The beginning of a new year: it is the time of resolutions, a renewed hope, and, as with most things in life, change. The State of Connecticut sees its own “change” with the swearing-in of a new administration, one which, frankly, we believe is entrenched in the idea that taxpayers are a bottomless pit that can be tapped for more revenue.
But, we get the leaders we deserve. More and more people are becoming “takers” from the system, rather than “contributors.” Each new program, each new expenditure has with it a new constituency that is geared not toward making people’s lives better, but ensuring re-election.
The new administration that is taking shape in Hartford, led by Progressive Ned Lamont, is going to gouge whatever new revenue it can from the earners of the state with no regard to the fact that people are leaving in droves. It will be, in a manner of speaking, the Malloy Administration on steroids.
Here in our own little corner of the Nutmeg State, we have our own revenue situation, and a Gordian Knot to unravel in attempting to turn a three-decade decline into a positive direction. With that in mind, we believe these major issues confronting our leaders and taxpayer must be addressed honestly in 2019:
The city’s revenue/expenditure problem – In the last quarter of 2018, Mayor Nancy Rossi and the Municipal Accountability Review Board (MARB) agreed to a five-year plan of tax hikes and spending cuts that – it is hoped – will lead to a balanced budget.
MARB, and before it the Municipal Finance Assistance Commission (MFAC), pushed the city to raise taxes or bond for deficit reduction and to balance revenues. Both eventually got their way. The result has been, as expected, the popping up of For Sale signs all over the city as homeowners realize the mill rate is going to increase incrementally over the next several years.
Politicians were loath to address these revenue problems, opting instead to inflate revenue expectations so that, on paper at least, the budget balanced. Revenues never came up to expectations because they never were realistic in the first place. With the coming budget process set to begin this month, we hope the numbers put forth on paper reflect a realistic and attainable projection.
Meanwhile, we have been calling for this for years, and still believe it is important. A review and audit of all positions in city government should be implemented. Even with the cuts of the last few months, we still do not know the actual number of city employees necessary versus the number we have on staff.
The Haven and traffic flows – The year 2019 might actually see beginning of the Haven construction. The plan, first announced 21 years ago and continuing under various iterations, has been “on the drawing board” since 2015. Over the last year, the final pieces of the puzzle were completed with the purchase of the holdout property owners. We hope this year is the year we finally see something other than boarded up buildings.
Concurrently, we hope to find out what traffic patterns/improvements the city and the State Dept. of Transportation plan for the Kimberly Avenue-Elm Street corridor. The elimination of Exit 44 in 2015 and reordering of the Ella Grasso Boulevard exit have created various ingress and egress problems viz. I-95. Once the Haven is completed, traffic patterns will only get worse, and we hope the DOT and city have a plan to help reduce what can be a congestion problem that will only get worse.
Beach Street reconstruction – The planned reconstruction of Beach Street to help eliminate flooding during major storms was welcome news. It also affords the city and its planners an opportunity. Beach Street is one of our best locations for economic development. Though some ideas have been teased over the years, including a repossession of Morse Park and relocation of those fields in order to aid redevelopment, no real plan has ever been developed for the area.
Three commercial properties now stand vacant within .7 miles: the former Debonair Motel, the former Chick’s and the former Captain’s Galley site. A comprehensive plan for Beach Street seems something worth exploring.
The new year offers new opportunities. We hope 2019 is the year the City of West Haven ends its financial struggles and moves toward solvency.