Tag Archives: Toni Boucher

Next Generation Steps Up: Will Haskell Throws Hat In State Senate Ring

In the summer of 2016, Will Haskell worked for the Democratic National Committee. Assigned to the “voter protection team,” he researched states that were making it harder for certain citizens — like young people and minorities — to vote.

The 2014 Staples High School graduate wondered what was happening in his home state. To his surprise, he says, he discovered that his own state senator — Toni Boucher — spent “2 decades making it harder to vote.” For example, he says, she opposed early voting, and tried to block online registration.

Then he dug deeper. He saw she’d opposed paid family leave bills, equal pay for equal work, and said that certain gun restrictions put in place after Sandy Hook went too far. She has previously received an A- rating from the National Rifle Association.

“Actually, I think we haven’t gone far enough on gun regulations,” he says. “Our tough gun laws made Connecticut one of the safest states in the country. But there is so much more we can do, from regulating conceal-carry to cracking down on bad-apple gun suppliers.”

Will Haskell and Darcy Hicks (center), at a Westport rally last year supporting gun legislation.

Haskell wondered who had run against her. He found out she’s had minimal opposition for years.

Which is why today, Will Haskell announces his candidacy for state senate from the 26th District.

He’s only 21. He still has a couple of months before he graduates from Georgetown University. He’s deferred enrollment in law school to run.

But he’s in it to win it.

Will Haskell

Haskell spent last summer working in the state’s public defender office, learning about the criminal justice system and the cost of mass incarceration. At night he traveled throughout the 7-town district, listening and learning about the people and issues.

One of the most important is transportation. Trains run slower today than they did in the 1950s, Haskell says — yet the transportation fund is regularly dipped into, for other uses. He supports a transportation “lockbox,” which he says Boucher opposes.

Another key issue is the number of young people leaving Connecticut. He looks at the current legislature, and sees virtually no one of his generation. He believes their voices must be heard.

“Toni Boucher says GE and Aetna left the state because of high taxes,” Haskell says. “But they’re moving to places with high taxes. There’s something more going on.

“We need to look at tax credits, to keep students from Connecticut’s great schools here after they graduate. We need paid family leave policies too.”

Haskell says the 26th district is “moderate.” Hillary Clinton won it by 23 points. He looks forward to working with anyone, of any party, to achieve his goals.

Fortunately, he says, running for office in Connecticut is not expensive. If he raises qualifying funds, he’ll have the same amount of money as his opponent. He’s already organized a series of fundraisers.

Haskell is not a political neophyte. In past years he’s worked on the successful campaigns of Senator Chris Murphy and Congressman Jim Himes, as well as with Hillary for America.

Will Haskell with Hillary Clinton.

Reaction to his candidacy has been positive, Haskell says. “I know I look more like 12 than 21. Most state senators don’t look like me. But that’s why I’m running. I, and people like me, have a stake in our future.”

He’s not apologizing for his age. Far from it.

One of his inspirations came from Barack Obama. In his farewell speech, the outgoing president urged anyone dissatisfied with the current political climate to “grab a clipboard, get some signatures and run for office yourself.” Haskell calls himself “a stakeholder in the future.”

Besides his age, Haskell faces the challenge of running against a well-known and respected incumbent. “I have to make sure people know her voting record,” Haskell says. “She’s opposed to voter accessibility, and criminal justice reform.”

As he travels through the district he hopes to represent — all of Westport, Wilton, Ridgefield and Redding, and parts of Weston, Bethel and New Canaan — Haskell will make his case.

“My platform emphasizes long-term investments in infrastructure, reliable funding for our schools, more robust cooperation between our towns and cities, addressing widespread opioid addiction as the public health crisis it is, and policies that will draw other young people to live and work in Connecticut.”

He’ll be helped by his years at Staples, where he talked about politics with social studies, English, even chemistry teachers. He was aided too by his years in the Players drama troupe. As a senior, he was elected Players president.  Being on stage, he says, “gave me the confidence to stand up and talk in front of others.” (He also became a noted voice speaking against cyber-bullying.)

Staples Players president Will Haskell, in “Avenue Q.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Harking back to his summer with the DNC voter protection team, Haskell says, “Republicans don’t want my generation near the ballot.” This fall, he promises, “my generation will be on the ballot.”

