Friday, September 10, 2010

City bioscience corridor made possible by state law.

The City of New Britain is taking economic development steps made possible by state legislation I voted to approve this year. As reported in the Herald:
The Common Council moved Wednesday to create a bioscience corridor within the city as a way of attracting new businesses.

The resolution follows Connecticut Public Act 10-104, which allows the zoning changes, based on census data, that the city hopes will bring high paying, long-term jobs, development of under-utilized properties and the chance for major infrastructure investment by interested businesses.
I would point out Sen. DeFronzo's strong leadership on this issue. And, at a time when some Republicans are throwing partisan darts at New Britain's state legislators, it was nice to see the words of one Republican City Council member, pointing out the work of the state legislators in approving this very pro-business and pro-jobs legislation (also from the Herald):
Alderman Mark Bernacki made a resolution to adopt, which was seconded by Alderman Louis Salvio.

“I want to commend the legislature, including Sen. DeFronzo, for including these properties in our hospitals that will allow businesses to come in,” Bernacki said. Bernacki called the use of properties for these kinds of purposes a “plus for the city.”
This legislation, as I pointed out in a previous post, is an investment in a high-tech future for New Britain and our region:
The legislation recently approved to enhance the UConn Health Center will ensure good paying jobs for New Britain and Newington residents who work at that facility. But this legislation does much more than this for New Britain:
  • It requires $5 million investment in the creation of a cutting-edge cancer treatment facility in the City of New Britain.
  • It creates a new Enterprise Zone in the New Britain to encourage the growth of biotech and other high-technology manufacturing in the city.
I would add that I would still like to see enhancements to the biotech Enterprise Zone in New Britain to provide additional advantages for New Britain over locations in the direct vicinity of the Health Center in Farmington. But the legislation still provides real opportunities for our city to grow economically and create new, high tech manufacturing and jobs.

This legislation shows the kind of leadership we have in New Britain's state legislative delegation to build our economy and create jobs. At a time when we need a new direction to create new jobs, I am happy to have approved this important legislation.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Aquinas School blight action - finally.

New Britain City Hall has finally done the right thing by acquiring control of the Saint Thomas Aquinas School building at the corner of East and Kelsey Street. Taking control of the building from the absentee owners who have left it in a deteriorating condition should have been done long ago, but it is good that action is finally being taken.

This school building has been in a blighted condition for quite some time. Its deteriorating state has not just been harmful to the quality of life of East Side residents - it has been a painful sight for many people who attended Aquinas. Many people, including me, have been urging action on the part of the city for a long time, now. I pressed for action, as well, during my campaign for Mayor last year. So I am happy that this pressure has finally yielded some movement, by City Hall, in the right direction.

While it is always best for the city to work with property owners to assist, urge and pressure them to do the right thing by putting the buildings in our community to good, and properly maintained use, it is important for the city to be able to take strong action against absentee property owners who simply do not. And, when an absentee owner refuses or simply does not address blighted conditions, the city must aggressively apply fines and fees until they add up to more than the value of the property. Then the city is in a position to take the property in order to allow for a new use of the building and/or a new  owner who will properly maintain it.

While it is a good thing that the most recent absentee owner of the Aquinas School building has voluntarily relinquished control of this building, it is not a good thing that it took so long - long years - for City Hall to accomplish this. Our City Hall has, unfortunately, not been using all the legal tools it has to address chronic blighted buildings. Mayor Stewart argued against using foreclosure as a means for the city to take control of this building. But state law, for example, also allows the city to take blighted buildings by eminent domain. If the city used a strong anti-blight ordinance to aggressively levy fines and fees for all of the many, many blighted conditions on a chronic blighted property, it would not take long for these fines and fees to add up to more than the value of the property. The city would then be owed more by the property owner than the city would be required to pay in taking the property by eminent domain. So the city would then, very quickly, have control of the property and be in a position make it a part of positive change for its neighborhood and the city as a whole.

Something like this should have been done, years ago, with the Aquinas building. It may be water under the bridge, now, with this particular building, but there are a good number more such buildings in New Britain for which strong action of the kind I am urging is certainly in order - including a good number that have also been in blighted and deteriorating condition for years. Like the Aquinas building, those buildings bring down the quality of life in neighborhoods - needlessly.

This is problem that our City Hall has a lot of power to deal with. I and other state legislators have been and will continue to approve even more powers for municipalities to address blighted and abandoned buildings. But our efforts will not help unless the city, itself, uses those powers as it should for the benefit of our community.

In the meantime, I sincerely hope that the city listens to the concerns of the residents in the East Side and the city as a whole when considering the future use of the Aquinas building, and that it is open to creative solutions that can truly benefit our community for the future.