NEW BRITAIN — Two signature measures of former Mayor Tim O'Brien's administration could be rolled back in the coming weeks.
The common council is considering a repeal of the landlord licensing fees that were adopted a year ago, and some city leaders anticipate that an ordinance penalizing excessive 911 calls will be scaled back.
Both initiatives were highly divisive when they were adopted, with many Republican leaders and some landlords bitterly accusing O'Brien and his Democratic council of pursuing an anti-business agenda with a dictatorial management style.
O'Brien and his supporters held firm against the criticisms, though, and made both measures into ordinances. They said the landlord licensing fee was a way to fight blight and crack down on negligent landlords who damage entire neighborhoods by allowing rental properties to deteriorate, and some argued that wealthy out-of-town landlords had been coddled by prior administrations.
O'Brien's backers also had described the measures as a way to bring in revenue for a city that seems to be perpetually short of cash.
The political momentum turned sharply against O'Brien over the past year, though, and even some Democratic supporters have come to suspect he'd lost the battle for public approval even as he was pushing the new ordinances to adoption. Republican Erin Stewart easily beat him in the November election, and the Democrats lost their long-time supermajority on the council, too.
This week, Democratic aldermen Emmanuel Sanchez, David DeFronzo and Carlo Carlozzi introduced a measure to repeal the ordinance that requires landlords to register with the city and pay a fee for a license to do business. All six Republican council members have signed on as cosponsors, indicating the repeal will have more than enough backing when it is put to a council vote.
DeFronzo said he saw no sign that the ordinance accomplished its goals: Many landlords simply ignored it, and the income that O'Brien had forecast never showed up.
"The policy hasn't been effective. There were no consequences for people who didn't comply, no incentives for landlords who did," DeFronzo said. "It's time to repeal it and move forward."
There was little indication that the city was enforcing the measure under O'Brien, and by all accounts it became meaningless after Stewart took office. She had criticized it in her campaign, and the attorney she appointed as corporation council, Gennarro Bizarro, had represented some of the landlords who went to court to overturn it during O'Brien's term.
The council was scheduled to take up the matter Thursday night, but that meeting was canceled because of the snowstorm. It may be transferred to the agenda of the Feb. 26 council meeting.
"Striking this regressive ordinance is definitely a step in the right direction and I expect it to foster a stronger relationship between the city and our landlords and renters," Stewart said in a statement. "It is in keeping with one of the central promises of my campaign and I am so happy that it is being done in a bipartisan way."
Some council members have indicated they're ready to roll back provisions of the 911 ordinance, which was designed to deter non-emergency 911 calls that consume the time of police and firefighters. The measure was billed as a way to punish property owners whose buildings had become a center for such nuisance calls. Opponents said it was badly conceived and risked discouraging residents from using 911 for legitimate emergencies.