By Josh LaBella
Republican mayoral candidate Michele Gregorio said citizens have listened to the blame game long enough.
As West Haven faces its second time under state control in 30 years, Gregorio said “we all know” how the city got to this point.
“Poor leadership and lack of planning coupled with many tax increases will not stabilize our budgets, unburden taxpayers and encourage sustainable business and development,” said Gregorio.
Gregorio said she has the experience needed to right the ship. She said her time in the private sector gave her experience managing million-dollar budgets, negotiating with unions, reducing wasteful spending, implementing operating efficiencies, teambuilding and restructuring organizations.
The candidate claimed her repertoire of skills is “vastly” different than those of a public accountant – Democratic incumbent Nancy Rossi’s background – and more appropriate for the task at hand.
The Republican said taking bailout money and then “claiming a surplus” is not promising for West Havens future. Gregorio took issue with Rossi saying there has been growth in the grand list.
“Claiming a grand list increase with 60% of this increase being business taxes on equipment is not a robust increase,” said Gregorio. “I have visited many, long-term established West Haven business owners and they are struggling to make a paycheck. The thought of adding to their burden with a one-time correction to the tax rolls and claiming it a victory is indeed a bitter pill.”
Vis-à-vis her time on the Board of Finance, Gregorio said she and the other members have presented “ideas to reduce spending, by implementing short- and long-term planning, and introduce structural changes” to the city.
“We have to address the largest expense in our budget of payroll and benefits. We can do this without displacing personnel and by establishing an attrition program and identifying prospective employee retirements, and then evaluate all roles,” she said. “The two largest, long-term and currently unsustainable expenses of health insurances and pensions need to be replaced with market-rate plans and savings accounts and lump-sum distribution pension opportunities. I was told that all this is impossible because of the unions. Nothing is impossible if the unions and management find the middle ground that is needed to accomplish achievable goals.”
Speaking to the point of economic development, Gregorio said the city needs businesses that employ residents and give the homeowners relief from taxes. She painted West Haven’s relationship with economic development as a story of missed opportunities.
Among other things, she said the city could have had a distribution center that ended up in Orange, an apprentice training program for trades, aquafarming off the coast and should have created an enterprise zone for biotech companies.
Gregorio said these ideas and others will ensure the next generation stays in town and lift the burden off the tax base. According to the candidate, residents can no longer afford to “live in the past, throw up our hands and blame others and add burdens to our struggling citizens and businesses.” She said the election is about the people of West Haven and the prospect of a renaissance.
“My energy, enthusiasm and love for the people of this city coupled with my expertise, vision and creative thinking, my willingness to listen to others, and be the first to admit that I don’t know everything,” said Gregorio, “but I will seek out experts and professionals to work for the betterment of West Haven, makes me the right candidate for mayor at this time.”