; one that encompasses options ranging from increased size, scope, and overall capabilities.

 

Veterans and Seniors

  • Work with area medical providers to ensure that their offices remain open and accessible for seniors and veterans who need greater scheduling accommodations and transportation; partner with local shuttle transportation organizations to ensure that travel routes cover the most frequently requested destinations and that shuttle rides remain free to riders.

  • Partner with state Veterans Affairs service officers in order to ensure that more appointments are held within North Canaan; so, veterans can seek more in-person counseling on their compensation and pension benefits.

  • Partner with local VFW Couch Pipa Post to review and audit the Doughboy War Memorial; ensuring that all monuments and plaques reflect correct and present-day information; partner with leadership and military officials to add monuments that honor North Canaan Vietnam Veterans and those who have been impacted by Agent Orange.

 

Town Branding, Marketing, and Tourism

  • Through collective efforts with all stakeholders, work to establish a town marketing campaign that captures and honors our history, but still be bold and forward-thinking.

  • Review the many marketing pros and cons for having two “names” for the town, Canaan and North Canaan. Ultimately make a decision that must then be used for all official purposes. We live in North Canaan!

  • Partner with Beautification Committee and Economic Development Commission to establish attainable goals that will result in greater tourism opportunities and a more cohesive brand for the town.

  • Collaborate with leaders, rail owners, and various stakeholders along the Route 7 corridor, from Pittsfield, MA, down to New Milford, CT, to garner interest and feasibility regarding restoration of limited passenger rail service.

8/4/23 Update:

The North Canaan Transfer Station 

The current state of our local Transfer Station has been the focus of many conversations. Residents and business owners alike have certainly found common ground when it comes to the need for some drastic structural and operational changes at the facility. This is an area that I intend to prioritize if I am elected First Selectman on November 7th.

 

I have already had conversations with our current Transfer Station manager, as these changes are not personal but in fact a long overdue necessity. Below is a list of items that I plan to address immediately. 

  • The overall safety of station patrons and attendees will guide all decisions going forward. 

  • The traffic flow will be routed in a manner that allows for greater ease of use, as well as a safer and clearer view when entering and exiting the facility.

  • I will close down the newly opened entrance/exit as it has now become a site of vehicular congestion and overgrown shrubs, creating blind spots and unsightly fence lines that span both directions. 

  • The area where appliances have been disposed of will be cleaned up and graded off. Appliances will be given a new drop off location, in a more controlled and cleaner environment. 

  • The large bulky waste area will be redesigned/relocated in order to allow patrons to safely maneuver their trailers and vehicles without competing for space with the general flow of traffic. This redesign will also ensure that patrons can dispose of their items safely and not feel rushed. 

  • A new location, away from the general traffic flow, will be designated for gently used items. These items would be available to town residents only. 

  • The trash and cardboard hoppers will be monitored continuously by a station attendee, ensuring proper use and greater safety for patrons. 

  • All vehicles will be checked for proper sticker compliance, without exceptions. Bulky waste charges will also be enforced and consistent with posted information/placards. 

  • Transfer station business operations and disposal practices will be vetted and compared with other small towns, all in an effort to ensure that residents and business owners are getting the greatest return on their tax dollars. 

8/13/23 Update:

A pledge to bring formal vocational education training to North Canaan…

 

As a proud graduate of the Oliver Wolcott Technical High School, I cannot help but think about the countless young lives that would be changed for the better if they only had more exposure to formal vocational education and training, even after their traditional high school graduation. As adults, we often change professions depending on the direction of the wind and day of the week. It’s quite common now to jump from one job to another, searching for what we are truly passionate about.

 

Unfortunately, for the past thirty years our local teenagers and young adults have been urged to move as far away from North Canaan and the Northwest Corner as possible. There has always been this stigma associated with our beloved home. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve heard people say, “Don’t stay here. There is nothing here. Go, move away to a big city and enjoy your life.” As a result, this 30-year outward migration of young adults has created a drastic void in our skilled trades. Plumbers, Carpenters, Electricians, HVAC-R Techs, Medical Associates, and EMS personnel are so hard to come by that many veteran trade workers are simply retiring and closing their businesses for good, all because they have nobody else to hand it off to. Sure, there may be some “shop” classes offered at our local high schools but I want to see more formalized vocational education (licensed) training offered right here in North Canaan.

 

Located at the crossroads of Route 7 and Route 44, nestled right in between three large states, I am confident that North Canaan can attract the necessary number of students to justify an investment from an existing training institute (Porter and Chester, Lincoln Tech, etc.). Or, perhaps there is an opportunity for the State of Connecticut to build a vocational education training center like the one that they have in Bristol. Or, perhaps we can consider creating a private-public partnership with some of our existing large-scale manufacturers as a way to fund these programs, and thus create a larger labor pipeline for them in return.

