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Duff, Kousidis address 2020 issues

At left, Republican State Senate candidate Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis; at right, State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25). (Courtesy photos)

The 2020 election is scheduled for Nov. 3.

NORWALK, Conn. — The League of Women Voters of Norwalk invited all candidates for State Senate and State Representative in Norwalk’s districts to submit responses to a six-item questionnaire, a photo, and a campaign URL. Here are the answers from State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25) and his Republican challenger, Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis.

Considering your education, employment experience, political involvement, and personal attributes, what qualifications do you have to be a good State Senator?

State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25)

“My public service career began at age eight. I had written a letter to the mayor of Norwalk concerned about the future of Duffy Field. We still have our Duffy Field, now renamed Veteran’s Park. My parents had instilled in me a belief that activism is a civic duty. In college I earned a degree in political science while interning with former senator Chris Dodd. I learned how ‘the system’ works and how to make it work for my future constituents.

“My years as a long-term substitute teacher in Norwalk and as a real estate professional taught me the value of listening and understanding people’s needs, wants, and don’t wants.

“As a member of the state legislature since 2001, and currently Senate Majority Leader, I’ve been very effective at building consensus among my colleagues, regardless of political affiliation or personal ideology, to move Connecticut forward.”

Republican State Senate candidate Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis

“Just as I have always had a student-first approach to education, I will have a citizen’s-first approach to legislation and issues that concern our community.

“I am an educator, a mother and a wife of a small business owner. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, as well as two Masters degrees; one in Teaching and the second in Educational Technology. Additionally, I hold three State of CT teaching certifications including, Secondary Social Studies, Library Media Studies, and Technology Education. I am passionate about making sure all children have access to the tools and resources they need to be successful. In 2018, I was the proud recipient of the Stamford Public Education Foundation Excellence in Education Educators Award.

“Throughout my years as an educator, I’ve seen what it takes to make positive educational experiences that lead to improved outcomes for students and extra bureaucracy is not the answer.”

 

 

In the July 2020 special session, the General Assembly passed a new police accountability bill, which the governor signed into law. Do you support or oppose that bill? If elected, how – if at all – will you change state laws about police accountability?

 State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25)

“There are people on both sides of this issue who view police accountability as anti-police. Not so. This is not an us vs. them issue. It’s about improving public relations through increased transparency and enhanced professionalism. That is what I support.

“Nothing in our recently passed legislation hinders a police officer’s ability to control crime or enforce laws, two of the three primary responsibilities of police. And it does aim to enhance that third responsibility, one the public has cried out for – maintaining order, or as we used to say, keeping the peace.

“Police work is tough. It’s often dangerous. Every officer wants to go home in one piece at the end of their shift. My hope is that this new legislation makes for renewed public trust in and community support for the police, making a police officer’s job easier and safer.”

Republican State Senate candidate Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis

“The police accountability bill is a sweeping piece of legislation that will drastically change policing practices in Connecticut and overturn decades of Supreme Court precedent. Connecticut Democrats rushed this bill through the House and the State Senate during a special session with little comment or analysis. Many legislators, police officials, and officers have voiced their concerns about how this bill will severely damage police retention and recruiting. This will make our communities less safe and it is not necessary in Connecticut.

“I think we need community solutions for community issues. The one-size fits all approach taken by our current administration creates more problems than it solves.

“Connecticut ranks 8th best in the nation on the U.S. News Safest States report. USA Today ranks Connecticut ninth best, noting in particular safety in Connecticut schools. The Norwalk Police Department has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement since 1995.”

 

 

Affordable housing is an ongoing concern in Norwalk and surrounding towns. What changes, if any, to state laws and/or programs will you support to address this issue?

State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25)

“The challenge at the state level is crafting policy that’s workable in diverse communities, from urban, to suburban, to rural. We’ve made good progress in affordable housing in recent years. Look at just about any mixed-use development and you’ll see provisions for affordable housing. By far the biggest issue is a community’s opposition. That’s the current issue at many proposals.

“We’ve had legislation in place since 1989 to promote affordable housing. But today we still have too many families, elderly and young people, all with limited incomes, who are locked out of the housing market. If we are ever to achieve economic class and racial integration, we’ll need to change people’s hearts. And that’s something we can’t legislate.”

