Friday, November 01, 2013

Candidate Bio: Robert Blanchard Planning & Zoning (D)

Middletown Insider blog is accepting bios from all  municipal candidates. See criteria:
Candidate Robert Blanchard for Planning & Zoning (D) 
Full name: Robert S. Blanchard, 25
Education: B.A. Syracuse University
Work: Executive Aide, Office of the Attorney General
Why do you want to hold public office in Middletown? Public service is an important part of who I am. Growing up, my parents always pressed service to your community (not necessarily through politics), upon my sister and me. Whether it came through coaching athletics, involvement in the local church or assisting with children’s camps and afterschool programs, I was always taught to give back any way that you could. I would be truly honored to serve the people of Middletown.
What experience do you bring to the table? 
My first job in high school was at a small, local business. It was a great experience, and I saw first-hand how involved the small business owners were in our community. Small business growth and development is critical to balancing our tax base and easing the strain off on Middletown residents, and local land-use matters have a direct impact on the ability of small business to grow and thrive.
I’ve dedicated my career to public service. For me, the rewarding part of my experience in public service involves interacting with constituents and trying to work within the laws, programs and regulations of the state/city to help those who may be seeking assistance or simply looking for someone to listen and then guide them in the right direction. I will bring this same accessibility and level of constituent service and energy to the people of Middletown if elected.  
What do you think the town’s most pressing issues are?
I’ve spent a great deal of time during this campaign speaking directly to the people of Middletown, learning what matter most to them and how they would like to see our community grow. When I talk to voters, much of what we discuss revolves around these three critical issues:
·      Continuing to diversify and revitalize our downtown.
·      Thorough and smart planning for our riverfront.
·      Ensuring that we are not developing for the sake of developing and instead working with what we have, rather than spending what we do not.
These three issues can have a significant and positive impact on the quality of life for residents in town.
We have done an excellent job at revitalizing our downtown. If you stroll down Main Street on a weekend night, our restaurants are thriving with folks from in and out of town. However, years ago that same street was full of families doing more than just dining.
Middletown was once home to department stores such as Bunce’s and Woolworth’s and was THE local place to shop. Now, we have let the malls in Meriden and Farmington take those nights and dollars away from us. We need attract more, diverse businesses and retail establishments to Main Street in order to help create jobs for local residents and grow our local economy.
Our riverfront represents one of the next big projects in Middletown. It is a beautiful area and very attractive for tourism. We can look at ways in which other communities have balanced economic growth with cultural opportunity. The two things that we need to keep in mind are making sure that the riverfront projects are financially sustainable and built on longevity. A thriving project that brings in new residents and creates a space for entertainment along the river would help support and compliment local businesses along Main Street and bring the city together for community events.
Lastly, as a community moving into the future, Middletown needs to be careful and strategic about how and where we develop. Middletown is lucky enough to have beautiful parks and open green space intertwined throughout its urban communities. We must ensure that we protect those.
We do not need to disturb the beauty of this quintessential New England town. Not only can we not afford to do it economically but also we cannot afford to do it environmentally. We need to continue work to fill the vacancies downtown and elsewhere as well as finding ways to reuse older manufacturing facilities. What was done with the Remington Rand factory is an excellent model for what we can do with other factories in town. Blighted or neglected areas can offer unique opportunities for remediation and redevelopment.
What do you love most above Middletown? 
What I love most about Middletown is how diverse the entire city is, yet it still has a tight-knit small-city neighborhood feel to it. It’s largely the reason I chose to make Middletown my new home.
What do you like to do for fun? 
I enjoy taking my rambunctious rescue dog, Winslow, to Veterans Memorial Park for some outdoor exercise. As a Philadelphia native, I also love to go to Neon Deli for the best Philly cheesesteak in Middletown (and all of Connecticut!). I try to get some exercise of my own by playing basketball at Moody Elementary School. I also enjoy kicking off Saturday mornings at Ford News Diner or O’Rourke’s.
How can resident keep up with you?
Middletown residents can always reach me on my cell phone, (860) 538-5425, or through email, If elected, I intend to be responsive and accessible to all residents in town.

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