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CPOA Debate Tackles Tough Questions for Aldermen

Four Democrats and Five Republicans turned out Sunday to the First Annual Citizen Property Owners Association (CPOA) of New Britain debate at the Community Room of the New Britain Police Department.

Questions ranged on topics of the landlord situation, taxes, the mill rate, transparency and more.

The 50 minute debate was led by award winning journalist, co-founder of CTLatinoNews.com and City resident Diane Alverio.

Democrat Matt Cannata, running on the Republican slate opened up the debate concerning the landlord situation.

“Right now we see a huge fight between City Hall and the landlords. You can tackle these things two ways. You can go against them and fight and be stubborn or you can sit there and work together with them,” Cannata said. “Unfortunately right now the common council and the landlords are not working together at all. City Hall has created a hostile environment.”

Democrat Michael Trueworthy said, “you need both sides at the table. I wish there were more of both sides at the table.”

Democrat David DeFronzo said it is a contentious political season.

“We all want what is best in the City and the community,” said DeFronzo. “The rhetoric on both sides makes it difficult to compromise and find a solution to a problem.”

Willie Pabon said he does not like to see out of town landlords called slumlords.

“That creates a lot of friction,” said Pabon. “Right now City Hall does not want to talk to the landlords, so I guess it is going to keep on.”

Economic development was another hot topic at the debate.

“We need to market the City of New Britain not just locally, but globally and nationally,” said Democrat Daniel Salerno running on the Republican ticket. “We need everyone in the United States to know who New Britain is. We need to expand.”

“I think it really has to focus on small businesses and be more local,” said Democrat Adrian Baron. “It really takes community with both business and residents.”

Budget concerns was another topic were aldermen faced tough questions.

Democrat Carlo Carlozzi said, health benefits is a place were money can be saved. He suggested combining vendors so all the unions had the same plan.

“If we could get everybody together,” said Carlozzi. “It would be far less expensive.”

Independent candidate running on the Republican slate Don Naples said the first thing to do is stop forgiving taxes.

“In the last two years there has been hundreds of thousands of owed taxes that were in deeds that were forgiven by the (Mayor Tim) O’Brien administration,” said Naples. “That money has to be made up by us.”

Naples said the City needs to stop increasing the budget. The budget has gone up by $25 million since O’Brien became mayor.

“We are just kicking the can down the road. We are doing what Washington did,” said Carlozzi. “Expenses need to be cut.”

Republican Chris Polkowski said he was worried about less funds coming from the state.

“A lot of our land is non-taxable. If we eliminate pilot programs, we are going to be in a world of hurt,” said Polkowski.

Polkowski said buildings for such things as another homeless shelter and churches take money off of the tax roles. He said there needs to be a better plan to improve the grand list.

Pabon said he proposed a 1.5 mill rate several years ago and if that had been passed, such a large mill rate would not have been needed this year.

“We went up 8 mills in one shot,” said Pabon. “Businesses will not come to New Britain when Berlin has a mill rate around 29. My taxes went up $1,500 after the Mayor told me it wasn’t going up.”

Carlozzi said he was in favor of the City holding referendums on budgets, bonding and other questions.

“Power comes from the people and not the other way around,” Carlozzi said.

“We should have had referendums long ago,” said Salerno. “We need to have a Democratic process. People need that opportunity.”

One of the last topics discussed was blight.

“People have labeled all landlords as slumlords and it’s not true. We need to first figure out which ones care about the properties and which ones don’t,” said Cannata. “Then you work with the people who don’t take care of their properties. Then start the fining.”

Baron said property owners need to be taught how to go after tenants or others who are creating graffiti and blight. He said people need to use the court system.

“We need to know what obstacles are preventing them from taking care of the properties and work from there,” said Cannata.

Polkowski said there are couches and items left on the sidewalks because the City is no longer the one picking them up. A third party has been hired and is not as accountable.

“We need to give better information to residents as well,” Polkowski added.

“Today’s CPOA Aldermanic Debate went even better than I had hoped. We had a great audience, the questions were superb, and our moderator kept things moving. It was a great show of non-partisanship,” said Catherine Cheney of the CPOA. “I am saddened that some on the D ticket were afraid that would not be the case. Sadly, in this city, in this state, and in this country, too many people believe that you can not hold an opinion and still be fair.”