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From leather crafts to electric vehicles, from 3D printing to a hamster train and from robots to soft weaponry Medieval battles, creative minds were on full display at today’s seventh annual Maker Faire with venues throughout town.
Not all candidates showed up. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) James Lomuscio for WestportNow.com
Founded by Westporter Mark Mathias, this year’s event under crisp blue skies broke out from its usual place at the Westport Library and Jesup Green to include the entire Baldwin parking lot, Veterans Green, the Westport Historical Society and even Town Hall.
The League of Women Voters of Westport (LWVW)-sponsored event at Town Hall was perhaps the most challenging and urgent in terms of innovation and creativity -– how to fix the State of Connecticut.
On the auditorium’s stage, each one of dozen gubernatorial candidates, Democrats, Republicans, independents, unaffiliated and a Libertarian, offered his or her solutions for a state nearly all said was in crisis mode.
The malaise each promised to fix included: out-of-control; taxes; failing transportation infrastructure; irresponsible state spending; having the nation’s third highest electricity costs after Alaska and Hawaii; and a worrisome exodus of businesses and residents hurting real estate values.
“I think this bridges both,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said about having gubernatorial hopefuls included in the Maker Faire, which ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the LWVW event from 12:30 to 2 p.m.
“This is a weekend in Westport that celebrates innovation, and the League of Women Voters has been innovative in bringing together virtually all of the gubernatorial candidates, which gives Westport an opportunity to hear their platforms and points of view regardless of their political affiliation.”
LVWW President Sheila Ward had 21 candidates lined up and in the program, but only 12 showed. Among the no shows was Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim, a Democrat, whose name was the most recognizable of the candidates.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a Republican, and Westporter Steve Obsitnik, were not on the list of those scheduled to appear.
Among those on stage were: Democrat Sean Connolly, former commissioner of the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs; Mark Stewart Greenstein, a Democrat who called himself “a voice for independent voters;” Oz Griebel, an unaffiliated candidate, who said he needs 2,500 more signatures to get on the ballot, and Rod Hanscomb, a Libertarian who wants to get rid of the state income tax to woo businesses to the state.
The lineup also included: Jonathan Harris, a Democrat, who told the audience, “the sky is not falling” in Connecticut; Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, who boasted balancing eight budgets in his town; Westporter Marisa Manley, a lawyer who owns a commercial real estate company; Scott Merrell, a Republican who said the AFL-CIO controls all the unions in the state, which are corrupt; David Walker, a Republican who served as a CEO for five companies and vowed to “fight corruption in this state;” Lee Whitnum, a former Army field artillery officer who said she is bent on “cleaning up the judiciary in this state;” Jacey Whyatt, a Democrat who said she was the state’s first transgender woman running for governor; and Republican Eric Mastroianni, who showed up nearly an hour late and touted his military background.
Ward asked each one a different question that included: how to address income inequality in the state; whether the state should adopt a Net Zero by 2050 policy as Westport has; how to bring energy costs down; how, in keeping with the Maker Faire theme, to bring more innovation to the state; how to fix pension liabilities; how to bring about state education reform; their thoughts on national state reciprocity on concealed carry guns; and school safety.
In response to a question on Net Zero, Greenstein said he was a free market fan.
“I’m very skeptical of what government does,” he said. “Economics and free markets do a better job of getting us clean air.”
Regarding ways to bring more innovation to the state, Hanscomb pointed to the state of Washington, an innovation hub.
“Zero income tax,” he said. “We need to lower the income tax and let businesses run themselves.”
In response to a question on ways to improve the state’s transportation infrastructure, Harris said the answer was better public-private partnerships and reducing permitting times.
Wyatt said improved school safety could be achieved via inconspicuous barriers and bullet-proof glass that did not make students feel they were in an armed camp.
When the question of the state going Net Zero came around to Manley during the second round, she said it was not a priority.
“Net Zero is not something the state should focus on,” she said. “What’s going to bring people back to Connecticut is knowing that they can afford to live here.”
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