The people of Stamford feel like their government doesn’t see them or hear them, and that it is focused on interests other than theirs. It will be my job to establish trust through honest communication and openness to their concerns, and to lay out clearly my administration’s plans for fixing our schools, roads, and parks; managing spending; controlling neighborhood congestion; and incentivizing development of reasonably priced and truly affordable rental apartments and housing people can afford to own. I will use my voice as a non-voting member of the school board to advocate for equity and excellence in education, to urge the hiring of minority educators, and to speak up for teachers, students and parents to ensure they have what they need to succeed through this pandemic and beyond. In Stamford’s diverse neighborhoods, I see cars parked bumper to bumper, transforming two-lane streets into one. I hear from police the need to get guns off the streets, stop the spree of car thefts and break-ins that make people feel unsafe, and to reach out to young people who are losing their way. I have the experience I need to create diverse teams to take on these challenges.
In the short term, Stamford needs to assess the effects of COVID-19 and devise an equitable plan for spending federal funding that has been allotted to support safe school environments, small businesses, child care, infrastructure upgrades and other needs. Long term we need to begin enacting the master plan for renovating school buildings — a draft of the plan is due in December. In the neighborhoods, residents are rightly calling for community conversations about smart development. The city is inundated with luxury rentals but we need a housing stock that is much more diverse. We need for people who work here to be able to live here, and to become invested in our community by owning homes, townhouses and condos. We have to understand the stresses that exist in neighborhoods congested with cars, and with apartments that may or may not be up to code. Landlords have to be held accountable. We need to take a good look at our fast-growing city and see where things are working, and where the traffic, litter, noise pollution, congestion and other stresses are affecting quality of life.
It may be time to take a look at the structure of our government, which has not been changed in decades. Job descriptions and our way of organizing departments may be out of date. We have to assess what our government should look like in the 21st century. The Charter may have to be changed to require periodic review of government organization. For example, the corporation counsel — the city’s chief attorney — now serves at the discretion of the mayor. It’s a political pick that could change every four years. But the city might be better served if that position, and perhaps others, were permanent because continuity and impartiality are important in certain crucial roles.
Stamford is a wonderfully diverse, thriving city. Like all cities, it has to adapt and grow to survive. But the key is how we grow, and whether we give equal weight to those who live here and to those we hope to attract here. The building permit fees, conveyance taxes and property taxes derived from all the new construction have helped the city meet its budgets, but residents are calling out for attention to their neighborhoods. They want the density of new development to match the density of existing neighborhoods. I would direct my team to assess the effects and taxpayer costs of population increases on demand for classroom space, water and sewer use, police and fire protection, and other services, and the effects on traffic and the environment. We need that information to begin planning for smart ways for the city to develop into the future and preserve its unique neighborhoods at the same time.
Stamford is a coastal city with aging infrastructure and vulnerable to the effects of severe weather. Parts of Shippan, the South End and other areas are below sea level. Streets in these areas were underwater in the most recent big storm. As mayor I will work with our U.S. senators and representatives to make the case in Washington that Stamford has a significant vulnerability to these weather events, and we need funding to prepare for them. Our aging stormwater systems will be increasingly inadequate to prevent flooding and destruction of infrastructure. Beyond that, I will develop close relationships with the leadership at Eversource, which has a spotty history of storm response and timely power restoration in Stamford, as I learned when I served as Stamford’s Director of Public Safety, Health & Welfare.