State Senator, Tony Hwang, a Republican, was first elected to the Connecticut Legislature in 2008 despite it being the year of the Obama Tsunami. His explanation for this phenomenon is the contact with the people he was able to establish when that is what the public wants with public officials.
Senator Hwang ascribes his ability to make this contact is due to values he learned from his father. His father came to the U.S. from Taiwan because of the lack of opportunities in Taiwan. He came alone leaving his family behind until he could afford to bring them over. The man had little education, no particular talents and was unable to speak English. Consequently, he was forced to take the most menial jobs, but still managed to send most of his pay back to his family. Seven years after first landing in this country Senator Hwang’s father managed to bring his family over to join him. By this time the senior Hwang had managed to learn to be a chef and a good one. When the balance of the family arrived they lived in New York’s lower east side. Because it was such a dangerous neighborhood the Hwangs moved to Watertown N.Y., which is far upstate. In Watertown they lived in a Federal housing project and young Tony was placed in remedial schooling because he knew no English. Still Senator Hwang’s father thought they owed much to their new country for their opportunities and as a way of paying back invited Tony’s entire school to a banquet prepared by papa Hwang. It was a resounding success and the future Senator learned that giving back and trying to make a difference were important values. Helping people and encouraging them to succeed benefits everyone.
Q. What is your opinion of Bridgeport’s Mayor elect after he served a seven year criminal sentence?
A. There should be second chances for people making small mistakes, but real criminals should be kept away from society. I don’t think that Bridgeport’s newly elected Mayor should have been allowed to run for that office where he has access to public funds. He may have been elected because when he served before, things were much better financially and people may have associated him with happier times.
Q. What efforts are being made to keep GE in the state?
A. I believe we should do anything to keep GE here. But you have to realize that it was probably 95% out the door when GE made its announcement. The latest taxes were probably just the straw that broke the camel’s back. There were years of policies and taxes that made it increasingly difficult and expensive for GE and other businesses. Connecticut’s approach to business just didn’t allow GE or other businesses to do the long-term planning they need to do. I believe GE will leave.
Q. Connecticut has increased and instituted all types of taxes. What are the legislator’s thinking about as they force not only business, but people out of the state?
A. They don’t think about it. Unless it is something substantially impacting their own area, they pay no attention. Why would they? Historically, 97% get re-elected by just focusing on their own interests. There is no accountability.
Q. Where is the money for infrastructure and education coming from?
A. We have to make these investments. Bonding is probably one of the best sources we could use. There is resistance to higher taxes, not because we don’t believe in taxes, but because we believe the government is a poor money steward. There are too many instances where we pay for many agencies to do the same thing, or we are paying for services that are provided by others at a far lower cost.
Q. How do you start cross-party conversations when there are such differences in ideology?
A. There probably are not insurmountable differences in ideology. What you have is politicians playing to their base, which because of gerrymandering can be comprised of extremists of one type or another. We have to get politicians to think of the common good and get rid of them if they don’t. Make them accountable.
Q. How can the excess government costs be eliminated?
A. Eliminate unnecessary redundancy for one thing. Every department in the Connecticut government structure has its own IT person or persons instead on their being a centralized IT group that services them all. Emphasize efficiency.
Q. Since GE is likely to leave, what are we doing to replace it and attract other new business to the state?
A. We are not doing anything now. We have to change the tone our government uses. It needs to become more business friendly. We also need to reduce the number of regulations that burden our businesses.
Q. Have you or can you prepare a list of what could be done to save money?
A. We could start one right here. Did you know that CT has allocated 150 million to unions for suggestion boxes that would bring out new money saving ideas? No such suggestion boxes have ever been developed and the committee charged with bringing them about has only met once to elect a Chairman and Co-Chairman. Such budget allocations are the result of unilateral decisions made by the governor