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Gov. Lamont’s First Visit to Bethel Faced Protestors, Questions, Requests, Praise and Angry Words from Attendees

Report by Paula Antolini, July 4, 2019, 10:11AM EDT

First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker (left) and CT Governor Ned Lamont in the CJH Municipal Center General Purpose Room after the public meeting ended, July 1, 2019 (Photo ©Bethel Advocate 2019).

First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker waited at the curb of the CJH Municipal Center for Governor Ned Lamont‘s arrival on the morning of Monday, July 1, 2019, as protestors and other Connecticut residents also gathered on the front lawn, along with state and other town officials, waiting to greet the Governor on his first visit to Bethel, CT.

After Governor Ned Lamont exited a black SUV on School Street, he immediately shook hands with protestors and other residents, speaking to all who approached him.

View video of Bethel welcome to Governor Lamont below:

First Selectman Knickerbocker welcomes Governor Lamont to Bethel,
on School Street in front of the CJH Municipal Center.

Protestors from notollsct.org held large signs that read, “No Tolls” and “Call Your Legislators” and “No Compromise” and were very vocal in their disagreement with the Governor’s policies. Other signs read, “Infrastructure Means Jobs” and “Connecticut must plan for its transportation future now.”

The Bethel Action Committee, a local activist organization for 33 years, represented by Bethel resident Billy Michael dressed as Uncle Sam, and Bethel Board of Finance member Cynthia McCorkindale, also stood on the municipal lawn and held signs that read, “Vote No.”

Political and human rights activist Veasna Roeun was there, a former candidate for the CT House of Representatives, District 109 in 2018, and stood in support of the CT No-Tolls protestors.

VIEW VIDEO OF PROTESTOR STATEMENTS BELOW…

Billy Michael:

Cynthia McCorkindale:

Veasna Roeun:

Protestor from Windsor CT:

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VIEW STATEMENTS FROM:

FIRST SELECTMAN MATTHEW KNICKERBOCKER:

CT STATE REPRESENTATIVE STEVE HARDING:

CT STATE REPRESENTATIVE RAGHIB ALLIE-BRENNAN:

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First Selectman Knickerbocker escorted Governor Lamont up the front walk of the municipal center, and into the building, where they eventually entered Room A for the meeting.

Approximately 100 individuals arrived to attend the 11:30am planned meeting, which was to take place in Room A of the Bethel Municipal Center, which quickly filled to capacity with standing room only, and was then moved to the General Purpose room before the meeting began, due to crowd capacity. The meeting lasted a little over an hour.

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Governor Ned Lamont sat on the edge of the General Purpose room stage along with CT State Senator Julie Kushner to his left, and CT State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan to his right, and next to them was CT State Representative Steve Harding and Bethel Selectman Richard Straiton.

First Selectman Knickerbocker, who stood near the stage most of the time, leading the meeting and selecting those who would ask questions, also mentioned that the only person missing of local state reps. was CT State Senator Will Haskell.

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Governor Ned Lamont and Senator Julie Kushner.

CT State Senator Julie Kushner spoke first, talking about her experience in her first time of campaigning and running for office, and labeling her first legislative session that she participated in as “incredibly exciting and dynamic.” She said, “We were able to pass such amazing legislation that I believe will help middle class and working families. We passed a budget that really helps our schools.” She also mentioned working on paid family and medical leave, and raising the minimum wage. “There is a lot that we got done and it was amazing serving with Gov. Lamont, ” she said. “We wouldn’t have gotten this stuff done without him. He was not only willing to sign the bills that we passed, but he advocated for them.”

View video of Sen. Kushner’s comments below:

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CT State Representative Allie-Brennan spoke about “working across the isle,” respect, and the business entity tax, and said, “Gov. Lamont has been so open to solving the problems of the state.” Looking at Lamont he said, “You have a big order of things to kind of tackle. It’s not easy…. Obviously we can’t get everything done at one time, because of a lot of factors and things that change, but it’s been a pleasure.” Allie-Brennan talked about “working across the isle” during his first term in office. “We have respect for each other,” he said, “People think it is so partisan but it’s not. We do disagree on things but at the end of the day we want what is best for Bethel and Gov. Lamont has been inspiring.” Allie-Brennan said, “I wanted to help to repeal the business entity tax. Some of my colleagues on the Democratic side didn’t really like that, but I do think it’s business friendly. That was something we got done together in this budget. I think we did a good job getting a lot of things done this session and as a freshman, I never thought I could get things done.