Republican State Senate candidate Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis

“Connecticut is ranked 48th in the nation for fiscal health. It is no surprise that our community is struggling with affording housing. We are saying goodbye to businesses regularly. Connecticut was once one of the largest manufacturing states. We need to bring these jobs and businesses back to Connecticut. Our answers to affordable housing must include a broad approach to becoming a thriving state that is conducive to businesses. State control of local zoning is a narrow approach and does not address the true problem. The state should stay focused on creating policies to ensure thriving communities.”

 

 

What is your view on statewide laws and mandates, as opposed to local autonomy for Connecticut’s municipalities? Is the balance about right, or should there be more statewide consistency, or more local autonomy? Give one or more specific examples that apply to our local area.

State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25)

“The word ‘regionalization’ has been co-opted – transformed into a divisive political term. It means nothing more than sharing services between communities. The goal is to maximize dollars spent in order to save taxpayers their hard earned money. With 169 municipalities and 162 school districts, we have a lot of duplication in our state. Approaching housing, transportation and other municipal functions with an eye toward maximizing efficiency and saving taxpayer dollars is a goal we should all share.”

Republican State Senate candidate Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis

“Top on my agenda for state legislations is to promote local control of our communities and schools, and stop forced regionalization. Forced regionalization will add levels of bureaucracy to our schools that is just that…an extra level of bureaucracy. It will not bring better education to our schools and I have seen first hand of how local control benefits our children.

“Every community has different needs and the more local the solutions, the better outcomes we can expect.”

 

 

If elected, will you support or oppose the State Constitution being amended to allow the General Assembly to provide for early voting or no-excuse absentee voting?

State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25)

“I am support all efforts to make the right to vote as convenient and expedient as possible. Amending the state constitution is a lengthy process that requires a good deal of thoughtful consideration. However, Connecticut is behind where many other states are in this area and we should provide easier access so everyone can participate in our democracy.”

Republican State Senate candidate Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis

“I believe it is a right and a privilege to vote. We are in unprecedented times but we are a people that can solve problems. We should be able to find the balance between having the safest and most secure election process. And as with so many items, it will take input from the local towns and municipalities.”

 

Considering the state’s response to and recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, what will your top priorities be in this regard if elected?

 State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25)

“Continue leading with science and facts to ensure the health of our people. That we open up responsibly, not repeating the mistakes of many states. We’ve had one of the lowest rates of infection in the country. At the same time we’ve opened 95 percent of the state’s economy, with an over 85 percent economic recovery rate.

“And rather than closing the 2020 fiscal year with a COVID related deficit, we had a small surplus. That money goes into our ‘rainy day’ fund, now at a record high. In fact, it’s more than 15% of our budget, so the extra is adding to our efforts to pay down long term debt.

“As a legislator, I know we’ll have to work on helping our small businesses, non-profits, arts organizations get back on their feet. With our strong fiscal position, we’re better prepared to be a good partner.”

Republican State Senate candidate Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis

“We are currently in Stage 2 of reopening in our state. COVID-19 cases have been brought under control, schools are reopening, the move to stage 3 continues to be a long an drawn out process.

“We need our legislators back at work participating in these conversations and representing the people they were elected to represent. It is critical that the people have a voice in this pcoress.

“We must work together to keep our citizens informed and educated with clear benchmarks. Transparency is key to building trust in our community.”

Information added, 3 p.m.:

The League of Women Voters of Norwalk will present a virtual candidate forum on Thursday, October 22 beginning at 6:30 p.m.

The event will be live-streamed on Zoom and recorded for later viewing and posted on the League of Women Voters of Norwalk website, https://my.lwv.org/connecticut/lwv-norwalk and Facebook page, League of Women Voters Norwalk CT.  

6 comments

Sue Haynie October 5, 2020 at 6:18 am

Great answers from Ellie Kousidis, a smart, thoughtful, young woman. She’s got my vote.

Bob Duff is a politician first, a senator who helps Norwalk second. The stock photo he submitted of himself where he looks the same age as Ms. Kousidis seems deliberate, as if to obscure Duff’s decades in local politics.

