Debicella unveils strategy to revitalize Connecticut cities

From left, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney,
From left, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, Republican congressional candidate Dan Debicella and former Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia hold a press conference Friday in front of the Maritime Aquarium.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 4.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

NORWALK, Conn. – Federal help is needed to regenerate urban areas part of an idea that would pay for itself by stimulating local economies, Republican congressional candidate Dan Debicella said Friday in Norwalk.

Debicella, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich), convened with former Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia and state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney in front of the Maritime Aquarium to announce a three-prong approach to revitalizing Connecticut cities.

“We’ve had some tremendous progress with great local leaders like Dick Moccia, but Hartford and Washington have been ignoring our cities here in Fairfield County and that needs to change,” Debicella said. “… My plan has three broad elements, which you’ll hear … and they sound very common, but the specifics are new and innovative. The three legs of the plan are bringing jobs to our cities, improving education and restoring the American Dream.”

Republican congressional candidate Dan Debicella
Republican congressional candidate Dan Debicella is a former state senator and lives in Shelton.

A “true implementation of Enterprise Zones

“If you are an existing or new business in one of these zones, then you will pay no federal taxes, no state taxes and your property taxes will be paid for by the federal government,” Debicella said.

That means no capital gains tax and no sales tax, in an approach that combines the best ideas of Democrats and Republicans, he said.

“This is a radical idea that will make our cities compelling for businesses to move into and will help current businesses that are there as well because we don’t want to bias new against existing businesses. This is a radical idea that can actually help give our cities a competitive advantage,” Debicella said.


“We need to start clustering,” Debicella said. “This is an economic theory that other cities have successfully adopted. It says that you can have a specialized industry where you get enough businesses, enough workers and enough know-how and it becomes self-sustaining. Think Silicon Valley when it comes to high tech or the Boston I-95 corridor. … We need to decide what kind of industry we want to create a cluster around and then start that process and we can take the best practices from other cities that have done it.”


“This is where I think both Democrats and Republicans on the federal level have been getting it wrong, because we have wanted to tell cities what they needed to do,” Debicella said.

Republican bad idea: No Child Left Behind; Democratic bad idea: Common Core State Standards.

“We need to actually take some of the lessons of charter schools and bring them to public schools. I am a big fan of charter schools but we can’t characterize the entire system. We need a vibrant public school system,” Debicella said.

Example: “Experimentation with curriculum to allow cross disciplinary teaching,” Debicella said, throwing in an anecdote about Achievement First Bridgeport Academy Elementary School, where he said he saw sixth-graders reading “Moby Dick.”

 They were “doing it from a cross curriculum standpoint, looking at the historical context, the literature and the actual grammar as well. That’s the kind of flexibility we should have in our urban schools,” Debicella said.

Mandates from Washington and Hartford should be eased, he said.

“They can spend their money how they think is best,” Debicella said. “… We have to allow them to experiment, to figure out what works.”

“We need leaders who are going to stop being divisive and start believing in the American Dream once again,” Debicella said.

Moccia thanked Debicella for inviting him and took a shot at President Barack Obama’s cancelled Thursday trip to Bridgeport.

“Glad I could make this appearance with you, as a supporter,” Moccia said. “Unfortunately Congressman Himes lost his guy coming in the other day for his rally. I am glad the president finally decided he was commander in chief instead of campaigner in chief and he went back to Washington to do his job.”

“But what Dan talked about is so true,” Moccia said, going on to refer to a Pew poll released Oct. 9 that showed that many people in rich countries are not confident that their children will have a better life than they do.  He said he had never before seen the ideas promoted by Debicella. While Gov. Dannel Malloy likes to talk about brilliant minds in Connecticut, the next generation doesn’t have a job, Moccia said.

Connecticut Senate Minority Leader John McKinney speaks in support of
Connecticut Senate Minority Leader John McKinney speaks in support of Republican congressional candidate Dan Debicella, right, Friday in Norwalk.

McKinney said the Maritime Aquarium is a success story that educates tens of thousands of children and brings economic development to SoNo, “but these successes have been too few.”

“The Enterprise Zone levels the playing field. It says to businesses who are here, we want you stay here but to expand here. It says to others we want to drive you to urban areas,” McKinney said.

The original idea of an Enterprise Zone “was never fully implemented, but people took the name and applied it to tax breaks,” McKinney said.

Debicella said there would be no sunset on the breaks given to businesses in his version of an Enterprise Zone.

“In order to make this work, part of the problem we have with tax credits before, they run out and businesses leave. This creates a permanent zone where businesses are going to come and stay. It gives a tremendous advantage to the cities. It’s what we need to actually jump start economic growth in the cities,” Debicella said.

Now, how would this be paid for?

“For the state and the federal government it’s an investment,” Debicella said. “… If you actually are investing in making those businesses grow, you are going to make up that money over time, for all the ancillary economic development that goes on around them. So in the short term the locality is made whole so there will be no loss of local property tax revenue and for the state and the federal government over time that money is going to come back in.”

“The reason why, and it’s the same, for the business already in Bridgeport the costs make it prohibitive to expand. For those who aren’t there, they can’t go in because of all of the local and state taxes.  So they go to other places where the tax climate is more favorable, whether it’s somewhere else in Connecticut, or worse, outside the state of Connecticut,” McKinney said.

