Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, fellow officeholders, family and friends, thank you for joining us today and welcome to downtown New Britain!
My fellow residents, I am so honored and humbled by the faith you have placed in me.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Mayor for another two years!
I would also like to take this moment to recognize my family members, many of whom are here today.
You have supported me through every step of my political career and I am so proud to continue our family’s tradition of public service.
Being that tomorrow is Veterans Day, I would also like to recognize my two grandfathers who are no longer with us, but served their country and instilled a spirit of self-sacrifice and honor in their children and grandchildren:
-William Walker Stewart (U.S. Navy – Korean War)
-Frank J. Badolato (CT Nat. Guard, 169th, 3rd Battalion – WWII)
Thank you to all the servicemen and women who have put their lives on the line so that days like today could be possible.
We all look forward to honoring your sacrifice during our Veterans Day memorial services tomorrow – if you are interested in joining us up at the WWI monument at Walnut Hill we hope to see you there tomorrow at 11am!
The last time I raised my right hand and took the oath of office, New Britain was in a very different place.
Our beloved City was on the brink of bankruptcy.
Blighted buildings seemed to dominate every neighborhood.
Economic development was non-existent.
Our homeless population was growing and ignored.
Our schools were being used as a punchline.
And, most notably, the pride we all once felt in our “Hard Hittin” city appeared gone.
We were broken…but we were far from beaten.
Over the past two years we have come together as citizens, as leaders, and as employees to tackle these challenges head-on.
Financially, we reduced spending by nearly $16 million and produced two consecutive budgets that were honest and structurally balanced.
Yes, we were also forced to raise revenues, but it was bitter medicine that this City sorely needed and I’m happy to say that because of the tough decisions we made two years ago, we were able to finish this past fiscal year with a multi-million dollar surplus – not a slush fund – a surplus in our Rainy Day Fund.
We are combatting the scourge of blight on a daily basis.
By working together, our city departments have streamlined the Clean & Lien process, while at the same time increased our efforts to successfully market vacant properties.
The Berkowitz Building that sits at the gateway to Little Poland has long been the poster child for blight in New Britain.
I’m thrilled to say that over the next two years it will be transformed into one of the most sought-after locations for both residential and commercial tenants.
As far as economic development goes, just take a drive around the City.
On Farmington Avenue, restaurants like Willie Pep’s Corner Café and Frisbie’s Dairy Barn opened this past year.
On Ellis Street, the old Landers, Frary and Clark factory is about to undergo a $35 million-dollar transformation into luxury condominiums – the largest private investment in our City in the past 60 years.
On Arch Street, our new “Barrio Latino” is attracting businesses, many of which are owned and operated by New Britain residents.
Downtown, we have begun to raze the old police station, clearing the way for a new signature development project that will completely transform the heart of the City.
The list goes on and on of private developments (and I didn’t even mention Costco).
I have said over the last two years, people want to invest in cities that are investing in themselves, and we are doing just that;
Right here in Central Park we are nearing the completion of Phase III of our Streetscape Project.
At Veterans Stadium and Chesley Park we have installed state-of-the-art SprinTurf for our young athletes to play on.
At Stanley Quarter Park, we have invested hundreds of thousands to upgrade the walking loop around the pond, as well as upgrading the amenities at the playing fields.
And just last Friday, I was told that the final funding needed for the Beehive Bridge/Main Street overpass project is slated to be approved by the State Bond Commission at their December meeting.
The volume of economic and transit-oriented development going on in our City is truly unprecedented, and it will only continue.
Addressing the needs of our homeless community is something that is very close to my heart.
We created “Building Hope Together: New Britain’s Permanent Workplan to End Homelessness” to build on the initial success of Mayor Timothy Stewart’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.
Building Hope Together brings all the relevant stakeholders in our community around the same table to ensure that we are tapping every possible resource, including community providers, faith-based organizations, local businesses, and concerned citizens.
