HARTFORD, CT — After spending weeks calling for a town hall meetings on tolls the leading opponent of the measure announced Thursday that its organization wouldn’t be showing up at a transportation forum this weekend in Westport.
“While we encourage anyone who has an interest in the toll debate to attend the governor’s meeting, we, as an organization, are going to concentrate our efforts where it really counts: getting candidates who oppose tolls elected.” Patrick Sasser, founder of No Tolls CT, said in a statement.
He said his group will instead focus their efforts on the three upcoming special elections for House seats. Efforts will include door-knocking and volunteering for three House Republican candidates in Colchester, Fairfield and Greenwich.
The Westport forum is sponsored by Sen. Will Haskell and Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, will feature Gov. Ned Lamont and other administration officials. It will be held at Bedford Middle School in Westport at 4 p.m., Sunday.
At least three Facebook commenters said they disagree with the decision to boycott the meeting.
“I would always have a presence and make sure your voice is heard. If only one side speaks, that will be who gets news coverage. Fight the toll!!!,” Jeff Meierle said on the No Tolls CT Facebook statement.
“What!!? You’re going to pass up an opportunity to get in Ned’s face? BIG MISTAKE,” Brian Maxwell wrote in response to Sasser’s statement.
Henry Rak, another commenter, said “Let’s not show up to their sleazy politics secret meeting. That’ll show them! Really??? Sounds like you’ve just switched to be pro tolls. Terrible plan.”
Sasser defended the decision to boycott the meeting.
“Let the governor speak in front of his Astroturf crowd of pro toll people we need to be out on the streets getting people elected that’s what’s going to make the changes,” Sasser replied.
Last week, Sasser and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, were critical of an email between members of a pro-toll group trying to get people to attend a similar forum which was rescheduled to this Sunday.
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 last weekend. 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.”
Klarides said “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.”
Haskell has said he never finalized the Jan. 7 event and can’t speculate about why the group sent the email.
Angela Liptack, a member of the Pro Tolls group, said they are planning to show up Sunday because they want to hear what Gov. Lamont has to say.
She said they support the latest version of CT2030 and would have preferred to see tolls on all vehicles, but are in favor of plans to toll only large trucks.
Lamont spent Thursday morning defending his transportation plan on WTIC where he took questions from callers.
“Gov. Ned Lamont has had a conversation with Connecticut residents going back a year on how to fund Connecticut’s transportation system, and grow Connecticut’s economy and he looks forward to continuing that on Sunday,” Lamont spokesman Max Reiss said Thursday, declining to comment on the boycott by No Tolls CT.