New London - It's hard to stand out in a crowd of 15 with only one minute to speak, but some candidates running for City Council managed to leave an impression at a forum Tuesday night at the Senior Center.
Anthony Nolan, a Democrat, got a round of applause - much to the chagrin of the forum's moderator who asked the crowd of about 150 not to clap - when he read from a letter from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel that declared that his employment with the police department does not violate the federal Hatch Act.
"I can run for City Council. I look forward to your vote,'' Nolan said.
On Saturday, fellow police officer George Potts, also a Democrat, withdrew from the race when he was notified that his employment violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal, state or local workers who receive federal funding or supervise positions that are federally funded, from participating in partisan politics. Potts is a sergeant and supervises those whose positions are paid for with federal grants.
Elizabeth Lilly Rivera, who is a subcontractor of the Department of Defense working at the National Guard Armory, withdrew from the race Monday, citing the Hatch Act.
John Maynard, who replaced Potts on the Democratic ticket, was interrupted when a witch figurine on a side table began cackling in the middle of one of his answers - to the crowd's amusement.
During the forum, hosted and sponsored by the Neighborhood Alliance and the League of Women Voters, six Democrats, six Republicans and three Green Party candidates expressed their views on the sale of Riverside Park, granting tax abatements to the developer building housing in Fort Trumbull and their ideas for economic development. Questions came from the audience, and candidates had one minute to respond.
Tuesday night's was the only forum where all 16 City Council candidates will discuss issues together.
City Councilor Adam Sprecace, who is seeking a third term, was joined by fellow Republicans Brian Giesing and Margaret Hansen, and Democrat Donald Macrino, in their support of selling a portion of Riverside Park to the Coast Guard Academy. The rest of the candidates oppose the sale, although the decision lies with voters, who will be asked during the Nov. 8 election if the city should sell 9 acres of the 18-acre park for $2.9 million.
Most of the candidates, across party lines, also oppose the city's granting seven to 10 years of tax abatements to Stillman developers, who are building 80 to 100 housing units in Fort Trumbull. The City Council has already unanimously approved the tax abatements. Only Sprecace, City Councilors Wade Hyslop and Michael Passero, both Democrats, and Republican Michael F. Doyle said the abatements would help the city in the future.
For many candidates, improving the school system and supporting local youths, are the main ways to make the city more economically viable.
Jessica Cartagena, who at 21 is the youngest person running, said she will bring a unique perspective to the Council.
"I feel there's a lot that needs to be done. And I think I can connect the bridge between the young and the young at heart,'' said the Green Party candidate.
"Our greatest asset is our children,'' said Macrino, a former New London teacher and now principal of Waterford High School.
Passero, who is working to find ways to build a community center in the city, suggested that 300 new apartments could be rented on second floors of vacant buildings downtown, which would spur economic development.
Joan Sullivan Cooper, a Green candidate, wants the city to take advantage of the waterfront and promote itself.
"Our deep water port is one of our greatest assets,'' she said.
Several candidates also praised police Chief Margaret Ackley, who was in the audience, including Nolan, Maynard and Republican Daniel Docker.
Other candidates who participated in the forum were Marie Friess-McSparran, a Democrat; Lorraine Allen, a Republican; and Kenric Hanson, Green Party.
City Councilor John Russell, who is a petitioning candidate and is seeking a second term, did not attend.