Capitol Connection: How Do You Clean Up a City?

March 25, 2015

How do you clean up a city when there’s no incentive?

How do you start a business in a city when the local economy’s failing?

How do you get an education and find a job if there are no urban opportunities?

The answer is you can’t, which is why we need to seek change in urban areas, and why the Senate Republican Caucus has put together a plan to foster economic development, job growth, and progressive opportunities in our cities.

For too long, Republicans have been viewed as “not caring” about urban areas, largely because we haven’t done the best job at sharing our message of hope. But in reality, core Republican values shape policies that empower people to find success in all aspects of life. These values and these policy ideas can be implemented in our suburbs as well as our cities and can offer a new path to progress and hope.

A Plan for Advancement

Many cities across the state are plagued with empty storefronts, abandoned buildings, and boarded up houses. Right now, there’s no incentive to clean up these areas. Towns continue to collect taxes from whatever big real estate company owns the land and the abandoned properties continue to get factored in to calculations that determine how much state aid a city will get. Some towns don’t even have blight ordinances that require property be cleaned up. That leaves little incentive to care for or redevelop abandoned areas.

Part of the Senate Republicans’ urban plan includes a tax credit pilot program to change this dynamic. Our plan incentivizes the redevelopment of existing vacant buildings in urban centers by offering tax credits to transform these spaces into affordable, mix use development or viable commercial space. If this is successful in some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable cities, we can then expand the pilot into a full-fledged program to help all cities and urban areas.

Many cities also face significant problems as a result of sluggish economies. Connecticut has still not gained back all the jobs lost during the recession. Cities in particular feel the heavy weight of unemployment.

By establishing a loan program for ‘mom-and-pop’ businesses, the Senate Republicans’ plan aims to encourage small business development, and thereby grow hyperlocal jobs. The proposed program, CT Fast Funds, facilitates loans for small start-ups managed and financed through community banks, thereby empowering lending partners to make local investments.

Many urban areas are also heavily impacted by the effects of crime and the struggles it takes to rehabilitate oneself or loved ones who have gone down the wrong path. A lack of sufficient programs makes it very difficult for cities in particular to control recidivism. Opportunities to create a better life can also be scarce.

Our plan seeks to give people the tools they need to better their lives and stop people from falling back into bad habits. Our plan proposes reforming juvenile sentencing. Our plan also proposes implementing a program that has been extremely successful in New York to help facilitate smooth reentry and help former offenders get the job skills they need to access opportunities to stay on the right track. By reforming justice issues and providing opportunities, we can reduce crime in cities and better communities for everyone.

Our plan is bold, but also true to core values. The strength of our state depends on the strength of our cities. And strong cities have ample opportunities, resilient economies, and effective justice.