By Mary Mushinsky
How should we judge an incumbent? Have they served the needs of the district? Do they have a vision for the future?
The legislative proposals that I hoped to pass vanished early this year when the session ended abruptly on March 11. COVID-19 had invaded CT and vulnerable people began to sicken and die. It was essential to redirect my time and effort to the pandemic. The months that followed were a struggle for half a million CT people (about 3,500 in Wallingford) who lost their jobs as their workplaces closed. Residents couldn’t get through to overwhelmed agencies to get unemployment benefits, food, or medical care. They called me, and I advocated for each person to address their needs, and pressed for hiring and training more state workers to help people sooner. Most residents needed help by the second missing paycheck. For months, casework for these desperate families was a 7-day a week assignment. As their state representative, it has been my duty and privilege to serve them!
The head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston told a business audience in January that the outstanding challenge for CT and New England is to get the kind of skilled workforce we need by training people of the smaller cities and encouraging immigration. Post-COVID, some jobs may not return, at least not until people feel safe with a vaccine. It is fortunate that after the 2008 recession, my committee did an in-depth review of restoring jobs after a downturn. We found that apprenticeships which match current careers work the best, and provide wages during training. We also identified one project that could retrain unemployed people in only 8 weeks: Platform to Employment (P2E). It was small but powerful. We expanded this innovative program statewide and P2E now retrains individuals to earn an average of $51,505 per year. Not everyone can become a skilled electrician or plumber, but any person can graduate from P2E with a new job. I have also worked hard to make post-secondary school training align more closely with the advanced manufacturing and health technology careers of our southern CT region.
Prior to the pandemic, I have had a long and consistent record of service to the district. From the Quinnipiac River Linear Trail, which began with meeting students in the library who were looking for a safe place to exercise, to the multiple grants and funding allocations it took to build it, to fighting other towns and winning our share of education funds, to twice achieving a more generous formula for sewage treatment that saved money for my constituents, I have looked out for Wallingford.
Some of the other projects my constituents asked for, and got, included: transfer of the State Armory to Wallingford for the Police Station; 811 “Call Before You Dig” (in response to a Wallingford explosion); removal of solvents and manganese from Wallingford’s wells; a gymnasium and improvements for the Boys and Girls Club; upgrade of the YMCA; housing grants for expansion and repairs at Wallingford Housing Authority’s elderly complexes; historic preservation grants; adding Wallingford to STEAP (the small town grants program); an Enterprise Zone at Research Parkway; Small Business Express grants and loans; a running track for Lyman Hall High School; the Vernon Cleeves building at the Vo-Ag School; an increased payment per Vo-Ag student to the town; new commuter rail service; defeat of greater Hartford MDC’s attempt to take our sewage treatment funds; restoration of funding for local public access and school video programs; and reduction of an unfair tax on Toyota Oakdale Theatre.
A vision for the future is also important in an elected official. I have chaired an investigative committee and served on budget efficiency task forces. I study the best practices of the 50 states through membership in professional organizations like the National Conference of State Legislatures and sponsor best practices in my state. Filling the Rainy Day Fund at 15% of the budget was the key to protecting the state during this year’s pandemic. Moving to New England-wide purchasing of prescription drugs saved us millions. Tying housing and economic development bond funds to transit-oriented development allowed residents in participating towns to live near transit routes, reduce their expenses by 9%, and invigorate their downtowns. The State Water Plan, my 20 year effort, was finally adopted in 2019, allowing us to avoid fighting over water supplies.
With one eye on climate change, I’m determined to redirect government investment into energy efficiency and clean energy jobs. It is a good fit for our high cost of energy state. Elon Musk was clever enough to use the government’s energy stimulus funds of 10 years ago to develop TESLA, his electric car. I am committed to investing in a more sustainable future, and ask for your support on Nov. 3.
Democrat Mary Mushinsky is seeking re-election in the 85th House District.