OIB has submitted five questions to State Senate candidates Ernie Newton, Ed Gomes and Andres Ayala. The three will face off in a Democratic primary on Aug. 14, the most-watched legislative race in the state. Newton is the first to submit his responses. The questions are based on suggestions submitted by OIB readers. OIB looks forward to receiving responses from Gomes and Ayala. See questions to Newton and responses below.
Q. If you’re elected to the State Senate, how will it be different this time?
A. You live and you learn. As a person, I grow every day. If I’m fortunate enough to represent this district again I am going there as a fighter on behalf of this community with an urban agenda. I’ve always been a loud voice, but this time around, I’m bringing everybody else’s voice with me to Hartford. We’re going to demand that the 23rd Senate District gets its just due and we need to bring jobs to our community as the top priority. If I’m elected, people in the community know that it’s not a stepping stone position or a lockstep vote–they know I’m going up there as one of them.
Q. The Charter Revision Commission has formulated a question that will appear on the November ballot asking city voters to approve a mayoral-appointed Board of Education. Do you support an elected BOE or one appointed by the mayor?
A. My position is that any solution that gives our kids better tools in their education is positive. I think the issue of our city’s education has finally come to a boiling point and it’s up to the people to decide which direction it should go. I am a big proponent of supporting the will of the people. I do believe strongly that local, community people know best about the qualities they are looking for in leaders. Whether they are appointed or elected, the people of Bridgeport should have the loudest voice in any major decision facing our City and its education system and those people should be the ones serving.
Q. What specific pieces of legislation were authored or co-authored by you that became law that directly helped Bridgeport?
A. In my time in the House and in the Senate, I worked on a lot of legislation that helped Bridgeport. In 2002, we were able to get a bill signed concerning illegal dumping, clarifying that a person must be authorized to use property for illegal dumping. In 1999, we were able to establish a Fatherhood Initiative and Fatherhood Council which promotes public education concerning the financial and emotional responsibilities of fatherhood; assists men in preparation for the legal, financial and emotional responsibilities of fatherhood; promotes the establishment of paternity at childbirth and so on. In 1997, I was a proud co-sponsor of the legislation that established the Husky Plan, providing Health Care for uninsured children. Also, I was a co-sponsor in bringing attention to racial profiling in traffic stops. We were able to get a bill signed that set guidelines for policies to be established by local and state police departments which states clearly that the race or ethnicity of an individual should not be the only factor in determining the existence of probable cause in a traffic stop.
Q. What is the most important issue in Bridgeport that needs fixing?
A. Education. When you talk about any issue facing our city either now or in the future, it’s going to come down to how prepared our youth are to succeed. That includes having positive activities to do once the school day is done, leadership programs, and a reinforced training plan to get more kids involved in the trades. Bridgeport kids need to have the diverse tool kit it’s going to take to keep up in the fast-paced world we’re all living in and still adjusting to. A well-rounded, educated young person will help Bridgeport create jobs, build stronger communities, slow crime, increase our neighborhood pride and so much more. Education is truly the key. As we’re having these important discussions about our education system and its process, it’s important to remember at each turn that our kids need opportunities, just like the adults do.
Q. What can you do on a legislative level to attract private-sector investment, jobs and build the Bridgeport tax base?
A. We need to create a sustainable urban agenda. There are a few things that we can do right away. The first would be to re-evaluate our Enterprise Zones. When they were established, they were supposed to be a tool in attracting business to our urban centers. That has since been watered down and probably not as effective as we would have hoped. Looking at the purpose of these zones would be beneficial, especially now when Bridgeport has the attention of investors. The second thing we can do is reassess the PILOT process. In Bridgeport we have too deep a reliance on personal property taxes for our residents. We provide a lot of services in the city and are not getting adequately compensated for the entities providing these services that are not on the tax rolls. Without some type of property tax reform, even if we get an abundance of private investment, sooner or later that tax burden will be shifted to the new businesses and companies. It may be a sound investment now, but we have to make sure it’s sustainable for the long run. The last thing I would push would be an incentive or credit for businesses that have weathered the many storms, and kept their businesses in Bridgeport. By fighting and advocating for the business folks that have stuck with Bridgeport, we create an environment for future businesses that we appreciate you being part of our community. These incentives or credits can range from façade improvements, local new hire incentives, and a culture that encourages expansion and growth.