We are committed not merely to providing shelter, but also providing care, treatment and support to those who want and need it.
I am so proud of how far we have come in our efforts to combat homelessness and I thank all of you who have become involved in this critical mission to help our most vulnerable residents.
As a proud product of the New Britain school system, and a former member of the Board of Ed, I have a deep and abiding passion for making sure all our kids get a first-class education.
We have made tremendous investments in our schools.
The brand new Gaffney Elementary School just opened a few months ago.
We have spent hundreds of thousands for technological upgrades to our classrooms and auditoriums.
We have also partnered with the state to make critical enhancements to school security.
There will always be more that can be done to support our schools, but we are moving in the right direction and I believe it is evident in the way our students continue to achieve and impress.
By the way, did any of you catch the news that New Britain has a new baseball team?
The Bees are our team and I expect to see you all at Opening Day April 21!
So I only have one question…Is the pride back, New Britain?
Over the course of the campaign, I said that we were “setting a new standard for what people should expect from their government.”
Friends, the litany of accomplishments I’ve just recited is that new standard.
It shows what can be done in just two short years when you put aside partisan differences and focus exclusively on what is best for New Britain.
And it’s not just what we’ve done, but how we’ve done it.
I am proud of the way we have conducted ourselves as your government these past two years.
Everything we have accomplished has been done in a spirit of civility and mutual respect.
I thank all the outgoing members of the Common Council for the part they played in moving our City forward, and for their many years of service.
I also thank our employees, including our union leaders, for all they have done to help us turn New Britain around.
We are blessed to have so many dedicated and hardworking employees in this City, and I value each of them very much.
Shortly after last week’s election, a friend sent me a quote from Tom Peters that said “True leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”
Today, I share the stage with dozens of true leaders who, regardless of their party, share a collective desire to build a better New Britain.
I congratulate all of you on your election – or reelection – to office.
Whether you are the Tax Collector, Treasurer, members of the Common Council, Board of Education, or Board of Assessment Appeals, my door is always open to you, regardless of your party.
If you want to work toward a better New Britain, then I want to work with you.
To the new majority of the Common Council, we have been given a great honor, but also a great responsibility.
We have a responsibility to make the lives of the people we serve – all the people we serve – better, and we will do that by embracing the vision, energy and diversity of this new majority.
There hasn’t been a Republican supermajority on the Common Council since the days of Mayor Thomas Meskill, or should I say, Governor Meskill.
And though you are the Republican caucus, half of you are either Democrats or Unaffiliated voters.
You are also a caucus that is diverse in your cultural perspectives.
You are a true reflection of the city we serve, and I know this will help us to champion policies that will help all our residents, not just a few.
To members of the Democratic minority caucus, I truly look forward to continuing to work with you.
I have tremendous respect for the experience and acumen that each of you brings to the Council and I can assure you that your voices will be heard loud and clear.
There is another person here today that I share tremendous respect for, and that is my outgoing Chief of Staff, John Healey.
As you all know, John will be leaving my office to start his career in the private sector, and to say he will be sorely missed, is an understatement.
John has served our city well and has helped me every step of the way. I cannot thank him enough for all he has done, and I want us to all take a moment to thank him for all of that.
I will miss someone who has truly been my best friend the last 24 months.
Ladies and gentlemen, I firmly believe that there has never been a more exciting time for our City.
Never before has there been so many people serving in office who care so little about politics and so much about progress.
Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
What we are doing – and what we will do – here in New Britain is very special and absolutely unique.
Over the next weeks and months, I will be presenting a vision for the next two years that will include a continued commitment to complete transparency and accessibility, serious fiscal discipline, encouraging economic expansion, and embracing new & innovative opportunities.
You have given me a great honor and a great responsibility…and I won’t let you down.
I couldn’t be more honored to be the Mayor of this great City at such a momentous time.
Thank you all for your confidence and support.
Thank you all for being here today.
God bless you, and God bless the great City of New Britain!
Now let’s get back to work!