Mayor O’Brien, Erin Stewart square off in debate at Trinity-on-Main
By JAMES DRZEWIECKI
NEW BRITAIN — Making the city more attractive to new businesses and improving schools were issues supported by both mayoral candidates during a debate Saturday afternoon.
The standing-room-only crowd at Trinity-on-Main greeted Mayor Timothy O’Brien with cheers after every question he answered, but Erin Stewart, a Board of Education member and the Republican challenger, also received a positive response as the two answered questions from moderator Debra Polan of the League of Women Voters.
To open the questioning, Polan asked what regional cooperative efforts that they could share with the audience to help ease the economic efforts.
“Partnering with our surrounding towns,” said Stewart, who expressed how much she loves the city and “fights for it everyday.”
Stewart, the daughter of former city New Britain mayor Tim Stewart, said working with Berlin, Plainville and Newington is essential to easing economic efforts.
O’Brien agreed with the idea of partnering with these towns, but also said that the city hopes to benefit from CTfastrak — the New Britain to Hartford Busway.
“We need to make sure we capitalize on the development that is going to be happening up and down that corridor,” said O’Brien. “That’s going to be an important part of our future and it has already been an important part of the work that I have been doing.”
Another question focused on each candidates priorities as to revitalizing the city.
O’Brien’s said his top priority is economic development.
“I have successfully have gotten new jobs for our city,” O’Brien said. “We’re investing in our downtown developments so we can build our city center.”
Stewart said she wants to fix the city’s tax rate, give the city youth a school system that they deserve, rebuild the infrastructure and create a business-friendly community.
“Restore the mayor’s open office hours,” Stewart said. “Quit the blame game; just get the job done.”
Another hot topic in the debate, was what both candidates planned on doing to change the image of the city.
Stewart answered first and said she wants to inspire young people to start caring about their community.
“In terms of changing image I strive to be that smiling face at the front door of city hall,” Stewart said. “It starts with being involved in your community. For the past 10 years I’ve been extremely involved in the community.”
Stewart said she has demonstrated that commitment by coaching New Britain High School softball, being involved with New Britain High School marching band and organizing fundraising as well.
O’Brien said New Britain is a great city already, and want’s to get others to see it that way too.
“We need to make sure that we’re doing things and attract people to our city,” O’Brien said. “We all know New Britain is great. I love New Britain because of that, and we need to make sure that everyone else knows it too.”
At the end of the debate, both candidates said they want a bright future for the city and want it to be welcoming for business and families.
Before the mayoral debate, candidates for Common Council held a forum discussing issues that ranged from bettering the city’s school system, to bringing in more businesses and families and marketing the city better.
Saturday’s mayoral debate will air on Nutmeg TV at a time and date to be determined.
This article originally appeared in the New Britain Herald.