Nov. 7, the voters of the city determine which candidates will be their choices to run the city for the next two years. In an effort to bring information in the waning days of the campaign, the Voice sent a questionnare to the candidiates. The following are their responses. Ed. Note: We have alternated the response sequence in order to be fair. A last question asking for “General Comments” was deleted from the final responses.
How has the campaign been going into the final week? What has surprised you about the issues concerning voters?
Barry Cohen — In one word, “Fantastic, I am grateful and humbled by the support and trust the community has placed in me and my team.The message has been loud and clear: For decades, one political party has ruled at City Hall – and it shows. Voters desire a new and better direction.
What has surprised and truly disappointed voters has been the negative campaigning by my opponent, instead of addressing issues most important to them. Voters are dismayed at the misrepresentations and distortions of my public service.
Dorinda Borer — The campaign is going very well. Lots of energy and positivity. This year we’ve seen a more active and engaged electorate than in the past. Residents are definitely concerned with a wide variety of issues, but there is an overwhelming and frustrating lack of trust in our city government and my team and I are ready to reverse that course by having open and transparent communication with the residents, just as I have had over the last 7 years as a state representative for West Haven.
In general, there have been no surprises as the biggest issue is always going to be taxes. A stagnant economy and high taxes go hand in hand, and we have had both for much too long.
Steven R. Mullins — The door-to-door responses have been very positive. People in West Haven tired of business as usual and are not pleased with the candidates chosen by the two major parties and are looking for a change
What is the issue you think hit home with voters most?
Borer — Clearly residents want to see economic development to grow the Grand List and help alleviate the burden on residential property taxes. The experience I’ve gained in this area will be critically valuable to moving us forward and bringing developers in. I believe I’ve done a pretty good job of moving Beach Street forward, the Conference Center forward and secured funding for infrastructure so we can now build through our business corridors such as the Boston Post Road. I want to leverage the funding I’ve already secured to parlay into more. And let there be no mistake, the Center will be a priority as I hope to knock a few buildings down and rebuild for the future. Development also helps with jobs. When we have more and better paying jobs, our community is uplifted.
Residents also are hungry for better communication. Government is funded by the people and the people have a right to know what’s happening with their tax dollars. I’m a firm believer in delivering timely honest messages. It’s not a lot to ask of elected officials.
Other than that, a prevalent issue I hear at the doors is potholes, sidewalks and paving. Again, people want value for their high taxes.
Mullins — Going into this campaign, I thought the main issues voters were concerned about were going to be financial mismanagement and corruption. However, in reality it’s the little things that are being ignored that voters are most concerned about.
Things that are easy fixes that are commonly ignored, like pot holes, litter and blight; as well as he Mayor’s Office and City departments not returning calls and emails.
In general, it is frustration that the city is not being attentive to the needs of the residents.
As mayor, I will keep proper oversight of big picture issues that have a major, long-term effect on the City; while still remembering the minor matters that have an immediate effect on our citizens and their everyday lives.
Cohen — Without a doubt, it’s lowering taxes through responsible economic development. The most asked question by voters this election cycle is, “Why can’t we be more like Milford?” My answer is, “Why aren’t we better than Milford?” We have 4.3 miles of shoreline, a strategic location to major roadways, coupled with a train station and two outstanding universities. Plus, the beginning of a renaissance in Allingtown that should extend to the Boston Post Road.
Understanding and appreciating the needs of investors and developers is essential. Knowing and speaking the language of industry, technology, supply chain, local business, and corporate requires real-world experience that can’t be legislated; it must be lived. Listening, earning respect and trust, forming partnerships, negotiating innovative programs and incentives, and leading take years that cannot be easily earned or taken for granted.
Economic development goes beyond government grants. Although an important tool to improve infrastructure, utilities, and roads, grants—your tax dollars– grants unto themselves are not sustainable.
What is the final thing you’d like to say to voters?
Mullins — All three candidates for mayor are good, hard working individuals that want the best for West Haven. Please read our statements and digest our opinions and be educated voters on Election Day.
Cohen — The election will be a referendum on change. After visiting well over 6,000 households, holding five town hall meetings, and countless neighborhood Q&A sessions, voters are demanding meaningful Change that starts with new leadership that is trusted, accountable, and experienced to lead on Day One of taking the oath of office. The status quo is no longer acceptable or sustainable. Having the same party in power for over three decades has resulted in economic neglect, high taxes, blight, and financial corruption, as well as a decline in safety and security. Public trust is broken and the party that shattered it cannot be trusted to repair it.
Popular people have been making popular decisions in West Haven for decades, resulting in less than impressive results.
It is clear to me that taxpayers are paying too much and getting too little. Fiscal responsibility, backed by hands-on experience, is critical.
Borer — I would like to thank the residents, supporters or not, that I have had the opportunity to speak with over the last few months. Their ideas and suggestions are invaluable to the success of this great City.
West Haven has had a difficult few years to say the least. At times it’s been pretty difficult to be in Hartford representing the city I love and hearing the push back and knowing I have to work ten times harder to get results for us. I’ve stayed strong, positive, and focused through it all because I know we deserve better. But we can’t go on this way.
Without strong local leadership we are just shoveling against the tide, and nothing is going to change. It is critical that we fix and change the foundational local government structure, we rebuild trust, and we must rebrand. And that’s exactly why I’m running. I believe at this critical crossroads, my proven experience, knowledge of how to get things done, network and drive provide me and my team with the tools to lead us forward. At this point, we just can’t afford to take a risk.