View video of Rep. Allie-Brennan’s comments below:

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Selectman Richard Straiton (left) and CT State Representative Steve Harding.

In his initial statement CT State Representative Steve Harding thanked Allie-Brennan, Kushner and Haskell, and said, “We may not agree on everything but I think we are unified in fighting for our local communities, particularly Bethel, something that’s important to all four of us, and I want to thank them for their efforts in working together on this, a lot of issues.” Harding also thanked First Selectman Knickerbocker and Selectman Straiton for “working hard for us locally.” He thanked the Governor for attending, and said, “We might not agree on a lot of things but one thing you have been is open and transparent and I do appreciate that and coming here today, and listening to our constituents is critically important.” Read more of Harding’s later statement below.

View video of Rep. Harding’s and Selectman Straiton’s comments below:

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Selectman Richard Straiton thanked the Governor and legislative members for coming and said, “It’s great to see the Governor here for little Bethel here, it’s great, and I hope you come back many more times.”

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“It’s a real honor to have Gov. Lamont join us today, the 89th Governor of the great state of Connecticut” said First Selectman Knickerbocker, as he also introduced himself to the crowd. “I heard it said that this is a Governor who has very little political experience, that’s not all true. He served in his community on the Board of Finance, he served as a Selectman, he knows what it’s like to be answerable to the public. And one of the things that I saw all the way through the session is that many people say “we don’t always agree’ but they get along and work together and that’s the hallmark of Gov. Lamont’s administration. He is a Governor who truly embodies the open door policy. Give him your suggestions and he will listen.”

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Governor Ned Lamont.

“In politics everyone does give you their suggestions,” said Governor Ned Lamont. “I have done some things in public service which Matt mentioned, I’m also the first business guy that’s lead the state in many, many years.” Lamont said, “Just take a look around town hall here and I’d like to say I’d like to see Connecticut a little more like that, and I’ll tell you what I mean by that. This is a town that’s expanding. You have a grand list that’s expanding, residents and people moving in here. You’ve got companies coming here as well, and that’s what we haven’t done now in the State of Connecticut going back well over a generation. We have fewer people working today than we had a generation ago, and we gotta do something there. That involves, you know, taxes, that involves transportation, that involves education, and I’ll give you my thoughts on that real fast because I want your feedback. I really need your feedback. I love getting out of Hartford, to tell the truth, and I’m only there half the time.”

Gov. Lamont continued, “Number one, what I learned wherever I go is, unlike your town, is, Connecticut get your fiscal house in order. I hear that wherever I go. We have more fixed costs, that’s pension and health care costs, they’re going up like this, debt borrowing is going up like that (raising his hand to emphasize) and our revenues are sort of flat.” He said, “I’ve got to change that trajectory. I want an overall growth in the state to go like this (raising hand up to show high level) and hold our fixed costs down a little bit but we just started to do that in this budget. We held the line on spending, we dod not increase any tax breaks, and my number one priority was keeping faith with our towns and cities, and that includes municipal aid being held flat for everybody so they could plan accordingly in state aid and education. Towns like yours with a growing student population got a little bit more.”

Governor Ned Lamont.

“Matt, the other thing that’s very important to me is get the budget done on time,” Lamont said. “Two years ago they got in done in late October or November. Your First Selectman and Superintendent of Schools didn’t know what they were going to get and couldn’t plan accordingly, and I wasn’t in a position to promise a lot of new money because we inherited a deficit but we were able to keep faith and we were able to get it on time.”

Lamont said, “Secondly, there’s good news in this state that sometimes people underestimate, and part of that is we have thousands of really good jobs we’re having as hard time filling. Shame on us, we lost 1500 jobs last month, you probably saw that, and we have tens of thousands of jobs we can’t fill, in advanced manufacturing, submarines, jet engines, and right up here as well. And shame on us. My job, when it comes to investing in education, making our community colleges more affordable.”

