Campaign 2007: Springfield City Council Candidate Bruce Stebbins

Posted on Tuesday, September 25 2007 by Heather Brandon

Springfield resident Bruce Stebbins is running for City Council. Following are his answers to questions I sent via email. The interview is part of an attempt to reach candidates for City Council and learn more about their background, unique qualities, and thoughts about the city.

Bruce Stebbins

INTERVIEW WITH BRUCE STEBBINS

About the candidate

Education: George Washington University, graduated 1987; graduate Harvard University Kennedy School of Government‘s Commonwealth of Massachusetts Tier IV Management Program.

Employment: Currently Senior Regional Manager at New England for the National Association of Manufacturers, managing membership participation in public affairs activities to promote a pro-growth, manufacturing agenda with members of the New England Congressional delegation. Prior work: Massachusetts Department of Economic Development; Massachusetts Office of Business Development; staff of former Massachusetts Governor William Weld; and at the White House, in the Office of Political Affairs, coordinating the political agenda of the President of the United States in 12 Northeast states plus the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Volunteer and civic involvement: Current member of the Springfield City Council; also served as an elected member of the East Longmeadow School Committee. Chairman of the Springfield Technical Community College board of trustees; also chairman of the board of the Forest Park zoo.

Who are some people you’ve most looked up to in life, and why?
My parents and my grandfather. I respected my parents and appreciate the sacrifices they made for me and my sister as well as their support to allow us to strive toward our own personal goals. Lessons I learned from my grandfather’s life (he was a Shriner and member of Rotary Club) taught me about the value of public and community service and maintaining a strong sense of humility through it all.

Neighborhoods

How has Springfield changed since you first moved to the city, and how has it stayed the same?
I moved to Springfield in 2005, but I grew up in East Longmeadow. My parents were both from Springfield, and a visit to downtown was an exciting trip for me as a child.

Johnson's Bookstore buildingLike many other cities across the country, retail in our downtown has left for more suburban areas. Many of the stores, like Johnson’s Bookstore, are now gone, creating some of the biggest observable changes for me.

This dramatic change has also led to what I like best about Springfield right now; it has many opportunities for re-birth. Our museums, restaurants, convention center and symphony are all reasons for the private sector to continue its investment in Springfield. And that is just in the downtown—I think there are great opportunities all over the city.

Armoury Commons downtown. Photo by H BrandonOn the whole, I have always liked Springfield’s neighborhoods because each is vibrant and unique. This has always been the case. Like my hometown, each of these neighborhoods has a small-town feeling where neighbors know and look out for each other. The neighborhood commercial districts, with their family-owned businesses, complete this atmosphere.

However, unlike where I grew up, we also have the luxury of big-city assets such as four colleges, numerous parks, two major performing arts centers, a world-class museum, and a major sports hall of fame, to name a few. It’s the best of both worlds.

Mattoon Street downtown. Photo by H BrandonHow would you describe your neighborhood in the city, and how does it compare to other neighborhoods?
I live on Mattoon Street in the downtown. The historic architecture of the buildings makes it a special place. Here, unlike most neighborhoods, we have the convenience of walking to work or downtown to the restaurants, theater and hockey games. My wife and I like Mattoon Street because we would not be able to afford a similar rowhouse in other cities like Boston, Washington or New York. The same can be said for housing across the city.

There are some drawbacks. Because we have two small children, we miss having a yard and a driveway. But the nearby museums, STCC quad and Seuss memorial are great places to take the kids for a walk.

When we first arrived, we certainly saw more drug activity and prostitution, but that has cleared up considerably in the past year. The people who live on my street communicate frequently about what we see on the street, and we involve the police when necessary. By paying attention to the problem and being proactive, I think we have helped clean the area up.

A pile of litter on Old Hill's Orleans Street. Photo by H BrandonSome people suggest Springfield needs to deal with small problems so they don’t become big ones. Would you agree?
I do believe that we need to deal with our small problems before they combine to form large ones. I support the public safety strategy of stopping the minor offenses (littering, noise violations, not yielding to a pedestrian in a crosswalk) that undermine everyday life. It is the “broken windows” theory and if there is apathy about such petty crime, the problems will only grow. New York City experienced success with this strategy by moving quickly to remove graffiti and make other repairs before they accumulated.

