Invited by the Bristol Merchants Association, candidates for town council and town administrator were given their first opportunity to present some of their ideas in a public forum at the BMA’s meeting on Wednesday morning.
Members of the BMA and candidates packed into Leo’s Restaurant where Alayne White posed the concern that all candidates were to address: How would you impact the business community?
Although candidates’ responses were limited by time, each gave a glimpse into their plan to enhance the economic viability of the town.
Greater collaboration and communication were key ingredients shared by the candidates. Tim Sweeney, a Democrat, was quick to address a concern that many business have raised in the past.
“We need to keep permit and licensing fees low,” Mr. Sweeney said.
Many new businesses coming into town have expressed frustration at the lack of clarity of the permitting process as well as the costs associated with the various permits, he said. Similar concerns were expressed by other candidates.
Stephen Brigidi, an Independent, said he would “reform” the way businesses are treated by zoning and historic district commission members.
“We need a business owner like myself on the council,” he said.
Michael Cabral, a Republican candidate for town council, also looked to change some of the regulatory practices that can be a barrier to business. A sentiment shared by party member and candidate, John Francis IV.
“Government needs to work harder and smarter. Let businesses do what they do best,” Mr. Cabral said.
Incumbent Mary Parella, a Republican, said that in her time on the council, the Hope Street project is one of the town’s most successful and significant achievements.
“This is one of the best collaborative projects we’ve seen,” she said.
Independent candidate Diana Campbell said she believes that the best thing that the council can do to help businesses, is to listen to their concerns. The first step toward helping is to acknowledge that business owners exist.
“I am all for civic engagement,” she said. “Your input will be solicited and asked for.”
Other issues such as parking will be addressed by Nathan Calouro, a Democrat, and rooming accommodations for business travelers and tourists will be one of the focuses of Edward Stuart, a Democrat.
Using Newport as a model, Ethan Tucker, an Independent candidate, said he is already working to bring tours through Bristol so visitors can enjoy the amenities offered in town.
Town administrator candidates
The two town administrator candidates were given two minutes to address BMA members.
Democrat David Barboza said he has benefited by watching the evolution of the BMA over his 14 years on the town council. With many ideas having gone into practice that were born through local business owners, he recognized that more communication is essential.
“Businesses had a lot of questions during Hurricane Irene,” he said.
Mr. Barboza said that even town officials did not have the answers they were looking for, no news was not good news to businesses. As town administrator, Mr. Barboza would include businesses in the lines of communication.
“We’ll take whatever information we have and make sure you’re part of the loop,” he said.
In his bid for town administrator, Antonio Teixeira, an Independent, said he also places a great value on the local business community. In his time on the town council, he said “we have bridged the gap with communication.”
“It is important that we support you,” he said. “You are busy bees.”
Mr. Teixeira said that he will take a personal interest in the local business climate.
“Let’s continue our communication. You will definitely see me walking around downtown.”