Lamont stated, “Will Haskell, by the way, played a big role in that, making sure you’ll be able to graduate from a community college with no student debt over the next few years. We’re making a big effort in that direction, so we train people for the jobs that are going begging out there right now. That’s how I keep the great businesses here in the State of Connecticut because if you look around this country there’s a global search for talent. I want to make sure that you don’t have to search any further than right here in the State of Connecticut. We train people for the jobs that Are going begging right now.”

Lamont said, “The business entity tax … something else we’re working on is giving companies a tax credit, where you hire a Connecticut graduate and forgive their student loan, we give you a corporate tax credit, so the best and the brightest who come to Connecticut snd are educated here in Connecticut, graduate here in Connecticut, have extra incentive to stay here in Connecticut.”

Governor Ned Lamont.

Lamont continued, “The final thing is I saw some of my friends from the ‘No Tolls’ group out there. It’s transportation. Now we can have a good frank debate about transportation, but what you gotta know is our roads and bridges are in a state of some disrepair right now. The gridlock on our roads and highways is really slowing up transportation, and our rail service is ten, fifteen minutes slower than it was, you know, ten, fifteen years ago, and there, ironically, there’s a little bit of bipartisanship only in this sense, that the Republican plan calls for additional money, about $750,000,000, and they want to do it through borrowing and putting that on the taxpayers, and the Democratic plan, or at least my plan, believe me, I cannot speak for anybody else, you know, would have electronic tolling. We can have an honest debate about whats the best way to do this or is there some middle ground and compromise, but of you want to get this state growing again I gotta hold the line on spending, hold the line on taxes, invest in education, and fix our transportation system.”

“I’ll just leave you with one other thought just because some people worry about state government getting bigger and bigger, or we’re not dealing with the future,” Lamont said. “I’m doing everything I can to invest in the future. I’m not doing a lot of new borrowing. I think we borrowed too much as a state. we’re addicted to debt. But one place I”m putting money into is technology. As I look around I’m looking for technology as well.”

Governor Ned Lamont.

Lamont said, “There’s a group called the Department of Meditrative Services, what they do is purchasing, they do IT, they do personnel, and I have somebody who spent twelve years in IBM heading that up. What that means is your going to see, who was it that came up to me and said ‘passports to park’ thing? Why is that by car? Because I have seven cars and I gotta pay seven times, and you do that all manually. We’re going to move state government, over the next ten years, so you can do that online, so state government does a digital front door. That may mean not as many state employees, so those state employees would have more of an administrative, computer orientation, so we can clean up our state government, make it more efficient, less expensive, and more convenient for each and every one of you.” He said, “I’m a guy that comes out of an IT world so I have a little bit of a different background.”

“I think we got a lot done,” Lamont said. Lamont talked about “5G, which is how we get the highest speed internet in the country here in Connecticut first,” he said, “You want to keep young people in the state make sure they can do everything in Bethel that they can do in Brooklyn, New York, and just as high speed or faster high speed. We put in place a bill that takes out all the road blocks to put the transponders up in our public buildings. So we will be a state of the art state and young people will come, grow, they can start a business. If they gotta go to New York once or twice a week, God bless them, they’ll be able top do everything right here. That’s how amazing towns like Bethel continue to grow and grow.”

View video of First Selectman Knickerbocker’s welcome and Governor Lamont’s opening comments below:

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Knickerbocker then stated he wanted to get the Governor together with Dr. Carver, Bethel Superintendent of Schools, and Ms. O’Brien, the Board of Education Chairman, because Dr. Carver had created a program called ‘Pathways to Professions.’ He said, “It’s like being able to declare a major while still in high school and one of those pathways is manufacturing technologies aimed right in the same direction.”

Bethel Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Carver then commented, talking about this same pathways program, saying, “Students seek career pathways so that when students leave high school, whether they’re going into the workforce or to college, they would have a better understanding of what they were getting into. We’ve had a business Advisory Counsel for the past four or five years and a lot of the local advanced manufacturing companies … have really been partners but they have positions they can’t fill because they don’t have the workforce to fill it,” she said. “And we’ve been working with Naugatuck Community College in western Connecticut, they’re in the process of setting up an advanced manufacturing lab on the WestConn campus but run by the Naugatuck Community College, and our students have the opportunity to participate in that over the next couple of years.”

