BRISTOL — In a race that so far has offered few surprises, city council candidate Stephen Jeffries is offering what may be the most unconventional proposal of the campaign: Scrapping the Renaissance Downtowns project.
"Downtown Bristol does not need more apartment buildings or even a hotel which is being supposedly planned in the near future," Jeffries said recently. "We need the land that the Centre Mall once stood on to be developed for new business to come into town. Target, along with some upscale restaurants, in my opinion, would be much better."
Jeffries is one of four candidates running for the two seats in District 1, which covers the northeast and central eastern sections of Bristol.
Jeffries said he'd favor new fees on landlords who don't keep their property in good condition, saying "Bristol wants and needs responsible landlords owning and operating respectable apartments. We do not want slumlords."
He said he favors a tax increase on landlords who reside outside of the city. He also supports better funding for schools, saying the current council "has not shown this to be a priority as it should be."
Jeffries, a Democrat, is 49 and works as a recruiter at the Matthews & Stephens Associates executive search firm.
Eric Carlson, the only incumbent running, said he opposes any tax increases and prefers to rely on business growth to generate more revenue for the city.
"Fees could be adjusted as long as they do not exceed surrounding areas, but development and economic growth are the key to prosperity," he said.
Carlson believes the city should negotiate higher insurance co-paymens for its employees. He said the single most important change he'd like in city government is conversion to an electronic payroll system, calling it "a simple way to save money."
When asked how to reduce the influence of partisanship and animosity in government, Carlson replied "People who exhibit these undesirable qualities should not be re-appointed."
Carlson, a Republican, is 51 and a self-employed electrical contractor.
Candidate Thomas Hick suggested the answer to partisanship could be getting new people involved in municipal government.
"I would like to work on a project that details how the city boards work and start a campaign to bring in some new members," he said.
Keeping the public up to speed about downtown revitalization should be a priority, Hick said, and the council should have "experienced people that will know what questions need to be asked and when to ask them."
He also said he'd favor cutting expenses before raising taxes, adding, "We need to bring all the different teams to the table and see where we are duplicating efforts. After that has been completed we then have each team submit formal suggestions on where they can reduce costs."
Hick, a Republican, is 38 and is a project team leader at Aetna.
Calvin Brown contends that the city needs to coordinate downtown revitalization with a campaign to increase security and improve living conditions in the West End. He said the work should be done in a way that taxpayers can see progress.
When asked for specific strategies for raising revenue and cutting costs, Brown suggested attracting more business, seeking federal grants, selling municipal properties so they're back on the tax list, and stressing a team approach among city department heads.
"I would work toward achieving improved coordination of information between city department heads," he said.
Brown said he'd discourage partisanship and animosity in city government by setting an example of working in good faith and with respect toward others.
Brown, a Democrat, is 21 and is studying political science and communications at Central Connecticut State University.