Monday, October 27, 2008

Candidates meet at Westfield Forum

The Westfield Residents Association held a Meet the Candidates Forum Monday Night at the Third Congregational Church in Westfield for at least the 10th election season.

US Congressional and State Senate and Representative candidates were invited and all but 3rd Congressional District US Representative Republican candidate Bo Itshaky, attended.

The format, opening statements followed by questions from Westfield residents, made for a lively discussion, in fact much more lively than the candidate forum conducted by the League of Women Voters.

Westfield resident Stephen Devoto hosted.

US Congressional Candidates, Democratic incumbent Rosa DeLauro, and Green candidate Ralph Ferruci opened the session.

Rosa DeLauro began her presentation with a suggestion that served as backdrop for all speakers – a worldwide economic crisis that has come to haunt the neighborhoods of every American town.

DeLauro emphasized her record and accomplishments in health care for children, agricultural bill improvements, FDA regulations, equal pay and breast health care legislation. She sees her responsibility to address the economic crisis by investing in clean alternative energy, health care for all, and strong regulation of financial markets.

In answers to questions from the audience DeLauro indicated that greed and deregulation caused the current financial crisis, and that the people responsible should be prosecuted. She also noted that if the British can prevent rogue financiers from walking away with bonuses, that we ought to be able to do the same in this country.

As regards health insurance, she bridled at the suggestion that Congress people do not pay for their health insurance, and suggested that the country should build on the success of Medicare by making it stronger. She also suggested that the way to improved health care is through preventive medicine, lowering drug prices and improving medical technology.

Finally in response to a question about Barack Obama’s tax plan, DeLauro reaffirmed her alignment with Obama, saying that, “when it comes to providing a tax break, that tax break ought to go to middle class America. Middle class families ought to be able to sustain themselves”

Ralph Ferruci, of the Green Party pinned most of the nation’s woes on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He called for the impeachment and prosecution of George Bush, and made a plea for real universal health care in a single payer system.

While Ferruci displayed an idealogical earnestness, his answers seemed to indicate in their tone, and delivery, that he feels his candidacy is an uphill battle.

Ferruci indicated that the $700 billion tax bailout would amount to $27,000 for every taxpayer in Connecticut, and that the bailout would have been better structured if aid was given to taxpayers, and not to financial institutions. He also pinned the lack of substantial healthcare legislation on the 1000 healthcare lobbyists for every representative in Congress.

He also noted that, in his opinion, the promised Obama tax break promise is impossible to keep in the current economic climate.

In the debate between 9th district State Senate candidates, incumbent Democrat Paul Doyle and Republican challenger Ralph Capenera, the contentious tone of their campaign continued.

Senator Paul Doyle claimed that the campaign had been difficult for him because, as he characterized it, “this is a race of personal destruction.” He made a plea to his challenger to return to the issues.

“It’s not about me, or about you Ralph,” he said. “It’s about the issues. I’m not embarrassed to stand in this church and talk about anything I’ve talked about in this campaign. I wish my opponent could talk in this church, but he’s embarrassed” Doyle asked his opponent to make a pledge to end negative campaigning, but it was a challenge his opponent refused to acknowledge.

In answers to questions, Doyle acknowledged that Middletown bore more than its fair share of large state facilities, but that he would fight any expansion of the Connecticut Juvenile Training Center. He also indicated that he would attempt to shift emphasis in the legislature from industrial incentives away from things like the film industry and toward clean energy incentives, and green industry.

Republican Senate challenger Ralph Capenera, claimed that his campaign was not an attack campaign, but one which was addressing the record of his challenger.

His major legislation is a 3% cap on property tax.

Capenera agreed with a questioner that Middletown was unfairly burdened with more than its share of large mental health, correctional institutions, half-way houses and transitional housing , and that he was not afraid to fight to keep additional institutions from being located in Middletown.

Democratic challenger for the 100th State Representaive District Matt Lesser opened his statements with a plea for change. He emphasize that the tax system needs an overhaul, small business needs incentive, health care costs need to be addressed, and the state needs to focus on renewable energy, education and a new course for government.

Lesser believes the state, and municipalities need to find a happy medium between development and preservation of open space. He said he would have opposed a big box store (Price Chopper) in Durham.

With a ten percent rise in property taxes, Lesser believes that those on a fixed income, particularly seniors and young people hoping to buy homes, are most affected. He noted that if there was a silver lining in the economic crisis, it was the impetus to find new answers and new ideas, including regional cooperation.

Incumbent Republican Representative Ray Kalinowski also acknowledged the economic problems which has put state and local government in dire straits. He believes in controlling spending, creating an environment that’s friendly to business, and boosting cost sharing in his district for education.

Kalinowski feels that strengthened planning and zoning commissions combined with regional planning will help create better balanced development. He believes strongly in regionalism as a means to find savings in many areas including public works, schools and economic development.

