We asked the Town Council candidates the following questions: 1) What do you see as the role of government in the City of Bristol? 2) The City of Bristol has put an emphasis on economic development, and reinvigorating the downtown area. How has the City fallen short on economic development? Why, or why not? Here are their answers (Candidates are grouped in the order they will appear on the ballot):
(Democrat, incumbent, District 1)
1) Of course, the role of any government is to keep the city safe while providing basic needs and the “quality of life” for the people that live there. The responsibility of government to its’ citizens is to make informed and sound decisions based on fact and not political gain. Make the right decisions, not necessarily the popular decisions. Always be listening and providing transparency into the key decisions being made on behalf of everyone in the city. We need to listen to anyone that has something honest and constructive to say. Some of my favorite and most productive discussions have been with people that did not necessarily agree with me. I will not stop listening.
2) Over the past 20 years or so, the effort to revitalize our downtown has had many starts only to fail because of lack of money, commitment and/or leadership. Initial agreements were formed without the ability to follow through to completion. In the last two years, an effective plan has been created to market the parcels known as Center Square. The hospital building has been completed and we are ready to break ground at another location on Main Street. With a letter of intent for another parcel and extreme interest in others, there is excitement regarding the direction being taken for the future of Centre Square. Add to that, the new businesses opening in existing buildings and you have more progress in developing a thriving downtown than has been seen over the previous 20 years combined. We see progress outside of downtown as well. New businesses are coming to the industrial park such as the Amazon Distribution Center and Winchester Industrial Controls. These businesses bring viable new jobs to Bristol. We are seeing existing businesses adding to their success in Bristol by expanding. Both the Doubletree Hotel and AMKO (in the Southeast Industrial Park) are expanding and PEP has purchased a building on Dolphin Road. Businesses are finding that it is better in Bristol, because together, we are a team. Finally, when the theatre at Memorial Boulevard School opens in 2021, there will be events at the theatre attracting people from surrounding communities. This will bring more people to our downtown retail shops, restaurants and breweries. With this plan put in place by our Mayor and City Council along with efforts by our many city departments, Bristol’s future is brighter than it has been in a very long time.
Scott W. Rosado
(Democrat, incumbent, District 1)
- The role of government in Bristol should exemplify strong leadership. We have to understand that we won’t agree on everything, but we should listen to each other respectfully, and base our decisions that benefit our community as a whole. There should be transparency in order to address any concerns and we must continue to evaluate current policy and develop a plan of action for the future.
2) I feel that without transparency and collaboration our economic development becomes stagnant. During my appointment, I don’t agree that the city has fallen short in economic development. I’m excited about the action that’s taken place throughout our city. Lights are turning on and people of all ages can congregate at one of the many fine restaurants that Bristol has to offer. At the end of the day, we have investors wanting to or have commitments for our future, they include anything from family fun, a sports complex, and manufacturing to say the least. Not only do we have places to go, while supporting our neighbors, but we have an opportunity for others to boost our economy and make Bristol worth the trip. I’m proud to say we really have a lot to offer and there are currently many hidden gems that people can utilize when visiting Bristol like the New England Carousel Museum, Imagine Nation Center and American Clock & Watch Museum to list a few. As you can see, by working great things happen.
Peter B. Kelley
(Democrat, incumbent, District 2)
1) The role of government in the City of the Bristol is to promote a high-quality standard of living for citizens economically and socially. This can be accomplished through a properly funded & top-tier educational system. Children, adolescents, and young adults should be provided chances to develop the skills and aptitude necessary to succeed in trade-school and collegiate environments. Secondly, municipal governance should also recognize that support of vibrant and varied business, dining, and entertainment development downtown is foundational for Bristol to continue thriving. In only two years significant progress has been made to further this goal. These factors working in consort will alleviate the tax burden for our population.
Additionally, the city must also be concerned with the facilitation of diverse recreational, arts, and entertainment programming. These components will provide opportunities for the people of Bristol to remain active in their community and build bonds with their neighbors. These factors will help to deliver the quality of life that will attract and keep young people and working families’ in our community. Perception is reality. There is new optimism and a sense of pride that is palpable within the community due to the efforts of the Zoppo-Sassu Administration, and this work has only just begun. If we are given two more years to build upon what has already been accomplished, Bristol will be poised to blossom. The mayor, city council, and municipal departments have repaired the image of the city and are positioning Bristol as an excellent place to live, work, and educate our children.
