When independent mayoral candidate Jeff Kohut launched his campaign last summer, many local politicos felt he was a Don Quixote tilting at Bridgeport political windmills.
Yet several months into the race, Kohut, a longtime community activist, has campaigned aggressively not willing to neither back down from his opponents nor continually express his ideas on the issues.
So the question is can Kohut become the Park City’s Harry Truman, who pulled off the biggest political upset of the century in 1948 by soundly defeating Republican challenger Thomas Dewey?
The candidate himself certainly thinks so.
“Everywhere we go, we’ve been tremendously received,” said Kohut. “It’s nearly 100 percent. In fact, the only times we’ve poorly received is when we run into a member of the Democratic Town Committee and they don’t like challenges.”
Kohut will be running against Democratic Mayor Bill Finch and Republican candidate Rick Torres in the citywide election on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
At the center of the Kohut campaign is the creation of a major advanced manufacturing center in the city focused on green, alternative energy equipment. Specifically to that end, his campaign launched a petition drive requesting that General Electric locate its proposed $600 million, 2,000-employee solar panel manufacturing facility at its Park City property on Boston Avenue.
“We will be forwarding the signatures to President Barack Obama, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Senators Joseph Lieberman and Richard Blumenthal, Congressman Jim Himes and GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt,” Kohut explained.
He added, “The Kohut administration will bring thousands of jobs to Bridgeport through these initiatives. We will also focus on other areas financial, arts and entertainment, hospitality and retail, and these industries will also feature jobs created by the Kohut Administration.”
Kohut plans on coupling this job creation by creating a “renaissance” in the public school system from pre-school on up.
“That will allow Bridgeport students to fill the tens of thousands of jobs created by these initiatives,” explained the candidate, who also advocates the mayor having a seat and a tiebreaking vote on the Board of Education.
The candidate has an interesting idea for downtown economic development and intends to make the area “pedestrian friendly” allowing shoppers, visitors and residents attending various events to easily navigate the area. Along with attracting more arts and entertainment and retail into the downtown, Kohut would also instigate improvements to public safety.
He explained, “The Kohut Administration will implement cutting-edge policy and technology – including deployment of a citywide, Internet-accessible, video-surveillance system — to make Bridgeport the safest city anywhere. We would ensure special training is provided so the system will serve as a police-patrol augmentation function, as well as emergency/disaster-monitoring and early-warning functions capable of providing critical, pre-arrival information for first-responders.”
The candidate added, “Coordinated, federal, state and local, family-strengthening programs — involving the schools, churches, neighborhood, and civic groups — must be initiated and expanded in conjunction with anti-gang and gang-diversion programs, including jobs and jobs-training for youth and young adults, as well as community, anti-gang education.”
Kohut said he recognizes that taxes are extremely high in the Park City, and the Lake Forest resident has a plan to address the problem.
“The Kohut administration will strongly advocate a change to the City Charter to correct this situation,” he noted. “We would change the City Charter to provide for an elected Board of Finance, or Taxation and Appropriation, which will act independently of the City Council.”
Kohut noted that this will not only lower taxes increase transparency in both the transparency and efficiency of both the budgeting and financial aspects of municipal government but in municipal government in general.
Coupled with his main goal of making Bridgeport a green manufacturing city, Kohut also envisions Bridgeport as a totally green city, a goal he says is eminently achievable.
“The Kohut administration will protect all of our natural green space that we enjoy in the Park City and we also will work to remediate the tremendous number of brownfields we have here in Bridgeport into land ready for economic development,” said the candidate.
When asked why he would be the best candidate for the city’s highest office, Kohut explained simply “I am the only one of the three candidates with a detailed plan that is workable and sustainable. No one else has a plan.”
To learn more about Jeff Kohut, visit his website at www.kohutformayorofbridgeport.com