A wise move in my opinion. Their forum offers more bashing then help. Google should hire some moderators and truly make it a help forum. Until that happens, don't expect to get much help from that place.
I'm half tempted to just say "screw you" to Google, but I know I can't do that.
Although you may not be able to do that, you should be focusing on efforts that will allow your site to gain in popularity on its own merits. This is hard to do, I know. But everyone needs to be ready for the day that organics are completely removed from Google's first page search results. For many keywords, we are already halfway there.
I'm wondering if there are steps that MUST be taken to assure that Google doesn't punish a brand new site.
This can be challenging. I've seen some people in less than desirable forums scraping content on new and penalized sites. They reportedly can steal entire sites and rank them on more powerful domains. I would block scrapers and also block proxies - especially Google Apps proxies.
I'm giving serious consideration to not installing Analytics, Webmaster Tools or other Google doo-dads on the site
I've had clients request this and did not notice any up or down movement. Since Google is not transparent in how they use the data they collect from installed services on our sites, it's probably smart to avoid them until they do.
At any rate, I welcome any comments about what a new site owner should or should not do.
First, you should lower your expectations. Second, I would try to build out in such a way that lessens your dependence on Google for traffic. Because for many, even with extremely high quality websites, their Google traffic is quite limited.