When Donald Trump took his recent jab at ‘winners and losers,’ the line sounded very familiar. Of course, we’ve all heard it before, but I had a vague memory of it being used in a local political forum. When I stopped trying so hard to remember, it came back to me: a Planning Board hearing over ten years ago.
It seemed that one of the least loved local developers had announced plans to build a giant corporate headquarters adjacent to a housing subdivision, mostly split-level houses on quarter acre lots that he had put up a few years earlier. The proposal required a fairly substantial zone change and, as expected, the neighbors, mostly hard working, first time homeowners, objected, They were quick to recognize that the new proposal with its lights and traffic, would be detrimental to their interests and they packed the meeting room to make sure it didn’t happen.
The incident I remembered was when a rather unprepossessing and nervous neighbor got up to voice his objections. He had had problems with the developer who, it seemed, had a reputation for not following through on promises. The homeowner haltingly related how he had invited him (the man now proposing the corporate “park”) into his house to see the problems he was having with the property he had just purchased. He recalled that when he outlined his complaints, the builder (the same one seeking the zone change) turned on him, yelling: (shades of Donald Trump) “There are winners in life and there are losers and I am a winner and you are a loser!” When he quoted this to the Planning Board, the audience, (obviously, also “losers”) began to hiss, filling the whole room with their resentment. In a rare show of public concern, the Planning Board denied the application, one of the few times in Stamford zoning history that justice actually triumphed. The developer’s remark: “There are winners in life and there are losers, and I’m a winner” may have killed the deal. My Trump-like character came back a year or so later with a proposal for luxury condos and, while he didn’t make out as well as he would have with corporate headquarters, he cried, as they say, all the way to the bank. And of course, the “losers” loved having million dollar homes adjacent to their humble abodes.
There’s an ironic coda to this story. I recently ran into the s.o.b. at the local health center. He was being pushed in a wheel chair, dried up and angry looking. I guess it doesn’t matter how many people you screw, there are no winners or losers in the end.