Milford state representatives share priorities in Hartford

MILFORD — When it comes to their top priority in their upcoming term, Milford’s three-person delegation in the State House of Representatives is unanimous: defeating COVID-19.

“We are living in a unique and unprecedented time,” said Frank Smith, a Democrat elected to represent the 118th District. “None of us can remember anything like this, so the most important objective of all government at every level is defeating and getting past the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Smith said the state needed to marshal all its resources to work with the governor in taking a scientific approach to the pandemic and working cooperatively with the federal level.

Republican Charles Ferraro, who won the 117th District seat on Election Day, agreed. He said the state had a huge responsibility to get back to normal once COVID-19 had been dealth with. Some vaccines currently under development offered the best hope, he said.

“We’re going to probably be seeing vaccines by the end of November, early December, probably first-responders will get those first, and the rest of the population will be inoculated by mid to late spring, I would guess,” he said.

Ferraro, a West Haven resident, added there’s going to be a tremendous amount of catching up to do with regard to businesses, as a consequence of the pandemic.

“Many of them have been closed or have been forced to open on a limited basis, or they’ve been operating below budget,” he said.

He said a large number of people have lost their jobs and need to get back to work.

“So, as a legislator in Connecticut, my job will be to facilitate as many of my constituents as possible on how to take advantage of whatever federal programs and benefits are available post-COVID, and also look at state policy with regard to what can we do to help our businesses and help our folks who are looking to get back to work,” he said.

Republican Kathy Kennedy, re-elected to the 119th District seat representing Milford and Orange, spoke of the coronavirus in relation to its impact on affordability and taxes.

“For our working class families, it’s important that we continue working to lessen the tax burden on them, especially during this COVID time,” Kennedy said.

She said rebuilding the economy needs to be done “in such a manner that we don’t put the burden back on the working families.”

Aside from the pandemic, renewable energy, education and the environment topped the list of concerns for Milford’s delegation.

“We have committed to bringing Connecticut to a 100 percent carbon-free renewable-energy standard with the electric grid by 2035, and we have already accounted for about 50 percent of Connecticut’s energy,” Ferraro said. “In the last two years, we passed a bill that required Connecticut to procure 2,000 megawatts of off-shore wind, and that energy will replace (the Millstone nuclear power plant) because the Millstone plant will be coming off-line in 2032.”

Additionally, he said the state has also been working heavily with solar energy and hydroelectric companies. “Connecticut is about 62 percent renewable carbon-free energy,” Ferraro said. “Between now and 2035, we’re going to probably be occupied with trying to figure out how to make up the remaining 38 percent.”

Such green initiatives would also help mitigate the coastal effects of climate change, a topic Smith expressed concerns about.

According to Smith, Milford has the longest continuous shoreline on Long Island Sound of any Connecticut municipality.

“We have a special responsibility, and I want to work in the legislature to try to bring in both federal and state support to help remediate and address some of the effects of climate change, particularly with regard to coastal resiliency,” he said.

Education was another important issue for Smith, who said he’s interested in securing greater educational revenue-sharing from the state for the local public school system.

Kennedy, too, hoped to ease financial strains on city schools.

“We are working towards making sure that we don’t put unfunded mandates on our school districts,” she said. “This is just so unprecedented with COVID, so we just want to make sure our teachers and our students have the tools moving forward.”

Most importantly, she said, she wants to make sure children have all the tools they need to succeed and be lifelong learners.

Retaining local control of zoning was another issue top of mind for Kennedy.

“I’ve been hearing about renewed efforts in Hartford to take away local control of our zoning boards, so I will be watching that effort very closely,” she said.

Despite all the challenges facing legislators, Smith said he has an “unabashed optimism” about where Milford, Connecticut and the U.S. will be next year at this time.

“There’ll be more cooperative efforts from everyone involved to make for what I think would be an unprecedented era of accomplishment for government and in the private sector,” he said.

Like Smith, getting along across party lines is another priority for Kennedy, who said she hopes to be able to work “in a bipartisan manner — that we work together, we talk to each other, we have good conversations,” she said.