Meet the council candidates for District 2

October 30, 2013

As Bristol residents prepare this year’s municipal elections on Nov. 5, the Observer asked the council candidates for the city three districts a series of questions that will help voters make their choices when they turn out to cast their ballots.

Calvin Brown
Democratic
candidate
for District 2
As a challenger, what is an issue that has come up to the council in which you would have handled differently? How?
I would have handled the police union contract negotiations differently. The deal was turned down by the city after extensive negotiations because of a small salary increase. Consequently, the matter was sent to binding arbitration. Ultimately, the city lost, and spent far more in arbitration and attorneys’ fees than what they would have spent agreeing to the salary increase. I would have voted to accept the contract because I believe it was fair to begin with.

What do you believe are the biggest issues Bristol faces in the next two years and, if elected, how will you contribute to address them?
I think it’s highly important to continue with downtown development in such a way that people can see it in progress. I will advocate that the city council work closer with the Bristol Downtown Development Committee, as well as hire a new economic development director.
In combination with development efforts, the city needs to do all in its power to attack blight. All candidates agree on stricter code enforcement, but I will also advocate for stronger ordinances that hold landlords accountable for the maintenance and appearance of properties they own in this city.
The city needs to work with its state elected officials to make sure that the legislature stops level funding our schools. I have a good relationship with all of the city’s state representatives, and I know they’re eager to help our schools. I will be their partner.

What can you do, if elected, to attract more business to the city?
In order to attract new businesses, they will need some place to locate. If elected, I will work with all of our officials to remediate brownfield properties and get those sites usable again. Likewise, I will work with our state delegation to aggressively seek bio-medical companies to fill our new bio-tech industrial zone.
Also, as a city councilor, I will work with the mayor and the council to actively seek a new economic development director. I will support tax breaks for businesses looking to expand, as well as provide resources and incentives to revive and nourish Bristol’s manufacturing sector.
Finally, I believe it is important to work with the city’s greatest businesses to try and cultivate an atmosphere that is conducive to the growth of new businesses that can support, sustain, and enhance some of Bristol’s top employers.

If elected, what will you do to make sure taxes are low without city services being cut?
If we expand industry, streamline administration of services, and return properties back to the grand list, the city will be able to raise revenue without continuously increasing taxes or cutting city services.
Bio:
Running for City Council in first district.
Junior at Central Connecticut State University studying political science in the honors program
Intern, Education and Workforce Development at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology
Active in the community as an executive member of the Bristol Exchange Club and as a lector and volunteer CCD teacher at St. Gregory’s Church. Exemplified leadership as founding member of Congressman John Larson’s Congressional Youth Cabinet and as alternate member of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Henri Martin
Republican candidate District 2
As an incumbent, what is an accomplishment you are most proud of during the time you have served?
The accomplishment I feel I most contributed to is increasing sufficient oversight on the city’s budget. I believe, since being elected, more city employees are more accountable, and are now better monitoring how the city is allocating and spending tax payers’ dollars. Simply, Bristol citizens want its elected officials, including city department heads, staff and employees, to be transparent and upright overseers of city expenditures. Moreover, regardless of difficult or good economic times, it’s vital to continually monitor and weigh spending, and evaluate inefficiencies, while maintaining a high level of city services acceptable to taxpayers.
What do you believe are the biggest issues Bristol faces in the next two years and, if elected how you will contribute to address them?
The biggest challenge will be turning the West End around into a desirable destination for business owners and be a place where people will want to live and raise their children. You can be certain the process in handling the turnaround has begun. The 2011 West End Study is a great plan with many outstanding short and long term goals, which are being implemented by the area stake holders and the city leaders. But there is still a lot to do. Its success will require an unwavering commitment of time, attention, effort and resources by the city Council, Board of Finance, various city departments, neighborhood residents, and businesses and the entire city. 
I am also concerned about advancing the progress of downtown development. I’m fortunate, because of my construction and land development background and land use knowledge, I can bring an invaluable set of skills and experience that will provide me the information to make informed and positive decisions during the downtown development process. The entire community has been patient and, understandably, is anxious for a shovel to get into the ground. However factors such as demographic information, zoning change, site plan approval, and current market conditions and financing all have to come into place for the project to proceed and for it to be successful. I’m cautiously optimistic phase one will begin sometime within the next year.
What can you do, if elected, to attract more business to the city?
The most effective way to attract business into Bristol is to position Bristol for success. We do this by fiscal policy and appropriate resource allocation. Understand fiscal policy is the use of government budget to influence economic activity. If the right policies are in place and resources are distributed to match them, then the foundation is in place to generate sustained and robust revenues for business and the city. Further, we must continue the work to brand Bristol and devise a formal strategy to “sell” the many fine aspects of the city to companies who are considering re-locating to our region. Resource allocation and a good strategy plan can help.
If elected, what will you do to make sure taxes are low without city services being cut?
Prior to adopting the current city budget because of a possible $7.5M deficit, the mayor assembled a Task Force on Fiscal Efficiency early in the year to come up with ideas and ways to mitigate the deficit. What came out of the Task Force were cost saving ideas along with short and long term goals. Some of the ideas helped immediately, but most required time for policy and contractual changes such as renegotiating the worker’s compensation benefit to compensate injured workers to 2/3 of the base pay not 100 percent of base pay. Therefore, I’d like to see the task force stay in place, so it can continue to find ways the city can operate more efficiently and keep an eye on the budget details. More importantly, so it can implement the long term plans it suggested.
Bio: Henri Martin, 56, holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Anselm College; completed additional graduate classes at the University of Hartford. He is a real estate broker and owner of Henri Martin Real estate. He has experience in city government, as he has been on the city council since 2011, and also in other community organizations. He holds positions on the St. Ann Church Board of Finance, the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce Board of Directors, and is a past parish council member of St. Ann Church and St. Matthew Church. He is also a founding member of the Bristol Soccer Club.

