State Rep. Davis hears from constituents at 'town hall meeting'

By Tom Phelan - Staff Writer
Eat Windsor - posted Thu., Mar. 24, 2011
State Rep. Christopher Davis spent more than an hour talking to his audience at the Warehouse Point Library. Photos by Tom Phelan.
State Rep. Christopher Davis spent more than an hour talking to his audience at the Warehouse Point Library. Photos by Tom Phelan.

Freshman state Rep. Christopher Davis (R), who represents East Windsor and Ellington, conducted the first of two “town hall meetings” at the Warehouse Point Library on March 21. About 40 people turned out for the Monday evening legislative give-and-take. By best accounts, the affiliation of the people in attendance was mixed.

East Windsor selectmen Richard Pippin, Jr., John Burnham and Gilbert Hayes were among the group, as was Water Pollution Control Authority Chairman Paul Anderson and Board of Education member Catherine Simonelli.

Davis kicked the evening’s meeting off with a prepared presentation, designed to deliver the Republican minority view of the state’s financial situation and the majority governor’s plans to remedy the fiscal challenges. His slides used 3-D pie charts to break down the spending and revenue numbers into segments the audience could clearly see.

Davis changed his rapid-fire pace briefly to emphasize the state’s indebtedness.  “What some consider startling is the repayment of debt that the state has accumulated over the last few years represents 11 percent of all state spending,” he said. Davis pointed to that percentage as money that would not be used to pay for education, safety, state employees’ payroll, or for social services.

State employee retirement benefits also had an 11-percent piece of the spending pie chart. State employee payroll spending was buried in nearly every spending category, and therefore not broken out separately, according to Davis.

East Windsor resident Tom Strempfer sat near the front, listening to the presentation and the questions posed by his fellow residents. “Now that I’m thoroughly depressed,” he said to preface his own question to Davis, “give me something to feel good about.” He wanted to know from Davis if there was any hope that the proposed spending and revenue plans will change before the budget is enacted.

Paul Anderson, who chairs the East Windsor WPCA, said, “We don’t need any more programs.” Anderson offered the idea that the governor’s proposed revenue changes – as depicted in the presentation – were “extremely unrealistic.” Raising taxes, he said, actually results in collecting less money. “The bottom line,” Anderson said, “is if you lower taxes, you collect more cash.”

“When it hurts enough,” Anderson said, “people stop what they’re doing and you collect nothing. That’s what’s going to happen.” He shared his personal business experience, saying that each year the sales tax his business has collected has continually decreased, because business in general is not very good.

Selectman Gilbert Hayes rose to ask Davis to pick up where his predecessor left off and pursue implementation of public transportation in Broad Brook. Hayes said the transient residents of the Mill Pond development might be able to get and hold jobs if they had access to busses to get them to and from work.

East Windsor Chamber of Commerce Director Jim Richards spoke up from his seat at the back of the room to ask Davis if anyone was trying to get the governor to understand the impact on the ordinary citizen. “If you take $10 from me this week, that $10 I’m not going to spend at a local restaurant,” he pointed out. “If you take $100 from me this month, that’s $100 I’m not putting down on a new car.” Richards said all he was hearing on the news dealt with issues at a higher level, such has union concessions. “I’m not sure if the understanding between the governor’s level down to the regular constituents is really coming through,” Richards said.

Davis got his message across to his audience, and they, in turn, were able to voice their frustrations and ask their questions. The new state representative will have another chance to face the public during his second town hall-style meeting in Ellington on March 31.

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