25 October 2007

Courant Picks Johnson in Bristol

There is something in the watercooler at the Hartford Courant, because they are seeing the truth! Today the Editorial Board endorsed Republican Ken Johnson to be the next Mayor of Bristol. The Courant laid out what we all know - that Ken has a vision and the experince needed to help the Mum City reclaim its glory.

The Courant Editorial read:

Bristol is at a crossroads. After many years of delay, the state is beginning the expansion of Route 72, a project that will create a vital artery between downtown and I-84. There's talk of replacing the city's neighborhood schools with new buildings and a K-8 system.

Bristol Centre Mall is finally due for demolition. Whatever takes its place must restore life and commercial vitality to the heart of downtown. But what should that be?

Mr. Ward, 60, who works for the state Department of Veterans Affairs, says developers should decide.

Mr. Johnson, currently a self-employed real estate broker, says developers will play a role, but that the plan should include stores, restaurants and affordable housing - all the right ingredients for a bustling urban center. He even admits to a "fantasy" of uncovering the Pequabuck River, which winds through the heart of downtown.

The question, he says, is how to entice development. Areas adjacent to downtown, especially sections of Federal Hill, and the West End neighborhoods are struggling. Stronger housing-code enforcement would get landlords - many of whom don't live in town - to improve and maintain their properties. The downtown needs a strong police presence (including drug sweeps), and city leaders must work with property owners to restore a sense of order and build community pride.

In so doing, Mr. Johnson says, Bristol will be laying the groundwork for a thriving downtown and a future as the region's urban hub.

Both candidates agree that the board of education has done a terrible job of communicating its schools plan to the public. Mr. Johnson says the next mayor must make certain city and school officials work together so that the final plan reflects the needs of neighborhoods, the downtown - and schoolchildren.

In campaigning door-to-door, Mr. Johnson says he often hears residents complain that government isn't providing enough services. In addition to more effective government, he says, they want city officials to demonstrate more integrity and civility, and to stop putting politics ahead of the city's best interests. Mr. Johnson pledges to deliver on all counts.

We're convinced he can. Mr. Johnson lacks elective experience, but he does possess management experience acquired over a two-decade-long career with Northeast Utilities. (As general manager for the utility's Middletown-East Hampton operations, he oversaw service to 75,000 customers worth $120 million in annual revenues.)

We're even more impressed by Mr. Johnson's energy, enthusiasm and obvious intelligence. With Bristol at an important juncture, Mr. Johnson is the right leader at the right time.

Copyright © 2007, The Hartford Courant