More school dollars and faster New Haven-New York trains were at the topic of the agenda Tuesday at the first face-to-face meeting between big-city mayors and Gov.-Elect Ned Lamont.
Lamont and Lt. Gov.-elect Susan Bysiewicz held the hour-long, closed-door meeting at their former New Haven campaign headquarters on the second floor of 85 Willow St. in New Haven with New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Waterbury Mayor Neal O’Leary, and Stamford Mayor David Martin.
The meeting, which was closed to the press, represented the first in-person sit-down between the mayors of the state’s five largest cities and Lamont and Bysewicz, who defeated Republican candidates Bob Stefanowski and Joe Markley in last week’s general election.
The five mayors who attended Tuesday’s meeting represent around one-fifth of the state’s total population, and turned out 110,248 of the 676,655 total votes that Lamont and Bysiewicz received last Tuesday, according to the secretary of the state’s office.
Throughout his campaign for governor, Lamont repeatedly stated that the future of the state runs through Connecticut’s cities.
“As governor, revitalizing Connecticut’s cities will be the centerpiece of my economic development agenda,” reads one of his campaign’s policy briefs on “Creating Jobs, Growing the Economy.”
After Tuesday’s meeting, the five mayors all praised Lamont and Bysiewicz for calling bringing the big city mayors to the table to talk about the issues most affecting Connecticut’s urban centers.
“All of us wanted to make sure that urban areas receive more funding,” Harp said about the meeting. She said that the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula, by which the state determines how much education funding to allocate to each municipality, was one of the central talking points of the meeting.
“Many of our towns have increased in the number of pupils, she said, “and yet our ECS formula has been the same.”
Last fiscal year, New Haven received $147.9 million in education funding from the state.
She said that Lamont and Bysiewicz didn’t necessarily propose any concrete solutions today about issues facing Connecticut’s cities.
“He was in a listening mode,” Harp said about Lamont. “He did indicate that he’s willing to help us.”
O’Leary and Martin reiterated that ECS and transportation were the topics that most occupied the five mayors and Lamont and Bysiewicz.
“ECS and how they work for the cities versus the more rural areas,” Martin said about what was discussed on Tuesday, “and, secondly, transporation, particularly for the Metro-North/I-95 corridor.”
“Not a lot of specifics,” Martin said about the conversation, “not a lot of conclusions. More: here are some of the challenges, here are some of the opportunities, here are some of the ideas that might work, here are some of the ideas that might not work, let’s put them on the table.”
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin called the meeting a “good general discussion,” particularly about the public transportation investments as a key economic driver for the cities and the state as a whole.
“I think that putting the city of New Haven within an hour of New York would be a game changer for the entire state,” he said.
And Ganim, the mayor of the state’s largest city and Lamont’s former challenger for the Democratic nomination for governor this summer, said that the conversation ranged from increased ECS funding to reduced property taxes.
“How we get there is going to be the challenge over the next few months,” Ganim said about some of the ideas discussed on Tuesday.
He said the governor-elect has taken the first step that big city mayors expected of him, which was calling them together and listening to their biggest concerns. He said he has faith that Lamont’s actual agenda once he is inaugurated as governor in January will reflect his commitment to prioritizing Connecticut’s cities.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to sit with Mayors Ganim, Harp, Martin, Bronin, and O’Leary for a productive conversation about issues facing our biggest cities, and our entire state,” Lamont said in a statement issued by his press person Lacey Rose after the meeting. “They will be important partners as we work to jumpstart our economy and create good-paying jobs here in Connecticut.”
Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch each mayor respond to Tuesday’s meeting.