Since becoming a city councilor, I have met many people who are overwhelmed by chronic quality of life problems. As I mentioned previously, my own street has organized and met with the police and other city departments to find out what resources are available to us and what we can do to improve our area. I recommend that others do the same. Go to a neighborhood council meeting, get involved, and join with your neighbors so you are not a lone voice.

The wide variety of neighborhoods and housing types in the city is perhaps one of its selling points. In what ways do you think the city capitalizes on or squanders that variety?
The city’s historic housing stock is very helpful in recruiting new residents to the city. Historic homes found in Springfield are in a more reasonable price range than in cities such as Boston and Hartford. Recently, a couple from Boston’s North End purchased a home in my neighborhood and stressed that they could not afford such a home in the Boston area.

On Stebbins Street in Old Hill. Photo by H BrandonHowever, to answer the question, I don’t think we do the best job we could to capitalize on this asset.

I am often telling people about the residential opportunities in Springfield—like it’s a well-kept secret. It shouldn’t be a secret. We should find ways to work with the brokers and the neighborhood councils to market available properties.

I am disappointed to see so many homes, at one time simply majestic, now looking like dangerous, vacant, dilapidated housing.

I have a friend in DC who had a neighborhood party at each open house on her street. Each resident worked with the brokers to sell the properties to new owners. It would take work, but we could do that.

What type of housing stock do you think the city lacks right now, that it could benefit by providing?
I believe that quality single-family homes that fit into the neighborhoods around them are the type of housing stock the city needs. Homeowners are more likely to invest and provide upkeep to their property.

New house on Orleans Street in Old Hill. Photo by H Brandon

I have been impressed with the work done by the Housing Allowance Partnership and Habitat for Humanity in this area. Each organization has bid on city-owned parcels and constructed single-family homes. Moreover, the homes are well-built and well-designed, unlike some duplex construction I have seen in the city that appears to be made of duct tape and fiber board.

What is your opinion of the shift in recent years to the school boundary plan, back to “neighborhood schools”? Will this change enhance neighborhood identity over the long term?
I have served on a school committee in the past and I believe in “neighborhood schools.” Children spending over an hour on the bus in the morning and afternoon, getting shuttled across the city, is not productive. Neighborhood schools that are successful can help drive investment and real estate value in the area.

Kensington Avenue schoolday. Photo by H Brandon

Public safety

What advice can you give to a resident living on the same block as a suspected drug dealer, or near other residents who actively and openly use drugs?
I live in a neighborhood that has active drug dealing. I have witnessed drug sales, and sometimes, the transaction is so quick there is no time to alert the police.

However, we must be willing to make the call or talk to an officer on area or foot patrol. Just by providing a description of an individual or location to watch is important to the police department.

I encourage residents to attend their nearby beat meeting or to email the deputy chief responsible for your neighborhood. If there is possible drug activity happening in an apartment building or rental property, call the management office as well. If your landlord does not seem to care, let the deputy chief for your district know that as well.

Kids on Euclid Avenue. Photo by H Brandon

In the interest of the city’s well-being, what would you ask of law-abiding city parents hoping to protect their children from exposure to illegal activity?
There are a number of things that parents can do to protect their children, and depending on the child’s age, those strategies can vary.

As a parent of two young children, I want to make sure that when my kids grow up, they are not afraid to approach police officers for help.

Parents with older children need to take a more active interest in their child’s schooling and friends and not hesitate to discuss such topics as drug use. Given the violence among teens who are hanging out late at night on the streets, I would suggest that parents stop this behavior and have kids come home and inside at a reasonable hour. Parents should know where their kids are and what they are doing.

What other ideas do you have for how public safety can be enhanced?
I attend several neighborhood beat management meetings. It’s a positive relationship and you can see that first-hand. Police enjoy the interaction and often know that there is a problem at an address being discussed. I have watched police officials work with a new meeting attendee and direct those residents to the appropriate officers or city departments.

I would strongly encourage residents to attend the police department’s citizen police academy. These civilian information sessions really give residents the insider view as to the department’s resources and priorities.