2) The City of Bristol has made considerable progress in economic development and in the reinvigoration of downtown. In conjunction with the recent opening of new restaurants and a brewery, the construction of eighty market-rate housing units and the development of multiple additional dining options over the next year will breathe life into downtown. As well, Bristol Hospital approached the previous administration about Bristol Health’s new downtown facility, and the Zoppo-Sassu administration shepherded the project through its completion. Aesthetically and functionally, the revitalization of one of the major gateways to the city in Riverside Avenue, most notably the Old Sessions building, will aid the re-energization of downtown. Additionally, the bipartisan-approved Memorial Boulevard School and Theater Project will enrich Bristol culturally and entice further entrepreneurship in the downtown area.
I am very proud of the city’s economic development accomplishments over the past two years. We have begun to build a strong foundational base that the Zoppo-Sassu administration can expand upon if the voters of Bristol decide to afford us another two years of working on their behalf. The mayor’s office and the city council are focused on strengthening our weaknesses and emphasizing our community’s positives attributes, which are numerous. If provided the opportunity of serving for another two years, the current council members and our very capable first woman mayor are poised to continue delivering on the great work that has been started.
(Democrat, incumbent, District 2)
The role of government in Bristol is no different than any other city in Connecticut. I view our role as advocates for our citizens. It is our fundamental duty to listen to our neighbors and address issues that are important to them and use the information we have whenever decisions need to be made. I have been telling people in my district that the local election is really important. More decisions on the local level affect our daily lives. So, I take my role as a council member very seriously. Besides advocacy, I think my role also includes setting priorities and studying how business gets done on a day to day basis. Priorities are important because Bristol, like most cities, has limited resources. We can’t do everything that is on our wish list simply because we can’t afford to do so. The last 2 years, I have worked on efficiencies with Ellen and our comptroller. We have established “best practices” that will help the city in the future. We have attempted to consolidate departments, combine jobs where we can and evaluate how we can do things more effectively while still delivering services. We continue to look at contracts and relationships with the goal of saving money where we can. I’ve been fortunate in the 4 years I have served on the council to have been on numerous committees where I learned a lot about how the city runs. This has enabled me to dig into difficult topics. I hope I can do more in the next 2 years.
2) Obviously, we would like to see more quality development. However, we need to deal with facts. Our demographics don’t get outside investors fired up so we need to build a case for investment. What we have done, I think, effectively is create tax incentives and a tax incremental financing program that should help when the situations present themselves. The BDA has also implemented incentives that will help us with potential suiters though grants. We designed the composition of the lots in Centre Square so we can accommodate small investors or, through combining lots, we can work with larger developers. So, there is flexibility going forward. We have rejected opportunities presented to us. Future development needs to fit into the downtown plan and we won’t, at this point, move off the standards we want to see. What we need to emphasize now is strategic marketing. We need to be more aggressive in letting regional developers know what is available and the packages we can put together to attract investment. When I was campaigning last time, people wanted to see restaurants. What needs to happen is we need to make the existing restaurants in the downtown area busier. When investors or entrepreneurs see activity and a chance for profitability, we have a better chance to attract investment. Success breeds success.
Mary B. Fortier
(Democrat, incumbent, District 3)
1) Government in the City of Bristol provides for “the common good,” providing services and marshaling resources to give our residents the best quality of life possible. As a city in Connecticut, we are responsible for services that are, sometimes, done regionally, or not at all in smaller municipalities. We provide education to our young people, almost 8,000 students, snow removal, road repair and trash pickup for 225 miles of roadways, water and sewer service for many, and public safety and fire protection. Besides these primary services, our local government does many other things. There are almost 50 boards and commissions, most of which are made up of citizen volunteers who contribute their time and talents to all areas of our city’s work. These volunteers work with the department heads and city staff to give input and guide their work–Bristol people making Bristol better.
