NEW CANAAN, Conn. — The Daily Voice sent five questions to each of the candidates running for state office this fall. The following responses are from Mark Robbins, a Democrat running for state representative from the 125th House District, which includes New Canaan and Wilton.
Robbins, 44, is running for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Rep. John Hetherington. Robbins is the president of MHR Development, a sustainable development consultancy group. He currently serves on the New Canaan Conservation Commission. He is a trustee for the New Canaan Nature Center, a co-chairman of the Connecticut Green Building Council’s Green Homes Committee, a member of the SoundWaters Business and Environment Committee and a graduate student mentor for Urban Land Use at the Urban Land Institute. His hobbies include making metal sculpture, hiking the Appalachian Trail, sailing, kayaking, downhill skiing and architectural photography. He has a pair of degrees from Columbia University, a bachelor’s in economics and philosophy and a master’s in real estate development.
Robbins has lived in New Canaan for nine years. He has one son who he describes as "a true naturalist."
Robbins is running against Republican nominee Thomas O’Dea and Green Party candidate David Bedell.
The Daily Voice: What are the biggest issues facing the 125th district?
Robbins: The three biggest issues facing our communities are taxes, small business growth and energy access/power reliability.
I will tackle the tax issue by advocating for a freeze on all future property and income tax rate hikes to ensure that Wilton and New Canaan continue to be attractive environments for young families.
As an entrepreneur, I will champion greater access to capital, lower fees and expedited permitting for small businesses. The Small Business Express program is a good program. It focuses on the operational side of establishing and running a business. That’s the perspective we need to take to stimulate economic growth and lower unemployment for our state.
Lastly, I will embrace Connecticut’s innovative new energy legislation to update infrastructure, reliability and competitiveness. Recent storms have cost ratepayers millions of dollars. Energy solutions, like tapping the gas lines, will provide cheaper and more reliable power yielding immediate economic benefits to ratepayers and small businesses.
The Daily Voice: What would you do differently than the retiring Rep. John Hetherington?
Robbins: I would hold monthly State of the District meetings in Wilton and New Canaan. I recognize that being a state representative requires more than time spent legislating in Hartford; its more than a full time job. A state representative must meet with constituents during evening and weekend hours to fully understand their concerns and advocate on their behalf in Hartford.
The Daily Voice: Is Connecticut going in the right or wrong direction?
Robbins: Clearly in the right direction as Governor [Dannel] Malloy has taken decisive steps to reposition the state. The governor’s first executive order was to implement Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) in connection with our state budgets. In my opinion, fiscal responsibility is the first step to recovery. Additionally, Malloy slashed government agencies from 85 to 51 and trimmed state government to the smallest it’s been in 20 years.
I’m enthusiastic about the state’s comprehensive energy strategy which recognizes the economic and environmental benefits of natural gas as well efficiency retrofits. Towns should also start to plan for distributed generation. Connecticut has the highest electricity rates in the country. By generating power locally, thus lowering rates from 18 cents per kilowatt hour to 3 cents per kilowatt hour (an 85 percent savings), Wilton and New Canaan can reduce energy expenditures by millions of dollars per year.
The Daily Voice: What would you do to involve your constituents in your decision-making process?
Robbins: It will be my priority to reach out, listen to, and consider all the sides of an issue. I will not rely upon canned periodic newsletters and emails that regurgitate pre-packaged rhetoric. I would continue to make use of dynamic communication platforms to poll and engage residents on issues that concern them and I will follow-up with my own e-newsletter that will target concerns of the district.
The Daily Voice: Why should people vote for you?
Robbins: Vote for me because I have a strong sense of ethics and fair play. I will apply that behavior to making balanced decisions for the residents of New Canaan and Wilton. Secondly, I’ll move beyond the simple rhetoric of “more or less taxes, more or less services” when seeking solutions to Connecticut’s needs. I believe in looking at the whole picture to reduce costs and make the state attractive to business and economic growth. The state’s future should be marked by innovations in energy and technology to spur jobs and fill the state coffers. Historically, Connecticut has been known for innovation. It is time to reclaim our heritage as we move forward into the 21st century.