What would you like to see happen with Memorial Boulevard School?
The most important thing for Memorial Boulevard School and particularly the theater is that something happen. Over 24 months have passed since the MBS Task Force completed their report and presented it to the City Council. In my opinion this administration, particularly the mayor (Ken Cockayne) and the chair of the Board of Finance (Cheryl Thibeault) have impeded the progress of the MBS Building Committee (which was formed to implement the recommendations of the task force), particularly in the financing of the project. In 2016, both the mayor and the chair of the Board of Finance voted to reduce, from $10 million to $5 million, the request made by the MBS Building Committee for Phase I of the project. In 2017, the MBS Building Committee again came back to ask that the $5 million be increased to $13 million, which has now been approved. If we had had the votes and approved the original request a year earlier, we would be that much closer to having the project underway. Whether we end up with an arts magnet school, a cultural arts center or city hall, we need to get this building up and running.
How do you feel about the progress of revitalizing the city’s downtown? What more should or can be done?
Downtown revitalization is another area that has been stalled under the current mayor. When the city bought the mall property, it was an attempt to take control of the destiny of our downtown. Lots of different ideas and variations of plans have been proposed. None of them were to build a medical office building and parking lot on a quarter of the site. The proposals I and many citizens of Bristol favored and the ones the various experts who have been involved over the years recommended included mixed use in a walkable downtown. In fairness, no city official can force a project that they favor to take advantage of an opportunity in Bristol. And it is not easy to garner interest in an empty downtown. However, if the city had been willing to invest in a Phase I that had mixed uses we would be in a much better position to further the vision that had been articulated in all the studies and forums over the years.
Which phrase do you agree with… Bristol is a city on the rise or Bristol is a city in stagnation? Why do you feel that way? If it’s on the rise, what can be done to ensure that direction is maintained? If you feel it’s stagnant, how can we get ourselves “unstuck?”
I don’t think Bristol is only one or the other. It depends on what you are evaluating to answer the question. We have things like Lake Compounce, which has expanded from a family-owned regional attraction to a national destination in my lifetime, and ESPN, a national leader in sports programming. They don’t need me to run for council. There are things, however, like the value of your home, the quality of our children’s education and the number of people suffering from addiction, particularly opioid addiction that are not doing so well, and that I hope to help find solutions for. Each time we have a decision to make as a council, we need to ask if it is contributing to solving our city’s problems or not, and sometimes more importantly, we need to bring issues that need our attention to the council.