Walking in the rain

May 18, 2006 at 5:27 pm | Posted in Walking and Talking | Leave a comment

I walked in the rain a few times over the past two weeks.  I really did not have a choice because it has rained so much and I have alot of ground to cover.  I did not think I would mind it and at first I did not think I would need an umbrella. Wrong!!!  Not only did I get wet (less important) but all of my stuff got wet (my campaign literature) and worst of all my pen would not work on the wet paper.  I just never thought this would matter but it really does.  Part of what I am doing when I am walking around is keeping track of what people talk about, what they care about, if they are interested in what I have to say.  I cannot remember all the people I talk to if I cannot write something down about them to help me.  It was a big mess and I was wet and cold.  I did it for a few days but I also took a break.

Walking the district

May 16, 2006 at 9:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized, Walking and Talking | Leave a comment

I started walking door-to-door in my district; it is the most old fashion way of campaigning. I have heard from many that this is the most effective way to meet voters but I have also talked to critics who say is an ineffective use of time? I am not sure who is right here; I guess we will find out in November. It’s time intensive and if I want to walk the entire district once it will take me nearly five months (thus the reason I started so soon). I already have a load of funny, interesting and intimidating stories about my experiences at people’s doors and when I started sharing some of them with my husband, he suggested I put them on the blog. Good idea.

So far, I am surprised at how many people simply say, “This is the year for a Democrat” or “it is time for a change” it is so interesting but people’s disenchantment with our president and Congress is far reaching. I have heard this many times from Republicans, Democrats and Independent voters. People are disturbed in a frightened kind of way. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues as I walk into different communities and different economic circles. I will let you know.

PAC Money

May 15, 2006 at 11:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So… as a challenger I do not expect a lot of PAC (Political Action Committee) money. It is just the way the game works, I am told. My opponent, on the other hand, will probably receive much of her money via PAC’s. Again just the way it works.

I never really appreciated what all the talk was about. How many say PAC money is bad and how it negatively affects the system, until recently. I was contacted by a PAC organization that has a vested interest in seeing my incumbent challenger removed from office, thus they have a reason to talk with me. I agreed to meet with them simply because I was interested in learning more about the issues they represent?!?!? That’s what they do, right, represent various issues of importance?

I wanted the meeting to be a discussion/education about their issues. My idea was that I could learn first hand why they cared so deeply about the groups they represented. The problem is that they treated the meeting as an opportunity to, quite literally, dangle a carrot of money and support in front of me. If I was willing to promise that once elected I would vote a certain way, they would support my campaign heavily with money and man power? Talk about cut to the chase.

I was sort of stunned that they were taking my candidacy so seriously that they were actually trying to bribe me before I was elected to anything. I guess I should be honored, but I wasn’t, I was offended. I was offended that when I refused to promise to vote a certain way and said I wanted to understand both sides of the issue fully they were visibly annoyed. It was a you are with us or against us mentality with no room for reason or compromise. When I asked questions about why they were seeking certain policy changes, I got vague, undetailed answers. The type of answers that make anyone think, there has to be more to this, they are hiding something?

So, I stood my ground, refused to offer anything but a promise to completely understand the issue and left the meeting a bit shaken. I decided I would not like to take any PAC support and certainly I will not take money from this group. Since, I have to raise a ton of money that may be easier said then done, we will see.

Why is PAC money a bad deal for the average voter? I now know first hand it is because they are trying to buy their way into the system from the inside and affect change that may not be best for the common good.

The irony is I think I may have supported them in the long run, ……….. Well, actually maybe not!

Stemming Overdevelopment

April 8, 2006 at 5:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I recently spoke to a Fairfield resident and activist for smart growth and responsible development. He wanted to talk about the residential and commercial development that is aggressively challenging the character of area communities. He called to get a sense of where I fall on the many common development issues facing our town. For me it was an opportunity to learn more about the complex phrase “smart growth”, and examine the ideas that are being proposed that aim to foster growth that brings economic opportunity but does not destroy the strength and character of
Connecticut.

His highlighted concerns included:

1) The “Big Box Store”:

This is a guy who would literally give his life to prevent a big box store like Wal-Mart from coming into our town. He mentioned many of the ways these types of retail box stores degrade the quality and character of a town. He was passionate about how they threaten long time established mom and pop stores that help maintain our small town feeling.

2) New residential communities:

This one is scary because in the six and half years I have lived in Fairfield, I too, have witnessed open space dwindle as new home constructions pops up. I appreciate new construction and realize each new home adds to our tax base but worry as I drive by, “Oh, those homes are in the>

Riverfield School district, that school already has four portable class rooms??… Where are they going to put the additional kids that move into those new homes?”

3) Regulating building size:

Lastly, he brought up the over-development taking place as builders buy small homes to tear down and build massive replacement homes on small lots.

What can be done to address his development concerns???

He talked about a recent blue commission report on smart growth conducted by a group of concerned residents and appointed by the First Selectman. One of its proposed suggestions includes limiting the size and height of new construction particularly in existing residential communities. He pointed out that he strongly favors these types of restrictions but that others do not.

