Op-Ed: Democrat mayoral candidate promises transparency, positive labor relations

Longtime Shelton resident and retired police officer David Eldridge, a Democrat, is running against incumbent Republican Mayor Mark Lauretti this November.

Longtime Shelton resident and retired police officer David Eldridge, a Democrat, is running against incumbent Republican Mayor Mark Lauretti this November.

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As the start of the school year is upon us, I want to wish all of our young people, parents and school personnel, a safe, healthy and successful year. As a proud graduate of the Shelton school system, I am always impressed with how well the school community does with limited resources. It really is the people that make Shelton a great city.

Related to the start of school, there is much debate about resources and the City-run bus company. For the sake of our children and parents, I hope things run smoothly, but unfortunately, I have my doubts given the results dating back before the pandemic. I have said in multiple forums and I am saying here again, I do not believe the city should be in the business of running a bus company.

Unless the books are opened in a completely transparent way, I don’t believe any non-COVID related cost savings that have been reported. I don’t believe the full costs the city is expending are really making it into the equation. For example, time being used by the Mayor and various city staff (clerical, human resources, legal, etc) may not be accounted for. Also, we have not heard much about the money that will be needed to upkeep and replenish the fleet overtime as most of the buses are eight years or more old. Further, and most important is the time, attention and effort that is being taken away from other city priorities and service improvements.

I have been asked what I would do. I believe this debacle needs to be addressed with some short and long term actions. In the short term, the work environment needs to be improved while we are stuck running the bus company in order to retain and attract good staff and to deliver dependable service to our community.

Specifically, the union contract needs to be negotiated and settled so workers know what to expect as they make choices about which community they come to work for. The workers have been without a contract for years.

Next, a professional in the field needs to be put in charge of the operation. We currently have a friend of the Mayor, who also oversees planning and zoning running the bus company.

Lastly, in the short term, we need to treat our workers with more dignity and respect, not as a disposable commodity.

As for longer term actions, I would reach out to Joseph Carbone, president and CEO of The WorkPlace, Inc., this region’s workforce development board. They are charged with addressing workforce needs through recruitment and training. They have the funding resources to help Shelton and other cities to build a worker pipeline for this industry. We just need to seek the resources and collaborate.

I would also work toward turning the business of running a school bus company back to the professionals. I would seek to get the best financial arrangement through competitive bid and productive negotiation.

Again, at this time we all have to hope for the best as the school year begins. We have all been through a lot these past few years. Let’s hope the focus can be on teaching, learning and student success versus the bus debacle or other ridiculousness brought about by the city hall administration.

David A. Eldridge

Democrat candidate for mayor