WILTON, Conn. – The Daily Voice sent five questions to each of the candidates running for state office this fall. The following responses are from Gail Lavielle, a Republican running for re-election as state representative from the 143rd House District, which includes Wilton, Westport and Norwalk.
Lavielle, 55, is running for a second term. She previously served on the Wilton Board of Finance. Among her roles with civic organizations, Lavielle has served as a board member at the Norwalk Senior Center and on the advisory board of Wilton Go Green. She is a member of Ambler Farm, Friends of the Wilton Library, the Wilton Kiwanis Club, and the historical societies of Wilton, Westport and Norwalk. She is also a member of the Wilton and Norwalk chambers of commerce, the Westport Sunrise Rotary, the Aspetuck Land Trust, Earthplace and Friends of Sherwood Island. She moved to Wilton in 2002.
She has been married to her husband, Jean-Pierre, for 27 years. Her hobbies include classical music and opera, reading, writing, language and golf.
Lavielle is running against Democratic challenger Ted Hoffstatter.
1) What are the biggest issues facing the 143rd District?
• Onerous taxes on income, sales, pensions, real estate, inheritance, business, gasoline and more.
• Persistent high unemployment (now 9 percent in Connecticut).
• Unfriendly business climate, particularly for small businesses.
• Education issues: School districts in Wilton and Westport are burdened by unfunded mandates; Norwalk receives an inadequate and inequitable state education funding (ECS) allocation.
• Inadequate, dysfunctional transportation infrastructure: A woefully antiquated commuter rail system (especially the Danbury branch line), confusing and inconsistent rail parking procedures and congestion on I-95.
• A need for affordable housing and more transportation alternatives for seniors.
• A need for statute modification to mitigate threat of overdevelopment in Westport.
2) What were your biggest achievements in office?
• Helping to craft and propose a fully vetted no-tax-increase budget that preserved funding for education, towns and essential services.
• Working on both sides of the aisle to pass bipartisan legislation on education, emergency preparedness and jobs.
• Working successfully to cap increases in the gasoline gross receipts tax.
• Stopping the ill-conceived reintroduction of tolls.
• Playing a key role in passing legislation to protect municipal open space and keep it publicly accessible.
• Helping to pass legislation to help young people save to buy a first home in Connecticut.
• Building a bipartisan coalition to protect commuters from fare hikes leading to no service improvements.
3) Is Connecticut going in the right or wrong direction?
The wrong direction with 9 percent unemployment; the country’s highest combined local and state tax burden; ranked by Barron’s as worst-managed state; ranked worst state for retirement by Kiplinger; ranked biggest sinkhole state by Institute for Truth in Accounting; highest ratio of unfunded liabilities; debt downgraded by Moody’s this year; and ranked 44th in business friendliness by CNBC.
Last year, after a record-high, retroactive tax increase, the state ended the year in deficit and used borrowed money to close it. In 20 years, not one new private sector job has been created, government spending has risen 52 percent and state employment by 14 percent, while population has stayed flat.
Connecticut is losing people and jobs to states with lower taxes and more business-friendly environments. Meanwhile, we have the country’s largest educational achievement gap, our transportation infrastructure is antiquated and unsafe and our quality of life is suffering.
4) What would you do to involve your constituents in your decision-making process?
Involving constituents in my decision-making has always been my first order of business; they know I welcome their input.
I visit them regularly to ask for their feedback. I hold public forums, office hours and meetings with specific groups, including business owners, educators, parents, seniors, commuters and Realtors, etc.
I write often in the media and send out frequent emails to a large list of constituent subscribers to inform them about important developments and seek their input. I attend multiple meetings and events every week in all three towns to ensure that constituents know me and can always find me to offer feedback or ask questions.
5) Why should people vote for you?
Being an effective legislator involves listening to constituents, translating their concerns into workable proposals and building consensus to implement them. My professional and life experience prepared me well. I spent more than 20 years in executive leadership roles: hiring, developing and leading people, balancing budgets, making payroll and serving clients. I worked in many countries and built consensus among people of many backgrounds and viewpoints to resolve difficult issues.
I’m actively involved in all three district towns. I’ve demonstrated my commitment to constituent service, faithful representation and regular, substantive constituent communication. I serve only on my constituents’ behalf and none other. I’ve made it my business not just to oppose policies contrary to their interests, but also to champion alternative constructive proposals. I’ve often built consensus across party lines to propose and pass legislation. When fighting for my constituents, I have no fear. Serving them is a privilege I respect.