What is a mayoral debate when the participants share similar standpoints on local issues? This was the case in the debate between write-in candidate Timothy Bristol and the democratic nominee Michele Bialek.
While the two disagreed on some smaller details in their plans to improve the city, the two agreed that the city needs change. They mentioned wanting to continue the change occurring in the downtown area, they agreed they would like to bring in more local businesses, as well as increase the number of community events throughout all of Shelton and not just downtown.
The theme of the debate was change. Beginning with the city’s mayor for the past 12 terms, Mark Lauretti.
“Right now we have a government that’s closed off from its people. People don’t vote because of it,” said Bristol in defense to Lauretti’s claims that he may not be fit for the position of mayor. “Mayor Lauretti no longer cares what we think… I’m here tonight to say that as a member of the community, running for mayor is an honor for me. The mayor’s office is not a crown to be worn. The mayor’s office is something that is given to you by the people of Shelton.”
Bialek addressed the efforts made in the city over the years, more specifically in the downtown area, but she didn’t describe them “developments.”
“It’s not innovation. These are not developments. These are things that are necessary and that better be done,” said Bialek. “We need more culture. Right now, our culture is Bridgeport Avenue. We already have the people of Celebrate Shelton, but even they are not receiving the support they deserve. We are not celebrating our culture enough, we are just focusing on making a profit.”
Lack of transparency
Both candidates also agreed the city’s government lacks a sense of transparency and there is too many moves going on “behind closed-doors.”
Bristol and Bialek had different approaches to addressing this issue.
Bialek suggests that the city has not utilized the internet as much as she would like to see and envisions a future for the community where all town meetings are videotaped for people to watch at their own leisure.
She added that the amount of behind closed-door decisions isn’t what’s best for the city.
“There’s too many closed-door meetings and executive sessions that make decisions without our knowledge,” Bialek said.
Making reference to Sharon Scanlon, the former assistant finance director who is serving a 4 and-a-half year prison term for embezzling nearly $900,000 in city funds.
“Over $900,000 of our money was stolen over eight years in a broken system. We rehired the very same auditor that ‘missed’ those years of theft, did not change our processes and rehired the same auditors,” Bialek said. “That’s not okay. Those are the types of things that have to change, communication is key and it’s just not productive the way it is now.”
Bristol said his plans to address these same transparency issues revolve around revamping the city’s Facebook and Twitter pages as well as creating a forum where he would be able to directly communicate with residents.
He added that he would hire a “community liaison” whose job would be to monitor the sites and assist him in keeping up with the demands of the community.
“Or you could just stop by the mayor’s office and have lunch,” said Bristol. “What I want to do is give that sense of community that the internet seems to have taken away from us, by using the internet.”
Confident that the city needs change
Bialek later assumed the role as the city’s next mayor when she stated a lot of Bristol plans for the city to create and support more small businesses, she has already begun through the owning of two restaurants as well as the networking among other owners.
“Where the plan may come in the future for Tim, I am already doing that. The mayor is a vehicle to get the community what they need,” said Bialek. “I am Shelton. I am a third generation Shelton girl. I tried getting away, but I came back. I am ready to take our city to the next era, we’ve done a great job building the businesses of Shelton, but I am ready to bring back the community of Shelton.”
$12 million surplus
While discussing the possibility of the mayor’s re-election, both candidates agreed that the mayor’s “only campaign platform” is that he has kept the city’s taxes low.
They both added they would like to allocate percentages of the city’s $12 million surplus to causes in the community that could use the funds rather than have it collecting with no apparent purpose.
Bristol said he would like to see more of the city’s $12 million be put towards more police officers patrolling which he believes would cut down in vandalism as well as help to better protect the community.
He and Bialek both agreed that the education system could also use some tweaking which could also require more funding.
“I want to equip our teachers properly so they can teach the many different styles that need to be taught today. I would do that through incorporating smartboards in classrooms, better computer labs, I would enhance our programs in science, engineering and math. The places where our students appear to be slipping, we need to help them. If we improve the school system more young families would flock to Shelton.”
“We need to give our children the education we can afford,” said Bialek. “The mayor’s job is to trust the Board of Ed to do that. I may not tell them what to do with their money, but what I can do is keep those lines of communication at all times and trust they know the rising costs of special education, transportation, and all of the exponentially rising costs of education in our country.”
Bialek added that she doesn’t like making promises, but if she’s elected she guarantees an open line of communication between her office and the Board of Education.
The debate was sponsored by the Shelton Voters Network and Shelton High School’s Junior State of America. Jean Rabinow of Trumbull, a member of the League of Women Voters chapter from the Bridgeport area was the moderator for the debate.
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