 

Gene Borio: Our State Reps Really Listen

It was not the most glamorous event last week.

But Thursday’s “city hall” meeting with our state legislators at Town Hall drew about 30 Westporters.

Alert “06880” reader Gene Borio was there. And although the subject matter was dry — the budget, transportation, infrastructure — the 3 politicians were very impressive.

State senator Toni Boucher, and representatives Gail Lavielle and Jonathan Steinberg (Tony Hwang was working late in Hartford) addressed many tough issues with “equanimity, intelligence and perspicacity,” Gene says.

Also: bipartisanship.

There was no rancor or petty sniping between the 2 Republicans and 1 Democrat.

The setting was utilitarian, as Gail Lavielle, Jonathan Steinberg and Toni Boucher addressed important local issues with honesty and intelligence. (Photo/Gene Borio)

The setting was utilitarian, as Gail Lavielle, Jonathan Steinberg and Toni Boucher addressed important local issues with honesty and intelligence. (Photo/Gene Borio)

As the legislature balances Connecticut’s deficit, current and future needs, and the necessity for new funding sources, the intelligent discussion covered topics like our tax burden, loss of jobs and residents, Metro-North, and possible tolls.

The panel strongly critiqued a proposed bill that would create an entity — the Connecticut Transit Corridor Development Authority — empowered to encourage business development within a 1/2-mile radius of rail or bus transit stations. Westport alert: It would have little local oversight — and even worse, would have the power of eminent domain.

On affordable housing, the representatives gave kudos to Westport for addressing the issue years ago.

blog - CT sealThe legislators emphasized their support for environmental groups, Sherwood Island and the Westport Library. They heard — and were moved by — heart-felt stories about what happens when people served by the Department of Developmental Services (and their caregivers) grow old.

Afterwards, there was a friendly meet-and-greet. Gene says that one rep noted how gratifying it is to come to Westport, with its intelligent, informed and engaged citizens.

Of course, Gene notes, “we elected them. We’re pretty fortune to have these no-nonsense politicians, who clearly and truly serve in a tough job.”

That’s Hartford. I’ve said the same thing before, about Westport’s public servants.

Washington: Are you listening?

It’s Official! Holiday Season Is Here!

Well, as official as something like this can be.

This evening, First Selectman Jim Marpe lit the Christmas tree at Town Hall. Then hundreds of Westporters trooped around the corner to Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

There — in one of Westport’s newest traditions — the Orphenians sang. A band played. Soup, chili, pizza and wine were served. Nearly 2 dozen non-profits handed out flyers and candy.

And, of course, Santa Claus came to town.

CHT Xmas 1

A small portion of the large crowd in Branson Hall.

A small portion of the large crowd in Branson Hall.

The 1st Night folks had a cake.

The 1st Night folks had a cake.

State Senator Toni Boucher and Oscar's owner Lee Papageorge enjoy the evening.

State Senator Toni Boucher and Oscar’s owner Lee Papageorge enjoyed the evening.

 

Little Leaguers Win; Politicians Strike Out

As Westport’s Little League all-star team roars toward the World Series in Williamsport — they’re 2-0 in the New England regionals, the most recent win a perfect game yesterday over the Maine state champs — some adult fans are having a tougher time.

They want to honor Westport’s 1st-ever Connecticut championship with a highway sign.

So far, they’ve struck out.

On Sunday, July 28, Avi Kaner — whose son Jonathan is friends with several of the all-stars — emailed the 3 Westport selectmen and 4 state legislators from this area. He asked how a sign could be placed at I-95 Exit 17. “I have seen similar signs elsewhere,” he noted.

Eight days later, State Senator Toni Boucher responded. She relayed information from the state Department of Transportation’s Traffic Engineering Division. It said that the division

receives many requests for recognition signing and, as a result, has established a practice of limiting the conditions under which they will be installed. Generally, recognition signing is currently limited to college level athletic teams that win a national or conference tournament championship or win their conference. Little League level athletic accomplishments are not recognized on the State highway system by the Department.