Republican challenger for State Representative in the 33rd District Catherine Johnson continued to press her contention that solving transit problems is the key to solving many problems on a state and local level. She sees trains and express buses as economic generators which could revive business, communities and neighborhoods, while shifting priorities from a steady diet of petroleum.

She emphasized her experience in the movement toward Smart Growth for communities in the district and throughout the state. She added that regional planning for many of these issues can help speed changes.

Democratic incumbent for the seat, Joseph Serra, insists that any cuts in government must be done judiciously so as not to hurt vulnerable citizens. His ideas is to cut big ticket items like school building and out-of-control DOT projects.

Serra is vehemently opposed to county government which he noted, was done away with in 1959. But he does see some advantage in regional cooperation in areas like education and water supply and distribution. As an example where he thinks regional planning can work is fire departments.

"We have 330 fire departments in 169 towns," he said. "Each spending money to buy the best equipment."

Middletown mayor Sebastian Giuliano ended the evening with an explanation of three city referendum items. Giuliano said that a water and sewer question would provide needed increased water pressure for the West side of town, to address current pressure shortages, and to address future development. He explained that the bond, a general obligation bond, will be paid through water and sewer revenue.

The other two referendum questions are asking for approval of City Charter revisions, which the mayor characterized as “housekeeping.” The housekeeping includes language which assures that any agreement of financial impact needs Common Council approval, that referendum petitions must be approved as “legal” by the town attorney and, finally, that the mayor will issue a report at the end of every fiscal year.

The mayor was questioned about the effect that the credit crunch will have on the city’s search for bonding for the sewer referendum. Giuliano said that his worry was less about the credit crunch and more about the bond rating as a result of a fund balance weakened by costs from the recently negotiated police contract and the long-pending sale of the Remington-Rand building, which puts a $3million dent in the fund.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Ed and the Middletown Eye for the excellent reporting! Reading the Eye is the next best thing to being there.

Just a quick comment, however, on the word counts for each candidate (this is given in the order of reporting):

DeLauro (D, incumbent): 237
Ferruci (G, challenger): 146

Doyle (D, incumbent): 164 words
Capanera (R, challenger): 79 words

Lesser (D, challenger): 142
Kalinowsk (R, incumbent): 80

Johnson (R, challenger): 91
Serra (D, incumbent): 104

Save for the house race between Johnson and Serra, the word counts favor the Democrats by a wide margin. It may well be that those Democrats are far more long-winded than their Republican and Green opponents, and that the reporting accurately reflects the time each took in speaking. But I think the word counts are worth pointing out in any case, since it will help The Middletown Eye in its quest for balance. (This should not be read as criticism, since like all Middletown residents I am enormously grateful for the coverage that all the wonderful Eye reporters are providing -- this newsblog is the best thing that has happened in Middletown since the tunneling of Route 9 and the recapture of our river-front [oh, wait, that hasn't happened yet].)

Also it was reported with respect to the Doyle-Capanera contest that "the contentious tone of their campaign continued." I wonder whether this displays an inherent bias against Capanera, since Doyle and his supporters are the ones claiming that the Capanera camp is engaging in negative campaigning. One could, I suppose, counter that Doyle's claim that Capanera is pursuing "the politics of personal destruction" is contentious as well, and conclude that therefore the reporting on this issue is fair. The reader must decide. For my part, I find the Doyle camp's complaints a tad disingenuous. Methinks they protesteth too much.

I don't know much about either candidate, frankly. But I am interested in the fact that Capanera seems to be the only one -- in any of the races -- taking up the issue of Middletown being overburdened with "halfway houses" and the like. This is a very important issue that doesn't seem to be getting the coverage that it should. Perhaps it will emerge as more central in the coming year, as we gear up for the city council and mayoral elections -- I certainly hope so. But it is an issue that requires a coordinated approach between city leaders and our state and federal delegations.

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

Interesting to see the breakout. Perhaps it's a subconscious Democratic lean, but considering there are Republican candidates I support, it's hard to tell.

The goal was not to count words, but to try to report on the substance of the presentations.

The other goal was to try to avoid repetition of presentations made the other night at League of Women Voters.

Finally, the adjective "contentious" describes the Doyle, Capanera campaign well. It is contentious, on both sides now, no matter who started the fight.

While I think it's dutiful for the Eye to report on this stuff, and to be accurate and fair, it's actually a deadly boring assignment - politicians saying what they think you want to hear. Typical campaign blather. But that's and editorial comment, and it's why it's relegated to the comments section.

David Bauer said...

Challenger Matt Lessor made a huge gaffe last night saying that the State of Connecticut has not paid its 60% plus contribution to the new Middletown High School. The “Eye” did not report this but I would like to assure the Westfield residents who attended that this is false. The Building Project is up to date on their State reimbursements.

This was an important issue because incumbent Joe Serra singled out Public School building projects when asked about cutting State spending. Do you think he would be advocating that if Middletown had not received its funds?