Milford mayor delivers annual State of the City speech
MILFORD >> Milford is a city that is “scoring runs each day” and is “batting a thousand,” Mayor Ben Blake told a gathering of about 80 business leaders Thursday at his annual State of the City speech.
“We have reduced taxes for two years in a row, almost unprecedented for a city in the Northeast,” Blake said.
Blake channeled the 2017 state Class L-winning baseball team of Joseph A. Foran High School in writing his 20-minute speech, a stunning result given the Lions’ last-place 32nd seed and its 1-11 season early on.
The mayor said that it hasn’t been all smooth sailing over the past 12 months.
“To put it bluntly, the state has thrown a lot of curve balls our way,” he said with regard to reductions in funding from Hartford.
“From a midyear rescission of a million dollars that Milford has relied on in revenue to recent threats of cuts of up to $18 million in municipal aid.”
Blake said the state reductions were the result of the city’s high bond rating and healthy finances. “We have been unfairly targeted by the state because we are so well-managed,” he said.
He said there have been other decisions from Hartford that have hurt the city, particularly the recent temporary closing the local office of the Department of Motor Vehicles and changes proposed to Silver Sands State Park.
“While other communities would have thrown in the towel, Milford has chosen to dig deep and play championship-level ball,” he said, adding that the city will continue to fight the “curve balls from the state.”
“We’ve been able to his pitch after pitch out of the park,” he said. “Our bond rating is triple-A, the best that a municipality can have.”
Blake said an “economic renaissance” is being seen in the city, with a low business occupancy rate that’s among the best in New England.
In spite of these glowing assessments, Blake does have detractors.
Matt Gaynor, chairman of the Milford Republican Town Committee, said the mayor is “playing politics” with city finances.
“He has reduced contributions to the benefits package and existing debt,” Gaynor said. “This does not make it go away. As we will discuss in the coming months, Mayor Blake and the Democrats on the Board of Aldermen put the citizens of Milford in a precarious position.”
But Blake was buoyant with the gains that the city has seen in recent months and years.
“The city has covered all the bases with a strong and growing economy,” he said. “We are far outpacing all of the other towns and cities in the state.”
The mayor rattled off a series of infrastructure improvements due soon, including a new splash pad and pickleball courts at Eisenhower Park, the planting of 200 trees citywide, a new downtown micro-grid, the reconstruction of Gulf Street, the elevation of Milford Point Road, a new Beaver Brook boardwalk.
The State of the City speech usually is delivered in spring, but the closing of the restaurant where it usually is staged, Aldario’s, necessitated the delay. (Its owner, Sante Faustini, decided to retire.) Thursday’s speech was organized by the Milford Chamber of Commerce at the Milford Yacht Club.
Over the last few days it became clear that Blake will be seeking his fourth, two-year term unopposed. The Milford Republican Town Committee has decided not to field a mayoral candidate and a check with the city clerk’s office Thursday failed to turn up anyone else interested in running for the seat.