I actually want to start by thanking the mayor for his 36 years of service to Wallingford. He and I share the most important qualification for being mayor: a love of Wallingford. We both want what is best for this town. However, where our differences lie can be summed up if you simply ask yourself this: Do the mayor’s decisions lead to the best outcomes or simply the most acceptable ones?
Wallingford is a sleeping bear in a bull economy. While the national economy has been booming, we have allowed neighboring towns to take our businesses, failed to invest in necessary infrastructure, and constrained ourselves to annual tax increases, only to do the same thing year after year.
In thinking about economic development:
■Was the best outcome for Bristol Myers to sell their $240 million campus for $5 million, and for the town to support in its place a 24/7 trucking warehouse that would route 1,800 daily truck trips through residential streets and endanger the McKenzie Reservoir?■Is the parking situation downtown the best outcome in terms of signage, one-way streets, private lots, sidewalks, and ordinances?■Was it the best solution to take police away from walking the beat, having a robust neighborhood presence, and being at crossing intersections in order to control the traffic and dispatch volume that has resulted from unplanned development along Route 5?■Is it the best idea to keep purchasing lots without a plan for development?
I know they’re not the best outcomes, not simply because I disagree with them, but because I’ve talked to many of you who also believe we can work collectively to do better. As a Democrat, I believe we always find better outcomes when we include many voices. So here are just some of the economic development differences a Democratic administration would offer:
■Be purposeful about the gateways into town. This includes streetscapes and signage along the highways advertising historic points of interest, museums, and other cultural attractions and town treasures.■Act on permit applications in a timely fashion. We need to show that we’re coordinated, consistent, and forward-looking in order to retain a strong position at the negotiation table.■Explore creative new uses for current spaces, like transforming Simpson Court to be an outdoor market on summer weekends, converting the old train station to be an indoor farmers market, repurposing one of the former fire stations to be a childrens’ museum, and finding other ways to make Wallingford a destination.■Instead of paying $20,000 per year for a highway billboard about cheap electricity, apply those funds to attend trade shows, host association meetings, and showcase Wallingford.■Focus on mid-price range houses. Unless we diversify housing options, we will continue to price young professionals and families out of the market.
Leading up to the November election, I will be talking more about economic development, optimistically informed by the values we share because, when our businesses succeed — creating jobs, services, and the type of community where we want to live — we succeed. This is about getting value for our money.
It’s time to plan for the future we want.
Jared Liu, a Democrat, is a candidate for mayor of Wallingford. Follow him at www.jaredliu.com.
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