Stamford group forms anti-Martin PAC
Updated 6:46 pm, Wednesday, October 25, 2017
STAMFORD - With the mayoral election less than two weeks away, some Stamford residents say they have formed a political action committee they call Democrats Against Martin.
Daniel Honan, chairman of DAM, said he formed the committee Monday, and that evening posted signs outside the school where Democratic Mayor David Martin was debating his Republican challenger, Barry Michelson.
Honan said he organized the politicial action committee to let Martin know that he “does not have our support for a number of reasons, chief among them is that a lot of the problems we see in Stamford stem from irresponsible development.”
Martin has not presented a coherent plan for future development, Honan said.
“Stamford is soon to be the second-largest city in Connecticut, making it one of the largest in New England. We are growing fast, but what is the vision?” he said. “Maybe it should be to say, ‘Hold your horses. Let’s do this in a smart way and not just do what the developers ask.’ It seems to be past the breaking point.”
Political action committees, or PACs, are formed to raise and spend money to elect and defeat candidates.
“We are not associated with any campaigns. We don’t have a contributor. We are totally regular people who want to see the city run better,” Honan said. “We can receive funds, so we’re setting up a bank account now.”
Martin emailed a response saying that, in his four years as mayor, his door has been open to residents.
“I have met with groups many times, both large and small, in my office and around the city to share what the city is doing, and hear from them what is happening in their neighborhoods,” Martin wrote. “I have never heard of this political group. I think it is a little rich that two weeks before an election they bring up these concerns, even though this group has never brought these items to my attention, nor even contacted my office.”
Martin said he does not presuppose anyone’s support, but “I am also not one to make policy decisions based on who yells the loudest, nor do I pander to the voter as many politicians often do. Bottom line, we all know this is the political silly season. I respect people’s First Amendment right to say what they want, even if it is not true.”
Shippan resident Georgia Ellis, treasurer for DAM, said she joined the group as “a regular citizen who finally has had enough.” She moved to Stamford to be near her daughter and grandchildren, Ellis said, but then they moved to Fairfield for the school system.
“It’s a heartbreak. I see the condition of the roads, how taxes keep going up, the constant dumping of things into the marina and West Beach, how the existing government seems to be way in favor of big developers,” Ellis said. “I think people are tired of being part of the silent majority. It’s not anything radical — you just want everyday life to be better.”
DAM is the second movement to form within the city’s Democratic Party. A group called Reform Stamford has 10 candidates running for the Board of Representatives on Nov. 7. Reform Stamford organizers have said their goal is to fix “an entrenched political system that upholds the status quo” and leaves residents “frustrated with our city government.” Focuses of the reform movement include traffic and parking congestion in neighborhoods, illegal housing, and putting residents’ concerns over those of developers.
Honan said the goals of DAM align with that, and are fueled by the city’s approval last year of a plan by South End developer Building and Land Technology to develop a peninsula where the city’s only boatyard once stood. BLT tore the boatyard down in violation of zoning regulations.
“I think we are all encouraged by each other’s actions,” Honan said of Reform Stamford. “There was opposition to the boatyard that has been sustained over time because that effort had to do with overall quality of life issues, traffic issues, illegal housing issues — in a nutshell, the pressures that have resulted from runaway development.”
’Late to the game’
Josh Fedeli, chairman of the Democratic City Committee, said he had not heard of DAM.
“I would not say in any way that they are affiliated with the Democratic Party,” Fedeli said. “They may be registered Democrats, but they are not part of my organization. I have not heard from them, and I’ve heard from dozens of activist organizations that have decided to work outside the party framework but are still Democrats. This group is late to the game.”
Fedeli said he would not put DAM and Reform Stamford on the same level, and that some people “may want to co-opt” the reform message.
“Reform Stamford is a group of organized individuals who have knocked on thousands of doors,” Fedeli said. “Some are members of our committee. They belong to the Democratic organization writ large, but they are not anti-David Martin.”
Fedeli said he doesn’t understand why DAM opposes the mayor.
“He supports responsible development as well,” Fedeli said. “The city is thriving; people want to live here. Of course there are growing pains, but Stamford is doing well.”
Honan said some residents “feel betrayed over the boatyard, and Mayor Martin’s focus on development over the people.”
Martin “did not have a primary challenger, so if you are a Democrat, what situation are you in?” Honan said. “We don’t have a lot of options other than to let the mayor know that he cannot take the support of all the Democrats in Stamford for granted.”