Bethel Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Carver.

Carver continued, “What would be really helpful for the schools … what we would really need, I guess this is a request for you to consider (directed at Lamont) is obviously there is a cost fact, and any grants, because we would end up having to pay tuition, especially for our students who couldn’t afford to pay tuition to Naugatuck, so that they can pursue these career pathways and eventually help with what we are addressing. So any funds that may be available for that would be greatly appreciated, at least in Bethel.”

Lamont replied, “That’s just the type of investment we’ve got to be making. That’s what I want to do. We do have money in this budget for training the teachers towards computer science.” He continued, “I mean, God bless all of you who studied French like I did, but it’s not as relevant as learning coding in this day and age. And we’ve got to start that at an earlier age, we are doing that … and we have a special $200,000,000 fund just created, of innovative ideas just like this.”

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Knickerbocker then started the question and answer period, limiting questions to one question per person.

Bethel resident Bill Hillman.

Bethel resident Bill Hillman said, “The 800-pound gorilla that always comes up is the financial ticking time bomb of defined benefits, state pensions. When will the state go to a purely 401-style contributing, and renegotiate this ticking time bomb for state employees to be shifted to a cash balance and reduce what is going to slam Connecticut in the next two to five years?”

Lamont replied, “A lot of that has already been renegotiated for a number of employees, those hired over the last ten years when it comes to cost of living increases, and more importantly, contributions from employees as well as us.”

Lamont said, “One of the big problems though, is that the State of Connecticut, it’s been a bipartisan train wreck going back over a generation, made big promises to our teachers and state employees but they just didn’t put any money into that cost of living fund, and so, shame on us for doing that. That doesn’t excuse us from making the changes we need because our fixed costs are growing to fast right now. We have begun to make some changes there, employees are contributing more and the state’s going to have to make its contribution and we’re going to continue to make those reforms.”

Sen. Kushner added. “Actually we don’t agree on this issue about, what is retirement security? And I feel that the 401Ks are not retirement security and unfortunately today, many of us are faced with insecurity when we retire. Those that have defined pensions are actually in a much better position. We know that.”

Kushner added, “I agree with the Governor that there’s been a lot of changes made to make it fiscally responsible, and I do want to say that the state employee unions have participated in that. In 2017 negotiations they made concessions that cost on average, each of their members, $17, 500. That’s a lot of money to give up. Not too many of us in our communities would give up that kind of personal income. So I think we do need to recognize the role that they play is very positive and also look for ways to be fiscally responsible but also take care of the dedicated workers that work with the state.

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Selectman Richard Straiton (left) and CT State Representative Steve Harding.

Rep. Harding agreed with Kushner, saying many of the state employees are “absolutely dedicated employees.” … “They’re very important and we’re fortunate to have,” but then said, “But it does come down to a matter of what we can and can’t afford. And it’s not a matter of whether they are deserving, I think every single one of them, the far majority of these individuals, are deserving of the plans that they’ve been offered, but the issue is what we can afford as a state. And the Governor did mention we moved towards the direction of addressing this issue in the last collective bargaining agreement. We created a hybrid plan for the new employees which is pretty much a half 401K and half pension plan. My argument would be, I think we would be moving in a better direction, if we moved towards a new employee full defined pension plan, as opposed to the true fine benefit plan. It’s not about whether or not these individuals are deserving … it comes down to whether or not we can afford this.

Harding said, “As the Governor mentioned before, we made agreements thirty years ago that we could not afford. It’s not about being deserving it’s about what we can afford as a state, and passing on potential obligations to my children and my children’s children here in the State of Connecticut..”

View video of Rep. Harding’s comments below:

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Bethel resident and Bethel Action Committee founder Billy Michael.

