Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Candidate forum at town hall - Representative debate

The Greater Middletown League of Women Voters hosted a debate among candidates vying for each of the 4 different State representative districts in Middletown. All eight candidates appeared, and there was a good crowd in Council Chambers.

In opening statements, after making a case for their candidacy by offering qualifications, each candidate admitted that the problems in the economy would overshadow discussions, or shaped discussions of all issues. The questions from the audience, and the candidates' answers also were largely related to the economy:
  • What is the most critical issue facing the state
  • Be more specific about what services you will cut to balance the budget
  • How can Connecticut help students pay for college if the credit markets restrict loans?
  • What is your position on the status of the Connecticut juvenile training center (CJTC) in Middletown?
Jim O'Rourke (D)- 32nd District, Incumbent

JIm O'Rourke felt that at a time of economic need, it was important to create new initiatives, particularly green iniatives, and in fact, creating a department of Clean Energy. He proposed cutting spending and waste in the Department of Transportation, citing the $800M train repair facility in New Haven and the botched repair of I84.
He proposed using state funds to guarantee college loans if other sources of credit were not available to Connecticut residents.
O'Rourke stated that he fought against making the CJTS huge, preferring smaller facilities, but that Rowland era corruption led to the large facility we have now.
In his closing arguments he emphasized his diligence as a legislator, and his accomplishments that are real and relevant to the lives of the people he represents.

Scott Adamson (R) - 32 District, Challenger

On the contrary, Adamson indicated that growing government at a time of great economic need was exactly the wrong direction to take. He would eliminate fat in state departments, and would place term limits on legislators, whom he noted, received pensions after 10 years of part-time work. He would consolidate senior service centers near Norwalk, reform welfare and unemployment. He would not cut jails, education, or the court system.
He would turn to the Federal government to help students with college aid. He advocated for college opportunities such as correspondence courses for non-traditional students.
He deferred to the citizens of Middletown and would work with other representatives on the issue of the CJTF.
In his closing statement, he challenged listeners to ask whether they in a better position today as a result of the many years that Democrats have been in power in the State House.

Joe Serra (D) - 33rd District, Incumbent

Serra indicated he would attempt to cut budgets, but in ways which would not affect the public directly, as it might in public safety. He noted that stimulating Connecticut business through loans was a way to stimulate the entire economy. He noted that substantial cuts in the State budget could only be achieved by cutting budgets for education and for transportation. He suggested delaying some transportation projects for a few years.
He said that there are state programs available for college aid, but if they are not working we need to create new ones.
He pointed out the CJTF has been in Middletown since 1872, and urged residents to keep an eye on this $60M facility.
In his closing statements Serra emphasized how he has served constituents, helping them cut through state red tape and getting answers.

Catherine Johnson (R) - 33rd District, Challenger

Johnson has created a campaign around a renaissance in transit. Her theory is that creation of solid public transit will create jobs, save money, stimulate the economy, help communities and neighborhoods and offer a progressive use of land. According to Johnson, connecting people through transit is the key. Cities should not be pitted against cities in their efforts to attract businesses.
She proposed to cut subsidies for private automobile transportation, and to instead spend money on special education services.
She did not propose any state programs to help students with college costs, but instead encouraged ingenuity and perhaps a deferral of college for some students.
She lambasted the CJTF as one of the greatest tragedies, from its design through its construction and operation.
In her closing remarks, she again emphasized the need for sustainable practices in land use, that support and build neighborhood patterns.

Gail Hamm (D) - 34th District, Incumbent

Hamm urged the state to work on the basis of results based accountability - demonstrating the worth of a program through its outcomes. She also noted her work to reject an adjustment in the already-passed two year budget, in consideration of the times.
She questioned whether this is the right time to cut the state budget. She promised to look at all areas of the budget for cuts, but said that funds should not be cut to people who need help.
On college assistance, she said that the Federal government is doing a good job. She touted CHET, the tax-free state 529 fund for college expenses.
She was the only representative from Middletown to vote against the CJTF, and has been trying to stop any expansion.
In her closing remarks, she touted both her record of accomplishments and the leadership that she brings by virtue of her committee chairmanships.

