Ellen Zoppo-Sassu is Bristol's first female Mayor. Re-elected to a second term in November 2019, Mayor Zoppo-Sassu has been involved in Bristol politics most of her life and has dedicated herself to making Bristol a great place to live and work.
In 2017, my Inaugural remarks noted that how we govern, and what we prioritize, should reflect our core values as a community.
We want Bristol to be a place where young, educated people want to live, work, and raise their families, because they see our school system, our parks, infrastructure, public safety, the library, and youth sports are the quality of life factors that are positives.
In the last 2 years, we have been accountable for the decisions and actions we have taken especially to those who are most affected. Our initial policies and decisions focused on righting the financial ship and stabilizing it for the future. With the cooperation of our Fire and Police unions, we accomplished that, and are set to save over $50 million over the next 10 years, and almost $100 million in the twenty years. In an uncertain fiscal climate regarding the potential of state and federal aid, this was a significant accomplishment.
We have also recognized new challenges and responded to them via restructuring city departments, adding new leadership and a number of new Committees.
In this next budget cycle, we will be reviewing a proposal from the Senior tax Relief Committee to incorporate a freeze for seniors. Recognizing that the seniors have paid taxes for decades and now consume the least amount of public services, this may a means to allow them to stay in their homes, in their neighborhoods, near their friends and places that are familiar to and with them, longer.
Changes in the social conditions have forced us to be creative. The opioid public health crisis is a national issue, but we have taken steps to mitigate the impact here by convening a Task Force that is making a difference. Last week, the City of Bristol Recovery Alliance, known as COBRA, launched. The Police Department and Bristol Hospital are now partners in diverting people with substance abuse issues away from the courts and to recovery.
The fabric of a community is created from a patchwork of diversity and celebrations. The Diversity Council has begun the journey of understanding all of our neighbors and how they make Bristol an All Heart community. In the last 2 years, we have recruited new faces to serve as volunteer commissioners creating city policies. We have appointed 60 women, over 2 dozen minorities to various boards including Police, Parks and the Board of Finance, as well as over 20 people under the age of 40.
By focusing on young people and having a strong relationship with the Board of Education, we are hoping to inspire a new generation to be effective, trustworthy public servants. By paying attention and listening, we are laying the foundation for a future where public service is seen as honorable and that elected officials must earn—and keep—the trust of those they seek to lead.
Downtown has been a major issue for Bristol since urban renewal demolished a part of its soul. Over the last two years, we have carefully and thoughtfully begun to piece together a new chapter for the next generation. We have increased the number of restaurants, housing units and offices to create activity, and are anxiously awaiting the return of the Memorial Boulevard Theater, which will serve as a catalyst.
The Arts & Culture Commission has done a wonderful job in showcasing the arts, music and how public art can contribute to the physical landscape of what we are trying to create downtown, with more planned over the next year.
The City Council is also very enthusiastic about the latest project coming to Prospect at Main Street – a project that will provide housing, education and vocational training for veterans returning to the workforce.
75 Years ago, people gathered around the radio as their primary means of receiving news about the War. President Roosevelt’s voice inspired the nation to new levels of patriotism, calmed their fears and showed positive leadership.
One of my favorite Roosevelt quotes is this:
"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little."
As we enter our next term, we invite the public to be our partners in making Bristol the best that it can be.
It is time to break the bad habit of expecting something for nothing, from our government or from each other. Let us all take more responsibility, for ourselves, for our families and our neighbors. There are over 50 boards and committees that are filled by citizens who are motivated to improve the community condition. I invite you to be boots on the ground to improve your community instead of fingers on a keyboard spewing half-truths.