Ed. Note – This is the third in a five-part series on candidates of both parties seeking the nomination and/or election as mayor.
By Josh LaBella
Steven Mullins said he has been involved in West Haven politics since he was a child. He sees his run for mayor as a continuation of that trend.
As a student, Mullins was class president in high school, was on the Drug and Alcohol Commission and has helped on political campaigns since 1986. As an adult, Mullins has been involved in a litany of community and political organizations including being president of the Black Heritage Committee, finance chairman of the West Haven High School Building Committee, and serving for 13 years on Planning and Zoning Commission (six of which as vice-chairman or chairman).
Mullins, a republican, said he feels West Haven is in a slump and he can get the city out of it. He said many of the friends he graduated with in 1993 do not see any reason to come back.
“A lot people have just left and don’t see any reason to come back,” said Mullins. “There’s nothing here for them. Right now there is nothing for me to motivate my children to live in West Haven and to raise their children in West Haven. That is the feeling of lots of people.”
Mullins said the city is a great place to raise a family but there is no reason for people not to “grow wings and fly off.” He said he wants change that perception so people continue to see a reason to be in West Haven.
“It hurts me how people, from time to time, call it Waste Haven,” said Mullins. “It’s a place of great potential. It just hasn’t been tapped into. I think our politics have managed to hurt us a great deal over the decades.”
Mullins said when people think of the city of West Haven, they think of absolute inefficiency. He said it is not necessarily the fault of the current or previous administration but one-party rule has not benefitted the city.
“When I mean efficiency I mean the city is at a point where it is either not capable of or not willing to do common regular things,” said Mullins. “I’m not even talking about the finance situation. I’m just talking about the stuff you do as a town because you are supposed to do it.”
Mullins referenced an issue where he tried to get potholes filled in this past Easter and they we’re only filled last week. He said in order to get it done his neighbor, who has a son that uses wheelchair, had to take a picture of his son next to the potholes.
“I shared it on to West Haven – The Way It Is,” said Mullins. “Do you know within hours public works was on my street paving?”
Mullins said if the city cannot handle minor issues like potholes it cannot tackle major issues like finances. He said city officials have a habit of “yessing” people but not following through.
According to Mullins, West Haven needs to hire an economic development administrator to market the city to businesses as a full time job.
“We need someone who is going to actually go out and market the place,” said Mullins, “and that’s going to be his only job. I’m talking about someone with qualifications. I’m talking about someone with degrees or certifications to do it. Not just because they are a friend or they contributed to my campaign.”
He said having someone in that role combined with finding a way to streamline the permit process would help make the city more business friendly.
The mayoral candidate said he has heard from “far too many” businesses about how long to process to get city approval takes. He said the process can take years and many businesses choose to go somewhere else.
Vis-à-vis taxes, Mullins said better economic development can be paired with a hard look at the budget to result in a lower cost for taxpayers. He said West Haven does not prioritize where it spends its money and referenced an anecdote he said in a city council meeting.
“If your car is about to be repossessed, your house is being foreclosed on and you owe your kids tuition,” said Mullins, “should you go on vacation for a week in Disney World?”
Mullins said the city needs to look at whether it can afford events and spending such as the fireworks. He said he is not necessarily saying they should be cancelled but the city needs to take a closer look at it.
“We need to look at how we are spending money and decide what is important and what needs to wait,” said Mullins.