Monday, July 27, 2009

Welcome to the Campaign!

When I started this blog in 2005, I was very dissatisfied with how the city was being run. Yes, things had improved since Giordano was removed from office, but the only noticeable differences were a balanced budget and a mayor who wasn't a sleaze bag. Waterbury has suffered for so long under political corruption that this seems like a great thing, but a balanced budget and a mayor who isn't on his way to jail should be the bare minimum expectation. It is time to demand more than the bare minimum.

In the past four years, I have become increasingly involved with making a difference. As a volunteer with Main Street Waterbury's Design Committee, I have had the opportunity to see first-hand how the city works and how it doesn't work. I have also had the opportunity to help bring about positive change.

I am honored to say that I have been offered a new opportunity to do what I can to help Waterbury achieve its potential to be one of the best cities in the country. At tonight's Democratic Convention, it was announced that I am running as a candidate for the Board of Aldermen. I am delighted to say that I am running with Mayoral Candidate J. Paul Vance, Jr. I firmly believe that it is long past time for a new Mayor in Waterbury and that Vance is eminently qualified for the job.

Tonight's Democratic Convention was my first political convention (talk about diving in head-first!), and I don't think I have ever been as nervous as I was right before my name was announced as a candidate for the Board of Aldermen. At the beginning of the convention, the majority of the Town Committee refused to allow Vance the opportunity to speak. At the end of the convention, when Jarjura and his slate naturally received the endorsement (apparently a large number of Committee members are either city employees or Jarjura's family), he was permitted a long speech. At least a third, maybe half, of the room got up and left when Jarjura started speaking. I stayed to hear what he had to say. When he was nominated by Ned Cullinan, there was a moment when I was so outraged (see below) that I almost shouted out loud, so of course I had to hear more.

Settling into our seats at the Convention.

In his speech, Jarjura claimed that Waterbury is in excellent economic condition, that we are somehow better off than any other city in Connecticut. The facts tell a very different story. In 2007, 19.4% of Waterbury residents had income below the poverty level, while the state as a whole was at 7.9%. As of May 2009, Waterbury's unemployment rate was at 13%, the second-worst in the state. Last year there was a big effort to shut down tent cities, a symptom of severe economic distress, along the Naugatuck River. The Republican-American ran articles and photos deservedly lauding the city for its efforts to help the homeless. Last week I was informed by a reliable source that there are currently 23 tent cities down by the river. None of this sounds like a good economic condition.

As a follow-up, Jarjura implied that Mayor Vance would somehow bring economic ruin to Waterbury. This is ridiculous rhetoric. Vance has been President of the Board of Alderman since 2001. He served as Chairman of the Budget Subcommittee from 2002 to 2008. He has a Master's Degree from Columbia University in Public Administration. He is a smart man, and an honest man. We can trust him with the city's economics.

I was disturbed by Jarjura's attempt to strike fear in the hearts of the voters present. He seemed to be saying "if you vote for Vance, bad things will happen." I have never had any respect for any politician who attempts to sway voters by appealing to their fear of the unknown.

I was even more disturbed when Jarjura demanded that everyone, including those of us running with Vance, abandon any interest in a primary and just go with the endorsed ticket. Seriously, he wants those of us who are dedicated to collecting enough signatures for a primary, those of us who believe that Waterbury will be better off with a new administration, to suddenly jump ship and do what we're told. I thought this was a democracy, not a dictatorship.

Perhaps Mayor Jarjura is afraid that he will lose the primary. After all, he lost a primary to Karen Mulcahy, and Paul Vance is a vastly more qualified Mayoral candidate. But there's good news for Jarjura! If he loses the Democratic primary, he can still run as the Republican candidate! That's right, the man who insisted in his speech tonight, over and over again, that he is a Democrat, has agreed to be the Republican party's candidate for Mayor.

Jarjura also spoke about being "pro-family". This one made me laugh. The same man who was quoted in the newspaper blasting Vance for being with his wife and their first baby, only hours old, instead of a public function, is claiming to be pro-family. How can you claim to be pro-family and also say that Vance will make a terrible mayor because he chose to be involved with the birth of his child?

As mentioned above, I was outraged during Cullinan's speech about how wonderful Jarjura is. Amongst the many things that Jarjura is supposedly responsible for was the Facade Improvement Program. Believe me when I tell you that Jarjura has had no involvement in that program other than, perhaps, to have been persuaded that it is a good program. All of the work of the Facade Program has been done by Main Street Waterbury's Design Committee and by the Waterbury Development Corporation. I wrote the guidelines for the program. The Design Committee sub-committee, many years ago, approved the plan. The program languished for years under bureaucratic folderol. Carl Rosa and I continued to press for the program to move forward. Kathy McNamara and Geoff Green at WDC cut through the red tape to make the program viable. The new sub-committee, made up of member of Design Committee and WDC staff, have selected 7 buildings for the program. The last update I had on the project is that it is languishing at the city's Corporation Counsel (as of July 13). There is absolutely no way that the Facade Program can be credited to Jarjura.

I have a tendency to avoid bragging about my accomplishments, but when I hear other people taking the credit for my work, it makes me angry. There was, however, a delightful and long moment in Jarjura's speech when he all but endorsed me (and Republican Aldermanic candidate Bryan Baker). Jarjura gave a poetic description of how tired and worn down and dilapidated the City Hall building was when he first became Mayor. He spoke of staring out the windows of the Chase Building at the poor, forlorn City Hall, a relic of Waterbury's better days. He spoke of the pleasure he now has, able to look across the street at the construction project that is steadily restoring City Hall to its past glory. If only he had given credit where it was due: when the fate of the building was being hotly debated, when it looked like the historic and important City Hall building was going to be either torn down or boarded up and abandoned, I spoke up at Design Committee meeting and said "shouldn't we be fighting to save the building?" The rest of the Committee agreed, and we began a campaign involving impassioned pleas to the Board of Aldermen and letters to anyone and everyone who might be interested. We joined forces with the Mattatuck Museum and the Waterbury Foundation to coordinate the Cass Gilbert Symposium, during which I led one of the tour groups. I was dismayed when Jarjura caved in to pressure from Larry DePillo and refused to allow the full renovation/restoration project to move forward, but I was relieved that he was willing to allow the bare minimum to happen. So thank you, Mayor Jarjura, for praising an improvement project I fought for. Next time don't forget to mention who was involved.


Bryan P. Baker said...

Wow, not only do I get nominated at the Republican convention tonight, but I also get (indirect) praise at the Democratic convention? What a night!

Waterbury Girl said...

I couldn't stop gushing (albeit with a dash of sarcasm). If only he had named names.