The Department shares your enthusiasm for honoring the Westport Little League team. However, if all such recognition requests were accommodated, there would be so many signs that motorists would have difficulty responding to the various regulatory, warning and guide signing essential to the driving task.

In view of the above, the Department does not provide or allow Little League Championship signing in the State highway right-of-way.

Boucher hit “reply all,” and added her own thoughts:

It might be a good idea to put in a bill as a delegation to change this policy in the future. In the meantime, if anyone wants to try to contact the Governor’s office on this it may be worth it.

UConn got a huge sign on I-84, just for winning the women's NCAA basketball title.

UConn got a huge sign on I-84, just for winning the women’s NCAA basketball title.

Kaner — the Republican candidate for 2nd selectman this fall — took less than 20 minutes to send his next email. He thanked Boucher for her suggestion of a bill, asked whether the legislature could “overturn this DOT decision on a one-off basis” — and added this personal plea to State Representative Jonathan Steinberg:

“As a leading Democrat, the Governor’s office will be most likely to listen to you. Can you please try?”

This is bipartisanship at its finest. Senators Reid and McConnell, Congressmen Boehner and Pelosi: take note.

Although, if I was a betting man, I’d lay odds that the Westport Little League all-stars’ season will end a lot more successfully than this bureaucratic mission.

High Time For Medical Marijuana?

Carl Addison Swanson is freelance writer in Westport.  Preparing for a magazine article, he conducted an interview that he wanted to share with “06880” readers.

Carl is examining the Connecticut State Senate’s attempts to legalize medical marijuana, as well as decriminalize its possession.  Previous attempts in 2007 and 2009 failed, but Governor Dannel Malloy has pledged his support.

Toni Boucher, who represents parts of Westport, is an ardent opponent.  She led the 2009 filibuster that defeated passage.

The name of the woman Carl interviewed has been changed at her request.

“My granddaughter made me some marijuana Rice Krispies treats.  Quite honestly, I was afraid to eat them,” she explains.  We are sitting in her dark den, in a split level off Cross Highway.

“I thought some police would come crashing through the door and arrest me.”

“Norma” is an artist, activist, mother of 2, grandmother of 4, and ex-wife of a famous Westport producer.  She is also a cancer survivor.

“When I first realized something was wrong, my stomach swelled up like I was pregnant.  It was horribly frightening,” Norma says.  “Of course, they operated and got most of it.  Ovaries.  But I had to go through nearly a year of chemotherapy.”

Norma is fragile, and I am afraid to ask her age.  She has liver spots on her hands, which shake repeatedly.  For some reason, this makes me nervous.  My prepared questions are virtually abandoned as a result.

“The chemotherapy was dreadful,” she continues without being asked.  “I couldn’t keep anything down.  It was like a terrible case of the flu.  And just when you started to feel good, you had to have another round of the damn stuff.”  She seems shocked by her own use of the word “damn.” She smiles.

I tell her I am writing an article about medical marijuana in Connecticut.  I say that bills have been submitted to the State Senate since 2007, but have failed.  The new governor has promised to back any new attempts.  Westport’s senator is strongly opposed.

“Well, I did eat finally eat those Rice Krispies treats, and I will tell you it helped,” she says.

“By my 3rd round of chemo I was ready to try anything.  It nearly cured my nausea, and I slept better too.  I started baking them myself.  The key is to melt the grass in with the butter.”

Norma stiffens in her antique straight back chair with this confession.  She is of the “Great Generation,” and still obedient to the rules of that culture.  The use of illegal drugs makes her uncomfortable.

“But I did keep using it.  I mean, why wouldn’t I?  My daughter got me some and it helped.  It got me through the god-awful drugs and made me feel almost human.”

I tell her one fear:  that the use of marijuana may lead to other addictions.

“Oh poppycock,” she actually says, sitting straight up.  Her eyes focus for the 1st time in our session.

“I have one glass of sherry every evening, and that’s it.  I never had any interest in those treats after I got better.  I’m more dependent on my sleep medication than those things.”  Her eyes twinkle for a second.  I can see that she was beautiful when she was young.

“You don’t have any on you, do you?” she asks, crossing her legs.

States marked in red have legalized medical marijuana. Those in blue have legislation pending.