Another idea he brought up is the idea of legislating a town’s ability to charge “development fees” on various types of development projects based on their predicted use or overuse of town services. The idea is that if a developer comes in and builds 17 new homes on previously open space in a school district with already over crowded schools the town could impose a “development fee” to cover the additional cost to town services and schools. He pointed out that local towns are not allowed to impose such fees and that it would take action in the state legislature to create a system that from the top down helps our local communities stem off over-development. . It is an interesting concept and one I do not know much about, it appears only a handful of states have moved to dissuade over-development with these types of fees.

Taxes and Budgets

March 19, 2006 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I spent some time talking the other day with a group of four relatively mainstream suburban Connecticut moms. What I mean by mainstream is fiscally conservative, socially progressive (Democrat and Republican) women who understand the important role government plays in our lives, but at the same time, are concerned about what happens to our money when the government gets it. The topic of conversation ….. TAXES, Taxes, taxes!

One woman brought up the book the “Greatest Generation” (most of our grandparents) and how all of society was asked to contribute or sacrifice for the sake of the war. But for us…well?!?! One of the women had a daughter who was learning about WWII and how the country sacrificed at many levels to win the war, she pointedly asked her mother one night, “ Mom, what are we doing to help win the war?” She said, “Well honey, the President told us to go shopping.” We all laughed but then realized this was not that untrue.

In the book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman writes about that point. He says, “when we got hit with 9/11, it was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to summon the nation to sacrifice, to address some of the pressing fiscal, energy, science and education shortfalls that we had let slide. But our President did not summon us to sacrifice. He summoned us to go shopping.” The other women in the group had not read the book but they certainly understood.

Government costs associated to the war go up and revenue coming in goes down because of tax cuts. So decisions are being made at the federal level to reconcile some of this by gutting social policy spending whenever possible? The rest of the unreconciled debt will just be left for someone else.

I guess we ended up in a sort of melancholy mood commenting on the future we are allowing to be created for our kids. One friend commented that those in the “greatest generation” would be remembered for their sacrifice and what would we be remembered for, would our generation have a label? “Selfish… Just went shopping!”

Economic Development

March 7, 2006 at 11:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I recently had the opportuntiy to talk with several locally elected officals about Economic Development.

It is an interesting subject and my conversations had a surprising outcome. While other states across the country have taken economic development seriously, for some reason Connecticut, I am told, has not been paying attention. While other states are actively and even agressively working to steal our jobs and our corporate tax base, we have sat idilly by. A governor of one of these states was actually quoted saying, “the great thing about Connecticut, (in terms of economic development efforts) is that they do not even know there is a competition going on.” That is how other state leaders view us. As a state that assumes we have so much going for us that we do not have to work at it to compete for our jobs.

At the same time I have learned, that the legislature and other elected officials do not really get involved. This seems counter intuitive. Shouldn’t our locally elected officals know, care and fight for the corporations in their districts as well as the people. I am told that part of the problem is that the centralized economic development office does not provide a structure to allow true regional development projects to take flight. One candidate for Governor, Dan Malloy, explained the current bureaucracy and its shortfalls to me the other night. I was impressed at his idea and plan to bring new statewide community development initiatives to Connecticut. Regionally, appointed boards could develop and implement plans while taking advantage of federal funding that exists to pay for many initiatives. He suggested checking out his web site for more details. I think I will!

Talk About The War

March 2, 2006 at 11:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I recognize that the issue of the war in Iraq has almost nothing to do with my campaign and if elected as state representative I will not be in a position to make a differnece on the outcome, that being said, alot of people are talking about the war.  I learned recently, from a friend, that my willingness to talk about the war simply gives people an opportuntiy to learn about me.  And that, he says, is important!!

 Yesterday, for the first time, I could not watch the news coverage. I had to turn off the TV not because I do not support the troops but because I am simply horrified at the current situation in Iraq.  I sort of numbly watch and wonder how did we get to this point, how did the very smart people advising the president and the president make so many mistakes and miscalculations?  I pray that Iraqs new democracy will take root and grow stability but I worry because I do not see it happening and I wonder…. what have we done!!

 I have to be totally honest, as I was with my friend, I am one of those mainstream soccer moms that put my concerns for my family's and our country's security first.  I reluctantly supported the war in Iraq, because, well … I thought we had no choice and I thought it was a just war based on the threat that Saddam and his croonies posed.  In that line of thinking I also thought, our president was making a tough decision and I was proud he was willing to make it and stand up for us.

At some point I started to question, like many people, and I started to read more that has been published by peace oranizations and those speaking out against the war.  Over time I learned alot, changed my mind and realized there are always options against agressive actions…  against war!

I receive a great political magazine with articales written by clergy of all different faiths.  I came across a quote in a story that has stayed with me.  Maybe it was instumental in changing my thoughts?  It said, Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."  It is the word PEACEMAKER.  It is at first glance just a funny word choice, but at closer look you realize is is an action word that speaks to the leaders of our world and to those that are in the position to work to bring peace. 

