NEW BRITAIN – Taxes were top of mind for a number of residents on Democratic mayoral candidate Chris Anderson’s recent door-knocking tour.
Anderson – who is challenging five-term Republican incumbent Mayor Erin Stewart – said taxes were the reason he entered the race in the first place.
As the 34-year-old went door-to-door late Tuesday afternoon, he made it a point to open each discussion with taxes – and heard the same response from residents over and over, that taxes had increased dramatically on their homes.
Anderson, the Democratic Town Committee chair and a relative newcomer to the city, has made the issue the cornerstone of his campaign. He has said repeatedly that the tax increases residents are facing on their homes are directly tied to the poor leadership of the current administration. Stewart and her administration have countered that the city’s grand list growth has increased every year for the past decade and that the city is as strong as ever regarding economic and job growth.
Anderson’s message resonated with residents as he and former Democratic Town Committee chair and Common Council candidate John McNamara – along with CT Examiner – walked in Ward 4, on the city’s east side near the Newington line, knocking on more than 20 doors.
“I saw more than a $1,000 increase. It’s not affordable for many people around here,” said William Jones of Dennis Drive. “It needs to decrease somehow. Reassessments went up and the mil rate didn’t go down enough. Taxes are just too high.”
Resident Andrew Ferrara of Marlin Road said: “I like to hear that; good luck,” when Anderson said he was running on a campaign to address taxes in the city, where the mil rate stands at 38.2.
Anderson told Jones and Ferrara – and other residents, during his 90-minutes of door-knocking – that the tax increases, which have affected most city residents, “[are] especially a burden on homeowners and single and two and three family [households].” Anderson said a city-wide audit is needed and there needs to be more affordable housing and “less tax breaks for big developers.”
Both Stewart and Anderson have had surrogates door-knock for them recently. Anderson missed most of the last month due to illness and Stewart was sidelined from door-knocking because she was nine months pregnant; she had a baby last week.
Resident Joanne Joyner told Anderson and McNamara that she wants the next mayor to “lower taxes as much as possible. It’s a real damper.”
Joyner said her taxes increased about $1,000 and are now at about $6,000 annually; they were just $3,900 annually when she moved into her current home, which is 1,400-square-feet, 23 years ago.
Joyner said she will be “voting Democratic” because “I feel like the Democrats have my values more than the Republicans do.” She said that meant “keeping the middle class functionable.”
“When does the bleeding stop?” asked Joyner who told Anderson that she has to work two jobs as a certified nurse’s aide – about 65 hours a week in total – just to make ends meet. “Everything goes up, but we seem to get less quality for what we are paying for,” she said.
Dave DeFronzo, a former Democratic city council member and current teacher in the Hartford school district, said his taxes increased on his home, which is approximately 1,800-square-feet, about $1,900 this past year and he now pays almost $10,000 a year.
“We are lucky we have good jobs because those that are retired and on fixed incomes are in a lot of trouble,” said DeFronzo, whose wife Monica works for the state Department of Labor.
DeFronzo said Anderson, who is a real estate accountant, is getting his vote in less than two weeks.
“He takes the time to listen,” DeFronzo said of Anderson. “He has a background in economics and finance and he will take the time to make the tough decisions when it comes to the budget and to bring fairness back when it comes to leveling out the tax burden between residents and developers.”
Diane Grandy of Pape Road said she had several concerns ranging from taxes – she paid $850 more a year this past year – to cars racing up and down the neighborhood to the newly designed Beehive Bridge.
“Taxes keep going up,” Grandy said. “I vote Democratic because when I was growing up my dad always said to vote Democratic. The way he explained it to me is that the Republicans are out to make money and help the rich get richer.”
Grandy also said she’s tired of the speeding vehicles, which, she said, are done by “adults, not the kids. There should be more police watching; more enforcement.”
The Beehive Bridge on Route 72 along the Main Street overpass – a $7.5 million investment that comprised $4 million in state dollars and $3.5 million in city money – has the appearance of a giant honeycomb and was designed as a landmark to revitalize the city.
“That bothers me,” Grandy said of the bridge. “It was too much money and I don’t like the aesthetics of it.”