Democratic and Republican candidates for State Representative and State Senator met in a spirited but polite debate Monday night at the Hartford Public Library. The debate was hosted by the Hartford Votes/Hartford Vota coalition.
After briefly introducing themselves and answering some prepared questions read out by Hartford Courant columnist Tom Condon, who served as moderator of the debate, the candidates for State Representative fielded questions from the audience.
Hartford resident Hyacinth Yennie asked “all serving legislators” why they weren’t putting more pressure on the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) to hire more city residents and minorities for its ongoing Clean Water Project.
State Representative Douglas McCrory (D-7th District) said, “A couple of years ago I proposed legislation to do just that, but I didn’t get support from my own delegation...we should stand up to them.”
State Representative Matt Ritter (D-1st District), who noted that he wasn’t serving in the legislature at the time McCrory proposed his legislation, said State Senator Eric Coleman had pushed a bill through regarding the MDC project and employment but it had not been as effective as city legislators had hoped. Ritter added that he and others are looking into additional legislation.
Condon then cautioned that city residents with concerns about the MDC project should make sure they have the facts first. “The MDC claims they have good city numbers,” he said.
But the MDC issue came up again just a few minutes later. City resident John Martin said, “The MDC wants $8 million more. They’ve been on Granby Street for three years now. I see very few minorities. I can’t find anyone from Hartford working on the streets of Hartford. What can we do?”
McCrory responded, “Just vote no [to the request for $8 million]. No more money.”
Republican State Representative candidate Mike Lupo (6th District) then came to the microphone and noted that, on this matter, he was speaking not as a candidate but as an MDC?commissioner. Lupo explained that the work being done in the Clean Water Project is mandated by the federal government and that if the residents of the MDC’s member towns turn down its request for the additional $8 million, “the money will just have to come from somewhere else, such as increased water costs or sewer taxes.”
But McCory responded, “If people in the suburbs weren’t getting jobs out of this, they’d vote no, if it wasn’t helping their communities... if we vote no we can slow down this project and talk about what’s going on.” Condon then asked for a new question, saying, “we can’t spend all night on this” in reference to the MDC project.
Hartford Republican Town Committee Chairman Mike McGarry asked the candidates what taxes they would seek to cut or eliminate once the state had it finances back on solid ground. Ritter responded he would want to cut some of the sales tax. Rico Dence, Republican candidate for 6th District State Representative, said he would try to eliminate the tax on motor vehicles because Hartford residents were paying the highest rates in the state for this.
City resident Joanna Iovinno asked the legislators what they were doing to stem the large numbers of African-Americans and Hispanics who are being imprisoned in Connecticut and all over the country. This mass incarceration is a major reason for Hartford’s high unemployment rate, she said.
Ritter said that last year the legislature had passed a bill that eliminated prison terms for minor marijuana infractions.
McCrory agreed that the high rate of imprisonment is a major problem facing Hartford and more should also be done to assist those re-entering society after doing time in prison.