2) The leadership for the city rests with Ellen, our Mayor. In addition to the services we have been providing previously, she is building on our strengths, confronting our weaknesses, planning for our future and innovating the way we provide services. One of the strengths Ellen supported since she was a Council woman is the preservation and restoration of the Memorial Boulevard Theater. She has formed an Opioid Task Force to confront the crisis which has afflicted our city. The reorganization of our pension structure saved the city millions of dollars in the first year and every year going forward and maintains our pension system as one of the strongest municipal pensions in the country. She has developed some shared services between the Board of Education and the City where the talents of one can benefit the other. This has resulted in less contracting out for services, consequently, several situations were handled immediately because the employees with the skills were readily available. As vacancies have occurred, she has shifted responsibilities, consolidated some positions and provided some new positions, all to get the work done more efficiently and provide better service to all of us. Ellen works harder and Bristol is better. Your voting enables our team’s continued work, making Bristol better for you. We all want a vibrant downtown with restaurants, retail and entertainment. The most important catalyst for all those things is people. We need significant new housing development downtown that provides new markets for restaurants, retail and entertainment. That will make Bristol a destination. Bristol has fallen short in achieving a significant large development of new housing on the Centre Square property. Without that, our development will continue to be slower than we would like. The next projects coming to Centre Square have space for two restaurants, about 12 apartment units and some office space. Our team of the Mayor, the Bristol Development Authority and the Public Works department have made the hospital building and the improvements to date possible, and they certainly aren’t done. They continue to work everyday on projects in and around Centre Square, working harder to make Bristol better.
(Democrat, challenger, District 3)
1) I believe the role of government in Bristol is to ensure that those who choose to live in Bristol can thrive. To achieve this goal for our community it is important that we elect officials who believe in the importance of local government. The Mayor and city council help to organize all the moving parts of city hall and it is important for those who are elected, to have the vision and skills to deliver results. I believe the Democratic team that has been serving for the past two years, has been working hard to deliver those results to you. We are seeing our city provide new and exciting services like our farmer’s market, many recycling & green initiatives and other innovative programs that help Bristol to be even better. Government is also responsible for funding important functions of our community like public safety, economic development schools, water treatment, snow & trash removal, parks and recreation, property record management, voter protection and more. I strongly believe in the importance of local government and will work hard to protect all the functions that our government performs, when I am elected.
2) In my opinion, the development of downtown fell short in the 1960’s during the Urban Renewal period, when beautiful historic buildings were torn down along Main & North Main street. I have photographs of the city’s old post office hanging in my home to remind myself of the landscape of the Bristol that existed before I was born. I think one of the best things to happen to Bristol’s downtown, was for the city to acquire the previous mall space and tear it down to begin a new period of redevelopment. During the Renaissance Downtown era I was passionate about their proposal, and still believe it would have been effective for Bristol. I do believe that a blend of retail, restaurant and residential space downtown is imperative to a thriving and exciting atmosphere. I am excited that we have sold most of the parcels downtown, with buyers who plan on providing many of the key factors I mentioned above. The city will then shift focus on making sure that the downtown space is walkable; with sidewalks, lights, parking and more. I want a seat at the table to be able to offer my insights on what will attract people in my demographic, young adults with established careers looking for a place to call home. In my free time I enjoy traveling across the New England area with my family, and when I travel I see many beautiful things that other towns do to celebrate their own unique identity with art and style and I think it’s important to include this in our downtown plans. I am excited to see what the future holds for Bristol’s downtown, since things are happening more quickly today than they have in the past 50 years.
(Republican, challenger, District 1)
- Local City government has three main areas of focus. I refer to them as the 3 P’s. 1. We should be investing in Public Education. Our schools need to focus on college preparation but we also need to improve our technical training. In my role as a BOE Commissioner I have proposed that we innovate and reorganize and expand our offerings in Science, Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing (STEM, minus the math.) This is a much higher priority in Bristol than the Intra-District Arts Magnet School. Although I have nothing against the Arts Magnet school, I feel we should restructure the district to meet the needs of local manufacturers in the Greater Bristol Area that have ~7000 manufacturing jobs that are currently unfilled. To date the BOE has a “Do Nothing” capital plan. 2. Public Safety. Bristol has a strong fire and police force and with the exception of our recycling issue we have good services in Bristol. Recently there has been an increase in car break-ins and thefts. I believe we need to continue to invest in our security, and work with our first responders to give them the tools they need to better police and enforce our laws. 3. Public Infrastructure provides the basic backbone that allows businesses to grow and expand and allows us to attract new ones. Public City-Wide Internet would not be included as one of the basic functions for our municipality. The ~$65 million dollar taxpayer expense is not a wise investment. We are foolish to think we can compete with private internet and cellular companies (5G is coming). We need to focus investment on new companies and significant local expansions that will add to our tax base.
