Mayor Erin E. Stewart Accepts Republican Nomination
I have said it many times before, but it has been the greatest honor to serve as Mayor of this great City for the past two years.
Together, we have accomplished more than most people thought possible.
When I stood here two years ago, many people didn’t think we could do it. But we did. And its’ been quite the ride…
When we took office on November 12, 2013 we were handed a deficit in excess of $30 million dollars. New Britain’s bond rating was being downgraded to nearly junk status. The City’s credit card was maxed out.
There was little-to-no serious interest from private developers. It seemed as though everywhere you turned there was another blighted property and no plan for dealing with them.
Our homeless population was on the rise and on full display in our downtown area.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, we were also suffering from a debilitating loss of the pride we had once all felt for our hometown.
People all over were citing New Britain as an example of a dying and decaying city. But today, people are telling a very different story about this town.
Today, they are talking about a city that has begun to turn itself around. This is occurring because, over the past two years, we have set a new standard for what the people of New Britain should expect from their government.
First off, we didn’t run from the tough decisions, we faced them head-on – it’s what I was elected to do. It meant making choices that were not necessarily popular, but definitely necessary….and I believe were right.
In addressing our financial crisis, we took decisive action. We reduced or rescinded over $20 million in our debt load. We put forward a budget that reduced city spending by nearly $16 million dollars. That budget was also the first budget in two years that was structurally balanced – meaning our revenues actually balanced with our expenditures.
Yes, it included an increase in our tax rate in order to make up for two years of mismanagement. But it was the right call. Incidentally, it was approved by a supermajority of the Council – including a majority of the Democratic caucus.
Since then, we have made further strides in reigning-in runaway spending.
We have worked in collaboration with our partners in labor to negotiate verifiable savings in new contracts and are moving all our employees to a system of healthcare benefits that is closer in line with that offered in the private sector.
We have restructured our finances to bring stability to our debt service payments. We have made key investments to spur economic development that has already begun to take shape.
In January, Standard & Poor’s validated our efforts by giving us an unprecedented 3-notch upgrade in our credit rating. And in June, the Common Council approved my second budget – which held the tax rate stable and is also structurally balanced. Again, it received the support of a supermajority of the Council – including all but one of the incumbents running for reelection on the Democratic slate.
I want to emphasize that point because it’s going to be an important theme during this campaign. Not only have we set a new standard in managing our finances, we have set a new standard in the way we conduct ourselves as your government. Every major initiative that we have undertaken has been met with bipartisan support from the Council. I am especially proud of that.
Much of our bipartisan success can be attributed to the fact that I have operated in a completely transparent manner with the Council. I have always sought to provide them with as much advance notice and detailed information as possible, prior to asking them to consider an important vote.
I firmly believe that no party has a monopoly on the right solutions for New Britain and that is why I am proud to lead a ticket that is made up of Republicans, Democrats and Unaffiliated voters.
New Britain cannot afford to be hamstrung by the political gridlock that is rampant in Hartford and Washington.
I don’t care what letter you have next to your name, if you want to make New Britain a better place then I want you on my team. We are also setting a new standard for compassion.
One of the most rewarding parts of being Mayor has not only been to lead Building Hope Together: New Britain’s Workplan to End Homelessness, but to actually see the positive results of our collective efforts. We have also partnered with organizations, like Veterans Incorporated, to create additional units of permanent supportive housing to help our homeless residents.
We may never fully solve the issue of chronic homelessness, but you can be darn sure we will never stop trying.
We have set a new standard for innovation, with the construction of one of the largest municipal solar projects in Connecticut, which is scheduled to go online next week. And we have certainly set new a new standard for economic and transit-oriented development.
There is no other municipality that is working as aggressively with the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Office of Policy and Management and the Department of Transportation to tap the large pools of funding made available to us thanks to CTFastrak. In the last two years alone, New Britain has seen an influx of over $10 Million in TOD monies to transform our downtown and more is on the way!
We have also seen some wonderful private investment projects go from an idea to reality during these two years.
Just drive up Farmington Avenue and grab a cone at Frisbie’s Dairy Barn. Or take a peek on Hartford Road and see the frame of the new Costco superstore going up.
In a few short months, the old police station on Columbus Boulevard will be a distant memory and we will be talking about a major new mixed-use development on that site. And, by the way, we closed on the Berkowitz Building two weeks ago and soon construction will begin on a wholesale rehabilitation of one of our biggest eyesores that will ultimately create a beautiful gateway to Little Poland and over twenty new apartments within walking distance to the CTFastrak terminal.
These are only a select few of the many projects either planned or underway in our City.
We have so much to be proud of and even more good stuff is in the works.
New Britain simply cannot afford to go back to the old ways of doing things. We must make sure that the progress continues and we can do that by electing Team Stewart on November 3rd.
Therefore, it is my distinct honor to humbly accept the nomination of the Republican Party for a second term as Mayor of the City of New Britain.