 

We need to change the culture and erase the stigma. You can survive working in the trades! You can thrive when you work with your hands and show the world just how talented and skilled you are when you finish building that one-of-a-kind masterpiece, or repairing a catastrophic failure, and even saving a life. There are some high school graduates who feel so much pressure from society, that they must go right into a four-year college program, regardless if they are even sure about what they’re truly passionate about. The result of that misguided pressure is a young adult, a new college graduate, who may now have to move back home with their parents because they decided that what they majored in isn’t in fact what they really want to do anymore. So, now they’re stuck with no more options and $100,000 in student loan debt, all at the ripe age of 22.

 

North Canaan can be, and will be, a home for this type of opportunity. We will erase that stigma, and we will once again prove to our young adults that it is ok to stay home after high school. North Canaan isn’t just located at the crossroads of Route 7 and Route 44, in fact, I believe it’s located at the crossroads of Possibility and Success.

 

I am not waiting a minute longer to start having these conversations. This mission begins now, and it is my hope that you all share the same level of optimism and enthusiasm as I do.

8/20/23 Update:

Government process and operations…

After receiving such positive feedback I’ve decided to build upon my weekly campaign updates by selecting different sections from my 50-point action plan and elaborate on them in greater detail. This plan is aggressive and robust, and it’s only a launching pad for the many other tasks that my team and I are hopeful to take on if we’re fortunate enough to be elected on November 7th.

For over twenty years my life has been completely immersed in the professions of healthcare operations, facilities and asset management, risk management, quality improvement, project management, public safety operations, strategic development, infrastructure security, emergency management, c-suite protection, and governmental affairs. While each area maintains its own unique mission and set of challenges, it has been my experience, many times over, that they all do in fact coexist within the broader spectrums of strategy and operations, planning and policy, and preparedness and response. Best practices and lessons learned have enabled all my teams to be successful on many levels.

Governmental process and operational function are undoubtedly two target areas within my action plan that will be taken on in numerous phases. Change is a good thing, especially when it comes to modernizing local government, assessing daily operations, and examining boards, commissions, and departments; ultimately making the necessary decisions that will enhance the aforementioned target areas by placing them in a more responsible, sustainable, and equitable position for the future. Taxpayers want to know what their return on investment is. They want to see where their tax dollars are going and they want to understand how it is being spent; moreover, why is it being spent. Taxes go up and taxes go down. Budgets go up and budgets go down. Mill rates go up and mill rates go down. Property valuations make some people smile, while others may scowl. But, do you all know why? Well, you certainly should.

I believe that my background and experience have put me in the best possible position to be North Canaan’s next First Selectman; in order to serve in a capacity that also leads through heightened awareness and constant education. I want to inform and educate as many residents and taxpayers as possible about the process and operations of municipal government, and I want you all to know why certain things may be the way that they are. And, when items need to be changed, I want you all to understand the pros and cons.

The result of this effort, I am proud to say, will be a North Canaan that is truly centered on the success and prosperity of every resident, family, taxpayer, and business. As First Selectman I will rely heavily on the diversity of my professional experiences, my operational and situational awareness, and my formal training and education to help create a government that is guided by principles of trust and transparency, and respect and responsibility.

9/18/23 Update:

North Canaan’s dire need for more affordable housing options…

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition 70% of low income families pay more than half of their income on rent and more than 580,000 Americans face homelessness on any given night. Reliable, affordable housing truly is a paramount variable when rural towns are aiming to reduce intergenerational poverty and increase economic vitality. Affordable housing is also a social determinant of one’s own health. Just as income and education influence a person’s own physical and mental well-being, so doesn’t their housing. When people are spending more than half of their income on rent they become unable to afford quality medical care and quality meals.

North Canaan has become one of the last bastions of hope when it comes to the need for increased affordable housing development. At a time when neighboring towns are seeing their local housing prices increase drastically over the past three years, North Canaan has been able to retain some level of stability. Unfortunately, as housing options begin to dry up, those homebuyers and investors are now beginning to focus more on North Canaan. A housing battle that will inevitably drive up home costs even more.

Addressing this crisis is multifaceted. There are a host of variables that all contribute to the pros and woes of affordable housing. Many leaders tend to focus solely on young families and young professionals when it comes to planning for future developments. However, we can’t forget about our older adult and senior populations. This demographic undoubtedly contributes to a vast percentage of North Canaan’s low-income and fixed-income population. So, as we begin to tackle this issue we must look at this from a broader and more holistic point of view. We must take inventory of all open spaces and then begin to categorize each parcel pertaining to its location, current use, level of feasibility, and distance from required infrastructure. Housing trusts have also proven to be equitable vehicles for affordable housing initiatives.

Town government should also be viewed as a partnership when it comes to potential developments and renovated/redesigned pre-existing housing. If existing housing options are in fact drying up to the point where there just aren’t any more houses to buy, or prices have simply become far too great for anyone to even consider, then we must be able to have conversations about the potential of development. This shouldn’t scare anyone. Rather, it should be viewed as a dialogue that is healthy and focused on the financial and economic viability of the town, and, that of its residents. Local planning and zoning commissions, and local inland wetlands commissions will also play significant roles in this process. Their cooperation, understanding, and support for these projects will greatly contribute to a more streamlined application and review process. Thus, creating an even more predictable approval process.

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