Following her stunning victory in the September primary, Nancy Rossi won last week’s municipal election in convincing fashion, capturing 48 percent of the vote in a three-way race. The vote ended one of the most contentious intramural fights the Democratic Party has seen in many years, and, once again, changes the balance of power between the three warring factions that make up the city’s majority enclave. That remains to be sorted out and must wait until the March Town Committee elections to see if further realignment is in the cards.
Mrs. Rossi for her part waged a campaign based on fiscal restraint and responsibility, and will be able to put that theory into practice come the swearing-in ceremony on Dec. 3. We wish he well in this regard, as we have been critical not only of the O’Brien administration but previous others for making the annual budgeting process more an exercise in creative writing than a means of making prudent judgments concerning our revenues and expenditures.
In the interim between now and Dec. 3, we hope the transition of power is both seamless and cordial. The city needs continuity. All three candidates, Mrs. Rossi, Mayor O’Brien, and Republican David Riccio put up a good campaign and now must coalesce behind the winner.
We are disappointed by Riccio’s third-place finish, but believe he has laid the foundation for a future resurgence of the GOP in the city. The city needs a strong two-party system to keep things in order. Too much power by too few is a recipe for the problems we’ve been having over the last quarter-century.
As we move toward this new administration, there are a few matters we hope the Rossi teams take up immediately:
Forensic audit – While it might be an expense to the city in the short-term, the administration and the taxpayers need to know just what the financial shape of the city is. The problems that have plagued us are not new, have only worsened over time, and need to be ferreted out in order to find the root causes.
A forensic audit would give the administration and those paying the taxes the information needed to make prudent but necessary decisions going forward. We fear the city is more than $16 million in debt, due more because procedural laxity than any nefarious reason; however, the laxity that comes with any bureaucracy usually means things are not as they seem. That is what an audit of this type will determine.
Along with this should be a look at city bonding and status of those bonds already approved or those that are “in the pipeline” for approval. The city cannot be burdened with high debt service costs at a time when operational expenses cannot be met.
An administrative audit – Going along with the financial look-see should be a determination of what can be done to streamline city government, cutting away waste and eliminating positions that are unnecessary. This should be done not only for rank-and-file workers both on the city-side and on the education-side of the budget.
There especially should we look for redundancy and cost-cutting. Too often we are looking at teachers and low-scale workers to cut costs. The fact is while the city’s school population has continued to decrease over the last several years, the administrative budget has continued status quo.
Administrative positions on the city-side of the budget as well on the school-side should be looked at with an eye toward getting rid of unnecessary or redundant positions.
A plan for fiscal and economic development – Administrations say they have plans, but oftentimes the plan is a piecemeal approach to bringing in economic development and with it needed revenue. We believe a blue-ribbon panel including business and financial interests as well as city officials should look over the opportunities available to West Haven, and what areas of the city would be most attractive to those who would put their money here.
Beach Street is a resource, for example, that has been a non-starter. A plan for that area, which would boost city revenues, is long overdue.
On Dec. 3 the city takes an historic step in swearing in a new administration. Given our longstanding difficulties and the platform upon which the Rossi Team ran, we hope taxpayers can finally get a handle on the city’s financial health and put a plan in place that will give us long-term healing.