The following is a letter to the editor by Beth Daponte, who will face fellow Democrat Joe Paul in a Sept. 10 party primary for the right to represent Democrats in the election for mayor against Republican incumbent John A. Harkins this November.
Milford or Bridgeport? With a mill rate midway between our neighbors (Stratford’s is 34, Milford’s 26, and Bridgeport’s 41), this question weighs on Stratford residents’ minds. Stratford is at a turning point.
Raised in Stratford (and now raising my own children here), I’ve seen the town I love transform from a thriving manufacturing town and cultural destination to one without a vision or clear strategy to attract and retain businesses. This unduly burdens property owners (and especially our senior population) to provide the revenues needed to run Stratford. We can and must do better.
My professional experience has allowed me to see many towns and cities, both near and far, that have also struggled to transform themselves to the new economy. Some, like Pittsburgh, with leaders willing to offer strong, bold visions, transformed and thrive once again. Others, like Detroit, without vision or leadership, have failed.
Pittsburgh’s strategy had faith that the redevelopment of downtown and neighborhoods and the provision of “amenities” to attract creative workers would result in the city’s transformation. Vision, Action, and Cooperation were key.
I will bring that same can-do attitude to the mayor’s office. If we want to have Milford’s mill rate and become a vibrant place to live and work, we need to have vision, act upon it, and cooperate amongst ourselves and with others.
We need to aggressively pursue grants and economic development opportunities. That will allow our mill rate to decrease. This summer’s departure of Aurora Products, with 200 jobs, from Stratford to Orange and the Harkins’ administration’s blasé attitude about it is unacceptable. The mayor’s office must proactively attract and retain businesses.
America’s, and Stratford’s, economy has transformed away from manufacturing and towards creativity. Places that are most successful in attracting creative people are places that offer the 3 T’s: Tolerance, Talent (an educated population), and Technological infrastructure. We have all three ingredients. Our diversity, affordable housing, schools, and easy access to New York and New Haven make Stratford perfectly poised for attracting creative people-- the engines of the new economy.
The marquee of a restored Shakespeare Theater will propel Stratford into the new economy. We must and will restore and open the theater so it becomes a magnificent regional venue for the performing arts. We will open the theater grandly and boldly, and, in the process, be aggressive in fundraising.
We will hire the best and brightest to operate it and partner with existing arts organizations to ensure that the stage never again lies dormant. Rather than a vacant theater being symbolic of dysfunction, a restored theater will become symbolic of Stratford embracing the new economy.
The time for planning has passed -- we need to implement the vision. The arts will become an economic engine. We will strengthen and expand the amenities we provide and use them to showcase Stratford. I will be the steward of Stratford’s financing and bring Results-Based Budgeting and Management to Town Hall.I ask for your support to move Stratford forward.