On Monday night, along with my mother and more than 100 other constituents, I attended a town hall meeting in Stamford. The meeting hosted by three area lawmakers started with a discussion of the state budget and the dire long-term picture for Connecticut if we don’t get our finances under control, something upon which we all agree.
The difference, as always, is how we go about doing that.
Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, demonstrated at a pre-election forum at Greenwich Town Hall last October that he is our state’s Mitt Romney. During that October forum, a Greenwich High School student asked all the local candidates a question about beach passes. Sen. Frantz replied by telling the student, “you get free beach passes until you’re 21.” Well, maybe if you own a private beach like Sen. Frantz, but the rest of us mere mortals start paying for beach passes as soon as our kids turn five, and we pay the full adult price as soon as they reach 16.
Sen. Frantz revealed his Romneyesque side again at Monday night’s town hall, when he delivered an impassioned call for the repeal of the inheritance tax and for protections for hedge fund billionaires. According to Frantz, the greatest calamity to hit the state of Connecticut in recent times was the defection of his good friend, Eddie Lampert, to Florida. Lampert is the hedge fund billionaire who made headlines when he moved his company to the Sunshine state. Hedge fund billionaires, Frantz told us, are critical to Connecticut, because they pay taxes and their philanthropy helps “fill the holes in the state budget.”
Well, here’s the interesting thing about Mr. Lampert: Although he moved to Florida to avoid paying Connecticut taxes, the bulk of his operations are still in Greenwich. He’s just figured out how to structure things so that they are “outsourced.” Seriously wealthy people will always find a way to minimize their taxes. Just ask Mitt Romney. But if someone is willing to leave their community, family, and friends just to avoid paying taxes, what does that say about their character? Believe it or not, Sen. Frantz, some people choose more important and meaningful things than taxes to drive their important life decisions.
Which brings me to the greatest disappointment the majority of attendees at that meeting had with our representatives — their universal and complete unwillingness to be honest and open about where they stand on protecting our children from gun violence. All three representatives, Sen. Frantz, and Reps. Livvy Floren and Michael Molgano, used the excuse that they were waiting for the bipartisan Super Committee to put forth its recommendations before telling constituents where they stood. They said they didn’t want to say anything in order to avoid compromising “bipartisanship,” which is all the more ridiculous in light of the fact that less than 48 hours later, the very gun violence subcommittee on which Sen. Frantz sits released two sets of recommendations.
But to be fair, Greenwich and Stamford Republicans aren’t alone in being out of touch with their constituents on this issue.
Wednesday’s Quinnipiac University poll showed strong bipartisan voter support for gun control measures, including two that the Republican members of the committee refused to sanction: expansion of the assault weapons ban and limiting high capacity magazines. Below is a sampling of the Republican support for specific gun proposals from the Quinnipiac University poll.
-93 percent of voters, including 91 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of gun-owning households support background checks for all gun buyers.
-68-28 percent, including 51 percent of Republicans, back an expansion of the statewide ban on the sale of assault weapons.
-68-28 percent, including 56 percent of Republicans, back a ban on the sale of high capacity magazines that hold more than 10 bullets
-63-31 percent, including 50 percent of gun owners, favor limiting handgun purchases to one per month;
-85-14 percent, including 71 percent of gun owners, back a permit requirement to purchase and carry all guns;
-86-11 percent, including 85 percent of gun owners, favor a gun offender registry for those convicted of gun crimes;
-76-19 percent, including 65 percent of gun owners, back stricter gun storage requirements.
Frankly, I’d like to see my elected officials more passionate about protecting the lives of children than the tax status of hedge fund billionaires. Maybe that’s just me.
But actually, it’s not. Because by a 42-20 percent margin, the Q-Poll found voters said they are more likely rather than less likely to back a state legislator who votes for stricter gun control. Connecticut legislators take note.
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.