We asked the mayoral candidates the following questions: 1) What does the office of mayor mean to you? And, what ideas/programs/projects do you think should be implemented under the next administration? 2) What do you see as the main focus/role for the mayor of the City of Bristol? Here are their answers (Candidates are grouped in the order they will appear on the ballot):
Ellen A. Zoppo-Sassu
1) The mayor is the Chief Executive Officer of the $220 million entity, with the responsibility of overseeing 20 departments. From here, the city’s priorities are set. The entire team works hard to make government responsive, efficient and compassionate as it deals with various issues.
We are successful in overcoming negative perceptions from the previous political fighting and cringe worthy newspaper headlines of the last Administration. People want to feel good about where they live and work and we created a positive environment for that. Some of this is due to the new department heads and new managers who are pro-active about the roles their departments play with quality of life issues. For example – the partnerships among Parks & Recreation, Public Works and schools to build gardens and outside classrooms.
Our program priorities reflect that Bristol is a changing community and government needs to change to meet those needs. We have a new Arts & Culture Commission to celebrate our community’s talent, as well as a Youth Cabinet, Diversity Council and Task Force on Opioids to have conversations and address challenges. Our Senior Tax Relief Committee has sent a proposal to the Board of Finance recommending various tax relief scenarios for our older citizens to help them age in place while on fixed incomes. I also believe my role is to direct conversations where we see issues which require leadership, not city money. An example of this is coordinating the various social service and non-profits who deliver services to at risk populations to ensure everyone is doing their job and avoid duplication, or working with the Bristol-Burlington District to have them take a lead role with the opioid public health crisis.
2) The main focus for the next two years will be to continue to look at scarce and dwindling resources through collaboration with key partners, employees and citizens all of which is positioned against the backdrop of reduced state and federal aid. We will do that by continuing our efforts to reduce our costs while maintaining services. In my first term, we eliminated 11 city positions, and created 5 new ones in areas that needed more support, as well as upgraded job descriptions to better reflect responsibilities. We have combined the Youth Services and Parks Departments, and re-aligned the Sewer division to come under the Water Department instead of Public Works. None of this would have been possible without the support of our talented city employees who are taking advantage of technology to do more, as well as put forward suggestions on how to improve services from their vantage point on the front lines.
The City needs to balance its delivery of services against how to create efficiencies. I urge voters to support me, and the entire Democratic slate if they have liked what they have seen in the last 2 years. We have worked hard and Bristol is a model for other communities who are striving to show the same “All-Heart” approach to community issues that we handle every day.
1) The office of mayor is the place that people turn to in need. The office of mayor is the place where employees should be able to turn to if they need help, and a place that serves as the primary driver for the directives of the City. In order to ensure that Bristol is a competitive city, my administration will focus on downtown development, investing in technology to lower costs, and reforming our budgeting process to focus on performance-based outcomes. To stabilize ours tax rate we must re-prioritize our focus towards attracting private investments. Nothing has been more frustrating than watching the status quo in our approach to development. In order to attract investments, we need to market the city’s strengths by making vital statistics and success stories publicly available. We owe it to residents to build destinations downtown where people can eat, shop, and seek entertainment. Doing so will ensure that we can attract young families, keep our older generations, and become an example of excellence.
2) The mayor is both the Chief Executive of the City of Bristol and a public servant who must advance the city and the interests of its residents. In order to do so, the mayor must be an advocate, a business manager, a leader, and a listener. As an advocate, the mayor must stand up for residents in their time of need. For example, when the state adopts inappropriate tax and spend policies or cuts aid that is necessary to those in need, it is up to the mayor to make a clear stand against those types of policies. Further, when the state adopts policies that advance the interest of the city and its residents, the mayor should make every effort to advance those interests. As a business manager, the mayor must know how to handle the budget and staffing. It is important that the mayor be able to effectively manage others, while ensuring that budget goals are being met and there is excellence in service delivery. As a leader, it is important that the mayor works collaboratively to solve Bristol’s most complex issues, such as crime, downtown development and community development. By taking a lead on the issues that matter most to those who live here, the mayor can help residents see desired goals become a reality.
As a listener, the mayor must hear and understand exactly what the community’s needs are in order to effectively deliver in meeting those needs. Oftentimes, issues that people truly care about are not one dimensional. By listening to what people need or the issues that they have will lead to strong solutions that can benefit the city.