Rossi has set the tone
The mayoral election is months away, but Mayor Nancy Rossi is staking her position soon and challenging others to do the same. In a press release this week, the mayor has challenged former Mayor Edward M. O’Brien and any other potential candidate to state their positions on fiscal policy and expanding the city’s tax base.
Ostensibly, the statement by the third floor of City Hall was in reaction to questioning the city’s announced $30 million increase in the grand list. The grand list is the monetary total of all taxable property and is used to help determine the mill rate in any given budget-making cycle. The budget for Fiscal Year 2020 is now being constructed by the mayor and Finance Director Frank Ciepilski for unveiling next month.
In reality, a $30 million increase in the grand list shouldn’t be a big deal in the general scheme of things. However, in a city that has seen decreases in the grand list or flat-lined number in the last decade, an increase is, indeed, positive news. And, the particulars of the mayor’s press release are accidental (we use the term in the philosophical sense) to the seminal question of fiscal policy and decisions made heretofore and those to be made.
In that regard, Mayor Rossi has thrown down the gauntlet to Mr. O’Brien and any other would-be candidate. And to be clear, O’Brien has been forthcoming in his desire to return to the mayor’s office. It has been reported that he has fallen out of favor with some in the Democratic Party, and will seek an independent run. Meanwhile, other possibilities are being floated as primary contenders for City Hall, among them City Clerk Deborah Collins.
What Rossi has done with her challenge, this week, is put the city’s fiscal health on the front burner and make it the issue of the next election. Full stop. In O’Brien’s case she has challenged him to appear before the next meeting of the Municipal Accountability Review Board and defend decisions made which led to deficits in four straight budgets. That meeting is set for March 7 in Hartford.But the same challenge is posted to anyone else who is seeking her office or any other that may have served in the administration:
“Although the former mayor sends out press releases and comments on social media, he has never acknowledged or took any responsibility for the annual budget deficits and the poor financial condition he left the City of West Haven and its taxpayers. He has yet to attend a Municipal Accountability Review Board Meeting (MARB). My request to the former mayor and anyone considering running for office is to attend the next MARB meeting, scheduled for Thursday, March 7, at 10 a.m.m in Hartford.
“There will be a public speaking portion at the beginning of the meeting and I respectfully request that the former mayor speak–as well as anyone else considering running for office. The candidates can speak to their role in the consecutive budget deficits and the deficit borrowing, as well as, their vision, ideas and plans for West Haven and how they would implement them to improve the financial challenges West Haven now faces. I think West Haven deserves an explanation of their actions and the consequences we now face because of their decisions and shortcomings.”
The challenge is clear, and the markers have been set. Rossi has challenged opponents or would-be opponents to map out exactly what they would have done differently, or why they were complicit in the decisions made. It is a bold move, but is one that is necessary to seek clarity as we head toward November.
We hope O’Brien and others – whoever they are – will take her up on her challenge. It will be interesting to see how the discussion develops.