Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Connecticut Senate's Nuclear Explosion


Connecticut Senate Democrats hit the nuclear option in the State Senate tonight when they stopped Republican debate on their train wreck state budget. This is the worst of politics in Connecticut.

The State Senate did not begin debate on the budget document until after 5:30 pm. The second largest tax increase in the history of Connecticut and debate limited to less than six hours.

Why? The deadline for the Connecticut General Assembly to complete business in the 2015 legislative session is Midnight. Imagine that? Hold the budget to the last six hours of a legislative session that began on January 7th. Five months to get the work done and Senate Republicans were given six hours to debate spending $40 billion.

Vote Republican, Connecticut voters!

Monday, May 25, 2015

I Believe - A Veteran's Memorial Day

I BELIEVE
 
Colonel Albert D. Audette, Jr., U.S.A.F. (Retired)
Keynote Address – Memorial Day 2015
Danbury, Connecticut

Honored and Heroic Heroes, Men and Women of our Armed Forces and you, their Families, Mayor Boughton and Honored Guests, Americans,

Thank you for the great honor you do me by your invitation to be with you this Memorial Day. I am doubly honored when I return home to Danbury because – I carry with me, the Keys to the City of Danbury – a most memorable gift, given me some ten years ago by His Honor, Mayor Boughton.

On this, the beginning of my 83rd year – not only can I say that I am a veteran of two wars, I can say unequivocally that I believe in America.

I look around and see Americans! I see families waiting to become Americans… I see men, women and children here today who believe in America.

How very proud I am to be a veteran. How proud I am to call myself a patriot. There is a big difference between American service members and those of other nations.

I’ve travelled the world as a soldier-fighter pilot. I’ve personally trained fighter pilots from most every country… but there’s no one like an American.

I’ve figured out why. When Americans walk abroad, they can be picked out of any crowd! How? Because they walk as they do at home – free, without fear, and noble in that knowledge.

Because of our heritage, our soldiers, sailors and airmen measure a different depth of bravery, a more spirited depth of courage.

We do NOT fear to die for your country; rather, we fear that we will NOT bring honor to our country.

We serve because it is our DUTY and NOT because of gain.

This is why we call American fighting men and women heroes. Each is of Faith on one hand, and works on the other.

Our Founders were also men, women and families of Faith – and with that same difference.

As Saint James wrote. “Thus faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

The Faith of our Fathers resulted in their works: the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights.

This great and mighty nation was founded on the notion that we are a free people with the right to pursue happiness and our individual dreams.

With the right to believe in our dream of liberty!

I believe in this Danbury land upon which we stand this moment – the only land in the entire universe that is, and always will be, a solid bastion of FREE PEOPLE.

I believe in our sweet, true and trusted values – where faith, goodness and courage are always fresh and made to flourish.

Because I believe in the innocence and naivet̩ of happiness РI believe these virtues find their homeland in America!

Since the Revolution, American men and women have given their hearts and lives for the freedoms and beliefs we hold as our own.

These warriors of Faith are buried honorably in our national and state cemeteries, many are buried at sea – where they fell.

And, the Lord forgive us, thousands are buried abroad in foreign countries – these, I say, bring them all home! Bring our fallen heroes home.

Today we honor them as they rest, their sacred work finished.

Within our soil lay the bones of many unknown heroes, whose bravery, courage, and patriotism they placed above their own… rest in peace and thank you, blessed brothers and sisters.

Some will say that we lost two wars. We soldiers have NOT…. I was in the Tet Offensive… history books say that we lost the Tet Offensive.

At dinner a few years ago a high school senior asked me to look at his term paper: The title was “How the U.S. Lost the Tet Offensive.” Though I went into the internet archives to prove that we had not – he replied that he had to repeat what was written in his history book!

We did not loose the Tet Offensive, son, I said, “I was there.”

Some will say we lost Fallujah… We soldiers will say we did not.

Our Fathers and Mothers have given us this soil, to guard and make prosper. I believe that our youth will one day provide even more!