Longtime resident Billy Michael said, “We can talk to our state reps. and senators any time. We are so lucky to have the Governor here. I just want to make sure we get enough time, talk time, face time, as we can with you Governor because we have great relationships with our delegation. But we want to hear you. You are why we are here today, and I came here because my family’s been on the same property since 1929. Ninety years paying taxes to the Town of Bethel, loving this town. But every week I hear friends of mine, long time, inter-generational friends saying, ‘We’re going Billy. We just can’t take the State of Connecticut.’ There are people in this group that are leaving.”

Michael continued, mentioning the “passport to the parks” that residents have to pay with the vehicle registrations, and other charges residents are paying. He said there are about 24,000 cars in Bethel, and the $10 charge is not justified for people like his 90-year-old mother who is not likely to go to the park, and has a 1987 Mazda.

Bethel resident Billy Michael.

Michael also mentioned the “income tax debate of Lowell Weicker in the 1990’s” saying Governor Lamont “is old enough to remember it” and also many of the people in the room too. He said the League of Women voters were at the legislature wearing buttons that read, ‘Tax me once, tax me fairly.’ Michael said, “And the whole narrative on that state income tax is, once you get this big pot of money from the state income tax, you’re not going to have automobile taxes, the taxes on boats at your town clerk’s office, that’s going to go, all those nuisance taxes, would subside because of this mother-load of money. A big propaganda! Not only do we have income tax, we’ve got to pay for a ‘passport to the park’ in our car registrations” Michael said, “The state has to have a program, the mill rate is so high in a town like Bethel … a mill rate that has to have subsidy from the state like like Bridgeport or Waterbury, and now tolls are the new secret bullet, the new thing, that will right the ship of state.”

Michael said, “Since Union Carbide came in here the state has systematically destroyed every characteristic that made Connecticut fabulous in the seventies and eighties. So I’m solidly against tolls. Tolls will have the same promise and the same disappointment that the state income tax did 20 years down the line. And I hope you can take that back. I don’t think the people in your party are going to listen to people like me.” (applause).

Governor Ned Lamont.

Lamont replied, “I can’t speak to broken promises over the last ten, twenty, thirty, forty years. It’s littered with broken promises and you know, you brought up a couple of them, and I’m doing the very best I can to honor what I said I’m gonna do and I’ve also got to pay our bills, and I think the greatest broken promise we can do is to continue to not pay our bills and ask our kids and our grandkids to do it. That’s not what I’m going to allow to happen.”

Lamont said, “I did the best I could to hold the line on tax rates this time, we haven’t done that in a lot of years, just to give you some confidence that this is a state that gets the fact that the middle class is getting hammered, is getting squeezed in the state for a long time. We;’re trying to make the workplace more forgiving for young families, and do a better job recruiting them here, we’re just getting started.”

Michael said, I applaud you and your 568-page budget. Out of 169 towns, we have $33,000 going to the Bethel Booster Club.” He said, “If Bethel Booster Club can tax 167 other towns for money, whose parents can normally, traditionally raise money voluntarily … We’re infantilizing the stage of Connecticut. It’s being dependent on the government for everything. Take that stuff out of the budget. Cut it!” Michael shouted.

View video of Michael/Lamont comments below:

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Bethel Board of Finance member Cynthia McCorkindale.

Bethel Finance Board member Cynthia McCorkindale said, “Billy said it all, with all due respect to our reps. I know then all, you’re the rare bird here, so you’re the one we want to speak to here. “McCorkindale said she had two questions, and said, “Where are the ten thousand jobs, what sectors are those ten thousand jobsin that you can’t fill?” And her second question was, “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, I just became aware and joined this group, a Facebook page, a group that is called ‘People who say they are leaving Connecticut or have already left.’ My question to you is, what would you say to those people who haven;’t quite packed up the u-haul? Why should they stay in Connecticut because there seems to be quite a wave of disappointment that’s going through, and I was taught to go by experience, I don’t care what people say, I want to know, and the experience doesn’t line up with the words. That’s what I want to hear.”

