Looking for Da Mare

No, that headline is not right. Even though I recently referred to my new hometown of West Haven as the “Little Windy City,” no one will ever confuse any mayor here with Richie Daley. Just as the two burgs will never be misidentified. But West Haven is what it is, and about 125 souls had enough concern for our fair city to come out last night and hear the debate between the three candidates for mayor.

[Bias alert – if you want anything resembling objectivity on the night’s events, check out Abbe Smith’s article in the New Haven Register. And now, back to out post.]


From the left, John Picard, Nancy Rossi, Steven Mullins

I’ve tried to get up to speed on the local politics, and a few things are quickly clear: Republican Steve Mullins does not stand a chance. This is a Democratic town, albeit a divided one. A Better Future Party candidate Nancy Rossi represents the Democratic forces who oppose incumbent John Picard and support his predecessor, John Borer. I assume those folks are one in the same, though  there might be some people who didn’t like Borer and came to dislike Picard on their own. Despite his rah-rah boosterism and can-do persona, the sitting mayor has a few traits that can rub some people the wrong way. In quotes in the local paper and again last night, he’s shown an arrogant streak that is not endearing. At one point during the debate he said, “Maybe I should speak a little slower,” when one of his opponents seemed to miss one of his points. A little snotty, perhaps? Picard exudes a little too much back-slapping testosterone for my liking, but maybe it plays well here.

Rossi, a CPA by training, came across as professional and well prepared, though she was not above her own little digs, noting the mayor’s absence at key meetings and foot-dragging on certain issues. The inaction, she implied, filters through other levels of the government, and both she and Mullins suggest cronyism seems to carry too much of the day (though from everything I’ve gathered, that was also true in the pre-Picard days and seems to be standard operating procedure in the town).

The GOP's sacrificial lamb

The GOP's sacrificial lamb

Standing outside the Democratic dominance that has brought West Haven where it is – mired in debt, slow to attract new businesses, immobilized by squabbling – Mullins has made changing the status quo his mantra. The town needs new blood, he insists, to get through the political logjams. I just don’t see him as the one giving the transfusion.  He seemed unprepared at times, though his commitment to the city was sincere. And he said something I have often thought as I walked around the town center: downtown is dirty. I can’t imagine how you score points for saying that, but it was honest. I also can’t imagine how you get people to take personal responsibility for changing it, as he proposed. Slogans? Ordinances? Either you’re a slob or you’re not, and unfortunately too many people around these parts are.

But let’s leave aside the impressions. What did the candidates say? Well, they all want more economic development; quelle surprise. Picard insists he has the city moving in the right direction, after the debacle of the Borer years. Rossi says he has not done enough and seems to favor certain businesses or parts of town, a point Mullins echoed. Rossi seems big on reintroducing all-day kindergarten, which, given the debt and high property taxes, doesn’t seem like the top priority to me. Picard points to the coming train station and arrival of a few new businesses as signs of life, Mullins and Rossi want more.

Picard, from what I’ve read, has tried to attack the past problems but has governed with a bit of an authoritarian streak. Last night, he also seemed to beat certain points to death.  Wow, how great is it that A. J. Wright opened a store! Excuse me? That’s the economic panacea? And the store is on a stretch of Route 1 I wouldn’t exactly use to showcase my town’s economic prosperity. I don’t think one budget clothing store is going to turn it around. Picard also harped on the sale of several commercial buildings, and the razing of another, as plusses. Well, if nothing takes those spaces, what have you accomplished?

I don’t want to imply that I would know how to solve the city’s problems, especially in this economic climate. Though I might look at some of Mullins’s suggestions, such as reducing overtime and outsourcing some city functions (assuming the business didn’t go to somebody’s nephew). And West Haven does have things in its favor for the future: the train station, the presence of Yale, a growing University of New Haven, a great waterfront. Real growth, and the lower taxes that might come with it, are possible. But recent history seems to indicate that the city is one with possibilities unfulfilled, either because leaders promise too much, can’t work together, or both.

Hmm, maybe best not to leave these two alone in a room with sharp objects...

Hmm, maybe best not to leave these two alone in a room with sharp objects...

And what about the crowd that came out? Polite, largely middle aged, white, and I assume middle class. Most of the younger people seemed to be attending as part of a class assignment. One made me laugh afterward, when she talked about the mud that was slung. Ah, I think it was actually pretty tame, all in all, and given that the three  currently serve together in government, they seemed to be pretty friendly. Or at least civil, Picard and Rossi, though, as the representatives of two wings of a bickering party split more by personality than ideology, might have choice things to say about each other when the mics are off.

All three candidates sound like they truly want the town to improve. Whether lifelong residents or not, they are proud to be “Westies.” I think it’s genuine, though it might be tinged with a slight sense of circle-the-wagons thinking; if outsiders have been prone to scorn you, you gotta put up a good front. So, whom am I voting for? I like Mullins’s message of change; could go for him just as protest vote. Rossi seems sharp, but her association with the Borer folks troubles me. I wasn’t here when he served, but the legacy does not seem a proud one. Why be a part of that? And Picard? I want to believe all the good things he says will come. I don’t know if he’s the only one who could bring them. And I wish he could can the dictatorial streak. For once in my life, I am truly undecided. It might come down to which of them knocks at my door and seeks my vote. Assuming any of them want it.


~ by mburgan on October 21, 2009.

3 Responses to “Looking for Da Mare”

  1. Hello. We are Supporters of Steven Mullins, who is running on the Republican Ticket for Mayor of West Haven,CT. The reason is simple. Mr. Mullins has the Financial Background, Good Consersative Values & Common Sense to Lead West Haven out of Bankruptsy! We are aware that West Haven will soon be coming under “STATE Control. WHY? Because of over 25 years under the inept Democratic Regime. A total ONE Party System. WHo are we? We are SCTIR (Southern CT Immigration Reform). We started as an Anti-Illegal Immigration/Pro-Rule of Law Group here in New Haven,CT to fight one of the first “Amnesty and I.D Card Programs” in the USA…see Mayor John DeStefano. Recently, we have branched out & reached out to other Conservative groups in the North East, neither Dem. nor Rep. just searching for the Best Candidates in every Political Race…State, local or National. We are Convinced that Steven Mullins is the BEST Man for the working people of WEST Haven. We are Tea Part Patriots who are Taxed Enough Already? We are asking that you google Mr. Steven Mullins for yourself and Vote for him on this coming Tuseday, Election Day. 25+ years of the same old Politics (in West Haven) as usual is just settling for the same at best. We will be Vetting the next West Haven Candidate for Mayor, Nancy Rossi on our popular Blogspot Radio Broadcast this coming Sunday, Novemeber 1st at 3pm. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/freedomriders. You are encouraged to CALL IN and or I.M. (typing live to the Host of the Radio show on air) to express any opinions or ask any questions of Ms. Rossi live. All polite comments & questions will be answered live. Including “Hot-Potato” issues relavent to West Haven. amy and bill SCTIR, West Haven, CT.

  2. Glad to see at least one person from town actually read this. Still not sure who I’m voting for…

  3. Though I’m not sure “tea party patriots” are going to find much at C?WC? that they’re going to like.

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