HARTFORD, CT – Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, wants to hold a town hall forum to talk about transportation improvements and how the state plans to pay for them, but Jan. 7 simply didn’t work.
Haskell, a freshman senator who campaigned in favor of tolls, said Sunday he hopes to reschedule the Westport forum. He also hopes members of Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration will attend to offer information about CT2030, Lamont’s transportation proposal.
A leaked email from a pro-tolls group with the subject line, “TOP SECRET & URGENT: Gov. Lamont Needs YOU in Westport, Tues. Jan. 7,” was circulated Saturday. It asked supporters of tolls to “show up in force.”
The email went onto say, “Do NOT share any of this information on social media. We have advance notice of this event, thanks to Senator Will Haskell and Gov. Lamont’s office, and we want to keep that advantage over the plan’s ‘No Tolls’ opponents as long as possible.”
Haskell said he never finalized the event and can’t speculate about why the group sent it. If he had finalized it, Haskell said he would have put it on his social media and encouraged the public to attend.
“I’m not afraid to have a contentious public forum,” Haskell said. “The entire purpose of the forum is to hear diverse opinions.”
Max Reiss, Lamont’s spokesman, said there “appears to have been a miscommunication from one of these groups as to the Governor’s commitment to this event, as it was always difficult to make the date and time of the town hall work with the Governor’s schedule.”
Those who oppose tolls, including House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, don’t believe there was any miscommunication.
“Governor Lamont and Legislative Democrats lost trust on this issue in 2019 and apparently have decided that rather than working to rebuild trust, prefer to stage smoke and mirror public events that only their supporters are secretly invited to,’’ Klarides said Sunday. “They tried to keep this meeting at Bedford Middle School in Westport a secret from the majority of residents who oppose tolls in order to stack the room. What a joke.”
Reiss said that’s absolutely not the case.
The event, which would have been publicized by Lamont’s office today, was “only ever in the planning stages.”
“The governor has and will continue to engage with the public on his vision to grow Connecticut’s economy, and that discussion will continue this week,” Reiss said.
Patrick Sasser, founder of the group “No Tolls CT,” said this “just shows why taxpayers don’t trust state government. They are trying to suppress dissenting voices, avoid the public and create an astro-turf ‘pro-tolls’ movement.”
Reiss said they have been in contact with multiple advocacy groups in favor of transportation investment that have requested information about the trucks-only CT2030 plan over recent weeks.
Sasser has been reminding Lamont that he promised at a press conference on Nov. 12 and again on Dec. 19 on a radio show that he would hold town hall meetings to discuss his proposal.
“We encourage the governor to hold public town hall meetings, like he said he would,” Sasser said Sunday. “We also believe there should be a public hearing on the governor’s latest tolling and transportation proposal before any vote is held in the legislature.”
The Democratic lawmakers in the House and the Senate will discuss transportation improvements behind closed doors on Tuesday at the state Capitol.