Fifth District Councilman Greg Cann
Stratford Crier’s mission is to inform and update Stratford residents on various categories of interest, community events, pertinent information, and/or input into specific tasks or project. We would like to highlight the work, dedication and projects of our elected officials, beginning with town council members. Stratford Crier is posing the following questions to each of these elected officials to find out more about what inspires them in this position and what they hope to accomplish in their term.
My family has resided in Stratford for 30 years and four generations. We’ve volunteered with Sterling House, Nichols Elementary and a multitude of other public schools, community groups and faith-based organizations. Civics is very core to our values. Stratford is our home.
1. What do you see as the needs of your district at the present?
District 5 (D5) is a diverse community, located in the area west of Broadbridge and north of Boston Avenue. There are a few small businesses, but primarily D5 consists of low and moderately priced residences—perfect entry-level homes for young families.
The town’s recent re-evaluation of residential property resulted in an average 20% increase in homeowner property taxes with all multifamily and duplexes increasing by 40%—note the town-wide average was 4%. The tax burden has now shifted to entry-level workers, young families and seniors; this means an extra $800-$1600 per year in property taxes for these homeowners and renters. Furthermore, the town is increasing taxes on used automobiles by 15%. The primary need of residents is a safe and secure residence that is also affordable.
Residents have also expressed needs for:
a. Improved traffic controls, especially speeding. Success and Canaan Avenues experience high traffic as drivers move between Bridgeport and Stratford.
b. Town-owned trees, pruning and upkeep, as safety of sidewalks is compromised unless completed.
c. Maintenance of the district’s three neighborhood parks to assure public access to recreation.
d. Public safety, law and order, and enforcement of rules and regulations.
2. What is your vision for your district’s future?
I want to see improved maintenance of town-owned neighborhood parks, roads and sidewalks as well as better enforcement of traffic regulations (one factor in public safety). Increased interaction between residents will increase their mutual sense of community. I would like to see more awareness of and participation in how the town creates a budget and allocates its own resources. Improved employment and job security through economic development is also needed.
3. What is your vision for the town?
Stratford is a highly diverse community. Students in our public schools speak over 50 different languages with a similar range of cultural backgrounds. From Forest to Shore, we need a town that reflects and represents this diversity. Every organization is exposed to politics, but only the successful ones rise above politically motivated “excuses.” True leaders will build an organization that meets the needs of its customers; in our case, this would be the taxpayers and public school students. I see complete streets and greenways connecting our neighborhoods and business districts, facilitating the interaction of commerce and recreation.
I see Stratford becoming a regional destination with its many museums, and revitalized athletic and cultural arts programming attracting visitors to our retail and restaurants. This improved dynamic will entice employers. Stratford has been very slow to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century, and our municipal leaders must step up their game, else our town will not realize its competitive opportunities.
4. What is your vision of collaboration between administration and residents in making Stratford a great community?
Unfortunately, Stratford’s municipal administration retains its fondness for resolutions and reports but has not successfully implemented solutions. Our town is increasingly reliant on state and federal grants to balance its operating budget, while we should be growing organically.
• The town-managed Center School and Contract Plating projects are each three years behind schedule.
• Despite a 40% increase in per student expenditures, 50% of our public school students continue to perform “below grade level.”
• A $20 million theatre burned down a few months after the town expended $1.5 million to “secure” the building.
When something great happens, such as the new Stratford High School, the re-engineering of I-95 Exits 32 and 33, or the property tax credits for residents whose homes are in flood zones, it’s been due to the intervention of the state and federal governments.
Stratford residents are not powerless; encouraging them to adapt the civic responsibilities of public advocacy is probably the highest role of a town councilor. Once Stratford is able to demonstrate “local control” and the ability to deliver on its promise, then I believe residents will recognize that “you can talk to town hall” and will be further encouraged to participate in the administration of our town.
5. How do you see town residents’ role and participation in making Stratford a great community?
I’ve always been a firm believer in the ability of residents to organize and create improvements. From a District 5 perspective, neighbors cooperate with neighbors to help each other, and to coordinate solutions for their mutual benefit. People have so many ways to participate; when each of us finds our niche, that is the basis of a great community.
Working with the municipal government of Stratford has been a challenging and sometimes rewarding endeavor for me personally. There is inertia at the start of every project; I’ll forever encourage each of us to adapt this Kennedy-esque adage: “Ask not what your town can do for you, but rather, what can you do for your town.”