Darien candidates discuss economy at LWV forum
In a debate where questions ranged from jobs and health care to education, each candidate agreed that Connecticut had plenty of work ahead to balance a budget that is quickly getting out of control.
A number of residents turned out to listen to the incumbent state representatives, senators and their challengers describe strategies to right an economy that is ranked as one of the worst in the country.
On the issue of jobs, State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25) noted that he had helped pass a bill that would create jobs as well as providing loans for small businesses. He acknowledged that the issue of creating jobs was one that would have to be looked at in both the short term and long term.
State Rep. Terrie Wood (R-141), who is running unopposed, stated that it was not the government's job to create jobs; instead, the legislature needed to pass measures that would improve the job climate within the state.
Republican Bob Kolenberg, who is running against State Sen. Andrew McDonald (D-27), told the audience that the State was not doing a good job of creating jobs and unless the business environment improved, businesses would begin going elsewhere which would take the jobs with them.
McDonald agreed with Wood, saying it was not the government's responsibility to create jobs, adding that the government should be looking at ways to encourage job growth. He pointed out that when both parties work together, jobs can be created.
Finally, Artie Kassimiss, the Republican challenger running against Duff, said he was proud to live in Connecticut but doubted his two college-age sons would be able to find jobs in the state. He criticized Duff's voting record, saying Duff voted for increases to taxes and by saying the jobs program had made Connecticut the worst state for jobs.
Other forum questions addressed improving mass transportation and changes to the 8-30g statute regarding affordable housing. All of the candidates agreed that 8-30g needed to be amended so that towns were able to make decisions about how, and if, they want to develop and not be forced to develop.
James Plutte and Clara Sartori were questioned as to how they would control the rising BOE budgets. Both candidates agreed that there wasn't a great deal that could be done about the budget because almost 70 percent is fixed cost. The fixed costs refers to portions of the budget that pay for teachers' salaries.
Plutte said even though the Board doesn't have too much control over the budget, he did expect to see the budget begin to level off in the future.
Sartori agreed with Plutte's assessment and said the Board has made improvements in energy efficiency which have helped drive costs down in the schools.
One audience-generated question asked what type of organizational skills the probate judge should possess. McClancy said he believed the judge would need tremendous organizational skills and be skillful at managing two different court staffs as they are merged into one.
Murray agreed and acknowledged one of the more challenging aspects of the job was finding a way to bring the two courts together. He cited his experience with running a satellite office for his law firm where he is required to make daily personnel decisions.
The debate concluded with the Darien League of Women Voters encouraging everyone to vote on Nov. 2 and to become a member of their league.