Policy hopes for New Year
Since its inception, the Voice has used the first issue of the year to outline some of the projects, issues, and topics we would like to see addressed in the New Year. With the onset of 2022, we continue the practice, hoping that we may see progress in the following areas:
Renewal and Development – This is a recurring issue we hope the change of calendar will see improved, but we have been disappointed before. The Haven Project is the first one that enters everyone’s mind, and rightly so. Since it was announced as the “Water Street Project in September of 1997, the city has spun its development wheels. The Haven Project, the iteration announced in 2014, admittedly, has seen some progress. But the announcement made more than two years ago about “Shopping at the Haven for Christmas 2022, is a pipe dream. At the present rate, if the plan is partially completed in the next two years, it would be something to rejoice.
Meanwhile, it has been a year since the city announced an “Enterprise Zone” for the area along Front Avenue and the West River, from the Post Road to Spring Street. The state has accepted the plan, and special tax incentives are in place. That project, so far, has yielded little in interest, let alone contracts signed.
The city announced late last year the Savin Rock Conference Center will be the site of renewal with a Woodbridge-based brewery/restaurant taking the site. This seems positive, and we hope it is accomplished – with some haste.
City Finances – It has been more than four years since the acronym “MARB” came into the local lexicon – the Municipal Accountability Review Board. The panel, the second such in the last 30 years, was empaneled in late 2016, after the city bonded to pay off its deficit. Since then. the panel has pushed for higher taxes (the reason the city’s levies have increased every year) and changes in the way West Haven does business.
In the former, the panel has been successful. In the latter, the panel has continually chided the Rossi administration for dragging its feet, most recently to the point the final state infusion of cash was withheld until such time as the city made changes. The administration must change business practices and “the way things have always been done” if for no other reason than survival. Things did not change after the city was under receivership in the 1990s, and we ended up in the same predicament. Part of the reason the recent scandal concerning federal COVID funds was able to take place was “the way things have always been done.”
Getting beyond COVID – As we end the second year of the COVID pandemic, we are glad to see that a top-down approach touted by Washington up until last week was abandoned. Connecticut knows what is best for Connecticut in this regard, and West Haven’s leadership has a better handle on what is happening here than do state officials. Instead of trying a one-size-fits-all approach, mitigation policies should be tailored to the region of the state where they are needed most. We are beginning to understand that we must learn to live with COVID, and that strident policies are doomed to failure. Reasoned responses rather than panicked reactions are beginning to see the light of day – and not too soon.