John O'Neill October 5, 2020 at 9:06 am

I wish the League would’ve asked a few more pertinent questions. Such as:
1) Bob, you’ve been in legislature for 20 years. As a “long term substitute teacher” you’ve seen ELL students explode. Why on God’s earth has nothing been done t support Norwalk in this regard?
2) Bob, you’ve been in the legislature for 20 years. Has there ever been a truly balanced budget? Why not? Why haven’t you done anything about it? Be honest. Pushing pension liabilities back to our Grandchildren doesn’t count.
3) Bob, you’ve been in the legislature for 20 years. Why hasn’t Eversource and before them CL&P not been regulated properly over those years. Connecticut residents pay the MOST for power in Continental USA. WHY? What have you done to address this travesty? Chris Perone is on the Energy Committee — He doesn’t even show up for committee meetings. What’s that all about?
4) Bob, you’ve been a multi generational Norwalker. Certainly you’ve seen the positive effects of our Police Department. Why the heck would you falsely throw them under the bus? THANK GOD for video cameras!! But seriously, why would you do that?
5) Bob, you’ve been in the legislature for 20 years. WHY have our taxes gone thru the roof. There’s currently a tax on everything but my wife’s cooking. I’m guessing you haven’t figured that out yet. Speaking of taxes — Why did you allow Malloy and legislature to steal money from our hospitals. For those not paying attention CT now has to pay hospitals close to a Billion Dollars over 7 years.(Google CT Hospital Tax Lawsuit and Settlement) Our hospitals sure could have used some of those stolen funds to prepare for Pandemic. It shocks me that you would do that to our health network.

These are just a few of the questions I wish were asked of our current State Senator. It is my hope that NancyonNorwalk or someone else will ask what the heck has happened over the past 20 years. I don’t think this is controversial.

Diane Winston October 5, 2020 at 9:45 am

Thank you, Senator Duff for answering these questions in such a forthright manner. Your responses were thoughtful, insightful, and definitely well-balanced in your consideration of possible opposing perspectives: No finger-pointing or attacking the other side. REFRESHING! Thank you. You can count on my vote!

Bryan Meek October 5, 2020 at 10:09 am

“As a member of the state legislature since 2001, and currently Senate Majority Leader, I’ve been very effective at building consensus among my colleagues, regardless of political affiliation or personal ideology, to move Connecticut forward.” Duff wrote…..

Except of course if they are Republicans and you shut them out of the debates and conversations like you have on just about every single landmark legislation including the two largest tax increases in the history of the state while it was still recovering from recession.

More importantly, when you went to Hartford in 2001, Norwalk’s operating budget relied on 10% of it’s revenues from State grants and pass throughs. Today that number is down to 6% and shrinking rapidly.

Bottom line, we need someone who stands up for Norwalk and Darien, not special interests in Hartford…..and TERM LIMITS!

DrewT October 6, 2020 at 8:43 am

If you ever wanted to know what a politician sounds like just read Bob’s non answers. He has no new ideas and desire to work for his constituents. His answers are very top line narratives. His time is up. Ellie is fresh, educated and powerful with a lot of heart and desire to represent our City. She has young kids and a business here with deep roots. She has fresh ideas and will take Hartford by storm. Norwalk will no longer be the doormat as we get treated. Bob will pander to the special interests and his party not the people. It’s tome for Bob to go back to his former career. Ellie will win and I can’t wait to cast my vote for her!! Norwalk needs Ellie and we need her!

David T McCarthy October 6, 2020 at 10:44 am

Cut and paste answers from Duff…it is time to go.

Question for Nancy…you consistently list Ellie as Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis as if she is trying to commit a crime by using a more common form of address. Why do you not list our illustrious incumbent as Robert “Bob” Duff? There is a very large gap here…where state senator Duff is made to look as if he is everyone’s friend and we seem to be led to conclude that the challenger is some sort of bizarre outlandish person because she comes from a culture, as do many, many Norwalk residents, that use traditional naming conventions and use nicknames in everyday life. Smacks of xenophobia.

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