NL politicians take shine off city she loves

Amanda L. Holt closed on the purchase of her New London home on June 1, but it is certainly understandable that she has had a couple of doubts about her decision.

It's not the people. The neighbors on her street off Ocean Avenue have been welcoming. She loves much about her new city. The shore is just a short walk away, a luxury that would have cost her far more in purchasing a home most any other place. Amanda wrote to me that she also appreciates the many family-owned businesses within walking distance of most of its neighborhoods.

"I chose to buy in New London because it is a gorgeous city with a rich history and residents who care," she said in her email to The Day.

Yes, the taxes are high, more than the mortgage, she said. But the trade-off is affordable home prices. And the things those taxes pay for are important to her, Amanda told me, especially the security of paid fire and police departments and the promise of quick response if she needs help.

What troubled her as she settled into her new home was the craziness coming out of City Hall.

"It seemed every day something would be brought up in the newspaper which completely contradicted what was reported the day before," Amanda said.

Most alarming was the warning by Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio that, unless the city could obtain contract concessions, he would have to lay off 25 firefighters and 10 police officers. Amanda's assumptions about the security of having well staffed fire and police departments were shaken. But most confusing were comments from council members that the proposed budget contained enough money to pay for those services without layoffs or concessions.

"I couldn't make sense of anything that was going on," Amanda told me. "I want assurance that my 3-year-old son, myself and my new home are safe and protected from crime and fire."

And she was hearing "told you so" from acquaintances.

A dental hygienist who works in the dental clinic at the Submarine Base in Groton, Amanda, who is 28, recently went through a divorce. With her 3-year-old son she had been living in an apartment in Niantic. New London provided the opportunity to buy an affordable home and begin building equity. But many had tried to talk her out of it, some expressing exasperation when she made her decision to move into the city.

The recent spate of nasty political fights, the threat of a big tax increase, and Finizio's rocky start as the first strong mayor elected under the charter change, topped the list of recommendations why people were telling her to look elsewhere, Amanda said.

The events of late May and early June only seemed to affirm the validity of those warnings.

But then something happened June 8, her son's birthday, to reaffirm one of the reasons she did choose New London. Soon after the gas was turned back on in her new home she noted that familiar rotten egg smell, added to natural gas so leaks can be detected. It was a strong smell. She called 911 and was told to leave the house.

Within minutes firefighters were there and airing out the home. Summoned back, a Yankee Gas worker found the loose connection causing the leak. Meanwhile her son was having a great day as firefighters showed him the trucks and equipment.

"I couldn't have asked for better service," Amanda said.

This past week the mayor announced an agreement between the firefighters union and the administration, which if ratified will avoid layoffs. A deal with the police union appeared imminent as well.

And Amanda was once again feeling good about her new city. Now she is hoping its elected leaders can show more maturity in working with another. It can only benefit the place she is learning to love.

Paul Choiniere is editorial page editor.

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