|Neil O'Leary and Donna Palomba, 2011|
I went to the launch of his campaign in February and was impressed first by the incredibly large number of people in attendance and second by his speech. I remained on the fence, because some of my specific concerns weren’t yet addressed. In particular, I wondered if he had a clear vision for the city’s future, if he cared about helping improve the quality of life in all of the city’s neighborhoods.
The turning point for me came this spring. After attending the WOW/Scovill Homes Community meeting in May, O’Leary contacted me for a sort of walking meeting. I took him on a tour of the problems at the Scovill Homes, and he took me on a tour of the PAL. By the end of the tours, I was an O’Leary supporter. Here’s why:
• When we walked through the Scovill Homes area, he didn’t just say “wow, that’s terrible, something should be done.” He came up with three or four possible solutions that could be implemented swiftly, efficiently and effectively.
• He listened to my ideas about what to do, and he treated my ideas with as much respect as his own.
• He showed genuine concern and respect for the people who live in my neighborhood, and sincerely expressed the belief that no child should have to grow up surrounded by blight and decay.
|Neil being interviewed for Albanian tv RTV 21.|
• PAL. This is one of the most overlooked, underappreciated programs in the city. I wish everyone could take a tour of the facilities and see what’s going on there.
- Using existing buildings, the PAL center has a strong educational component. It’s not a Police Athletic League, it’s a Police Activities League, and there’s a reason for that. They do way more than just sports.
- They are turning a blighted neighborhood and brownfield into a clean neighborhood and park.
- The neighborhood used to be one of the highest crime areas in the city, now it’s a safe place for children.
|Aerial view and map of PAL neighborhood.|
- Since the PAL program started, juvenile crime has dropped more than 50% in Waterbury.
- Instead of seeing police officers as enemies, the children in the program see them as mentors, which they are.
- The program helps kids who need help the most. 80% of the PAL members come from low income households—low income meaning less than $12,000 per year for many of these households. I can’t even imagine trying to raise a family in Waterbury with $12,000 a year. There are so many opportunities that children growing up in poverty simply don’t have. Even something as basic as a computer—or three meals a day. Thanks to PAL, these kids are getting those opportunities. “Today’s Youth, Tomorrow’s Leaders” is PAL’s motto.
- PAL has basically created a small campus similar to those of private schools. Talk about amazing—thousands of kids growing up in poverty are being given an advantage that will help them succeed in life and break the cycle of poverty.
What Neil has been able to accomplish at PAL is something I would like to see happen everywhere in Waterbury. He took something that was a mess and turned it into a success.
Neil O’Leary is a good person. He genuinely cares about other people, he wants to help people in need, and he has already proven himself to be successful in that.
Over the past few months, since joining the campaign team, I have been increasingly impressed with Neil’s leadership skills, determination and vision for the city of Waterbury. Ten years is a long time to be stuck with one Mayor—we have begun to stagnate. It is time for new leadership, for fresh eyes, for renewed vigor. Neil O’Leary has a remarkable ability to bring people together, to motivate them, to inspire them, and to keep them working well as a team. He makes sure everyone knows their efforts are appreciated. He knows how to find solutions to problems, how to think outside the box, how to run a successful business. He has done great things as a police officer, as a police chief and as a private citizen. As Mayor, he will do great things for Waterbury.
|Neil with Aldermanic candidates Greg Hadley and Anne Phelan, |
CT Speaker of the House Chris Donovan and Congressman Chris Murphy.