By Editor at October 25, 2013 | 10:30 am
In the past 10 or so months, this paper has been taking a good look at what Mayor Tim O’Brien has done and we do not like what we see.
Never was it the intention of the New Britain City Journal to become political. It all began when we were threatened by members of this administration. The paper was told to do it their way or they would close us down. We don’t want people who threaten others to be in charge. Our first thought was, “who are these people and why are they doing this?” Being a Democratic paper, we were naïve enough to never expect a fellow Democrat to behave like this.
One story was written about landlords against fees proposed by the Mayor should not be reason for threatening us. We could not help, but wonder what O’Brien was trying to hide.
As we began to look, O’Brien issued a gag order on us to prevent our prying eyes. It did not stop us. We found a treasure trove of hidden corruption running rampant through the City.
First, we found conflicts of interest in hiring a community organizer. We were told she (Brigitte Brown) was being paid by HUD dollars. In fact, it was City dollars she was being paid with as she could not be paid by HUD dollars because her husband (Rha-Sheen Brown) was on the common council. Residents were lied to by the Mayor about this for months.
Then, the mayor’s office hired a PR firm (who is a political friend in the Global Strategies Group) for $100,000 to fix false blight information. Yet, when we filed a freedom of information request, to find out where the money went, the Mayor claimed his office did not know.
We soon realized much of it had been given to a political ally in the local daily newspaper.
To top it all off, this firm was hired in an emergency purchase order which meant council did not have to approve it. It was definitely not what emergency requests were meant for in the city charter.
Next, the Mayor hired another PR firm in David Pudlin, the former state representative who O’Brien previously worked for at the state capitol. We were told he was hired for economic development. All we can see that he has done was get another friend of his, (Philip Schonberg) who we hear was his partner in another project, to express interest in the Berkowitz Building. Nothing is complete on that deal and unless Schonberg is given millions of dollars, we believe he will pull out of the deal after the election.
Yes, at the least $150,000 of taxpayer dollars were wasted on these 2 deals that involved giving money to friends. There may be more that we are not yet aware of.
During all this, O’Brien continued to propose illegal fees on landlords (which will cause rents to rise) and make a 911 ordinance that will force residents to pay for certain emergency calls.
In the next few months the City also bonded over $65 million leaving us with $290 million in unpaid borrowing. An amazingly high number considering our yearly budget is $250 million. The yearly City budget also rose by $25 million since O’Brien took over the Mayor’s seat.
We saw the mill rate rise by 8 mills and home values drop faster than a City minority party resolution. Our taxes rose giving us less for our dollar.
Our bond rating was lowered which means we are paying a higher interest on our $290 million in bonds. Businesses continued to pull out of the City and more and more people came out with horror stories surrounding the Mayor’s office.
The New Britain City Journal could actually spend an entire paper talking about the decline of the City during Mayor O’Brien’s term.
In July, Erin Stewart announced her intentions to become mayor. Our first thought was that she was too young. We liked her as a person and saw her as a possible mayor in the future, but was unsure of her abilities at this time. We spent the next few months asking her questions and were pleased with what we found.
Stewart has her head on properly. She knows what this City needs. She is bright, knowledgeable and in no way is too young. It seems some people are born older and wiser than others.
In fact, we found out that she is just what New Britain needs. Her optimism and new approach will help bring New Britain back from the disaster it has suffered in the last two years.
She wants to bring fiscal responsibility back to the City and have a real transparent government. No gag orders on any newspapers.
Stewart and her slate are a breath of fresh air compared to the stuffy politicians presently residing in City Hall.
She promises to bring members of both political parties into her plans. She will listen to everyone including the public by opening office hours once again.
She is not a career politician, like O’Brien, and is not indebted to anyone. She owes no political favors to cronies and does not make anyone promises she can’t keep.
Yes, we endorse Erin Stewart, but not just because she is the better choice. We believe she is the only choice for New Britain. Erin is the real deal.
If the City is faced with two more years of Mayor O’Brien, we fear City businesses will continue to leave and unemployment will reach new high levels. We see the City in financial ruin somewhat similar to that of Detroit and would not be surprised to see the water department sold to cover unrealistic budget gaps.
Stewart’s vision is very different. She wants the City the flourish as it did in the 1930-60s by encouraging new business. She understands New Britain’s education system as she attended New Britain schools all her life. She graduated from Central Connecticut State University. O’Brien attended college, but never graduated.
Becoming Mayor is not just a career jump for Stewart. Her heart is here. Stewart is truly for all people in New Britain regardless of political party and can bring it back to its former glory.
On Nov. 5 there really is no one better to move our city forward.
The New Britain City Journal endorses Republican Erin Stewart for Mayor.
This endorsement originally appeared in the New Britain City Journal.