I believe in our children, for we bequeath to them our Faith and our trust… everything to them, so that tomorrow, they will believe even greater things than we can.

I believe that freedom is the handmaid of Columbia, the woman whose statue stands aloft our Nation’s Capitol dome… through her gateway… anyone can climb to the greatest heights; for America is the fertile soil of curiosity.

I believe in our Republic, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights.

We are NOT a democracy… WE ARE A REPUBLIC! And I believe in all this!

I believe that no person has the right to restrain our freedom, to make us a nation we are not, or to prevent us from speaking our peace. Our Constitution, our Flag, and our United States of America are one entity – both under man and under God…

And shame the American who betrays either – but let him speak in peace.

As a soldier, I say, there is unfinished work to be done.

Today other enemies threaten us – and you know who and what they are – irrational terrorists who would fly their black flag above our nation.

Why have we lost what we had already gained?

Only true Americans believe – take a deep breath and BREATHE in America’s sweet Spirit – as you take another breath… feel, all the way through… to your very bones and heart… the Spirit of all Americans around the word and you who are with us today… and as far back to where our history began.

In 1892, an American who believed in that spirit, and in all we live for; wrote an American Pledge. Together, let’s say:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you dear family and God Bless our Heroes!

#

Colonel Albert D. Audette, Jr. is a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Father Audette enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1950 and was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force in 1953. He served as a flight instructor, fighter pilot and as a staff officer in many major commands. In addition to serving as a combat pilot he served at Headquarters of the U.S. Air Force, was the Air Defense Attache with the State Department and served as the director of intelligence for the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Audette retired in 1980 at the rank of colonel.

Colonel Audette earned numerous air combat medals, a Portuguese Cross with Military Merit and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Bronze Star.

In 1989, soon after the death of his beloved wife, Father Audette entered the seminary and was ordained in 1993. He served in several parishes in Danbury, Bethel and Brookfield prior to his mandatory retirement and now is a resident priest at the Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist in Stamford, Connecticut.

Father Audette’s “retirement” days remain very busy helping at the Basilica in addition to his newest focus as the founder of the Roman Catholic Center for Mental Health and Spiritual Development whose mission is to provide positive psychiatric care and mental health services to individuals and families unable to afford these services.

Father Al has four children, fourteen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Democrats Reject Clean Election Proposals

Many election campaign finance related bills were submitted to the Government Administration and Elections Committee of the Connecticut legislature this year but only one is moving forward with no Republican input.
 
Connecticut's Citizen Election Program is funded with taxpayer money and provides campaign grants to candidates. My state senate reelection campaign received nearly $100,000 from the program. The program was designed to eliminate outside influences in state political campaigns by forbidding businesses and lobbyists from a key role in the campaigns.
 
In 2013 Connecticut Democrats who control the legislature blasted bus-size loopholes into the Citizen Election Program with changes that received no Republican legislators vote.
 
Last year I talked about Democrats changing the campaign finance rules and then suing the campaign finance regulators.
 
Not only did the Democrats increase donor limits, lower safeguards and allow lobbyists to take a prominent role in campaigns again but they did all of this saying they must fight against the terrible impact of "Citizens United" - a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed freedom of speech for businesses.
 
The reality is we don't have a problem with Citizens United money in political campaigns in Connecticut. What the Democrats did was raise the issue as a major problem so they could create loopholes in our clean elections program and claim "we had no choice."
 
Poppycock!
 
Senate and House Republicans proposed a package of reforms to election laws this year, including the following changes: 
  1. Cap organizational expenditures by state political parties (SB612)
  2. Rollback the Democrats' increase of donor limits to state parties from $10,000 to $5,000 (HB6084)
  3. Stop state contractor's political donations from being used in state races (SB385)
  4. Eliminate public campaign financing grants to unopposed candidates (SB224)
  5. Reduce all public financing campaign grants by 25% ((SB225)
Instead of bi-partisan support for clean elections in Connecticut like we had when the program was created in 2005 under Governor Rell's leadership we have the majority party running roughshod over the program.

