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A Not-Suburb Finds A Candidate
by Thomas MacMillan | Oct 21, 2013 10:41 am
Posted to: Bishop Woods, Campaign 2013
A central plank in Richard Spears’ aldermanic campaign platform is a reminder: Bishop Woods—his neighborhood—isn’t part of North Haven. Or East Haven.
The ward, in the city’s far northeast, is part of New Haven. But it’s been overlooked by downtown-centered policies, Spears (pictured) said.
“They think of us as the suburbs,” said Spears. He said his neighbors feel forgotten by the city.
Spears was sitting in a booth at the 91 Diner on Middletown Avenue Friday morning, discussing his nascent candidacy for Ward 12 alderman. His name was recently added to the ballot after incumbent Alderman Mark Stopa suddenly announced he would not run for re-election because a new job as a federal contractor prevents him from campaigning for office.
After a quick search, the Democratic Town Committee tapped Spears to run. He’s now unopposed and all but guaranteed the seat, unless someone mounts a write-in challenge.
Spears, a 50-year-old mental health counselor, would represent the city’s northeasternmost neighborhood, bordering both North Haven and East Haven and sectioned off by I-91 and the Quinnipiac River.
“It’s removed from the mainstream of the city,” Spears said. People think of Bishop Woods—also known as Quinnipiac Meadows—as a quiet area. But it has problems of its own, Spears said.
Those problems have been overlooked while the city has been building up the downtown area, Spears said. “We lost touch with our neighborhoods completely.”
He listed a number of ways he’d like the city to help Bishop Woods:
• The city should do more to help out neighborhood small businesses, so that more areas of town can have bustling commercial areas like Grand Avenue in Fair Haven. Spears mentioned Cine 1,2,3,4, the Bishop Woods movie theater that he said is not living up to its potential. “Who’s investing in that? No one.” (Last year, the city helped clear the way for the movie theater to finance an upgrade.)
• Part of outgoing Mayor John DeStefano’s legacy is having built up downtown, Spears said. The result has been less police presence in the neighborhoods, he said. He said his neighborhood has beat cops on foot and on bikes, but “not nearly enough.”
• The city should invest more resources in Middletown Avenue Park, which doesn’t have any lights, Spears said. While young people have nowhere to go, the park is underutilized, he said.
• And the neighborhood needs more sidewalks. Middletown Avenue is set up for cars only, and cars move too fast throughout the ward, Spears said.
“There’s no sidewalks anywhere,” he said. “Kids are going to get hurt. This is a serious issue for the ward.”
Spears also weighed in on a number of hot topics in town:
• On unions: “I applaud the unions if they want to take a role in New Haven politics,” he said. It remains to be seen, however, whether union involvement in city government will mean real progress or business as usual, Spears said.
• Spears said he’s in favor of the proposed sale of the Shubert Theater: “I think it’s the only real arts venue in the city. What happens when that goes? We constantly are stripping the city of the gems that we see.” He said that while he hasn’t looked closely at the specifics of the deal, he thinks it’s worth it, to save the Shubert.
• On school reform, Spears said he approves of the city’s current nascent drive to improve education. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.” Spears has four grown children.
• Spears said he favors the proposed move toward a partially elected Board of Ed, the first question in an upcoming ballot referendum. He said it would bring “more balance to the board” and “more of an ear to families and students.”
• Spears said he also favors the second ballot referendum proposal, which would revise the city’s charter to give aldermen veto power over top mayoral appointees. “I think it’s part of all democratic processes,” he said. “There should be a level of vetting people ... so we know who we’re getting.”
• Spears said he supports Toni Harp for mayor. She prevented former Gov. John Rowland from making devastating cuts, Spears said. “She was the champion of the people.”
Although he’s running unopposed, Spears said he’s not taking anything for granted. He plans to be out canvassing his neighborhood, introducing himself as the candidate for alderman.
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Judging by Spear’s comments to the issues on hand in this election, it sounds like he is coming straight out of the play book of the democratic party who hand picked him.
He endorses everything, although he admits he knows very little about them..aka.. Shubert theater, fire sale vs a real market sale. By the way Mr. Spears the Shubert 100% market value is $545K plus aside parcel of land.
..whichs no one else is familiar with.
Me thinketh you oughta do so research on your own.
It appears as though my sister is getting an independent thinking Alderman to represent her on the board.
I hope he understands that he doesn’t owe anyone anything. You’re running unopposed bro.
Spears, who do you think will pay more attention to your community and your concerns? A candidate who gives out his cell phone number on the campaign trail or someone who had to be persuaded to run in the first place? It seems like more of your concerns line up with Justin Elicker’s, actually. Unless you actually want business as usual…
@Robyn - Correct. @Brian Jenkins - anyone who says they support Toni Harp cannot be considered independent-thinking. @nhstudent4ever - He had to be persuaded to run just like Toni did - birds of a feather.
He doesn’t know anything about New Haven’s so-called school reform, or about the sale of the Shubert. He didn’t know that some movement was made on Cine 1,2,3,4 (which, by the way, probably should be converted to something more useful in that neighborhood because no on goes to that movie theater). He thinks it’s great that the Unions are involved in politics - and that is why he was chosen. If he were truly independent-minded, he might have said something like - “those of us who live in New Haven should chart New Haven’s future.” The biggest irony is that he is lamenting the idea that Bishop Woods is not a suburb, but he is willing to hand over yet another ward to suburban union leaders. I guess life,like politics, is full of ironies, isn’t it?