Primary candidates and challengers debate in forum

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Sun., Sep. 11, 2011
Mary Alice Dwyer Hughes, Santo Alleano and Mayor Marcia Leclerc were participants in the primary candidates' forum Sept. 8, Photos by Frances Taylor.
Mary Alice Dwyer Hughes, Santo Alleano and Mayor Marcia Leclerc were participants in the primary candidates' forum Sept. 8, Photos by Frances Taylor.

In advance of the upcoming Sept. 13 Democratic primary, mayoral candidates Mary Alice Dwyer Hughes, Santo Alleano and Mayor Marcia A. Leclerc met in a televised forum on Sept. 8. The candidates discussed their visions for East Hartford, including development, education and quality of life issues. The forum was held in the auditorium of the Connecticut IB Academy and was moderated by Chamber of Commerce President Ron Pugliese.

Republican Town Council and Board of Education candidates and challengers Susan Skowronek, Hector Reveron, Victoria Gaudette Brinius and Valerie Fearn Scheer also took part in the forum, with each candidate being given an opportunity to present their ideas to the audience. Approximately 150 people attended the live forum, which was shown on Channel 5.

The candidates took questions from a panel of reporters that included Bill Doak of The Gazette, Melissa Traynor of The Hartford Courant,  Al Hemingway of the Journal Inquirer and Frances Taylor of ReminderNews.

When asked about her vision for East Hartford, Dwyer Hughes, a member of the Board of Education, called for a range of development projects in the Silver Lane and Rentschler Field area. “I see an outlet mall in Rentschler Field similar to Clinton Crossing,” Dwyer Hughes said. “I believe we need a concerted effort to change some planning and zoning laws in the Silver Lane area that would make it easier for businesses to purchase and develop the available land there.”

Alleano, a retired firefighter, said that East Hartford Town Hall lacked a business-friendly attitude that was causing potential developers to avoid the town. “There was a time when businesses used to try to outbid each other to come to town,” he said. “It can be that way again. Now many people avoid it because they don't want to deal with the process, and that has to change.”

Leclerc said she envisioned a fully-developed riverfront area and a revitalized Main Street that will draw people downtown. “Goodwin College is expanding, and UTC and Pratt have committed to stay here for next 30 years. We know that Silver Lane area is a prime piece of real estate that is ready for development and is ready to take off,” she said.

All three candidates said blight issues in East Hartford needed to be addressed. “When you go down Burnside Avenue, you see old mattresses and things that should not be out there,” said Alleano.

Many of the blight issues are caused by properties that are not-owner occupied, said Leclerc. “We need to fully enforce our blight laws, even if it means putting a lien on the property,” she said.

Other candidates were given a chance to make their case to the voters. Skowronek, an incumbent Town Council member who was not endorsed by her party to run for another term, said that if re-elected, she would continue to work in a bi-partisan way and work for zero budget growth. “All of our taxes have doubled in the last 10 years. Seniors should not have to take out a loan to pay their taxes,” she said. “I will strive for a budget with zero growth in taxes.”

Scheer, a mother two, and an endorsed candidate for Board of Education, said she would be a strong voice for children in the school system. “Excellence is not easy – it must be accomplished with high expectations for all of our students,” she said.

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