- The development of downtown has been disappointing and a prime example of government overreach. The purchase of the land 15 years ago was a mistake. Government is not a transparent steward of a free market process. City Leaders need to be accountable, and the reality is that there has been only one project that has broken ground in all these years. Bristol citizens have said that Bristol can do better and with 30 years of business sales/management background, I am confident that I will add action over rhetoric to promote Bristol as a big small town with business friendly policies that will land new businesses.
(Republican, challenger, District 1)
- The role of government in the city of Bristol should be to keep the community safe, keep plans in place to assist the most delicate people which are the elderly and disabled, beautify the city, concentrate on a phenomenal educational system, maintain and grow business in the city by lowering the taxes and offering grant incentives to new business. I would like to start an incentive based program for the high school students to reward them with more technology and school supplies, etc. for doing volunteer work in the community to help the elderly and disabled with lawn work, household chores, etc. It teaches a strong work ethic and compassion that helps build strong character.
- The City has fallen short on economic development due to raising taxes. We need to reduce spending to lower taxes. It’s also time to come to terms with the fact that the downtown “patch” needs to partially be transformed into a beautiful green space park/walking paths towards the side that is closer to Rt. 6 area for people to enjoy and then once it comes to fruition and it’s being utilized by the community, small businesses will open to fill in the remaining space that is closer to the hospital area. Downtown will have more of a purpose for people to visit, hence more businesses will open along adjoining streets. I attended CCSU towards a Bachelors Degree in business marketing after I had already received an Associates Degree in Applied Science from Briarwood College and I’ve been in business for 34 years with clients throughout CT and New England. I know what works to bring business into Bristol, I’ve been doing exactly that for 34 years! I also served as Advisory Board Member for Lincoln College and served on the Mayor’s Task force a few years ago to award grant money to upstart businesses.
(Republican, challenger, District 2)
1) I feel the role of government in our city is simple, it is to serve the people of Bristol. It is the job of Bristol’s Government to make the lives of its people better, provide excellent services, and keep taxes low so everyone has a fair chance to live their best life and climb up the financial ladder.
2) The City of Bristol has a lot to offer, and should be one of the best off cities in the state. But recently our resources have been squandered on haphazard projects and “do first, think later” ideas. Bristol needs to begin thinking proactively as opposed to reactively. We have the space to attract business, like the Bugryn property near ESPN, we just need to do things differently. Taxes have gone up the last two years, and this particularly hurts the retired and disabled who live on fixed incomes, I’ve talked to seniors who have had to take out reverse mortgages to keep their houses. This is wrong. This needs to be stopped. Bristol needs to go hard on attracting business, improving infrastructure, and providing a more efficient government. The recent tax increases show that this isn’t our number one priority. As a 40 year registered Democrat running as a Republican, I am sick of the partisan bickering and feel the current administration is not listening to its citizens and is prioritizing the wrong things. It’s time for a change, it’s time to make Bristol a better place.
(Republican, challenger, District 2)
- I believe the role of government is to focus on the essentials, which include maintaining a strong and desirable school system, allocating resources effectively and efficiently, and ensuring public safety. Combined, these priorities will help improve the quality of life in Bristol. But, the role of government doesn’t just stop at our city borders. Instead, elected officials should advocate for their constituents at the state level. For example, reckless tax and spend policies are crippling the middle class, small businesses, and our working families. With no representation, they are being left behind. Members of the City Council and the Mayor should work in unison to ensure that the everyday people of Bristol are heard. Not only should they be represented, but another role, is keeping residents informed. With an online, accessible, interactive budget, we can do just that. It should be seamless for the taxpayer to know what they are paying for.
