The Game Changer

Jenn Harrington

Candidates in West Haven’s Mayoral Race Debate on Current Issue

Elections for the office of Mayor in West Haven are less than a month away, and in preparation for polling, all three candidates took time out of their Wednesday night to meet at Carrigan Middle School to debate their ideas on the future of our city.

The line-up for November includes Edward O’Brien (D), Bart Chadderton (R), and incumbent John Picard (write-in). Each candidate sat on stage of the Carrigan Middle School auditorium, waiting for questions to be verified and attendees to find their seats. Each prepped with notes and talked to supporters to ease nerves.

The crowd was smaller, filling only a third of the room, but each West Haven resident was eager to hear what the candidates had to say. Former University of New Haven Professor, Gary Fetzer, hosted the debate leading in the evening stating that all questions were submitted by audience members and were verified for validity beforehand.

A hush fell over the auditorium and ears began to lean forward in an effort to hear which candidate chose the best response toward solving current issues that city residents find most imperative. If politics is a game, then a debate is the defining play on the field. Each candidate rotated turns in answering the proposed questions and followed with a 60 second rebuttal.

First question: What makes you qualified?

Picard started off in round one stating his experience, education, and ability to lead are qualities that make him the right fit for reelection. He went on to discuss local accomplishments in West Haven through job creation and tax revenue. O’Brien worked off his message of being born and raised in our city holding the qualities of honesty and integrity.

Chadderton, who began on a slightly different tone, referenced a recent article published in the New Haven Register regarding dirty politics and a feeling of being personally attacked. To keep in tow with tone, he also brought forward the lack of financial stability and the cities position of worst bond rating.

As questions continued each candidate stuck with a theme. Picard chose accomplishments to highlight success of the future, O’Brien pushed forward economic development on a large scale, and Chadderton ensured he would work on city finances and “get ducks lined up in a row.”

Through the debate as Chadderton worked to promote his platform ideas, a heated banter occurred through rebuttal with O’Brien and Picard. The idea of economic development was in discussion.

Picard promptly praised the planned addition of a CVS for providing 35 new jobs. O’Brien refuted that economic development is not a CVS or deli in an effort to provide examples of small-business, but what is needed is the addition of big business and large-scale developing.

Picard hit strong in his rebuttal. “Small business is the backbone of the country,” said Picard, “they account for 75% of jobs.” A round of applause resonated in the crowd.

O’Brien stood by his notion that big-business will bring in revenue, create more jobs, and provide for a friendlier city.

Chadderton resonated that “money is everything.” Finances are at the top of his priority list. “Take care of the money first.” Once that is handled then the city can work on spending in the right direction to balance the budget and get the city out of debt.

Another hot topic on the floor was Education; where funding should be placed and what changes could be made.

Don’t spend on structure; money can be used for resources. Books are old and classes are decrepit stated O’Brien. “We need to do better with what we have.”

Chadderton reminded the audience that grades and test scores are low. There isn’t a need for more money to be pumped in, but for it to be redirected and for the leadership in schools to become stronger.

Picard chose to show the positives on West Haven education. He mentioned the University’s initiative to provide scholarships for local students and said that more support through resources and lobbying can help the local education system.

Other topics in debate included zoning in Allingtown, high-end versus affordable housing, the asphalt plant, and consolidation of fire departments.

Each candidate was given the opportunity for a few final words. Chadderton’s closing remarks reiterated his fury at allegations from the Register article he mentioned in opening and stated that this is the example of a need for checks and balances.

Picard continued to delight on all of the great accomplishments the city has seen thus far. O’Brien revisited economic development and stated that the city needs to get a handle on its quality of life.

The evening closed with an overall feeling of interest in seeing the election results. Each candidate gave effort for their platforms, but the debate was one that provided for residents to hear how their political leaders think. Will our city have the right man in place? Only time will tell.

The debate was sponsored by the West Haven Chamber of Commerce, and updates on the West Haven Mayoral Race can be found online