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Finizio kicks off New London mayoral re-election campaign

New London — Daryl Justin Finizio kicked off his campaign for re-election as mayor Saturday afternoon by recounting his administration’s record, laying out some of his agenda for the coming year and going on the offensive against his mayoral opponent.

“I am not merely running on a record of accomplishment, although I believe that this administration’s accomplishments are many, but also to chart a new way forward for the long-term growth of our city,” Finizio, a Democrat, said. “Much of the last four years was spent stabilizing New London, managing crises and getting a plan adopted to move us forward. Now it is time to put that plan in action and see New London’s potential realized.”

The 37-year-old Finizio, who was first elected as mayor in 2011, entered the Connecticut Carpenters Local 24 Union Hall filled with about 100 people to the R&B classic “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” before taking to the lectern for a 20-minute speech in which he highlighted the differences between himself and what he called the city’s “old guard.”

“This city does not belong to a select group of insiders. It is not a birthright of anyone; it belongs to all of us,” Finizio said. “Everyone in our city matters equally, and now that we are finally moving forward we cannot afford to go back to the rule of the old guard and the government of the good old boys.”

The city’s first elected mayor in almost a century, Finizio announced during his April 1 State of the City address he would not seek re-election in 2015. City councilors and other city officials said that night they initially thought the mayor’s announcement was an April Fool’s joke.

At the time, he said politics was dividing the city. The focus, he said, was on him instead of fixing the city’s finances, which he says have since been balanced.

But after the elections in November, Finizio said, he was “inspired” to continue what he had started.

“I saw that if I did not run, I believe and I believe genuinely, that the old guard would literally walk back into this office and the progress of our city would be jeopardized,” he said Saturday.

Finizio also addressed a comment he said his opponent, City Councilor Michael Passero, made about wanting to “go back to the momentum we had before our change in government.”

“There was momentum before our change in government. We were going down hard, and we were going down fast,” Finizio said. “And this administration, over his constant obstruction and opposition on the City Council, turned it around.”

Passero, a fellow Democrat who has been critical of Finizio’s administration and whose votes as a councilor have not frequently been in line with Finizio’s agenda, announced in November that he would seek the city’s highest elected office.

Though Finizio did not speak his name, much of Finizio’s speech focused on painting Passero as an insider linked to “failed policies” of the past.

“The council on which my opponent served gave us massive government deficits, ran out our city reserves, downgraded our credit and pushed the city to the brink of bankruptcy,” he said. “Now, what has this administration done? We’ve balanced our budget twice, turned our cash flow from a negative to a positive and preserved our credit rating.”

Finizio also laid out something of an agenda for the last year of his first term in office, which includes making education “a comprehensive, communitywide initiative,” increasing staffing in the city’s Public Works Department, increasing funding for the city’s public library and improving downtown infrastructure.

“This year is when New Londoners will begin to see our rising renaissance,” he said.

Finizio also announced that he plans to introduce a bond package in the next two months to convert the Martin Center and Senior Center into “a comprehensive, high-quality community center for all the people of the city of New London.”

Passero has championed the effort to establish a community center in New London for several years.

“These reforms and undertakings help us to put into practice the belief that everyone matters equally. We cannot go back to a time in this city where that was not the case, where our schools were neglected, where our homes were bulldozed, where our social service department was abolished and where community policing was ridiculed rather than embraced,” Finizio said. “No, we cannot take one step backwards.”

Before Finizio took the stage Saturday, leaders from the Carpenters Local 24 and the unions that represent nurses and technicians at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital announced that their unions would be endorsing Finizio in the race for the mayoralty.

“You’d be hard pressed to find a stronger defender of Connecticut’s working families than Mayor Finizio,” Chris Bachant, the business representative of Carpenters Local 24, said. “Whether it was being first in the state to support a $10.10 minimum wage or standing with the nurses and caregivers at L+M Hospital last year, Mayor Finizio has walked the walk by fighting for working people. We’ve got his back.”

Finizio said he chose to kick off his campaign at the Carpenters Local 24 union hall because his grandfather was a member of the union for 50 years.

c.young@theday.com

Twitter: @ColinAYoung

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