Class at the VACA. Photo by H Brandon

What do you think about the level of crime in the city, and the talk about perceived fear and reluctance to go downtown?
If you read behind the stories of our violent crimes in this city, you will see a strong record of success in catching and charging a suspect. Most of the homicides in Springfield are the result of a drug deal gone bad, or domestic violence, where the perpetrator is easily caught.

I live and work downtown, and I do not personally feel at risk. The risk is to those who are involved directly with illegal activity.

My wife and I mentor teenage boys in the city, and it is clear to me that we need to prepare our young residents to find employment, and other positive ways to live their life, so they don’t become new fuel for this cycle.

Racial and ethnic harmony

What is your reaction to the racial bias class action lawsuit recently brought against the city by eight municipal employees?
Any allegations of racial bias, in or out of City Hall, are detrimental to this community. Allegations should be investigated thoroughly.

I am concerned as to whether city personnel policies are sufficient to address the issue more directly and within a timely manner. If employees don’t feel comfortable approaching personnel staff to discuss concerns of inappropriate behavior, the city must review its personnel policies with outside human resources executives. I will advocate for a review of the city’s process and policies so we can institute a better system of reporting inappropriate behavior, if it is needed.

Elm Street at Main Street. Photo by H Brandon

What is your sense of Springfield’s status in New England as a community made up of many cultures and ethnicities? How are we doing, and what can we do better?
Like other cities around Massachusetts, I believe we are recognized in Springfield for having incredible diversity. This diversity makes Springfield a culturally rich community to live in. This is an asset. Springfield hosts several events each year celebrating our many ethnic communities. Participating in these events is one way we can learn about each other and show that we can strengthen the racial and ethnic harmony within this community.

Having said this, I believe that there are racial tensions in the community that play out, especially among our young people, that our education and safety officials need to address.

I value the work that a number of organizations, schools and area colleges do to promote understanding of our city’s many ethnic communities. Perhaps we should look at integrating some of these programs and curricula into our schools. If we promote a better dialogue and understanding among our youth, we can ultimately strengthen Springfield’s culture of acceptance.

Springfield City Hall. Photo by H BrandonWhat is your view of what City Council ward representation might accomplish with regard to the city’s neighborhood racial and ethnic demographics?
I support ward representation, because I feel the neighborhoods of this city need at least one elected official they can hold accountable. I believe each neighborhood should have one official looking out for that neighborhood’s best interest.

I do hope that our ward representation plan will be adopted, and more candidates will be enticed to run for a seat to represent their ward and neighborhood. If it increases the diversity of the City Council, that would be great as well.

I also support efforts to increase the diversity of our leadership in the city through leadership training programs that can be held in each of the neighborhoods.

Some have argued that ward representation will create ward bosses, which would be a drawback. However, I believe that most residents of any neighborhood can realize when their best interests are not being reflected by a ward councilor.

Teamwork and civic leadership

What is your general impression of the spirit of teamwork on the City Council?
Since joining, I have determined the interests of my colleagues and where we might be able to partner on projects. Each councilor has his or her own unique issue focus.

I have enjoyed partnering with some of my colleagues on initiatives. We just need to maintain a steady level of intensity and commitment to the job, regardless of whether we are one year or one week from an election.

Springfield City Hall. Photo by H BrandonWhat are some of the benefits and drawbacks of the City Council’s current decision-making process and culture of problem-solving?
I support requiring ordinance changes and other non-resolution items to go through the appropriate sub-committee first, instead of tying up time during full City Council meetings. We should use those sub-committee meetings to bring in residents, business leaders and interested parties to give us their thoughts and opinions. It just makes sense.

I believe the council needs to take on a more aggressive role in the city’s budgeting process. The council finance committee should at least have quarterly meetings to track expenditures as well as revenue expectations. I plan to start this effort by hosting a first fiscal year quarter review on October 15.

On hearing nights, I believe our paid professional planning staff, or any staff that has prepared a recommendation for the council, should be able to discuss each item and articulate their conclusions as part of our hearing process. They should not have to wait to be called out for questions.

What would you say are some personal or professional qualities you bring to the table in group settings?
I strongly believe my background in public service at all three levels of government allows me to provide some differing viewpoints during our council discussions. My background in economic and business development gives me a unique perspective for this city on how we develop strategies for business growth, and for providing a quality workforce to area businesses.