 

Bob Vojtek
Democrat candidate District 2
As a challenger, what is an issue that has come up to the council in which you would have handled differently? How?
Selling the schools that have been closed. The process was not well thought out or executed. You need a plan and vision for the city and then you need to use the plan to determine broadly what you are looking for. It is inconceivable that we would entertain an offer that didn’t fully articulate what the city was going to get. At present, Bristol is in a reactive mode. We are making decisions about things, events, and proposals that are coming to us. We need to be proactive and create the future we want to see.
The city needs to have a long-range plan… some would call it a strategic plan. Without a plan, how can we determine if we are making progress? The plan would act as a guide as we proactively solicit new businesses and create roadmap for Bristol to be the best place to live, work, and play.

What do you believe are the biggest issues Bristol faces in the next two years and, if elected, how will you contribute to address them?
The problems Bristol faces are systemic problems. The West End will require more than a can of paint and a crossing guard. We need to look at the underlying issues and create a plan and commitment to honor the value and history of the West End. The West End Study gives a starting point. This can’t be a situation where we propose throwing $250,000 at the problem and ignore it for another two years in time for the next election.

What can you do, if elected, to attract more business to the city?
Bristol needs to be an affordable place to run a business. We need an infrastructure that can support technology startups as well as dining, lodging, and entertainment venues. If we want visitors to come to Bristol, we need to have sufficient places to eat and stay.

If elected, what will you do to make sure taxes are low without city services being cut?
If we have more business and residents sharing the tax burden we can hold taxes down. That would require making Bristol to be an even better place to live work and play. Finding efficiencies that are so significant that they would keep taxes at bay are pretty unrealistic. That doesn’t mean we do not make every effort to find them,

Bio: Bob Vojtek was born and raised in the heart of the Redwoods in California. He earned his undergraduate degree from California Polytechnic State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. He has held administrative leadership positions in K-12 education, the community college level, and at several universities. He has presented on issues of leadership and technology regionally and nationally. Vojtek co-authored a book on leadership, “Motivate! Inspire! Lead! Ten Strategies for Building Collegial Learning Communities” with his wife Rosie Vojtek, principal of Ivy Drive Elementary School. Vojtek currently serves as a commissioner on the Bristol Board of Finance and is the director of technology for Avon Public Schools.

