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OPINION: The opportunity to shape Meriden

OPINION: The opportunity to shape Meriden

I will be taking a break from my regular bi-weekly guest column because I am the endorsed Democratic candidate for an at-large position on the Meriden City Council.

For the past three years, these commentaries have provided a way to share positive happenings and good news about Meriden, its people, events, and community resources. I hope you found it informative and interesting.

I respectfully ask that you consider voting for me on November 5.

Over half of my adult life has been spent in elective community leadership. I have been honored to serve four terms as a councilman and three terms as mayor. I have made positive, consequential contributions to our city — including the flood control project that I started in 1994 just after being elected to a second term on the Meriden City Council.

I had a vision that Meriden could only attain a rebirth if we solved the longstanding and damaging flood control problem that plagued the downtown area since the 1800s.

The flood control project is over 70 percent complete with the signature, award-winning icon — the Meriden Green — standing as the most visible and useful part of the project. Already we have seen a tremendous decrease in downtown flooding from major storms and it will only get better as the plan reaches completion. 

The project has won regional and national acclaim (17 awards thus far) and stands as a living testimony to what a positive vision, determination, ongoing commitment, and teamwork can accomplish. 

Again, I am pleased, honored and humbled to have been an instrumental part of seeing the flood control project and the rebirth of the Green. 

My dad was an engineer who always said: “Leave a place better than you found it.” He took great pride in his work and I marveled at his patience when fixing things around the house, and when he finished a task he would say “as good as human hands can make it.” 

I’ve tried to put those two pieces of my father’s principles to work during my 23 years in elective office. Those years have given me the opportunity to shape Meriden in significant ways. 

As chairman of the first Linear Trail Committee, I helped steer the process to a successful completion as we successfully got approval and paved the Gorge Linear Trail along the Quinnipiac River, complete with kiosks recounting the historic facts of the early rails route. This quickly became one of Meriden’s top favorite attractions for all to enjoy. Many of the early detractors of the Linear Trail project became some of its biggest supporters (and this led to the second phase of the Linear Trail to be completed as well).

When I was chairman of the Parks and Public Works Committee, the Augusta Curtis building, (the original Curtis Memorial Library) was in deteriorating condition due to water damage. There was an effort to tear it down because of costs for fixing the damage. I led the fight to save and restore this city treasure because I felt we had an obligation as stewards of city history to save it for future generations - and we did.

Today it is a unique center and gathering place for cultural and community activities and events.

Another important decision I was a part of was to build Falcon Field, a synthetic turf field, to replace the outdated and overused Ceppa Field. I led the effort, along with local school officials, to create the new Falcon Field complex together with State Senator Tom Gaffey who secured half the funds required ($2 million). There was opposition to the project, but we prevailed and Falcon Field has become one of the finest multi-purpose facilities in Connecticut.

The above are just some examples of a positive vision shaping our community.

I am proud to have been a part of our many accomplishments that have followed - unprecedented growth with public and private investment totaling nearly half a billion dollars, spurred by the flood control project. A new transit center, demolition of the Mills public housing project, new workforce housing units, the Green and amphitheater, and like-new high schools. 

These amazing examples of progress took determined leadership and a concerted effort by many local, state, federal, and private individuals and organizations to achieve these successes. I was a part of it, but we all came together to make Meriden better than we found it.

The job of making Meriden an even better place to live and work isn’t complete. I am running for the City Council to make sure we keep momentum moving forward and that we reach our full potential as a community. I have demonstrated the vision, leadership, and the ability to get productive things accomplished.

Together we can make a difference. Again, I respectfully ask for your vote to continue Meriden’s progress and promise.

Michael S. Rohde is a former mayor and city councilor of Meriden.