Veronica DeLandro is challenging four-term incumbent Erin Stewart for Mayor of New Britain this November. Other Democratic challengers include State Rep. Bobby Sanchez, D-New Britain and activist Alicia Hernandez.
In 2019, Stewart, a Republican, won reelection handily, with 6,013 votes compared to Democrat Chris Porcher’s 3,592, and Independent Devione Tanksley’s 187.
The Connecticut Examiner spoke with DeLandro about why she’s running, and what her priorities would be if elected.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What inspired you to run for mayor of New Britain?
The need for change in our city is what inspired me to run. I’ve lived here almost 17 years, and the challenge I’ve seen in the city over a number of years, especially with this administration, is that the cares and concerns of residents are not being adhered to.
New Britain is a city of opportunities, but there has not been opportunity for a number of people, and it’s because of the lack of leadership. I’m running because you can’t fix a problem if you don’t identify the problem and identify what actions need to be taken, and my action is to run for mayor.
What’s something you would have handled differently from Mayor Stewart, had you been in office?
The way the city has handled COVID, to me, has not been effective. Throughout my campaign, I’ve met with a number of residents, business owners, and community leaders, and the key thing I hear from people is that communication doesn’t always reach those who need it. Vaccination rates are low and cases are high because we have not had an effective communication plan to make sure we reach the most vulnerable populations in this city.
If you were elected, what would you do differently as far as COVID communication?
I’ve already taken action on this. We launched a vaccine hesitancy campaign months ago while still doing the exploratory committee of my campaign. We knocked on every single door of every single public housing community, other than some apartment buildings that we could not get into, in the city of New Britain and shared information about the vaccine, because we knew they were not being targeted and not receiving information. We shared information about the vaccine, who was eligible, and where they can go to get it. They were slowly rolling that information out to residents, but residents were dying. My neighbor across the street passed away. It’s hitting everyone personally, and there needed to be a call to action to make sure our residents were getting the information they needed.
How would you approach improving New Britain’s schools? Would you consider raising taxes to increase education funding?
The state of education in New Britain is always the most talked about issue. Compared to the rest of the state, we’re ranked 166 out of 169 in terms of public funding to our students. It’s something we know we need to fix, but there is no plan of action. Part of it really is the funding, because the system has been flat-funded for five years in a row. Raising taxes on residents is not the solution for me. We need to increase our tax base. Unfortunately, many residents feel like they have to go outside of the city to get entertainment, go shopping, or go out to eat, and we don’t have those types of businesses in our community that can help support a tax base. We do that by making New Britain a destination, but that has not happened. Still, increasing our tax base is going to take time, but there are things you can do more quickly in terms of looking at the budget and reallocating funds. When education has been flat-funded by this administration, it shows that it is not a priority. Yes, we receive funding from the state and federal government, but what if there wasn’t a pandemic? The city still has a responsibility to invest in our children. As CEO, you have to look at the budget every single year to see what can we do to ensure the decisions we make will serve the greater good. Rubber stamping this budget year after year has meant that areas like education have not received as much funding as they should.
What sets you apart from the other Democratic candidates challenging the incumbent mayor Erin Stewart?
I’m a mother of two school-age children, and I have over 20 years of experience working in the corporate nonprofit and public sector leading and managing teams. I was the district director for a congresswoman, executive director of several nonprofits, president of organizations, and I served on commissions and boards. These are all transferable skills that I can bring into the CEO role of a city. The key is building relationships. You can’t do this work by just saying, I’m going to do this and this is it. You have to work with residents and department heads and council members, and I have experience being someone people trust to be a voice for them.