What have you learned about how to work with people of differing opinions?
I have experience serving on several community non-profit boards. I learned from this that everyone must have the opportunity to comment.

There are few opportunities where everyone is 100 percent in agreement, so we must take into account everyone’s thoughts and comments to make the best decision.

You focus on keeping the tone of the discussion respectful, and acknowledge everyone’s participation and input.

How do you approach problem-solving in your family or work life? Do you have a favorite philosophy?
Communication in the workplace is critical. Most of the problems I encounter at work and at home are the result of poor communication. When the lines of communication are open, you can make sure everyone is on the same page, and that concerns or ideas are not overlooked.

Once everyone has their say, and you reach a majority consensus, everyone needs to commit themselves to the goal.

At home, we believe that you never end the day and go to bed angry; you work it out and resolve the disagreement. This works in all facets of my life, and prevents me from developing smoldering grudges.

Civic participation and the media

Do you find that city residents are not aware of City Council decisions and their impact, or do they seem generally well-informed?
I sometimes discover that other city departments are not aware of City Council decisions and their impact, let alone residents.

Before I joined the council, I met a police officer who was unaware of the steps taken by the City Council to prohibit use of mini street motorcycles.

Over the past two years, I have observed a strengthened communication process with departments as new ordinances have been passed. I invite department heads to my sub-committee meetings because I want their ideas.

We need to continue to focus on making sure that council measures are thoroughly vetted through the appropriate sub-committee, so department staff can provide input. This will help the information sharing process.

State Street at Main Street. Photo by H BrandonWhat options do city residents have to keep up with and follow City Council discussions and decisions? How might access to this information be improved?
Right now [aside from attending City Council meetings], residents can either watch our meetings on local cable or call city offices to obtain that information the next day.

This City Council needs to provide online information about the measures on the upcoming agenda, and the votes taken during our regular and special meetings. We also need to prepare basic meeting minutes that would be approved at the next regular meeting. Finally, we need to post our sub-committee meetings and topics online. These are all changes that I will continue to push for.

What are your thoughts about how well Springfield is served by its print, radio, television and online news presence?
Springfield is fortunate to have a number of media outlets including the newspapers, three television stations, talk radio and several local blogs. Residents certainly have several sources to turn to for news and information. Any news item that is covered can create a negative or positive image of the city. I would encourage the reporters and bloggers to report the positive news as well as those negative stories we have to hear. Some balance would help the city.

What have you observed about how city residents think or feel about their city as it is presented to them in the media?
I think most Springfield residents are frustrated about the news they see about their community. Many folks know that there are positive things happening in their neighborhoods. Success stories out there need to be highlighted.

What do you like or dislike about the city’s Web site, and how easy or difficult it makes access to information for residents?
I find the new and revised site much easier to use than the old version. It gives users several options for tracking down the information that they need. The city needs to continue to embrace new technologies across all departments, and make city government easier to do business with over the Internet.

How can the city improve its civic participation?
We can engage better and more frequent civic participation with projects such as the Urban Land Institute report, and the neighborhood work and coalitions that will result from the report.

Stebbins at a community meeting. Photo by H Brandon

At a recent meeting to discuss the State Street corridor [pictured, Stebbins at far left], I was impressed with the number of people who turned out. Residents value their time, so you need to make meetings productive, and encourage everyone’s participation.

For electoral participation, we need to make sure that students who are old enough to vote register and meet the candidates for office. Participation in civic life often starts with voting, and expands from there.

For the public at large, participation is not just complaining. It’s not enough to complain; you need to vote.

I am struck by how many people I meet in Springfield who volunteer in very meaningful ways. I also meet many more who want to be better-connected to volunteer opportunities.

Young Professionals of Springfield

 

I support organizations such as Young Professionals of Springfield, which can get people involved by networking, and groups like Keep Springfield Beautiful, which organized volunteers on a citywide basis.As I mentioned before, I serve as a mentor to high school students in Springfield, and have taught Junior Achievement classes for some time. It is so rewarding to work with our youth—everyone should at least give it a try.

