The Roundup sent questionnaires to every candidate for this year’s municipal election. In an effort to properly inform voters, their answers are unedited. The goal is to give the candidates the opportunity to offer their thoughts on issues directly to their constitutes. In return, it gives voters the opportunity to formulate their own decisions on what they have to say.
Next up is Ellen Zoppo-Sassu candidate for Mayor of Bristol (D).
What are your most pressing issues?
Property Values, Quality of Life issues and strategic investment to improve both.
How do you feel about Bristol’s marketing efforts, what would you suggest?
I don’t think the All Heart campaign resonates with people and I also believe we have 2 target audiences: the people who live and work here, and then the people who we want to attract to visit Bristol. I think more needs to be done to identify the strengths and weaknesses and bring in a diverse group of people, based on age, gender, socioeconomic backgrounds to discuss the various issues and then create a plan to tackle them. Restaurants, arts and culture, active and passive recreation, and the traditional calendar of festivals and community events should be examined as well, as there are many opportunities to leverage resources and improve on the current situation.
How do your thoughts and ideas differ from your opponent(s)?
I like to have policy discussions and collaborate to make sure Bristol has best practices in place. Our management styles are very different in that I am hands-on, and he prefers to allow the department heads to forge their own paths.
What are your thoughts on Bristol Hospital purchasing a portion of the former mall site? Will it help revitalize downtown?
After 12 years, I think almost everyone is happy to see something happening downtown. Bristol Hospital is investing, and they should be commended for that. However, I think revitalization is based on destinations – whether it’s government center, or at the Memorial Boulevard theater, which I think could be a catalyst for downtown, we need to give people a reason to come, and then stay or extend their trip because there are other things for them to do or see.
What is your position on moving City Hall?
I think we need to do a cost-benefit analysis of staying at 111 North Main St vs. moving to 10 Main Street. I am intrigued by the possibility of re-using the original Barnes factory as City Hall since it is a piece of history in an area that has seen so much demolition. The current city hall is a physical reminder of all the bad things that occurred as part of the 1960s urban renewal project.
Will you support a tax increase if it’s the last resort?
I think this is a poorly worded question. No one wants to raise taxes but sometimes it has to happen. My opponent has taken the “Working for the Taxpayer” stance by doing two zero tax increases in election years, while raising taxes in the years that he was not up for re-election. I find that political and irresponsible. I also think it’s childish to constantly point fingers at the state government as a source of all Bristol’s woes.
What is your stance on crime in Bristol?
The role of the Mayor and City Council is to ensure that the Police Department has the appropriate resources to do their jobs.
Is social media helping or hurting Bristol at the moment?
I think social media is a great way to get information into the community. However , people ruin it by making personal attacks and spewing nastiness. I think it turns people off and that in turn keeps people home from elections because of it.
I am running because I do think there are many things that need to be accomplished, and opportunities that we need to capitalize upon, as opposed to just talking about them. I want to change the way we do business by cutting expenses and having the conversation about sharing services within our region.
I believe that I have the ability to effectively advocate for Bristol in Hartford and DC and to run the city efficiently, especially at a time when resources from both of those sources are evaporating.
Here’s what I think is currently missing from politics, and what we need to restore – the dedication to public service, integrity, courage to take on the big issues, to reject the status quo when necessary, to listen, and to seek bipartisan support in order to accomplish things that are important to our community.
One key to this is successful public-private partnerships – I think about the 1930s when a small group of industrialists boarded the train right here on Main St and traveled to New York City to arrange financing to bail Bristol out of a financial crisis using their own credit.
I think about the City investing millions of dollars in 1969 to keep GM and thousands of jobs here by building a new state of the art factory on Chippens Hill. I think about the bipartisanship shown in the late 1970s – for the greater good – when a young Republican mayor and a City Council composed of all Democrats worked together to lay out an Industrial Park on the Route 229 corridor; and, a few years later, the subsequent 4-3 vote from the Bristol Development Authority to sell acreage on that same corridor to a start-up 24 hour sports and entertainment company that had been rejected by other municipalities as too risky.
That entrepreneurial spirit and determination to pursue projects that create jobs and positive activity is a theme that our party has embraced and one that we need to embrace again. It’s also about integrity and electing people who embrace “the desire to maintain a reputation of integrity that is stronger than the desire to maintain office.” The slate that the Democratic Party is running this year will stay positive and we will talk issues.
For every negative comment made we will have a positive response.
When they go low, we will go high, and pledge an open, transparent and accountable government. I believe there is untapped potential in Bristol and I think all it needs is vision based on collaboration, a return to that entrepreneurial spirit that resulted in so many positive actions for the community, and the leadership to get it done.
I will work with everyone on the issues that define a healthy community that attract families and businesses – a strong education system, quality public services and an understanding that we are elected by the people, to serve the people, and not ourselves.