2) For far too long, there has been little to do in the city of Bristol. The city has fallen short in providing opportunities to its residents to spend money in town. While it is true that Bristol is home to many small businesses, the city needs to continue to diversify the tax base. Not only has the downtown experienced a period of stagnation, but we have seen an increase in the cost of government by more than 5% in just two short years. The two slates have different views on what constitutes successful economic development; however, it is not a letter of intent; it is a shovel in the ground. Bristol must compete with our surrounding municipalities. To do this however, it is critical that we prioritize projects to focus on downtown development, invest in technology, and incentivize businesses to come to Bristol and excite them to stay.
(Republican, challenger, District 3)
What motivates you to run for office? Name three priorities and how you will achieve them.
- Accurate representation our residents on the local level.
- Improve the quality of life through creation of wealth for Bristol people
- We need a more efficient more cohesive, bipartisan government
There are many steps to reach these goals the first being to meet with residents, stakeholders, businesses and industry leaders to assess our needs and define our goals.
Political discourse on the federal level is increasingly partisan and divisive. What skills and abilities do you have to build collaboration in with legislators who have different views than you?
The Federal level has been polarizing for a long time and does not accurately represent our community. We have to focus on the issues that shape our community. Right now I’m concerned with what’s important for Bristol.
Provide some examples where you’ve worked with others of opposite views to achieve a compromise.
From sports teams to huge corporations,
Negotiation has always been a significant part of my life.
How can you balance city growth with sustainability?
1) “We need to focus on the creation of wealth within our city.
2) Our schools should be providing youth with education on topics based on the real work and finance. Bristol’s youth should understand the importance of topics such as saving at least 10% of their income, diversifying investment portfolios, credit, interest, stock and bonds, etc. Our youth will shape Bristol‘s future to come.
3) Local government also needs remain small and stay in contact with its people, we need to establish residential and commercial focus groups to accurately identify what the needs and wants of our city are and work towards solving definable goals within town with occasional assistance of our state legislation.”
What can be done to improve public safety?
1) Monitor the gateways into our community.
2) Residential Focus Groups make sure Bristol residents’ needs are met and they feel safe in their community.”
3) I believe it’s pertinent to continually work toward the competency and relationship between our town’s residents and those in authoritative positions
How will you address the city’s homelessness issue?
1)”The homeless issue” encompasses a few different moving parts. We can put quite a dent in our seemly growing homelessness population. It’s our responsibility to identify groups of people that can be and want to be helped with a “hand up”, then need to better provide these people with the tools and resources needed to become contributing member of our society.
2) We need to work more closely with the homeless outreach task force to track the results of our efforts
3) Merge and better manage the efforts of competing programs and nonprofits in town to maximize the value of scarce resources such as donations and volunteers.
(Republican, challenger, District 3)
- Our role is local, and local means close to home. While it is necessary and important to be concerned with and influence what the state or federal governments are doing; our primary responsibility is to advocate what is best for our community and our citizens. Local is focused providing necessities for the citizens including basic utilities, physical infrastructure such as roads and buildings, social infrastructure such as education, libraries, senior centers and recreation. We maintain local laws and provide a budgetary mechanism to provide for these functions. We are the stewards of these resources. Good government encourages an environment conducive for people living peaceably, whereas bad government fosters unrest and instability. We are the representatives of the people, not a party.
2) Economic development is key for any local economy. As business models and trends come and go, a municipality must be nimble enough to incorporate change. I recently read about a great concept outlined by the economist Jane Jacobs: “The key is not “chasing smokestacks” but organically growing businesses, a process that Jacobs refers to as “import-replacement”. Import-replacement is an incredibly powerful concept where locals constantly seek to provide for themselves the things they currently bring in (import) from outside the community.” Once we have attracted a business, we need to provide a level of service to help the navigate through permitting, building and approvals; the red tape (necessary) but can so quickly smother an idea, hope or dream. In walking doors; residents are dissatisfied with the lack of retail, lack of restaurants, and the lack of action. But a non-objective indicator is the grand list growth; which supports that we have fallen short.