Physical landscape of the city

You’re on the city’s zoning ordinance revision citizen advisory committee. What is your opinion of the work to change the city’s zoning ordinance, as exemplified by the new State Street Interim Overlay District?
The citizens’ advisory committee has been undertaking a year-long-plus process to review the current zoning ordinance, which has not been significantly altered since 1973. Many members of this committee are neighborhood activists and association leaders, who have been volunteering their time to read through the volumes of paperwork and regulations.

State Street at MassMutual Center. Photo by H BrandonI have learned, through this process, that zoning can be incredibly complicated, but that it does not have to be. My goal is for the zoning ordinance to take the guesswork out of our development process.

Anybody should be able to pick up the zoning ordinance and understand how the regulations apply to their property. Readers should also know exactly what type of development the city expects in specific areas, and any permit process or site plan review that may be required.

The new State Street Overlay District exemplifies this by further detailing for developers what form development along the State Street corridor should take, and the site plan review process they will need to undertake. It is not meant to be cumbersome; rather, it is meant to eliminate surprises in the permitting process that may occur along the way, and expedite construction, not slow it down. This will be a really significant milestone for planning and economic development in this city. It will put us on the same playing field as many other successful cities around the country.

Is there a consensus that the city needs better and stricter land use guidelines? How can the city balance guidelines with flexibility?
I believe there is consensus that the city needs better and stricter land use guidelines. Springfield is one of just a handful of communities in Massachusetts that does not require site plan review.

Site plan review does several things that makes the development process better.

First, it allows several city departments that have a hand in the permitting process to meet and review a project at once so that all issues related to a project are dealt with together.

Second, it allows recommendations to be made to the developer that improve the overall design of the project.

Marketplace shops downtown. Photo by H BrandonFor example, a national chain may come into town and propose its typical building, sign, and parking layout that it uses in every community. However, this canned development may not be suitable for the site proposed. Through site plan review, we can work with the developer to make the project more suitable for the area.

This already happens in a limited context in the X Main Street Commercial District in Forest Park, and has led to better design.

Site plan review lays out the city’s expectations to the developer earlier, rather than later.

I have been to many other communities around the country, and admired their commercial developments, and wondered: why doesn’t the CVS, for example, in Springfield look like that? I’ve come to realize that it’s because we already have flexible guidelines, and they don’t work.

Pearl Street laundromat. Photo by H BrandonSpringfield does not have a lot of attractive commercial development, in my opinion, and I believe the trained professional staff at the city are well-qualified to work closely with developers to make Springfield more attractive. We have everything to gain from the proposed revisions to the ordinance, and so do the developers and business community. Good development will attract even better development.

We have to set the bar higher in our city: we are worth it! I look forward to supporting the new ordinance wholeheartedly as the process goes to adoption at the City Council level.

It is widely acknowledged that Springfield has a lot of blighted property. What ideas do you have for how efforts to combat blight can be improved?
One idea that the City Council has been considering, which I support, is a city rental occupancy permit renewable every year. Landlords have to be held accountable for the conditions of their properties. If building conditions do not meet habitable conditions or code enforcement guidelines, the city should be able to restrict a landlord’s ability to rent that property by denying them an annual occupancy permit.

Noel Street house. Photo by H BrandonThere are some good models out there, from other cities, that should be reviewed and used to create a program in Springfield.

I also think the city needs to do a better job of quickly disposing of city-owned property. We have almost 175 saleable properties, and another 600 currently in land court. The longer these properties remain in city hands, the chances of vandalism improve and the city loses out on needed property tax revenue.

However, if you have seen any of these properties at the time the city inherits them, you understand how incredibly difficult this is.

Ultimately, to make the process move quickly, the city needs the right staff in place, and it needs financial incentives, to get the owners in place to make the needed improvements to the property in a timely fashion. As I understand it, there are several different departments involved in these properties, and the cooperation needed to make disposition happen is essential.

A review should be undertaken of both the current process as well as the CDBG funding that could be used as an incentive for new owners. I want to make sure that the city has the resources it needs to make disposition go faster.

Pendleton Avenue house. Photo by H BrandonWhat factors contribute to blight in Springfield besides absentee landlords?
Like an absentee landlord, financing entities are responsible for the properties they own, due to foreclosure and default, and many neglect their properties. We need to require them to provide suitable upkeep for the property and hold them accountable.

