Lauretti raises $276,000 for gubernatorial campaign
After surpassing his goal of raising $250,000 to qualify his gubernatorial campaign for public financing from the state, Mayor Mark Lauretti said the time he spends between now and Election Day will go toward making sure his “team” gets elected or re-elected on Nov. 7.
For the first time in his 26 years in office, Lauretti has no opponent in the city’s mayoral race, but if one were to take a drive around Shelton, it would appear as it does in any other municipal election season.
Team Lauretti signs can be seen in residents’ front yards all across town, and the mayor explained that it’s because he is, in fact, still running a race. Lauretti said his race this year is against all the people who doubt him.
“I’m not running unopposed. I have deterrents like this out here that want to derail the things about a community that other people and other communities would love to have,” said Lauretti. “Every day I focus on being right just because of people like [Mark] Widomski and other naysayers who I have been dealing with for 26 years. I have no tolerance for them anymore.”
Candidate for P&Z Widomski kept his comments short.
“As I have said in the past, I am not going to get involved in the petty politics that people are so tired of,” said Widomski. “My platform remains the same. I am running to work for and listen to all Shelton residents while still encouraging growth and development where it is most appropriate.”
One member of Team Lauretti said she is a bit concerned with the potential effects of not having a mayoral race.
“It does concern me, but we’re all working very hard to get these voters to come out. There’s a lot of other boards and commissions that require your support and are important,” said P&Z Chair Ruth Parkins, who if elected would serve a four-year term.
The mayor said he’s confident that if voters turn out at the polls, his party’s endorsed candidates should be re-elected.
“If the voters vote, then we’ll be OK because we’re the majority,” said Lauretti.
Parkins said she hasn’t been doing the traditional door-to-door portion of campaigning this year, mainly because of her busy schedule between P&Z, her full-time job and her duty as a member of the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments and the Regional Planning Commission.
“There’s a lot more involved than just coming to a P&Z meeting once or twice a month. I think a lot of people feel that this is an actual city position, that it’s a staff position, but it’s not. I’m a volunteer with a full-time, very busy job,” said Parkins.
While acknowledging the criticism she’s received from her approval of the controversial Shelter Ridge development, Parkins said she feels as though some residents’ judgments are “shortsighted.”
“You’ve got to really take a look at our track record over the past four years. There’s been 13 PDDs that have been approved, seven by unanimous vote and six bipartisan. So either they’re unanimous or bipartisan, so that lends itself to the fact that there may be developments that an area is particularly fond of, but especially with Shelter Ridge, we went above and beyond on that project. We held that public hearing open to make sure that everyone had a chance to talk. A lot of people came out, a lot of people wanted information,” said Parkins. “When people get loud, it tends to lead to other people wanting to do the same, but being loud doesn’t necessarily make you right. It’s a 23-page resolution that addresses the valid concerns that were expressed. People can say that we weren’t listening, but we were definitely listening.”
Despite the effects being criticized can have on a person, Parkins said, she’s determined to continue her public service.
“People tend to focus on the negative rather than the positives, which can be disheartening at times,” said Parkins. “The people who are in favor of you are not going to speak out, it’s not their battle, but hopefully they will show up to the polls and express their gratitude or appreciation for what’s being done. You just can’t make everyone happy, there’s always going to be somebody opposed to a given development. I feel that I’m doing a good job.”
Lauretti said criticism is part of occupying the commission’s chair position.
“She is my fourth chair in terms of the P&Z, and all of them have been exposed to that criticism, some more than others, and it’s the same people that continue to resurface. It’s the same Widomskis of the world that continue to resurface, the same guy who ran against me for mayor and made all of these allegations against me,” said Lauretti. “Now he wants to save Shelton, and from what?”
Shelton’s mayor said despite having to collect more than 400 signatures because he was not an endorsed candidate of the city’s Republican Party, Widomski earned no respect from him when he obtained the signatures required to earn a spot on the 2017 ballot.
“Those people who sign those petitions don’t know the history,” said Lauretti. “Or maybe they do, but it’s not the greater percentage of them. I’d be very surprised. It’s not a hard thing to do — it’s actually one of the more easy things to do in politics.”
Parkins said she is confident in the number of people who support her work as chair regardless of her critics.
“I spoke to many people who signed that petition and they guaranteed them that I had their vote,” said Parkins. “Just to sign someone’s petition doesn’t mean anything. … Someone comes up to you and says, ‘Sign this piece of paper,’ but there’s no commitment there.”
Lauretti said he’s witnessed many people wanting Parkins out of office for “the wrong reasons.”
“All of these people that want her out because of one application are saying that everything that happened downtown doesn’t matter and all of the other stuff on Bridgeport Avenue doesn’t matter. Where were all of these people when [Bob] Scinto wanted to put up his 17-floor apartment building on Bridgeport Avenue? Nowhere. I was the only guy to oppose it, and now all of a sudden they’re opposed to this,” said Lauretti. “I’m running because I support the agenda of Planning and Zoning. When there’s something I don’t like, I say it. There’s no secrets with me.”