Stamford Advocate (Sunday)
Mayoral candidates make rounds at Bedford Street Diner
STAMFORD — Eddie and Sakinah Suttiratana didn’t know that Bobby Valentine was running for mayor until the unaffiliated candidate told them himself Saturday as they were having a meal at the Bedford Street Diner.
With the mayoral election less than three months away, Valentine and state Rep. Caroline Simmons, the Democratic Party-endorsed mayoral candidate, chatted with customers at separate times on Saturday. Simmons first faces a primary with incumbent Mayor David Martin on Sept. 14.
The Suttiratanas, who were at the diner with their son, Elan, said their attention has mostly been focused on Tuesday’s special election for the state Senate’s 36th District seat. They said they needed more time to decide which mayoral candidate would
get their votes.
“We're open to a change, I think,” Eddie Suttiratana said. “I mean, I think David Martin’s done … as good a job as you can do in the current environment. But there's definitely certain things that haven't moved that much since he’s been mayor.”
For instance, he said he is concerned about student outcomes at Stamford public schools. The mayor sits on the Board of Education — but as a nonvoting member.
Valentine went from table to table, booth to booth on Saturday. He was speaking with Andrew Perniciaro, a retired Stamford police officer who told the mayoral candidate that he and his father used to watch Valentine play as a Rippowam High School athlete, when someone heading out of the dinner said to Valentine: “I love you, man.”
“I love when you say that, man,” Valentine replied. As he was telling a story about playing baseball, another customer asked to take a photo with Valentine. Dan Miller, Valentine’s campaign manager, took the photo and urged the customer to tag Valentine on Instagram.
Perniciaro was sitting across from Joe Corsello, a fellow retired city police officer and the Republican candidate for mayor. Corsello stopped by the diner Saturday after hearing that Valentine and Simmons would be there.
Simmons visited the diner about an hour before Valentine. One of the patrons who spoke with her was Joe Denicola, who said he was most concerned about property taxes.
He said he thinks that with the increase in apartment units in the city in recent years, the tax revenue from those buildings should be “alleviating” residents’ taxes. Martin has addressed the issue in the past, but Denicola said he isn’t satisfied.
“I honestly believe we’ve probably got more apartments in Stamford now than we do residential units,” Denicola said.
“We could look into that,” Simmons said. “But it definitely speaks to the issue of, with urban renewal and all this development coming in, it was supposed to ease the burden on the residential side.”
Asked what he thought about Simmons, Denicola described her as “very promotable.” But, he added, Simmons isn’t a “true Stamfordite.”
Simmons is a Greenwich native. She has represented a section of Stamford, including parts of the Glenbrook, Springdale and Newfield neighborhoods, since 2015 and lives in the city with her family.
Later in the morning, Errin Tulud and Sean Mullins said they were pleasantly surprised to see Valentine in the diner.
“No offense to … who’s our mayor now, (but) I don’t know him,” Tulud said. “You don’t see him around. You see him when he needs to speak. … I don’t do politics, so if somebody is going to be out there really getting to know … people, that’s what counts to me.”
Martin recently went door to door over a number of days to gather signatures to force the primary against Simmons.
He told The Stamford Advocate earlier this week that he planned to attend a memorial service for Jack Bryant on Saturday. The former head of the Stamford NAACP died last year after contracting COVID-19. Valentine and Simmons also attended the service. Martin said he was scheduled to visit Curtain Call, the nonprofit theater company, later in the day.
David Agostino, one of the owners of Bedford Street Diner, said the establishment hadn’t reached out to Martin.
“I wanted my customers to see what the future could look like and talk to the two or possibly three new candidates,” Agostino said. “I don’t know what David Martin is going to accomplish in a meet-andgreet … He had eight years to get things done.”