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Setting aside his propensity for getting involved in controversies easily avoided - case in point his latest very public dustup with the police union leadership - the priorities outlined by New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio when he met with the editorial board recently are largely on target.
He said the administration and council, having managed to get its budget back in balance during the first two years of his term, must next focus on rebuilding the fund balance, depleted largely by decisions made before Mayor Finizio took office in December 2011.
In their recent assessment of the city, two credit rating agencies noted the lack of an adequate fund balance - the city's rainy day fund - is their greatest concern. Now at about $1.5 million, it needs to get in the area of $7.5 million to provide an adequate cushion.
This will not be an easy challenge for the new council and the mayor, particularly given his second priority - developing a long-term plan for infrastructure improvements in the city. The list of needs is long. The city's buildings are in deplorable shape. Utilities need upgrading. The high school needs replacement or a massive refurbishing, critical to the success of converting to an all-magnet school district as planned, noted the mayor.
Bonding to pay for this needed work, while providing for city services, controlling the tax burden and rebuilding a fund balance is quite the challenge. But Mayor Finizio is right that some of these needs cannot be ignored any longer and, in the long run, will produce savings because of improved energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs.
Mayor Finizio set as a third priority continuing to do what is necessary to smooth the path for the planned construction of the National Coast Guard Museum on the city's waterfront. As fundraising continues, work can move forward on getting the necessary regulatory approvals at the state and federal levels and mitigating any disputes that might arise. The administration can play a critical role in all of that. The mayor well recognizes that the museum could be a game changer for continued revitalization of the waterfront district.
The mayor should have the opportunity to move his agenda forward. Mayor Finizio expressed optimism that the election left him a council that he can work with. He expects to have a good working relationship with the new council president, veteran Councilor Wade Hyslop.
Speculation is sure to continue as to whether the man Councilor Hyslop displaced as council president - Councilor Michael Passero - will challenge Mayor Finizio for the Democratic nomination two years from now. Councilor Passero makes it no secret he does not feel the mayor has done a good job for the city. We urge both men not to let preparations for a future contest get in the way of effective governing now.
It was good to hear Mayor Finizio say he plans to regularly attend council meetings during the second half of his term, which was not the case during his first two years in office. It can only help the process to have the mayor there ready to address council questions and make the case for legislation his administration may seek.
It is of some concern to hear Mayor Finizio welcome the opportunity to get more work done in closed party caucuses. Members of one party have the legal right to meet and discuss strategies. It has long been part of our two-party system. When not abused, it provides an opportunity for party members to be frank with one another and assess a level of support for pursuing legislation.
However, with Democrats controlling six of seven council seats and the mayor's office, the potential for abuse is great, with all business worked out behind closed doors and passed without debate, keeping the public in the dark. We strongly urge the Democrats not to abuse the power voters have given them.