An amazing proposal in SB1126 this year is limiting audits of the taxpayer-funded grants to a political campaign. The Democrats don't think they should be audited this year if they had an audit last year. It seems the way state government currently audits businesses, state grant recipients, state contractors and even taxpayers should not apply to the politicians.

How brazen is that?



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

NO to Casino Expansion in Connecticut


Casino expansion is the wrong direction for Connecticut. Danbury is the wrong location for a new casino in Connecticut. This proposal is a desperate move that offers no long-term benefits for our state.

Danbury’s economy is better suited to high technology and financial services expansion. Danbury consistently has the lowest unemployment rate in the state of Connecticut. Casino jobs offer no enhancement to western Connecticut’s economy.

New casino expansion in Connecticut proposed today will give us supermarket-sized casino parlors – not the same casinos we’re accustomed to at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Our state doesn’t need casino parlors dotting the landscape.

Slot machine revenues at Connecticut’s casinos are dropping precipitously due to the poor economy and new competition in the gambling market. We’ve seen this happen across the country and state government’s response elsewhere has proven Connecticut’s expansion proposal is a dead end.

Looking across the country we can see gambling parlors along interstate highways. These facilities are much smaller than the casinos within a casino we have in Connecticut. Picture a supermarket converted to a casino.

Atlantic City overbuilt their casino market and now they’re closing one after another. The gambling business is changing dramatically across the country. The Connecticut monopoly in the northeast is over and this proposal will not change our reality.

Should the Democrat majority of the Connecticut General Assembly insist on moving forward with this ill-advised idea then our state must renegotiate the tribal compact. Currently, state government shares in only a small portion of revenues generated by Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. This must change.

A new tribal compact must include state participation in all revenues at casino facilities in our state. Slot machines generate only 30% of casino revenue and we are currently limited to a piece of slot revenues. Table games like Poker, Blackjack, Baccarat and Roulette generate a large share of casino revenues and should be subject to a new compact. Negotiations for a new compact must include existing facilities at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun - not just expansion casino facilities.

A better idea is scrapping casino expansion in our state. Connecticut should help our two existing casinos focus on bringing tourists to their destination facilities. Allowing our casino operators to expand will only further erode their existing business.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Closing Loopholes" is Real Raising Taxes...

Governor Malloy says he’s “closing loopholes” when he’s really raising taxes…

Response to the Governor's budget proposal from the business community was swift and harsh. The president of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, Joseph Brennan said, “I think it strikes a blow at business confidence …strikes a blow at our recovery.”

State government grants to municipalities are essentially flat-funded or down slightly. That means local property tax payers must pick up the inflation costs and that translates into higher local property taxes.

The Governor’s budget proposal for the next two years claims to reduce the sales tax. The devil is always in the details. The reality is the budget proposal eliminates sales tax exemptions on clothing and restricts “Tax-Free Week.” We pay $57 million more in sales taxes.

Even your garbage collection costs are going up with Governor Malloy as he raises solid waste disposal fees.

Not only do you get more taxes from the Democrats but you also get a huge “get out of jail free” program. This budget predicts savings of nearly $50 million for releasing prisoners early over the next two years. Has anyone thought about the costs to monitor so many early-release prisoners?

Wait, there’s more. Governor Malloy doesn’t seem to like our third branch of government – the Judicial Branch. He proposes stripping over 1,500 employees from the Court Support Services Division and transferring them to the Executive Branch – now reporting to the Governor. Why is the Governor taking 35% of the Judicial Branch’s employees?

Transportation was a key focus of Governor Malloy’s budget address to the General Assembly. I’ll cover this topic in a future post.

I’ll keep reading and studying the details of Governor Malloy’s budget proposal. So far I see many questions.






#

Friday, October 24, 2014

Vote NO on Election Day

It sounds simple enough.

On Nov. 4, voters will be asked to consider an amendment to the Connecticut Constitution.

Question 1 asks: "Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and to permit a person to vote without appearing at a polling place on the day of an election?"

Many voters might say, “That sounds like a reasonable idea.”