 

Rich Miecznikowski
Republican candidate District 2
As a challenger, what is an issue that has come up to the council in which you would have handled differently? How?
One issue that has come up is the West End problems. We just recently appropriated $250,000 to control blight. Also, there is more police presence there. Perhaps a police substation could be set up in the empty O’Connell School building.
What do you believe are the biggest issues Bristol faces in the next two years and, if elected, how will you contribute to address them?
One of the issues is the development of the mall property. We have to address this because we need a vibrant downtown. Also, we have the issue of what is the best possible use of the Memorial Boulevard School.
What can you do, if elected, to attract more business to the city?
We must continue to use Economic Development money to attract more businesses to our city. We should offer tax abatements to lure businesses to our city.
If elected, what will you do to make sure taxes are low without city services being cut?
We have excellent city services. We must continue to look at ways to keep the mill rate affordable for our taxpayers. One solution might be to combine public works, parks, and recreation to share different duties.
Bio: Rich Miecznikowski has served on the Board of Finance for 27 years, and was the chairman for the last 12 years. He is vice-chairman of the city’s retirement board and has been married for 37 years to his wife Mary Ann.

Frank Kramer
Independent candidate
District 2
As a challenger, what is an issue that has come up to the council in which you would have handled differently? How?
The imminent acquisition of the non-profit, community based Bristol Hospital by the for profit Hospital chain, Tenet Healthcare … is apparently a non-issue for this current administration and those currently running for election…. As most Democrats and some Republicans, throughout the state, rail against the likes of such acquisitions by predatory Wall Street proxies, this crop of councilmen/women are uniquely silent. The Republicans I can understand; free market at any price. But those Bristol Democrats? It’s like the cat’s got their tongue…. If elected councilman, I would be calling for a Code Blue on this take under over by Tenet….

What can you do, if elected, to attract more business to the city?
Attracting the right kinds of businesses to Bristol is a huge component to Bristol’s sustainability as a community and it’s viability regarding quality of life issues. Informed decisions on what businesses to support and what businesses not to is a tricky prospect. These days, though, it’s imperative few mistakes are made in our efforts to court businesses that will not only thrive but commit to staying in Bristol. Clearly, the complacency that has plagued Bristol in the past merits no place in its future. Government needs to be supremely pro-active to be competitive with not just other towns but other states…
Having had careers as both a seasoned salesman battling it out in the competitive trenches of cheaply-produced foreign products, as well as an officer in a high tech start up, I can speak to how important having the right people with the right tools are….
Another lesson one quickly learns in business is to keep your hands off what works. As a councilman going forward, I would lend all the support I could to build on the (Bristol Development Authority’s) recent successes…

If elected, what will you do to make sure taxes are low without city services being cut?
I’m going to make an off-the-wall observation on this subject of taxes. And that is: high or low taxes are a relative thing. In other words, what might seem like high, even outrageously high, taxes to a wealthy person who could well afford their share for keeping the community, as a whole, functioning reasonably well, might seem reasonable to someone of more moderate means who is struggling with their own tax burden…
And let’s all be clear on one thing. One thing which might require a dose of honest self appraisal; if it weren’t for the presence of ESPN, we’d all be paying considerably more… than we currently do. Substantially so… Bristol is reasonably fortunate in that department… And… I’ve never known low taxes to put out a fire, educate a classroom or efficiently respond to an emergency police call…
That said, do I see areas where we can save money and consequently keep higher taxes at bay? … As councilman, I would work tenaciously at eliminating them… If the city were in for a shortfall of unprecedentedly dangerous proportions—-where vital services might be threatened—- I would be in favor of crafting a mechanism where the managers of every city department would be required to bear the burden of 10 to 15 percent salary cut until the emergency was resolved. I would also lobby our state legislature to enable that kind of mechanism to take place on the administrative side in our education system…
Bio: Frank Kramer graduated Central Connecticut State University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He has worked as a psychiatric aide at the Institute of Living in Hartford, while pursuing a degree, and worked as a taxi driver in Los Angeles and Hartford. He was an officer in a high tech start up (wearing many hats including shareholder reporting, auditing, purchasing, personnel; sales and marketing); worked in the wholesale building products industry as a sales manager and as a group home supervisor for young adults transitioning out of state facilities.
As a volunteer, he has worked with the Connecticut Fund for Animals; as a crisis counselor for victims of domestic violence/sexual abuse (requiring yearly state certification), hosted two music oriented radio shows (community radio stations ) for 12 years between Rockland, Maine, and Torrington, Conn.
His daughter, Sara, graduated Hall High School (cum laude) and Barnard College (magna cum laude). She is currently managing editor of the New York Review of Books, Book Publishing division and lives in Brooklyn.
Kramer is currently self-employed on a part-time basis. Year-round spends time writing a graphic novel and hiking; kayaking, gardening this and that in the spring and summer.

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