Danny Breen appears unruffled in the wake of Andy Wells’ announcement that he’s entering the battle for mayor of St. John’s.
“I have a vision,” said Breen. “I have a plan for us to move forward, I don’t want to get dragged into the past. I want to move forward into the future.”
Breen is currently the councillor for Ward 1, and has been for the past eight years. He announced his intention to run for mayor in March.
“I wanted people to know that I wanted to be the mayor of St. John’s,” he said.
Wells announced this week he wanted the chair back. He was first elected as the mayor in 1997, and then again in 2001 and 2005.
He stepped down in 2008 to become chairman of the Public Utilities Board (PUB), a position from which he resigned a few days before his mayoral announcement.
Wells’ caustic ruling style cost him $7,500 in a defamation lawsuit filed by Art Puddister in 2004.
It also prompted then-councillor Shannie Duff to introduce a motion which changed council bylaws to allow councillors to file complaints against one another.
No interest in getting personal with Wells
Breen said he has no interest in competing with that sort of governing.
“I was told early on by a very seasoned politician that you have to be hard on the issue and easy on the person,” he said.
“That’s the way I am; I don’t get personal about things.”
In his announcement, Wells said municipal taxes have gone up “to an astronomical rate,” and that one of the first things he’d do is restore taxes to 2015 levels.
Breen noted that council achieved that with the 2017 budget.
Wells was also critical of the increase to city workers’ salaries in the 2015 budget.
Breen disagrees with Wells’ numbers
Breen said that increase was necessary and was part of the city’s successful negotiations with their employees to take a different type of pension.
That switch, he said, “will eventually take about $50 million worth of debt off the books,” and save the city from a pension deficit crisis down the road.
Breen said the city has made progress cutting spending and that a “culture of efficiency” is a top priority for him.
He also said there are issues beyond taxation that need attention.
“We need a new focus on governance,” he said.
“We need to make some changes on how we operate. And we also need to look at our…