David Bauer (R) - 34th District, Challenger

Bauer thought that the emphasis on spending was the wrong approach to the budget, and to economic woes. His approach is to concentrate on revenues - increasing them where possible, and to be honest about the deficit.
He said if spending had to be cut, it should be cut everywhere. He pointed to education as one area in particular that could be cut.
He said that student college aid and loans was better left to the federal government. He said the state legislature should work to stop costs from rising, and should reduce the high-paying patronage jobs in higher education.
He said that the CJTF was obviously not working, and blamed the incumbents in the State House for its failure.
In his closing remarks, Bauer said that government is not listening to the people. He railed against the closed loop of lobbyists and legislators, and said it was time for a change in the State House.

(Editor's note: In his closing remarks Bauer made a defining comment about his candidacy. He said that he wanted to end the closed relationship between legislators, lobbyists and state bureaucrats which isolates legislators from the people they represent. We failed to report on this statement, and so, we offer this addendum.)

Ray Kalinowski (R) - 100th district, Incumbent

Kalinowski urged spending controls, and a comprehensive energy policy. He noted that government cannot create prosperity, but that it can create an atmosphere, through spending controls, in which the economy can begin to heal.
He proposed short term cuts in the budget such as eliminating non-essential overtime, freezing hires of state employees, eliminating consultants. He said a tax amnesty would bring added income. In the long term he proposed streamlining state spending.
He proposed that the state provide funds to anybody who wants to pursue education, which he viewed as the best investment in our state.
He proposed turning the CJTF into a nurse training facility, and objected to the large number of state facilities that are located in Middletown.
In his closing remarks, he said that he believed in a free and open market, entrepreneurship, self-reliance, and personal responsibility.

Matt Lesser (D) - 100th district, Challenger

Lesser concurred that the economy was an important issue, especially in a state where seniors are forced to leave homes they've lived in all their lives because of increasing property tax. His approach is to address the issues of job loss, education and land use, all with an eye to a fragile economy.
He supported the Attorney General's call to divide the Department of Children and Families, and suggested that this would save costs. He suggested that the budgets for the Department of Social Services and for the Department of Transportation could be cut.
He suggested that the college tuition problem is a long-standing issue. He said the state should focus on keeping Connecticut college graduates in Connecticut after college.
On the subject of CJTF, he railed at the large number of state facilities located in Middletown. He said the PILOT (state payments in lieu of taxes) program needed to be reformed, pointing out that Middletown gets only 70 cents on the dollar for the costs of these state facilities.
In his closing statement, Lesser called for change in government at all levels, from the presidency to the 100th district representative.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks for both of these summaries. You helped me make up my mind!

David Bauer said...

David Bauer:

Thanks for the great job covering LWV's candidate forum.

I would like to offer two points about the synopsis on my comments:

First, if I said that we should "cut everywhere", then I misspoke. I am fed up with generalizations like that and hope that I never say such things. I remember saying that my short answer was that "we should look everywhere for savings".

Second, in my closing remarks, I emphasized a trilogy that insulates our Legislature from the people: incumbent Legislators, Lobbyists, and State Bureaucrats.

I will check what I said if this is re-broadcast on Channel 15 and make sure that I don't say such un-nuanced statements in the future.

Barrie said...

To whomever put up campaign signage on my Saybrook Road property for David Bauer, whom I respect and appreciate as a thoughtful and active member of our Common Council, I removed the sign to across the street with the your other one. If you have not checked with my neighbor over there, it is the first house up from the corner. Thanks!

Additionally, The Middletown Eye is incredibly helpful, well-written and informative. Yes, good deeds are their own reward but isn't there some way to compensate all the labor that contributes to its success besides being grateful?