Seniors who are not able to maintain their properties may also contribute to this problem by no fault of their own. It is physically difficult for some to maintain their properties. Seniors in this position have to connect with their neighborhood councils. The people on these councils can connect them with the resources they need to help maintain their properties.

Finally, I see so many kids and adults alike littering, and I see illegal dumping everywhere. The trash is overwhelming, and we need to continue to support community education that combats this problem, and enforce current ordinances for illegal dumping and littering.

Spring Street apartment. Photo by H BrandonWhat aspects of Springfield do you think are most beautiful? Most ugly?
Our parks and our architecture are really impressive. Abandoned properties and some new construction that appears to be built from a collection of cereal boxes are negative factors facing the city.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one huge thing about Springfield’s appearance, what would it be?
I would make all the new development look just as impressive as the historic architecture that gave this city its early reputation as the City of Homes.

Springfield deserves better than shoddy duplex construction as infill development. HAP, Inc. and Habitat for Humanity should be thanked for the great job they have done on making affordable housing attractive.

Name one of Springfield’s “best kept secrets” in your opinion.
I can’t name just one: Theodore’s Restaurant, Frigo’s and the South End eateries, the Common Ground Diner on Main Street, Sitar, and Café Lebanon (my wife and I obviously don’t cook that well), Mattoon Street, the Springfield Cemetery and Picknelly Field for baseball.

I am struck by how many others are in Indian Orchard—Chmura’s bakery, the view from Indian Leap of the Chicopee River, Titanic Museum, the Indian Orchard artist mills and the new Gallery 137.

What was your impression of the Urban Land Institute’s visit last year to the city, and the resulting report?
I was impressed with Urban Land Institute’s visit to the city last year. We had urban development and design professionals who outlined this city’s potential and brought to light the incredible assets that we often overlook.

These professionals, who are prohibited from securing business with the city, shared a simple message with the residents of Springfield. That message was that our problems are not insurmountable, and that we all need to be proud of our city—and not embarrassed by it.

ULI South End presentation materials. Photo by H BrandonIn what ways is the city following up on the recommendations swiftly?
The city has reached out to the priority target neighborhoods, such as the South End [pictured], to begin getting feedback on development projects, and the city has taken aggressive steps toward implementing their recommendations, including the demolition of the York Street jail and the former Chapman Valve foundry.

In what ways can the city most dramatically improve on its response to the recommendations?
The city can dramatically increase its response to the ULI recommendations [including some on housing, and some on downtown; download a PowerPoint summary here] by organizing and facilitating neighborhood leadership teams and continuing to target capital improvement dollars toward targeted priority projects.

What is most important is that we do not forget about this report (PDF). We have to all work together to make this report part of our shared vision for the city and keep momentum going on its implementation. We have to begin to embrace a vision for this city that transcends elections and business leadership turnover. I think this is where it begins.

Jobs and business

Some have said that crime reduction is the city’s number one economic development priority. What else goes into a business-friendly attitude?
City government must be easy to navigate for small businesses seeking to open or existing businesses seeking to relocate or expand in Springfield. We have too many individuals who show up and are unaware of what applications they need, what sign ordinances apply to them and other questions. Forms must be easily available online or available within each city department where a prospective business owner may stop first.

How can the City Council play a role?
City Council needs to pass the new zoning ordinance, and it needs to be consistent with how it reviews businesses that require a special permit. The council only hurts the business community when it sends mixed messages.

What is an example of how a City Council decision helped or hindered the city’s business growth?
I have one strong example of how the council decided to help the city’s job growth.

The council recently voted on a proposal I had offered to exempt new, high-tech research and development companies from taxes on their personal property.

I believe we are the first community in Massachusetts to adopt this measure. I think this measure demonstrates that the city wants to be aggressive in recruiting new businesses.

What are some reasons why the City Council might stand in the way of an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurial start-up businesses that provide a needed service to their neighborhood and provide jobs can also have negative impacts on the health, safety and welfare of the surrounding residents.

An example would be automotive businesses. There are automotive businesses that operate within local, state and federal laws and are not a health risk to the people around them and working at them. If proposed in an appropriate location, the City Council should support them.

I don’t think prohibiting a business from going into the wrong location is an ill effect. It is how we maintain quality of life.