“The key to this, that’s different than what others have proposed, even what they are doing in New York successfully, is that you have the federal government buy in,” McKinney continued. “If you move a company into Bridgeport with 200 to 300 jobs, you’ve got people who are going to be working in Bridgeport, they’re going to be shopping in Bridgeport, whether it’s cleaners, whether it’s the coffee shop, whether it’s the grocery store, a percentage of those people are then going to buy into Bridgeport where they live where they work, and none of that has happening now and you can’t kick start it because of the high burden of local and state taxes. That’s why we need the federal partnership.”

In response to the press conference, Himes campaign spokeswoman Libby Carlson released this statement:

“Jim Himes has been relentless in fighting to close Southwestern Connecticut’s income gap to ensure that the people he represents have access to better educational and economic opportunities. Jim was instrumental in securing an $11 million federal investment for infrastructure improvements at Bridgeport’s Steelpointe Harbor, and he fought to bring $30 million to help rebuild South Norwalk’s Washington Village, a community that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. These awards were the largest federal investments in each city’s history. And unlike his opponent, Jim has consistently pushed to increase the minimum wage so that hardworking families don’t have to struggle to meet basic needs.”

Debicella’s comments about a “cross curriculum standpoint” are reminiscent of comments made by Norwalk educators in explaining Common Core State Standards.

“We will do our ‘Frog and Toad’ book just like we always did, but now we will pair it with an informational text on frogs and toads,” said Wolfpit Elementary School Assistant Principal Maureen Jones in January, referring to what she said is a classic series of easy reader books, “Frog and Toad.”

She spoke of digging deeper into text, teaching children to find evidence to write arguments to present and prove cogent opinions. Lessons on grammar, capitalization, sentence structure are integrated and there are oral presentations as well, she said, explaining, “Writing and reading are always integrated, and then speaking and listening, it’s a big part of it as well.”



8 responses to “Debicella unveils strategy to revitalize Connecticut cities”

  1. John Hamlin

    There may be some good ideas lodged in here, but it’s kind of a jumble — Debicella wants something new and different to happen for education, but he wants local school districts to have greater autonomy to do whatever they want to get the job done — how’s that worked out for us for the past 40 years or so? And if former Mayor Moccia is his model for how to bring innovation to the City of Norwalk and other municipalities, I think many of us would prefer to look forward rather than back to an even more dysfunctional time — the failure to promote good city planning, the failure to insist on effective zoning regulation, the failure to protect investment in property by letting individual property owners do whatever they want — things over which a city actually has control — these are just a few things that come to mind as reasons why we would not look to Moccia as the paragon of progress and why we should look instead to move forward rather than go backwards. Many of us want to see Congress go in a new direction and would prefer to see someone who doesn’t just vote the party line, who doesn’t just blindly support the dysfunction of either one of the parties. Meanwhile Himes thinks he’s doing his job because he supports rebuilding Washington Village and votes to increase the minimum wage? This article seems to confirm that there’s no attractive choice for voters in this Congressional district in 2014. Will 2016 bring a better choice?

  2. Michael McGuire

    This is the first focused plan I’ve heard. Having spent five years in a Big 4 accounting firm’s business valuation practice I know from first hand experience that all significant business decisions are filtered through the tax department of each business. If the tax department doesn’t approve it doesn’t happen.

    As a small business owner in Norwalk I’ve watched the increased cost of taxes and compliance over the past 6 years take my business, and a number of other small business, from profitable to questionable on a break even basis. I’m locked in here for family and school issues, but bigger businesses are not which is why they move away. Where do they go – low tax Red states.

    That’s why CT ranks so low on places to do business – we are a high tax Blue state.

    We need more good paying jobs in CT which means we need more businesses to locate here, which means CT needs to have an attractive business climate which it currently does not.

  3. Taxpayer Fatigue

    Great plan! Increase the federal deficit by having the U.S. Government pay local property taxes for businesses and waive income taxes from these business. Increase the state deficit by waiving state taxes for these businesses. This sounds like a George W. Bush plan – cut taxes but no plan to pay for it.

    We all want lower taxes, but unless the tax cut plans come with a way to pay for them through lower spending or increased revenues, it’s just another irresponsible tactic. Just look at the states where Republican governors have dramatically cut taxes – Kansas, Wisconsin, et.al. They don’t have higher job growth and they have huge revenue shortfalls.

    Show me a fiscally responsible Republican and I will vote for them – I just don’t see any out there.

  4. Joe

    He admits he likes open borders…no borders.

    He’s not for me.

  5. Norwalk Sage

    Debicella’s plan sounds like a sustainable approach for bringing jobs to Connecticut and keeping them here. It’s better than the construction projects that Malloy likes to tout, spending money for temporary money pits that don’t add anything to the economy. It’s better than the training programs that Rodgerson likes to talk about that will train Connecticut residents so that they can find jobs that only exist in other states.

  6. WOW just WOW

    This guy is all talk.

  7. Crimes Rhymes with…..


    Not one single prosecution for the banksters that robbed society of over $10 trillion in wealth. Majority of the profiteers donate to Mr. Himes unabashedly. Why would he even want to stay in this low paying job? He’ll be making 7 figures easily once he leaves congress. Only in America.

  8. Oyster

    Debicella is a little late to the party. Malloy has already begun clustering here, with an eye on biotech.

    Tax breaks for businesses? When republicans do it, it’s “true implementation of enterprise zones”. When democrats do it, it’s “corporate welfare”.

    Sending one more vote to DC to increase the republican logjam there is a bad idea.

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