‘Environmental champion’ versus fiscal hawk in 146th House district

Photo of Ignacio Laguarda

STAMFORD — David Michel and George Hallenbeck are not complete opposites. Both have experience owning small businesses. Both have even taught boating classes.

And both are running for the 146th District in the state General Assembly in the November election.

But similarities pretty much end there.

Michel, a Democrat, is the incumbent, having served two years in office covering the district that includes the South End, Shippan and downtown.

The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters labeled Michel one of a handful of “environmental champions” for his work in Hartford. Michel introduced and fought to ban the possession and trade of shark fins and played a major role in ensuring environmental factors were considered in the state’s acquisition of offshore wind energy.

For Michel, demanding more stringent standards for offshore wind was not only meant to protect the environment, but to create more jobs.

“We are not going to protect ourselves if we don’t protect biodiversity,” he said.

Republican Hallenbeck’s top priorities are budgetary.

He’s running on a platform of balancing the state budget; preventing new taxes, and creating a more business-friendly environment with less regulations.

The political newcomer also wants more support for police. He said he would move to repeal the Police Accountability Law, which passed the House in July with the support of 86 representatives, including Michel.

The bill’s purpose is to hold police officers accountable for acts of brutality, while requiring officers to report coworkers if they witness abuse, among other features.

Hallenbeck said the bill was a “rushed” and “emotional reaction to a perceived problem.”

During his tenure in the General Assembly, Michel has frequently butted heads with developer Building and Land Technology and even led protests against over-development in the South End.

“I always end up fighting developers,” he said, half jokingly.

That doesn’t mean he’s anti-development, Michel said. But he wants development that is beneficial to his district and environmentally conscious.

“I’ll always stand up for what I think is right,” he said.

Michel and Hallenbeck do agree that funding for schools should change.

Connecticut determines education cost sharing based on each municipality’s wealth, which is based on it’s property rolls. Stamford has one of the highest tax bases in the state, which means less money coming from the state.

“The amount we receive from the state for public schools is small compared to Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford,” Hallenbeck said.

Michel said the entire formula is wrongheaded.

“The school system should not depend on property tax,” he said.

Hallenbeck is a retired telecommunications manager, with his most important stint working for the now-defunct Emery Air Freight. He also ran his own small telecommunication company.

Originally from Toledo, OH, Hallenbeck has been in Stamford for close to 50 years.

He is a past commander for the United States Power Squadrons, a non-profit educational organization focused on maritime safety.

Hallenbeck has taught a boating course through the Power Squadrons for the past 40 years and leads cruises in the summer.

“I’ve sailed all of my life,” he said.

Michel, originally from France, is a wholesale distributor for designer European eyewear.

Like Hallenbeck, Michel taught sailing classes to children and is a sailor himself.