Lamont answered, “I’m sticking in Connecticut. I love this state. I met my wife in this state, my ids were born in this state, they had the greatest education that they could have in this state, and I think Delray Florida is the most boring place in the world, especially on a Thursday night in July, so I’m sticking in Connecticut. But more importantly, to your point, I got three kids who are in New York City right now, and what can I do to make this a state where they want to be and all the things that brought Annie and I to the state, to make them want to stay. I wish I could tell you I was going to slash the heck out of taxes, I was gonna fix the roads and bridges, you know, without anything, but what I can do is give people a sense of confidence that this is a state that’s on the mend. We’re at a crossroads. But a state that’s on the mend, and give you a sense of what this state’s gonna look like.”

“We’ve been losing people ton Florida for many many years,” Lamont said, “and it’s rich people, union guys, warm weather, I need to do everything I can, like in this beautiful town, where it starts growing and expanding, it’s a place of opportunity, which gets me to your first question. Where are these opportunities we can’t fill?”

Lamont continued, “I’d say about half of them are in advanced manufacturing, Electric Boat, a long way away, hiring a thousand people a year for the next ten years. Pratt Whitney, or UTC, oh whoa is us, more importantly, they’re hiring a thousand people over the next eighteen months. I just went to Amazon in North Haven, hiring 1800 people for a major fulfillment center. Good paying jobs each and every one of those things.”

Lamont said, “And suddenly we’re sort of an older state, older in terms of demographics, like me, and a lot of those folks are retiring out. So those are the trades, that’s nursing, those are teachers, right? Look what we’ve got to do to hire the best and the brightest, to go into teaching again.” … “I’m having a hard time recruiting some of the best and brightest teachers because we’ve made some changes there. So I’ve got to do everything I can, these are jobs that we’ve got to fill.”

View video of McCorkindale/Lamont comments below:

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Bethel resident Phil Gallagher.

Longtime Bethel resident Phil Gallagher asked, “Bethel is one of the poorer towns in Fairfield County after Stratford, Bridgeport and Danbury. I thought I would mention Bethel always gets short-changed. We only get back in state aid and school aid and highways, whatnot, about a third of what we send up to Hartford. It goes to those other towns, and we are a poorer town. We’re the poorest town outside of the Danbury area, outside of Danbury. And I venture to say, this year, even though your tax rate did not go up, it’s been broadened, and I will say when we add up the sums at the end of the year Bethel will send more money to Hartford.” … “While we didn’t lose, at the end of the year we’re going to send a lot more than we get back.”

View video of Phil Gallagher comments below:

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Bethel resident Marie Miszewski, President./CEO of Regional YMCA.

Bethel resident Marie Miszewski, President./CEO of Regional YMCA, said, “I know the minimum wage hikes are going up and I just want to make sure that, one of those unintended consequences, that we don’t forget that the people who are making minimum wage, you have to change the guidelines for Care 4 Kids and school readiness, because that dollar will throw 60% of the population right out the door.” … “Education is a priority, you’ve got to look at those income guidelines … and adjust them so people don’t lose out on services that they already have.”

Lamont said, “I want every person starting up to have that first opportunity and I didn’t want them to have less of an opportunity, so we have, you know, for the first 90 days, a sub-minimum wage to give that person an opportunity, which I hope is helpful when it comes to the YMCA.” … “I’m not going to shy away from the fact that, over the next four and a half years we’re going to gradually go up to a $15 minimum wage. That means in four and a half years you’re earning $30,000, which is barely enough to get by. And I think while we have those people dependent on state services I want them a little more independent.”

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Donna Bosworth, a 25-year resident of Bethel and a Danbury teacher.

Donna Bosworth, a 25-year resident of Bethel and a Danbury teacher, said, “I just wanted to hear more about how you wanted to continue the investment in education. As a teacher we feel very un-listened-to. There are a lot of people making decisions that will affect our kids, who are not educators, and it’s become a really big problem. We don’t have the funding that we need and we don’t have the decision-making power that we know works with the kids. It’s become more corporate-driven, and its both Republicans and democrats, it’s not one party over the other. So I wanted to know what your plans were. I know, I’ve heard, that you wanted to reinvest in education, can you tell me what those plans are.”

