Rick Torres is no stranger to Bridgeport politics but he certainly is no fan of “the corrupt Democratic machine” as he puts it.
In fact, the Republican candidate for mayor, has declared that if he had one issue to select from the plethora of issues he has put forth in his campaign it would be to end Democratic politics as usual in the city and oust Mario Testa as the chairman of the powerful Democratic Town Committee.
“This is really our biggest problem in Bridgeport,” he said. “It’s why we have so many other serious problems. It has to stop. It has to end. The Democratic primary between the mayor and Mary-Jane Foster attracted only 21 percent of eligible voters. That’s because the voters are getting fed up and feel their votes are being wasted.”
Torres, who owns the landmark Harborview Market in the Black Rock section of the Park City, essentially espouses a libertarian political philosophy and has attacked incumbent Mayor Bill Finch on a number of important issues. Besides Finch, Independent candidate Jeff Kohut is also in the race. Torres previously ran for mayor and lost to John Fabrizi in 2003.
”We have not had any serious economic development in Bridgeport,” said the candidate. “Businesses have to be lured here with lower taxes. Trumbull has development; Shelton has development. Business people are smart people so why would they want to relocate or start a new business here?”
Residential taxes have also been a theme for Torres’ run for office and he puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of Testa and company.
“We have the highest tax rate in the entire country,” he pointed out. “This is entirely unfair to everyone who lives here. And a key reason is that our tax rate is so high is that we have living under a cloud of corruption.”
One way Torres proposes to lower the city’s tax burden is bringing in Kroll Inc., a forensic auditing firm, whom he has already contacted. The New York-based company would examine the city’s books and eliminate needless waste. Torres argued that the new combination of transparent government and low taxes would attract a great deal of new businesses to the Park City.
One area he sees as woefully underutilized is Bridgeport’s waterfront. The candidate feels that the city’s harbor is prime territory and probably the most underutilized waterfront property on the entire East Coast.
“I brought a consultant in to study the city’s waterfront back in 2002 and he literally shocked at all of the potential our harbor has,” explained Torres. “But with la lower tax rate, business incentives and transparency in government new waterfront development will become a reality.”
Another issue he feels passionate about is public housing, having himself grown up in Bridgeport public housing. He often visits Marina Village in the South End and describes the conditions there as “inhumane.”
“Right across the street from Marina Village is Seaside Village, which pristine, but that’s privately owned,” Torres explained. “We need private ownership of our public housing and I would work tirelessly to accomplish that. And I’m not talking about at an exorbitant rate. This is cruel treatment of our fellow citizens and it’s simply a way to keep them down. They are more poorly maintained by the city and they are some of the most crime ridden areas in the city and it’s no coincidence.”
As for the campaign itself, Torres said it’s going remarkably well and he has been able to bring his take on the issues to Bridgeport voters.
“It’s really because of my volunteers,” said the candidate during a recent interview at the Harborview Market. “I’ve got a lot of passionate volunteers who are devoting their personal time to help getting me elected.”
Torres’ campaign style is quite flamboyant. He has purchased a large red van with his campaign slogan “Torres For Bridgeport” emblazoned on the side. The candidate also has arrived at campaign events on a Segway, the well-known environmentally friendly Segway. And he is certainly not afraid to speak his mind.
Still there are aspects of being on the campaign trail that irks Torres. For example, he believes he has no business being the race.
“Jeff Kohut has no viable plans at all for this city,” said Torres. “He should get out of the race now. He will take votes away from me. I told Jeff je was being Bill Finch’s best friend in this race.”
Torres also isn’t thrilled with several media outlets and specifically pointed the finger at Michael J. Daly, Editorial Page Editor at the Connecticut Post.
“Mike Daly’s editorial policy is completely slanted toward the Democratic machine,” he explained. “If you read that paper every day, you can see how it is manipulated towards the machine. Mike Daly is doing his best to keep the current machine in power.”
For more information about Rick Torres, visit his website at www.torresforbridgeport.com