At the Common Ground Diner. Photo by H BrandonWhat else can city leaders of any type do to promote Springfield as a place to do business?
My first priority is for City Hall to focus on supporting the businesses already operating here in Springfield. When I worked for the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, approximately 80 percent of our project companies were already operating here in Massachusetts.

Our colleges and small business programs funded by the US government are critical elements to providing our existing businesses and our workforce with the skills and resources they need to succeed. If our own companies feel they have an environment where they can thrive and prosper, a positive marketing message about Springfield will spread.

Speaking of marketing, we need to market Springfield and we need to agree on one message and keep that marketing campaign consistent and for a long period of time. We have tried this unsuccessfully in the past. We need to communicate directly with the decision-makers—out-of-town executives of locally based businesses, targeted prospect company management, and start-up business leaders—about Springfield and highlight our strategic benefits.

We can market our “quality of life” and stress our other unique advantages: location, cost of housing, and incentives. This gets back to having a consistent vision that goes beyond leadership changes.

At 3hree Café. Photo by H BrandonWhat unusual ideas might you have about types of jobs or businesses to try to attract to Springfield?
These ideas might not be unique or unusual but here are just a few suggestions:

1) Develop commercial/residential zones to help draw artists into the downtown areas of our city and Indian Orchard. Springfield’s downtown “arts and entertainment” district needs to focus more on the arts side. Artists can benefit from the live/work space and are well known for being pioneers in to new residential areas of older cities.

2) Focus the redevelopment of the Chapman Valve brownfield site in Indian Orchard for a research and development park. Because this vast piece of industrial property is located within a neighborhood, development there cannot rely on heavy truck traffic. Financing and attractive incentives need to be packaged to ensure this property is redeveloped accordingly. I led the City Council in passing a provision to make personal property exempt from local property taxes for all R&D companies. As land prices and the cost of living rise in the eastern part of the state, we need to be ready with pre-permitted land parcels ready for development.

3) Maximize the city’s history as the birthplace of basketball. Continue to turn Springfield into a destination for basketball fans everywhere. Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world. From a walk of fame throughout downtown and basketball events or basketball hoop shaped trash cans, these are just a thoughts but we need many more ideas to capitalize on our basketball tradition and better connect the museum with our downtown. We also need to better cross-market events and venues for visitors.

4) Medical device manufacturers are always looking for medical partners like hospitals. Our skill base in the valley for metal machining and plastic injection molding with our hospitals can help draw device companies to the region.

5) Realize the spending potential of students at our four colleges and focus on the retail and commercial businesses that can be supported by the student population.

6) Work with the city’s manufacturing base to help identify key suppliers and any joint venture partners we can meet with directly to discuss expansion opportunities in Springfield.

7) Partner with our neighborhoods to offer incentives to get the type of development and types of businesses they want. I understand that some neighborhoods will be undertaking a neighborhood strategic planning process as a result of the ULI process. These strategies can help identify the businesses in demand and locations for development.

4 Responses to “Campaign 2007: Springfield City Council Candidate Bruce Stebbins”

  1. jessica

    Thank you for doing these interviews. I learn so much more about the candidates (and the city’s issues) here than anywhere else because you ask insightful questions and then don’t cut the responses down to a sound bite.

  2. Heather Brandon http://urbancompass.net

    You’re welcome and thanks for letting me know that these interviews are meaningful to you. The reasons you mention remind me why I think it would be great to see city officials blogging. There is much more depth to explore in our public discourse that blogging can help to tap. And clearly there are some officials who might enjoy writing, such as Stebbins here (nudge).

  3. The Springfield Intruder » One Mo Out, One Mo In http://www.springfieldintruder.com/?p=352

    [...] environment they had hoped to attain back in November – but just barely missed out on when Bruce Stebbins, one of the only non-connected, genuine good guys, just barely managed to slip back into the City [...]

  4. Urban Compass | Blog Archive | Springfield’s Zoning Ordiance Revision: A Preview http://urbancompass.net/?p=1345

    [...] Bob McCarroll of the city’s Historical Commission, downtown resident and City Councilor Bruce Stebbins, and Pat Triggs of the Forest Park Civic Association and Concerned Citizens for [...]

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