The reason I like that quote is it turns out I have learned that the path to peace .. to non-war .. is more difficult.  It is a more difficult option and requires great diplomatic skill, patience and determination. We had an awesome opportunity after 9/11 to become PEACEMAKERS of the world, we didn't apply those skills to the situation in Iraq and now……..I wish we had!

Funding For Our Schools

February 2, 2006 at 3:30 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

It is that time of year! All around Fairfield County locally elected officials are beginning the “budget process”, this is a months long endeavor that includes tons of public meetings, comments and deliberation about funding for various projects that matter to us. In the end a budget document, no matter what level of government, reflects the priorities of the people it serves. When you read between the lines it shares our values, the things we value are funded other projects or line items simply get lost. Sometimes our elected officials get it right sometimes they are not tuned into the small things that really matter and they miss the boat.

I noticed that many towns are currently struggling with how to cope with the rising costs of funding education and here in Fairfield the debate began this week with a larger then expected, but needed, budget increase for our schools. Last year we lost money in the budget for our school paraprofessionals. This cut was much more far reaching then any one realized.

But the parents and the kids could tell you why money for these positions matters, if someone had listened to the parents and the kids we could have shared the day to day impact a paraprofessional has on the classroom. They fill a void and allow our classes to function with a feeling that they are smaller then actual size. They work with the kids when the teachers cannot and are at the grassroots in the classroom each day helping our kids learn.

This year is tricky, some of our leaders say cuts must be made while others say there is nothing left to cut???? I am on the side of the education advocates, hoping our schools will not be forced to cut more teachers and increase class sizes. We will have to see whose voice is heard during the process this year.

One parent I know who follows the budget process closely recently shared her thoughts with me:

The teachers are amazing, the support staff is so dedicated. I am a huge advocate for the staff at the schools. My son, has had attention issues from 1st grade and now he’s in 4th. I cannot tell you the support we have received. Whether it is a simple email from the teacher telling me how the day is going or a meeting with different members of the staff throwing out ideas of what will work best. I get teary thinking about it. The schools are alive all day and into the night. Teachers don’t work an 8 hour day. I have been at BOE meetings and they are sitting with the crowd correcting papers or reading articles on teaching. These are very special people.

A great idea for people who like to talk policy issues

January 26, 2006 at 9:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I recently joined a political letter writing club.  It is a facinating group of women who all care deeply about the future of our town, state and country.  Even more impressive is that they understand the value of their voice and that if they do not use their voice and speak up in the process it will not be heard.  They get together once a month, much like a book club, and they discuss a relevent issue of the day.  The best part is after a healthy conversation, with often differing views, they put pen to papar and write letters to elected officials (even more clever is to have laptops on sight and write and send thoughts on the spot).

 I am hosting the next meeting of the group and the issue for the month will be clean vehicles and the idea of putting tax incentives in place to encourage people to drive more energy effiicient cars.  This is actually a timly issue because the Connecticut General Assembly is due to discuss this idea during thier session that begins next month.  I am interested to hear what a group of mothers turned community activist have to say abou the idea?

Meeting Constituents

January 24, 2006 at 9:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I attended my first constituent event. The idea is that people (in this case friends and neighbors) get together and talk about their concerns about our future. It is supposed to be a helpful, insightful, grassroots approach to learning about what matters to voters. I am looking forward to attending many of these, I think it will be the best way for me to determine if the issues I care about are also concerns of my constituents.

We talked about traffic and schools; I expected those. The two issues I found most interesting were Fair Share Health Care legislation and a state legislators role in economic development? Two different issues, I was surprised and impressed that these were in the forefront of people’s minds.

Fair Share Health Care legislation is being discussed all over the country and many people simply call it the Wal-Mart bill because in many cases the legislatures are using these new laws to try and force Wal-Mart and other big businesses to provide better health insurance coverage to their workers. A nice idea in theory. Interestingly, the impact of such laws may not have the desired result. One of my neighbors mentioned that in Maryland, (where a law like this has passed) Wal-mart decided to move 800 jobs out of the state in protest.

Really it is the root of the issue that is the problem — access to health insurance and affordable health care. I am not sure I have an opinion on the Wal-mart legislation but it seems that this type of law would serve only as a band-aid approach to fixing the much deeper rooted issue of access and affordability.

The other question that came up was the role of a State Legislator in helping or supporting locally based economic development projects. Can a legislator effectively work in a state capitol and help develop the corporate tax base through legislated incentives? Another story that was brought up was (I do not know it to be true) but that GE, an important corporate partner to my district and the Fairfield community, recently chose to grow a new division with several hundred jobs in Ohio instead of in Fairfield, CT. The question was if this is true, where were our locally elected legislators, did they know and could they have done anything to help keep those jobs here in Connecticut?

I told you two big whammy’s for a first time constituent event. Regular voters have some pretty forward thinking ideas. I will work on finding answers and let them and you know.

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