Between Barbs, the candidates find an agreement at the forum
The main contenders for this year’s mayoral race traded beards again on Thursday night – while, between the lines, agreed more than not on the challenges facing the city.
Their points of agreement emerged during an online committee forum for the Edgewood Ward 24 Democratic Committee, hosted by Alder Evette Hamilton and co-chairs Art Perlo and Randall Furlow.
The meeting was the latest in a series of citywide Democratic Neighborhood Committee forums leading up to a city-wide party nominating convention slated for July 27. are expected to face off in a September 14 primary. (See stories from other recent forums in West Rock / West Hills, East Rock and Westville.)
At Thursday night’s forum, Elicker and DuBois-Walton disagreed on who would make a better leader to tackle challenges, while addressing similar themes on issues such as …
• Safe streets: Elicker said his administration remains committed to an ongoing grand corridor program and the installation of new speed bumps. Cyclists need safer roads, he said, pointing to the Edgewood cycle path, which construction has recently started. DuBois-Walton agreed, calling the rise in violence on the streets “terrifying.” She called for a city’s “Vision Zero” strategy to eliminate pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, similar to that adopted at the state level. Both candidates said they supported the use of “red light” (speed) radars and automated application technology to slow down drivers, referring to the recently adopted HB 5429 sponsored by the state representative. Roland Lemar (who ended up not including the cameras).
• Public transport: The city’s bus system is vital to uplifting all residents, both candidates said. DuBois-Walton pointed out that she worked with the state’s Department of Transportation while working at the Housing Authority, bringing new bus stops to remote areas like West Rock. “The real schedules of residents…. a real sense of when people travel, and where and what the barriers are to that, and bringing that voice directly with Connecticut transit. Elicker touted a new bus hub linked to the state’s expansion of Union Station. Both candidates said bus routes, including those in the Edgewood area, should be reworked to better meet the needs and schedules of communities.
• Internet access: Both candidates stressed the importance of high-speed internet for adults in order to be successful in the workforce, as well as for children who learn from a distance. Elicker said the city must step in and fill in the gaps where private investment has failed to provide fiber internet service. “Things like fiber are a big investment that won’t be used just once, but will pay off for decades to come,” he said. DuBois-Walton said his Housing Authority team brought tablets and Wi-Fi to families without internet access.
• Illegal dumping: Using municipal services and park rangers to support community groups will pave the way for better attitudes, the mayor said, noting that his involvement in community garbage collection “sets an example.” DuBois-Walton echoed this thought, saying that if the city shows a renewed commitment to clean spaces, resident behavior will follow. “The city needs to lead this effort by truly providing the highest quality service, showing that we care about every corner of the city, and we will see changes in behavior.”
The rivals still found plenty of ways to prick each other during the event.
In his opening speech, DuBois-Walton accused Elicker of lack of transparency, citing both the Goldman-Sachs deal at Tweed Airport and a recent Board of Education controversy. The mayor in turn said he made himself available to all residents, giving out his cell phone number and hosting door-to-door events and mayor’s parties. DuBois-Walton responded by saying “we all know transparency isn’t about giving out a phone number.”
Elicker, echoing his own past statements, described DuBois-Walton’s criticisms on several issues as a “Monday morning quarterback” case. DuBois-Walton (who was part of Elcker’s transition team) backed down, saying she had always provided advice and guidance during her tenure.
DuBois-Walton blamed Elicker for poor infrastructure management, saying she had heard comments about the fire hydrants being taken out of service. The mayor retaliated, accusing his opponent of “manipulating information” and creating a feeling of fear.
According to Furlow, the neighborhood will vote on its approval from the mayor at its next meeting on July 15. The 14 committee members present approved Alder Hamilton for another term by voice vote. She did not indicate her support for any of the candidates on Thursday.