Mark Boughton clubs Finch’s Bass OR Boughton envies bigger city’s big catch?

Mark Boughton, Danbury’s mayor and potential Republican gubernatorial candidate, Friday criticized the final vote giving outdoor retailing giant Bass Pro Shops $31 million in state subsidies to build a new store/tourist attraction off of I-95 in Bridgeport.

“This is an outrageous use of taxpayer dollars,” said Boughton in a statement. “In Danbury we’ve grown our economy by holding the line on taxes and working to improve the business climate.  We have recruited blue chip retail operations like Microsoft, Whole Foods, and LL Bean without the use of taxpayer giveaways. (Democratic) Gov. (Dannel) Malloy is whitewashing his leadership failures on the economy with our money.”

The Bass deal is considered a big win for Bridgeport and Mayor Bill Finch, who believes having the popular retailer as an anchor tenant will finally move the long-dormant Steel Point harbor front development forward after decades of fits and starts. Bass Pro is currently scheduled to open sometime in 2015.

FINCHBASS Finch last summer announcing Bass Pro is building in Bridgeport

boughtonWEB Somber, Bass-less Boughton

And it can’t hurt Malloy, who – as was the case in 2010 – may need every vote he can muster in Democratic Bridgeport to win re-election in 2014.

But these economic development deals for Bass Pro and other “big box” retailers have been drawing greater and greater scrutiny as a waste of taxpayer dollars in Connecticut and elsewhere.

The fact Boughton decided it was worth dragging the Bass deal into the gubernatorial campaign is noteworthy.

It’s also worth noting that Boughton and Finch serve together on the board of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities as president and second vice president.

The state’s Democratic Party was quick to take Boughton to task, calling him a hypocrite for welcoming a taxpayer-subsidized business to Danbury.

“Mark Boughton can’t have it both ways- he praises investments in Danbury, but chastises job creation efforts in all other Connecticut communities,” said Connecticut Democratic Party Executive Director Jonathan Harris.  “That’s not leadership for Danbury and it’s certainly not leadership for the State of Connecticut.  One of the reason’s Danbury is doing reasonably well is because of Governor Malloy’s job creation investments, just like the one approved today for Bridgeport.  Mr. Boughton should save his nonsensical ramblings for his Twitter page.”

Brian Lockhart