But before you vote “Yes”, ask yourselves what the constitutional change will bring.

Will it mean online voting?  Telephone voting? Month-long voting?  Maybe all of the above?

Your guess is as good as mine.  No one knows what the end game will be. That’s why this question is not being straight with the voters. The truth is, you are being asked to change the state constitution for some unknown future changes to election law.

Changing the Connecticut Constitution is no small matter.  We are, after all, The Constitution State. It's wrong and potentially dangerous to do away with constitutional restrictions and simply leave it up to a General Assembly controlled by one party to decide how voting should happen.  This constitutional change would enable Democrats to make dramatic changes to our electoral system because they have a majority in the legislature.

No matter what your political affiliation, most of us can agree that access to the ballot should readily and easily available. If the goal of Democrats is early voting or no-excuse absentee balloting, they should have put those proposals in a specific constitutional amendment and let voters decide. The language of the question should be clear as a bell, but it isn’t.  Voters should know what the consequences of their “Yes” vote will be, but they have no idea.
 
Language is important. At least our predecessors thought so.  They felt it necessary to put election law in our state constitution.
 
A “Yes” vote on Nov. 4 will open the door to the unknown.  It opens the door to a lot of things without letting the public know where are going.  A “Yes” vote, in my opinion, represents a carte blanche for your state legislature to change voting laws going forward.
So, voters, do you trust them to make all the right moves at the State Capitol?  If not, please join me in voting “No” on Nov. 4.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Fairfield's Hero on September 11, 2001

I had the honor of participating in New Fairfield's September 11th community remembrance service. Here is the text of my comments:

New Fairfield and neighboring Danbury paid a big price on September 11th 2001. Firefighter Chris Blackwell, Rob Higley, Candace Lee Williams and Michael Jacobs perished at the hands of terrorists. Dozens of other victims have family connections to our area on both sides of the state border.

Two-thousand-nine-hundred-seventy-seven victims.
All with a story – all with painful tears.

A tragedy of epic proportions.

Tonight we remember. Tonight we give thanks for their service and their love.

One story has deep roots in New Fairfield…

His mother said, "he was interested in anything that was dangerous. He was born with no sense of fear. When he was little he would swim underwater before he would swim on top of it. My other three children were a lot easier."

His brother shared a story about a distempered raccoon roaming the neighborhood that got too close to children playing nearby. He lead the kids to safety and then put the raccoon down.

That's the kind of guy he was. His first thought was always about others. So, it was no surprise to anyone when he became a career firefighter.

Chris Blackwell was a highly-decorated 20-year member of FDNY Rescue 3 – “Big Blue” as it is known in New York. Mr. Blackwell received the Heroism and Community Service medal in 1989, the Thomas Kennedy medal in 1990, and the Medal of Valor in 1992. He was a member of the FEMA urban search and rescue team and taught heavy rescue skills to fire departments throughout the region and the country.

Chris grew up in New Fairfield and graduated from Immaculate High School. He was a veteran, having served with the U.S. Air Force, was a 25-year member of New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department - Company A and he worked as a regional paramedic during his career.

Chris was the husband of Jane Scott Blackwell, and beloved father of Alex (Alexandra), Ryan and Samantha.

His wife, dear children, proud parents, Fran and Don, siblings, in-laws and the New Fairfield community lost a hero on September 11th 2001.

Maybe not. It seems Chris’ legacy is alive and well. His children have followed him into public service.

Chris’ daughter Alex is in law enforcement. Son Ryan is now a firefighter in the FDNY – carrying the same badge as his father - #342. Daughter Samantha is studying for a career in health care.

Jane Blackwell rose to the challenge of being a single parent – she says with tremendous help from family and friends. I imagine her faith and her guardian angel wearing badge #342 in Heaven helped along the way.

So you see – Chris Blackwell is still with us through his loving family and friends. Chris’ legacy is alive and well and we are very grateful for his service.

May God Bless America and all of the families affected by the tragedy of September 11th. Thank you.


New Fairfield High School Madrigals performing at the September 11 ceremony.