And then there were three – Democrats.
Ending weeks of reports and speculation, former Mayor Edward O’Brien announced he will seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for the position he once held. The announcement came just days after his former executive assistant, John Lewis, announced he will seek the nod.
With the expected announcement that Mayor Nancy Rossi will go after a third term, the city’s majority party is going to do what it has done for the better part of the last two decades, primary.
Before a group of supporters, friends and family, the former chief executive kicked off his campaign on the Green amid social distancing.
From the start he attempted to position himself as the candidate with experience, who is the type of leader the city needs in the next few years. Harkening back to his former speeches, O’Brien began by saying his desire to run the city again is in keeping with his belief that those who live here should give back to the community.
“I was taught at an early age to give back to your community and leave it a place better than you found it. That is something I have always tried to do, from City Clean-Ups, coaching youth sports, volunteering and contributing to community organizations and participating in benefits.
I have been a member many Executive Boards, sat on City Council and, yes, I was the proud mayor of this great city from 2013-2017,” he told the gathering.
He said his reason for coming back onto the scene is what he has witnessed as a business owner and homeowner.
“A few short years ago, this City was on an-upswing in making West Haven a clean and attractive community, one that residents and businesses were proud to call home,” he said. “We had three code enforcers that monitored and enforced our blight laws, today we have none, this is unacceptable by any standards and needs to change.”
He pointed to the fact as a homeowner he has seen his taxes climb each year, but disputes Rossi’s claim she is the victim of past decisions.
“She will blame sins of the past, but the reality is her inability to grow new revenues,” he said.
He then alluded to the Haven Project and said that it was his administration that brought the high-end development into the city. He said the future needs a leader who will go out and interact with developers and businesses, bringing them into the city and growing the tax base.
“Going out into the world and telling businesses large and small why they should relocate to our city and then following through and closing the deal, that is what we need and that is what will lower taxes in West Haven. If I said it once, I said it a million times, every tax dollar we generate from a business relocating to our city is one less tax dollar we have to get from you, the homeowner,” he said.
He turned to education and said that teachers “need the tools to teach our children,” and said the city should go after each and every state and federal dollar to accomplish that goal. He then turned to the WHPD and pledged to support it in getting the equipment it needs to do its job.
He pointed to three main goals in his administration:
~~ Working with police officials to go back to a pension plan and end what he termed the “revolving door culture;”
~~Instruct the Dept. of Public Works Commissioner to begin an immediate clean-up program throughout the city.
As far as the quality-of-life issues, O’Brien said he supports a return to events that made living here special. He lamented that events were curtailed because of COVID, and said he will work to restore those events, including the Savin Rock Festival.
“In the past (events, concerts) were funded, for the most part, by our business community and learning institutions. I will partner with them and we will again be listening to music on summer nights and enjoying the Savin Rock Festival. I will immediately pull together a committee made up of volunteers to make that a reality. “
He ended his announcement saying his administration will be one of unity between all segments of the West Haven community.
“If I am elected Mayor of this great city, Westies of all ages, color, sex and income will have a mayor who works to make their lives better each and every hour of everyday, a mayor who is accessible and will devote 100% of his time to the position of mayor,” he said.
This potential three-way race will be the second time in as many cycles the Democrats have had a trio of candidates. Rossi was able to beat O’Brien and former City Clerk Deborah Collins in 2019 to run in the general election.