Finizio's focus is trained on a better city
New London - It is, perhaps, no surprise that his critics would send emails and post blogs "revealing" that Democratic mayoral candidate Daryl Justin Finizio is gay.
Or that one of his opponents would have an emissary slip a spreadsheet to a reporter saying that Finizio also has been a Republican.
Finizio, however, has never made a secret of either of those things.
Finizio, 34, and his partner, Todd Ledbetter, 38, sit side-by-side on their sofa in their Ocean Avenue home, in the company of Jasper and Liberty, their two basset hounds, and talk with ease about the campaign and their life together.
"Everything that they want to say about my chronology in public service has been a Google search away since December," Finizio said. "Our life has been completely transparent. Anything that we do, public or private, has been right there for everybody to see."
Finizio said he thinks these tactics are being used because he is seen by some as ahead in the six-way race for mayor.
"And on the issues, whether it's (the New London Development Corp.), eminent domain, the budget, the grants writer proposal I have, the Riverside Park sale, the green technology ... we're in the majority and both (Republican Rob) Pero and (Democratic write-in candidate Michael) Buscetto are in the minority."
Finizio, an attorney, points to his support of the land-value tax, which he says could help revitalize the downtown by basing assessments on the value of the land the buildings sit on.
"Taxes go up with fluctuations in land values instead of improvements to buildings," he said. That way, property owners can fix up their buildings without being penalized.
His opponents' response, he said, didn't get any "traction."
"Buscetto ran an ad saying I'm for a new land tax. Pero said he strongly opposed my plan ... because it will increase taxes, which it doesn't," he said.
Both Pero and Buscetto support the sale of a portion of Riverside Park to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, while Finizio is strongly in the "vote no" column.
"To get rid of the last true large remaining space of riverfront property for such a small sum is just a very poor planning decision," he said.
By the same token, he opposes the current plans for Fort Trumbull.
"I think the size of the abatement and the land giveaway is a bad deal, along with the fact that they would be rental properties," he said. "We don't need more non-owner occupied housing in New London."
Finizio believes "the NLDC wants to show something. ... You know, it's been over 10 years; we're approaching net losses of potentially $100 million and they want to show a victory. 'We put something there, see? It wasn't all for nothing.'"
As for the NLDC, the quasi-public agency in charge of development in the Fort Trumbull area, Finizio wants to get rid of it.
"I definitely think that they can be removed from the picture, and that they need to be removed," he said. "People are saying enough is enough - enough getting rid of our land, taking our homes, selling off our parks. Enough. We want to control our own property, we want to control our own development and we want that development to be geared towards the people."
For those who would make an issue of him switching parties (he was a Republican on the Westerly Town Council), Finizio has a clear position on partisanship.
"Political parties are vehicles to election," he said. "You join a political party to get elected, and you pick the party that's in the place at the time that best suits what you believe."
Caswell Cooke Jr., a Republican who served with him in Westerly, has nothing but praise for Finizio.
"Even though he's a Democrat now, I'd still vote for him," Cooke said. "He will do a great job. I wish we still had him in Westerly."
Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that when he's asked to name his most formative experience, it's a political one.
"The one that comes to mind most was when I first got involved in student politics in high school ... and I started to realize that you could get things done," Finizio said. "You know, my class was in debt and we weren't going to be able to have a dance, and I became class president, we held fundraisers and we had the dance. It was a success. Something very, very simple, but I learned from that.
"And ... they were going to cut sports and extracurricular activities in the school, so I helped lead student efforts to campaign against the cuts ... and the programs were saved. Those experiences just taught me that public service could be rewarding because you could make a difference."
As mayor, Finizio said, he would push the public-service requirement for students at New London High School, support small businesses in the city by bringing in more events like Sailfest, and give "small businesses the same kinds of incentives, whether it be credits, grants, abatements" that the city has given to big corporations.
And he wants to lure "green industries and high-tech industries" into the city "because those are the industries of the future."
He would hire both a professional grants writer and a lobbyist to represent the city's interests in Hartford.
"Considering that 42 percent of our budget comes from federal and state funds and that so many things that we do involve interaction with the state," Finizio said, "it only makes sense to have every resource at our availability to deal with the state."
Finizio is well aware that he's the new guy in town, having moved to New London almost two years ago. But over the past several years he's developed deep ties to the city.
After all, it was in New London that he met the man he loves.
"Actually, we were fixed up by my brother's ex-wife," Todd Ledbetter said.
"We met and then it was your birthday, and it was here in New London," Finizio said.
"We had the first date, which was just the two of us, and then we made plans after we clicked ... and it happened to be my birthday. Frank's club, actually, and he got to meet my friends on our second date. And then I think it was our third date ..." Ledbetter said.
"Ocean Beach?" asked Finizio.
"The big date," Ledbetter said. "It's my favorite story. We went to dinner like at six o'clock, and sat at the bar, and before we knew it, it's closing time. Honestly. No kidding."
"So that's when we realized that we really clicked," said Finizio of their relationship that began six years ago.
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