The Do-Nothing Council
In 1948, President Truman was faced with reelection and a Congress dominated by the opposition party. Congress stalled on many major pieces of legislation. Truman labeled this Congress the “Do-Nothing Congress”.
Well, here in New Britain we have the “Do-Nothing Council”. Rather than debate and act on 2 major initiatives, the Democrats are just doing nothing. These 2 projects, the debt restructuring and the Beehive Bridge, have been in the works for a while and only needed final council approvals. The Democrats on the council have just stalled.
The most important of these initiatives is the debt restructuring. Bonding of city debt is designed to stretch the cost of major city projects, like schools and road construction, over many years. For the last 20 years, Mayors have used the bonding process for other expenses. In 1998, Mayor Lucian Pawlak bonded money to pay off the city’s pension obligations (much like the state, the city’s pension debt had been underfunded for years). At the time, the city was using a payment schedule to pay off the debt over a few years, but Mayor Pawlak pushed the council to pay off the pension debt all at once and resulted in bond debts we are still paying on. In 2013, Mayor Tim O’Brien bonded $30 million dollars to pay for things like textbooks and increased school funding (which should’ve been paid through the budget as 1-time expenses). Now these debts are due. The payment on the 2013 bonding alone will be $30 million this year alone.
The debt restructuring plan is simple. The legislature changed the law last year to allow cities to stretch bonding past the 20-year limit. This change will allow us to refinance the city’s debt for a few more years and help us avoid the balloon payment coming up. If we didn’t, we would be forced to raise taxes by 10 mills.
The mayor brought in financial experts and they were willing to answer any questions that the Aldermen had. When it came time for a vote, the Aldermen skipped the meeting and then adjourned the next one. They DID NOTHING!
When you drive into Hartford on I-84 W, you see a beautiful overpass with “Welcome to Hartford” written on it. When you go over Route 32 into Willimantic, you go over the famed “Frog Bridge”. When you come into New Britain, you see just an overpass. A plain overpass.
The city is in the final stages of a streetscape project. The final stage is the renovation of the Main St. Overpass. I remember going over the bridge with my grandparents on the way to Amato’s. It was loud, and we couldn’t wait to get over it. The Mayor has proposed a new bridge, adorned with bee statues, lights, and mini-parks. She also obtained grants to help pay for more than half of the costs. All that was needed was for the Democratic-led council to approve the construction bids. They tabled it, in other words, they DID NOTHING!
By not voting on the bids, they put the project in jeopardy. The money has already been raised and those funds might go away if not spent soon. If we don’t build the bridge, then the money goes back to the grantors and we are left with a bad reputation with them that may harm future grant requests.
The Democrats on the council need to do something. Not doing something will result in financial losses to the city. Granted, there are 7 new Aldermen, but their leadership should’ve prepped them on the issues since they’ve been discussed so long. The leadership needs to take a stand and force a vote. If the current leadership won’t take a stand, then maybe one of the newbies should.
In 1948, Truman campaigned against the Do-Nothing Congress and won a surprising reelection and the Republicans lost their majority. I wouldn’t mind a Republican council, but I worry about the city more. It’s time that the Democrats stop thinking about what is best for their party and think about what is best for the city.