Nearly 200 residents from around the state expressed that they’re “Ready for Lauretti” at the Shelton mayor’s first fund-raiser for his 2018 gubernatorial campaign in the La Sala Banquet Hall in Derby on Monday, May 22.
Shelton’s mayor of 26 years, Mark Lauretti got the crowd of Connecticut residents charged up Monday evening by saying that, although it won’t be easy, he can help to recreate the Shelton model on a larger scale and revitalize the state.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Why do you want this job?’ and ‘How are you going to fix it? It’s beyond repair,’ but we can’t afford to say it’s beyond repair,” said Lauretti. “We cannot let this great state go down. It can be repaired, but sometimes you have to tell people this is what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it.”
Among the Lauretti supporters was Republican Town Committee Chair Anthony Simonetti, former 4rth Ward Alderman John Papa, interim police Chief Shawn Sequeira, and Seymour First Selectman Kurt Miller.
Miller said the state needs a change in office.
“Over the last six years we’ve experienced the two largest tax increases in state history, we’ve seen our state borrow more money than it has in the past and the town of Seymour has a tax reserve three times the size the state of Connecticut. Seymour has $6 million, Connecticut has $1.9 million,” said Miller. “Over the last 25 years, what have you seen in Shelton? You’ve seen people put to work, businesses fighting to get into Shelton, level and stable taxes and strong results. …
“How many of you are ready to get Connecticut back on the right track again? How many of you are ready for Lauretti?”
“When I first ran in ’91, I made certain assertions to the public of what I would do, and I think we’ve far exceeded those expectations, far beyond anyone’s belief,” said Lauretti. “We did it because we provided a stable economic environment that is consistent and predictable, and that’s what we have to do at the state [level]. There isn’t one, two or three things to right the ship here, it has to be many things.”
Getting the state ‘back on track’
With the state facing one of its most stressful budget seasons in its history, Lauretti acknowledged that he has his work cut out for him.
Lauretti said the city of Shelton, much like other municipalities throughout the state, is in a spot currently where its budget could ultimately change after it is adopted on May 25 because of the uncertainty at the state level.
Two of the city’s biggest concerns are potential cuts to state funding of education and of teachers’ pensions.
“We need to get the government out of the classroom. We need to let the teachers teach, do their job and hold them accountable,” said Lauretti. “In order to improve our state, we need to improve our ‘financial health.’ If we don’t have our financial health, we can’t help anyone.”
Shelton’s mayor went on to say that state legislators knew for years that the current pension plan was unsustainable.
“At a minimum, state legislators should have, years ago, said all new employees are under a new plan and here it is, and they haven’t even done that,” said Lauretti. “State employees are entitled to a pension. They were promised it, they worked for it and they should get it, but it should reflect the marketplace and reflect something that is sustainable. It should reflect what everyone else in the workplace is seeing, and it doesn’t. So that has to change and Hartford knows that.”
Miller said he thinks the “Shelton model” is one that can successfully be applied at the state level.
“The state of Connecticut recently had its bond rating downgraded by Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and by Fitch. Those are the three main rating agencies out here,” said Miller. “Connecticut uses the excuse of ‘Oh, there was a recession and we have all of these issues so we can’t send people to work,’ but there’s a model in the state that has been extremely effective, and that’s in the city of Shelton.”
Lauretti said “fixing” the state will not be a quick or easy task, but generating more jobs by creating a more business-friendly environment will be key.
“The open space and beauty of our countryside is important, but when the Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection is so onerous that businesses won’t come and won’t expand because they can’t afford it, it’s unfortunate, because we can do both,” said Lauretti. “Ronald Reagan used to talk about the shining city on the hill when he’d talk about America. Well, I think in Connecticut, Shelton has become that oasis, or the shining city up on the hill. It’s not going to stop.
“I tell people our Planning and Zoning Commission meets three times a month. There’s nobody else in the state of Connecticut that meets three times a month, and there’s a reason — people want to be in Shelton. They want to be here because they see success here and they see opportunity. We’re going continue on in this direction, and it’s my hope that we can get this great state back on track.”
The mayor’s administrative assistant, Jack Bashar, said the amount raised at the first fund-raising event wasn’t public information.
Lauretti said the state’s turnaround will happen only with the support of voters.
“With your help, come 2018, there’ll be a change of leadership and a changing of the guard at the state legislature, which also needs to occur,” said Lauretti. “That can only come from people like yourselves. You’ve got to get out and vote. You’ve got to spread the word. It can be done — there’s so much at stake.”
Lauretti said aside from improving the state, his goal is to qualify for public financing, which requires him to raise $250,000.
“The most I can take from any individual and no businesses is $100,” said Lauretti. “If you’re going to qualify, that means you’re going to have to reach out to the public and people are going to have to be receptive toward you. So far, to date, only two people have done it, and Mark Lauretti’s going to be the third one.”
The only two other candidates to successfully raise the $250,000 were Tom Foley (R) in 2014 and the current governor, Dannel Malloy.
In 2014, Lauretti raised more than $100,000 for his second run for governor, but did not receive enough votes during the state GOP convention to qualify for the party’s primary.