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CCM Leader O'Leary Builds Closer Relationships with Gov, Assembly, OPM

CCM Leader O'Leary Builds Closer Relationships with Gov, Assembly, OPM

Hartford Business Journal, February 8, 2019

By Matt Pilon

At every stage of Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary's career, he's operated under the principle that his decisions directly affect the lives of his neighbors.

Before he was elected Waterbury's chief executive, O'Leary served as the city's police chief. And late last year, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) elected O'Leary to a second term as the organization's president.

It's a powerful position given the state's current budget woes and the impact it could have on municipal funding. CCM will be the main lobbying group fighting to maintain municipal aid at a time when cries for reducing local government costs — through regionalism or other methods — are loudest.

Looking back at his first one-year term as CCM's leader, O'Leary said he was able to build closer relationships between his organization and the governor, legislature and Office of Policy and Management.

Moving into his next CCM term, O'Leary says the most important issues cities and towns face this legislative session are the state's "over-reliance" on property taxes to fund local governments, unfunded state mandates and the cost of the teachers' retirement system to municipalities.

Q&A

Q&A back to top

What is your reaction to Gov. Ned Lamont's comments during a recent speech directed at mayors and first selectmen that they "need to break down silos and engage in the bulk purchasing of everything from health care to technology"?

It highlighted the governor's commitment to promoting regionalism and his focused attention on municipal operations. Cities and towns are already collaborating in many different areas, but there is more work to be done. We're ready to roll up our sleeves and be a part of the solution, not the problem.

So, what does regionalism mean to you and how necessary is it in Connecticut?

Regionalism means municipalities working collaboratively or sharing services in order to more efficiently deliver and improve the level of services provided to local taxpayers. Cities and towns are working together in many different areas and there is a big need to expand it to the education side of municipal government.

What actions can Gov. Lamont take that will most benefit cities and towns?

Gov. Lamont has already done a lot by reaching out, meeting with municipal leaders and listening to our concerns and ideas. By concentrating on three areas — cost containment, shared services and revenue diversification — we can change how we do business. Working together, the state and municipalities can accomplish so much.

In what ways do municipalities and the business community currently work together best?

Connecticut municipalities and the business community work well together when it comes to economic development. We both have a common interest in growing the economy in order to create good-paying jobs, increase discretionary income, improve our quality of life and allow our businesses to flourish and succeed.