NORWALK, Conn. -- Republican congressional candidate Dan Debicella outlined his plan on Friday, Oct. 17, to revitalize Fairfield County's largest cities through the creation of enterprise zones and by releasing schools from state and federal mandates.
Debicella is running for the Fourth District's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives against incumbent Democrat Jim Himes.
He was joined Friday at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk by State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney and former Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia to outline his strategies to help urban centers such as Norwalk, Stamford and Bridgeport.
“All too often here in Fairfield County, we find it’s a tale of two counties: with the suburbs, where people are living the American dream, and the cities, where for too many of our families, that American dream is being denied,” Debicella said.
His plan for enterprise zones would allow new and existing businesses in the state’s largest cities to pay no federal taxes, no state taxes, and have their property taxes paid for by the federal government.
“This is a radical idea that will make will make our cities compelling places for businesses to move into,” Debicella said.
He also said that cities should practice “clustering” where cities identify specific industry where they can specialize and work to bring that particular business in. He compared it to Silicon Valley in California.
“Whether it’s financial services in Stamford and Norwalk, or shipping and green energy in Bridgeport, we need to decide what kind of industry we want to cluster around and then then start that process,” he said.
On education, he said that public schools in urban cities need to take a lesson from charter schools, and experiment with their own cross-disciplinary curriculum. He said that programs like No Child Left Behind and Common Core have hindered teachers, and that school systems need to empower teachers to figure out what curriculums work best for their students.
He also wants to turn cities into “education innovation zones,” where they would be free from federal and state mandates.
“They can actually spend their money how they think is best. If they need to invest in more teachers, they can invest in more teachers. If they need to invest in more facilities, they can invest in more facilities. We’re not going to mandate how they have to spend their money,” Debicella said.
Debicella said that his plan would help bring an advantage to the state's cities, which he believes are currently at a disadvantage compared to the suburbs. He said that by working with federal, state and local officials, he believes that the strategies can begin to be implemented within two years.
McKinney and Moccia both praised Debicella’s plan, saying that strategies used by Himes and Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy have been ineffective.
“An idea like this, to create those kinds of enterprise zones, to create our own Silicon Valley, is something unique,” said Moccia.
“The enterprise zone levels the playing field,” McKinney said. He said that it will bring businesses in and create jobs. “That’s what’s going to lift those areas up. And to combine that with the understanding that the key to everything is making sure our children get the best education they can, makes this a truly complete and right way for the people of Fairfield County.”
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