October 15, 2009

Mayoral debate lacked drama, to relief of candidates

In what is likely to be their only debate, the three mayoral candidates met this morning in a 90-minute session during which they mostly agreed with one another on issue after issue.

The three – Democratic Mayor Art Ward, Republican challenger Mary Alford and independent hopeful Gary Lawton – had kind words for each other and patted themselves on the back for a campaign marked by civility.

One of the few areas in the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce-sponsored debate where the candidates staked out slightly different positions was on the impact of the nearly completed Route 72 extension.

Alford said she’s concerned that people using the new road, slated to open next year, “will find themselves in a virtual parking lot” because there hasn’t been enough done to beef up city streets so that drivers will have somewhere to go when they reach its end.

But Ward focused on the road’s potential to boost downtown and make big improvements in Forestville’s center.

The new entry to Bristol, Lawton said, “gives us a chance to entice more business.”

Candidates covered a wide range of issues raised by moderator Tom Monahan, a TV newsman, including what to do with the former downtown mall site, how to help Bristol Hospital and whether to seek passenger rail service.

About 80 people, most of them with political or City Hall ties, attended the post-breakfast debate at Nuchie’s Restaurant co-sponsored by the hospital and The Bristol Press.

The most dramatic moment of the event came at the end, when Lawton, a welder, delivered his final words.

After calling himself “a one-man campaign” with no experience or education, he acknowledged that many have dismissed his long-shot bid and urged him to quit.

“I’m not going to give up now,” Lawton said. “This city deserves the best. I think I’m it, despite what some people say.”

Alford, a bookkeeper, said she nearly held his hand during Lawton’s words as the challenger choked up a bit, but refrained for fear that she might cry.

Ward and Alford each said there is widespread concern about the economy. Alford said people are frustrated “and a little bit angry.”

“I feel like the city is holding its breath, waiting for that other shoe to drop,” she said, adding that if problems are dealt with then the other shoe won’t drop at all.

“I would love to lead Bristol to finally exhale,” Alford said.

Each of the candidates said that dealing with necessity of budget cuts at City Hall would be tough, but they agreed on the need.

Alford said that City Hall should become “a lean, mean government machine” that has to be pared down.

Ward said his administration has eliminated 15 positions by attrition, won concessions from municipal unions that allowed for a property tax freeze this year and searched constantly for ways to streamline city operations.

Lawton said that if the community can tap its potential, it could “put Bristol in the Top 100 in Connecticut and maybe even in the country.”

Each of the candidates said that preserving Bristol Hospital is vital for the city’s health and for maintaining more than 700 good jobs.

They said they strongly supported renewed passenger rail service to town, though they cautioned that a system to get people to the train would also be necessary.

As for the Depot Square site where the mall once stood, they largely agreed that it’s best to proceed cautiously and make sure whatever is done will stand the test of time.

They also agreed that Bristol should try to entice colleges and trade schools to open branches downtown.

Alford entered the race after the GOP’s first candidate, John Gill, pulled out unexpectedly. Lawton opted to run for mayor after the Republicans refused to back his bid for a City Council seat.

A free City Council debate is slated for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 20 at City Hall. Bristol Press Publisher Mike Schroeder will serve as its moderator.
The council debates will be shown live on the same channels as the mayoral contest. They will also be aired again at 6 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 25 and at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 28.
The election is Tuesday, November 3. Mayors and councilors serve two-year terms. The next mayor will earn $98,000 annually, 5 percent less than the current salary.

Watch the debate on TV

The mayoral debate will be shown on Comcast cable channel 96 and AT&T’s U-Verse channel 99 at 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 19 and again at 6 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 1.

PS: I'll have more on this debate later.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com


Anonymous said...

My vote is for Alford because I am fed up with the good ole boys -union buddie man.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like both Alford and Lawton missed the opportunity to make their mark, and didn't.

And Ward played cautious, which was the right thing to do under the circumstances.

Since they all seemed to agree, what rationale is there for change?

Anonymous said...

I`am not much for change i`am a democrat for 35years and i`am sorry this town needs a change and i think after talking to Mary today she is the one who can make that change. Democrat, republican doesn`t matter at this level it`s what are you going to do for this town with that said Mary you have my vote.

Anonymous said...

My vote is for Ward!

Anonymous said...

He has to play cautious he has made alot of mistakes for this town.

Anonymous said...

go mary go! you have my vote

Anonymous said...

4:55 is about as republican as Obama and is the same person who's been mangling the English language on Mary's behalf since she announced.

Anonymous said...

ward in a landslide right ?

Anonymous said...

Can ANY candidate explain to the taxpayers why the City purchased 290 Mechanic Street for $616,500 on October 9, 2008?
Wasn't there already an economic crisis? Does someone live there? Who? What is the deal?

Anonymous said...

5:37 the dems put obama in office keep talking you proved my point,GOOD LUCK MARY

Anonymous said...

4:12 Tell somebody who cares who you vote for. It's getting stale. Anti anything unless it's you.

Anonymous said...

Bring back stortz

Anonymous said...

Nice to see a man with emotions. Shows he really cares.

Hope he stays involved, I think he has a lot to offer.

Anonymous said...

About 10 from the Hospital, about 10 from the Chamber.
No city Hall people, many banking people.
About 20 politically involved people, candidates and family.

Anonymous said...

This is the Bristol GOP. A bunch of useless, limp-wristed, spine-less jelly fish. They're happy to be stepped on, just as long as sonny-boy get's appointed to the police board and gets to chair a few committees (to make himself feel important, rather than impotent).

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I am impressed with Ward and Mary. They both seemed truly concerned with the debate questions and had clear and precise answers. I do have to say Mary had more passion and determination in her mannerisms as she was talking. I feel like that motivation would follow her to office and she would do all she could to make Bristol a better place to live. Just what I got out of it.

Anonymous said...

Is the "I love you Mary" three making sure she is going to be as perfect as they are? I doubt unless they can pull her strings!

Anonymous said...

Mary, if you think there are fiscal issues out there, why aren't you talking about them, and making some suggestions.

Ward isn't, and this would make you stand out compared to him.

But it looks like more of the same.

Anonymous said...

Is this blog considered drama?

Anonymous said...

Who cares who you three vote for? You are a bunch of losers anyway.

Anonymous said...

Reason to vote for Mary A is Art (Ward).

Reason NOT to vote for Mary A. is Art (Mocabee).

Anonymous said...



And cogent.

Anonymous said...

3 years ago,I visited with my grandchildren and myself and 5 other adults were standing on the porch and my 4&5 year olds were playing right in front of us in the front yard that was fenced in and she came around the corner to get her mail but just saw the kids and not us!The kids were playing in dirt and grass and she started hurling profanities at both of them to get out of the yard!(some of the words rhyme with truck,gas,bit and witch)When my daughter and I came over she did not know what to say!I told her to grow up and to leave them alone,both of them came over crying!6 adults saw her do this and come to find out she has acted out towards other kids in the neighborhood!So if she wins or loses,she will always lose with me! GROUP UP MARY!!!