Milford mayoral debate attracts big crowd

Mayor Ben Blake, Democrat, on the right, and his challenger in the 2019 election, Dan German, Republican, pictured here at the Annual Milford Oyster Festival Aug. 17, 2019.

Mayor Ben Blake, Democrat, on the right, and his challenger in the 2019 election, Dan German, Republican, pictured here at the Annual Milford Oyster Festival Aug. 17, 2019.

Photo by Jill Dion, Hearst Connecticut Media / Photo by Jill Dion, Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — In a debate attended by more than 100 Tuesday, incumbent Democratic Mayor Ben Blake and his challenger for the city’s top spot, Republican Alderman Dan German, weighed in on topics that included economic development, environment, health care costs, quality of life, and more.

It was more like a discussion with a few subtle jabs between men who agree they love Milford.

German, in his opening remarks, said he decided to run because he has the “knowledge, experience, wisdom” to improve the city, and an expertise in financial services that will allow him to bring in more business and cut health care costs by changing the city’s self-insurance model.

Blake, who stepped up to a podium to make his remarks — German remained seated — received a hearty applause at the outset from those who came to the debate at First United Church of Christ, Congregational. The Plymouth Men’s Club hosted the debate.

Blake, who is seeking a fifth term as mayor, said the city has never been financially stronger, has achieved a AAA bond rating, had four tax rate decreases in a row and the largest grand list in New Haven County. Blake said Milford is undergoing an economic “renaissance.” He said in the last eight years he’s been mayor, a “tidal wave,” of new businesses have come to the city and the city has invested millions into its infrastructure.

He said the job of Milford mayor is “all-consuming,” with a lot of challenges, but one he loves.

On a question about controlling health care costs and underfunded pensions, German said the city needs to move away from the self-insurance model, but admitted that while that is commonly done in the private sector, few municipalities choose that route. He also said a pharmacy management company could help with medication costs and he stressed the need for a model that would save money by focusing on prevention. German, an alderman of 10 years, said he spent 20 years in the health/fitness business.

Blake, who referred to himself as “a thrifty Connecticut Yankee,” said the health care and pensions are covered and the city saved $2 million on health care by shopping around.

In one of the jabs of the night, Blake said German made three budget amendments in all his years as an alderman and one of them was to reduce the city’s pension contribution by millions. Blake said that was “reckless,” but that luckily the other aldermen shut it down. German said he didn’t remember that move on his part.

Blake said it’s a priority to try to “reduce the carbon footprint,” any way they can, including recycling textiles for $40 per ton at zero cost to the city.

German said society produces too much waste and he is for the approach that says to “reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse.”

The men agreed that preservation of historic homes is important and both agree the police station, completed some 40 years ago needs to be replaced or updated.

German owned a Milford-based gym and now is a financial adviser, making him a businessman in the city for 35 years.

German also promised open and transparent government. He and fellow Republicans have accused the Democratic administration of backroom politics they said left taxpayers out of the loop on several projects, including construction of an arts and convention center on North Street.