Lamont responded, “We are reinvesting in education. I’m a big believer in public education. I’m a big believer in great community schools. We’re giving incentives for teachers, we’re forgiving student loans, giving them mortgage incentives, I want them to be able to live in the community where they’re teaching, make that easier, that’s important in Bethel. I taught in a high school in Bridgeport on a very volunteer basis. If I can attract the best and the brightest, listen to them. Our teachers have not gotten the respect they deserve, and you’re right, there’s always a fair number of people who are always telling us how to do this. But let me tell you, you’ve probably got some worries. We’ve raised a couple of hundred million dollars for this grant I was just telling, teachers are going to be on that board. Teachers are going to be the ones giving us the best ideas how to do a special program. How to do that after-school program lead by teachers, to keep that kid, who’s about to fall off the track, involved. How we could do maybe an August program for some of those kids who need a little extra help. That will be lead by teachers and starts with respect for one of the most important professions in our state.”

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Peter Schneider, Bethel resident since 1968.

Bethel resident Peter Schneider, had perhaps the most notable resident statement for Governor Lamont. He said he has lived in Bethel since 1968, built his house in Bethel 34 years ago, went to school in the high school that is now the Bethel Municipal Center, sent his children to school in Bethel, has his business in Bethel, and has served on the Building Committee that converted the old Middle School to the Bethel Municipal Center, and built the present Middle School, and also was involved in the remodel of the Bethel Police Station, but now says he is leaving Connecticut. “It’s important that you know, I have roots here,” he said. “I’m leaving. After all these years in Bethel, I built my house here, and I can’t afford to stay. 2008 took the wind out of my sails. Anybody who’s in construction took a beating in 2008 and we’ve been bouncing along the bottom ever since.”

“Now my question is this,Schneider said, “The people in the private sector have made adjustments. Instead of going out to eat, we eat at home. Instead of driving new cars, we drive used cars. We’ve made adjustments. My business volume went from two million to 180,000. That’s a drop off, and it’s never recovered, and the reason I say this is because I am not alone. My point is this. The private sector in Connecticut has made the adjustments, we’re keeping our nose above water. I think it’s time for you, Mr. Governor (pointing to the Governor) to lay down the hammer, renegotiate the SEBAC Agreement and cut our expenses. It’s not fair that you did not lay anybody off so that we could keep our expenses and our revenue in check. Balance amount. Everything I’ve heard today is roses and peaches and cream, very nice, but it involved spending more money than we already spent… we’re already one of the highest per capita debt states in the country. Get the job done. Let’s drop down the hammer and get to work.” (applause).

Governor Lamont replied, “I don’t have to fire a lot of people. Tens of thousands are gonna retire over the next three or four years.”

Schneider said, “Okay since your going there, we’ll have this cushion you’re talking about, retirement security, welcome to the real world of small business people. We make our own retirement security. We don’t get 3% raises every year while the rest of the people paying the bills don’t. What’s going on in this state is immoral, unjust and unsustainable. It’s time to make a change. And I have high hopes for you Mr. Governor, you can do it. I’m hoping you can walk the walk that you’ve been talking. Our former Governor talked about shared sacrifices, he didn’t have a clue about shared sacrifices”“It’s too late for me, I’m outta here. I can’t afford to stay here. It hurts. You can probably tell in my voice. But I hope it’s not too late for other people.” (applause).

Lamont replied, “You’re not gonna recognize this state government in the next five years. That’s good enough for you, you’re gone, you’ve heard it before from politicians. We’re gonna make the changes you need to make sure your kids give Connecticut a second chance.”

“My kids are out of here already,” said Schneider.

Knickerbocker cut in, “We don’t want to have a debate, so thank you very much for your comments.” He called on the next person.

View the video of the Schneider/Lamont comments below:

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After more questions and comments from the public, Governor Lamont stated, “There’s so much distrust in government now and I’ve got to work every day to get your confidence. We work our heart out to do the right thing for each and every one of you. And I may have lost your to Florida but I want to keep each and every one of you here. At least give us a chance to show you we’re trying to earn your trust.”

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After the meeting ended First Selectman Knickerbocker took Governor Lamont on a walking tour of Bethel’s Greenwood Avenue along with Sen. Kushner and Dr. Carver and Lamont officials.

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VIEW MORE PHOTOS BELOW:

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