Upon receiving the endorsement of the Stratford Democratic Town Committee to run for mayor, I immediately laid out an outline of three critical issues before us — economic development, government efficiency, and government transparency.
Our town needs to take a proactive approach in growing our business tax base so homeowners can pay less in property taxes. Our town government must do all it can to create an environment conducive to attracting new businesses and retaining existing businesses.
The departure of Aurora Products, with 200 local jobs, demonstrates that John Harkins’ administration has not worked hard enough toward this goal. Has the administration been proactive enough in envisioning attractive space for businesses and assuring that such space comes to fruition? We need to make sure that every successful, expanding business finds Stratford a place where it can be competitive and thrive.
It came to light recently following the news of Aurora Products’ departure that only one person had been working on economic development. I believe that economic development constitutes a major component of the mayor’s job and his staff. Town government, and especially the mayor, must actively partner with existing businesses to help them grow.
But all work and no play, as the saying goes, can make Jack a dull boy. Experts say that the role of economic development is to embrace new economic realities. To attract the “creative class”— people who are the leaders of the new economy — municipalities need to offer amenities such as parks, night life, and festivals that make a place a fun place to live and work.
Stratford must put more emphasis on its quality of life as a way of attracting the creative class. Easy access to New York City and New Haven by train, affordable housing, and a viable school district puts Stratford in the running for attracting the creative class. It offers us a good start but we need more real amenities. The competition in this area is fierce.
Stratford needs to embrace the arts, and regard the arts as one of the engines of our new economy. We need to open the American Shakespeare Theater. It must fulfill its potential as an engine of economic development and not continue to be a symbol of Stratford’s past failures.
Without increased focus economic development, Stratford’s tax base will not grow substantially and the town will continue to put an undue burden on personal property taxpayers.
My campaign is starting the dialog with businesses and residents on how Stratford can decrease expenses and increase revenues so it can ultimately decrease property taxes. We have been doing that by talking with business owners and residents. Please join me in a campaign to improve Stratford’s future.
Daponte is the Democratic Town Commmittee’s endorsed candidate for mayor.