Meriden council Area 2 candidates focus on local economy, public safety

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MERIDEN — The City Council candidates running in Area 2 place economic development and public safety as top priorities for the district and the city.

Incumbent Democrat Larue Graham faces former We The People City Council member Joseph Carabetta III next week to represent the district, which spans the city’s north side from Chamberlain Highway to Bee Street.

Attempts to schedule a virtual Facebook live campaign forum with Graham, Carabetta and Libertarian candidate Al Lavigne were unsuccessful due to scheduling conflicts. A forum slated for Tuesday afternoon was canceled after Carabetta said he had tested positive for COVID-19. 

Graham has been on the council for nine years. He is currently a co-deputy majority leader, vice chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee and chairperson of the Personnel Committee. He is the executive director of the Meriden Boys & Girls Club.

“While I represent Area 2, I look at things from a city standpoint,” Graham said. “It’s larger than Area 2. The demolition of the Mills (Memorial Apartments), the Green and erecting Meriden Commons, those are some of the big successes as a city.” 

Graham sees the education and development of city youth as another priority. He helped secure funding to ensure city youth received free summer camp .

“I’m always going to prioritize education of our children,” he said. “Economic development is impacted by education and public safety.” 

Carabetta was elected in 2015 by nine votes in a race against veteran councilor Matthew Dominello. Carabetta did not seek reelection in 2019 but said he wants his seat back to complete unfinished business. He is employed at Carabetta Management Co., a housing and development company founded by his grandfather Joseph F. Carabetta. He received the cross-endorsement of Meriden Republicans.

“I want to help the community reach its full potential,” Carabetta stated in an email. “I was involved in many great accomplishments during my previous term and we only scratched the surface. I never wanted to leave the council, so I’m happy to have the opportunity to return. My goal is to do what’s best for our residents by putting taxpayers first.” 

Like Graham, Carabetta said he supports the police department and efforts to improve public safety.  He also supports initiatives to keep current businesses in Meriden while attracting new business. He disagrees with the City Council ‘s recent decision to cap cannabis dispensaries at three and said more operations “will create jobs through the city and help grow the tax base.” 

Graham also supports economic opportunities provided by marijuana legalization but supported the cap and wants to be sure the operations are away from schools. 

When asked where the city should spend its allocation of $36.3 million in American Rescue Program funding, Carabetta replied it should be used to help seniors, veterans and business development.

Graham believes the ARPA funding should go to essential public safety workers. He also supports using the funds to help the most vulnerable populations in the city and supports initiatives to ease the tax burden on city residents. 

Graham said some of his most meaningful accomplishments as a councilor involve assisting constituents whether it be with road improvements, to correcting spellings of veterans’ names on the World War II monument.

“However, my most important function is and will remain being a good steward of city finances. I am very proud of the track record of the Dems in my tenure as a councilor,” Graham said. “There have been very few modest tax increases with the last three years achieving no increase. There has also been a focus ensuring equity for all residents, and looking at all projects through this equity lens.” 

Graham, who is Black, was instrumental in discussions leading to a near unanimous vote to declare racism a public health emergency in the city. Only We the People Councilor Bob Williams voted against the resolution. 

Graham’s conversation with Republican councilors who initially opposed the measure helped move the needle. During a council discussion, Graham responded on a personal level when another councilor criticized the resolution and called it a "cause du jour."

"This has been an issue all of my life," Graham replied. "All 53 years of my life. For you to minimize that or make it seem like this is something that is just happening, I take offense to that…Dealing with it on a daily basis, dealing with it with my kids, why people treat them differently sometimes … You don't have that problem. You never had that problem..."

Graham supports enhancements to youth recreation, including a skate park. He would approve relocating a senior center where the Public Health and Human services Department recommends it should be located. He also welcomed the idea of more green space for seniors. 

Both Graham and Carabetta said their decisions will be based on the best interests of all taxpayers.

Lavigne, the Libertarian candidate, could not be reached for this story. He submitted a platform for the Record-Journal’s voter guide stating: “We need to bring back businesses to Meriden. We need to focus more on the needs of the people rather than the needs of politicians and organizations. Lower taxes, offer incentives to small businesses, and build up our young people. Meriden Time to Rise.”

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz

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