Milford Mayor Ben Blake runs unopposed for 4th term
Milford Mayor Ben Blake delivers his annual State of the City address at the Milford Yacht Club in Milford, Conn. on Thursday, July 27, 2017. Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media File / Connecticut Post
Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media File
Running unopposed gives Mayor Ben Blake more time to work on behalf of this year’s talented Democrat team, he said, but added the disadvantage is there aren’t as many opportunities to highlight successes as there is “less attention” paid to the campaign.
But there’s no getting Blake, who grew up in Milford and always bubbles with enthusiasm for life in “the small city with the big heart,” to say there’s less campaigning or less stress this election year as he seeks his fourth term.
“Milford is a place where when you bring your friends here they want to move to it,” Blake said. “I grew up here and had a fantastic childhood.” Blake and his wife have three children and he said he wants them to have a “great experience,” as well.
Blake said of his under ticket that this year he is running with the “most impressive team we’ve seen in the last generation,” and he’s working hard to get them elected and re-elected.
While it’s a quiet mayoral campaign, there is dispute among the Democratic and Republican party chiefs over why the GOP doesn’t have a candidate.
Republican Party Chairman Matt Gaynor said there were “a few interested parties, but they cited concerns over the state budget.”
Gaynor also said, “There were also complaints with the way the current administration has handled the long-term fiscal planning for Milford.”
But fiscal planning — short- and long-term — are among Blake’s strengths, according to Democratic Party Chairman Rich Smith and Blake himself.
Blake said that during his three terms as mayor he and the team have “streamlined the way our government works,” and made it more “efficient and effective,” yielding “big dividends.”
He said Milford has undergone an “economic renaissance,” with existing businesses expanding and new businesses moving in rapidly, which has led to growth in the tax list, leading to tax cuts over the last three years.
The tax rate in the city went from 27.88 mills to 27.84 mills to 27.79 mills over the period because of the streamlining, he said.
Blake said even with the state in flux without an adopted budget, Milford will survive and deliver the “same great services” to residents. That is not to say state funding isn’t important to the city, he said.
He said spending controls were implemented in January to “brace for whatever happens in the state.”
He also said that as many other communities have faced downgraded bond ratings or warnings, Milford was upgraded to an AAA bond rating, the highest available.
Smith said Milford is fortunate to have had “capable and effective leaders over the years, from both parties,” Blake among them.
“When we vote for local leaders it’s less about party affiliation and more about knowing the candidate personally and knowing firsthand the job they’re doing,” Smith said. “In this case, Mayor Blake is very well known as a man with a genuine love for Milford. People across our city recognize that he has done a great job.”
Smith said that in not running a candidate, “Republicans have given Mayor Blake a nod because, in an honest moment they, too, have to say, he’s a damn good mayor.”
Gaynor said some of the complaints among potential candidates with the way things have been run include: bonding excessively, cutting payments on long-term debts and “we’re seemingly blindsided by Malloy’s cuts to the city.”
Gaynor said the city “should’ve been better prepared for the cuts.”
He ended his statement with, “Mayor Blake will need to own this next year.”
Smith said everything Gaynor said is “verifiably wrong,” and he’s surprised the Republicans would make such a statement.
“The mayor was very prepared for possible state cuts and implemented spending controls back in January and grew the fund reserve anticipating possible state cutbacks,” Smith said, noting there is no budget yet, “so we don’t know what the impact will be.”
Smith said city bonding levels have remained consistent for many years predating Blake, “although the interest we pay on that debt is down as a result of our excellent bond rating and the mayor’s refinancing of those bonds.”
In highlighting more accomplishments under his watch, Blake said the city has paved more miles of streets than ever before, expanded and improved recreation facilities and established a new automated garbage collection system that’s more efficient and safer.