December 16, 2018

Norm Needleman (D) Candidate for Senate District #33

Biography

Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman

Norm Needleman is currently serving his fourth term as Essex First Selectman. He has over 20 years as a leading advocate for small towns, with experience as a Selectman in Essex, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Essex Economic Development Commission, the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments, and Board Member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

Norm founded Tower Laboratories, a manufacturing company, 38 years ago. He and his two sons have built the company to become a leader in its field, now employing over 250 people.

Q1: What is the biggest problem facing the state, why is it the biggest problem, and what would you do to help solve it?

The state’s most immediate problem is the fiscal crisis brought on by years of mismanagement by administrations of both political parties. The harsh reality is that there is no quick fix. Fundamental change is required in the way we manage the state’s finances.

  1. Stop the blame game. We need cooperation, not finger-pointing. The way out of the financial mess is to stop the political gamesmanship that cripples any real chance for cooperation. Inclusion is the only way to forge the dialogue that can resolve difficult issues. No solution to the financial crisis will result without meaningful participation from all stakeholders.
  2. Start with reliable revenue projections. The state has to live within its means. The budget process should begin with revenue projections that are both reasonable and reliable. Overly optimistic revenue projections have caused budget instability, knee-jerk fixes, and fluctuating funding for our towns, making local budgets unstable and compromising delivery of services.
  3. Recognize that shared sacrifice is required. Interest groups, legislators, and the administration must come to the table recognizing an unavoidable reality: we can’t always get what we want. Not everyone will leave the table happy, but all stakeholders have to share the responsibility for putting the state on the road to financial stability.
  4. Start on the road to a proven long-term solution. Job creation through aggressive economic development is the permanent solution to the state’s financial crisis. We need a comprehensive, long-term plan that will define the path to attracting businesses of all sizes and the high paying jobs that come with them. Those businesses want certainty, not a constant refrain of gloom and doom. When a long-term plan is implemented, our state will regain its status as a place where businesses can grow and prosper.

What do you think of our leadership in Washington?

I’m proud of the work being done by Connecticut’s congressional leaders in Washington, Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, and Congressman Courtney. They work tirelessly for the benefit of their constituents in our state. Their work exists in sharp contrast to the thoughtless, damaging and rigidly ideological policies of the current administration. In almost every area…taxation, healthcare, women’s rights, trade and tariff policy, the environment, voting rights, education, foreign policy…the current administration has attempted to implement regressive and repressive policies that punish hard working people. In our district and in our state, businesses of all sizes have suffered economic consequences, and individuals have felt the impact in job losses and price increases for goods and services. The price we pay for current administration policies is made worse by the tone-deaf policies on issues like women’s rights, healthcare and voting rights.  I am grateful to Connecticut elected officials in the Senate and the House, who have worked to battle the rising tide of repressive policies that ignore human values, basic rights, and the economic interests of hard working Americans.

So, the short answer to your question about what I think of our leadership in Washington: I’m appalled and dismayed. But I’m not giving up…I’m committed to fighting every step of the way for state policies that insure safety, fairness and opportunity for every individual in our district.

Q3: What policies or infrastructure do you support at the state level for fostering or managing growth in your district?

Make certain that the towns in our district receive their fair share of support from the state. Every year our district sends tens of millions of dollars to Hartford. And every year, we get less and less support in return. I will work to eliminate inequities in state funding, and make certain that every town in our district gets its fair share of support. As importantly, I will support procedures that result in stable state budgets, so our towns can develop municipal budgets with the certainty that support will not fluctuate in mid-course.

Make economic development a priority. Re-building the economic vitality of our state and our district is key to almost every element of the quality of life here, including infrastructure maintenance, education, the environment, and everyone’s favorite, lower taxes.  I will use my experience as a job creator to build a reality-based economic development plan that will make it easier for small and large business to operate and prosper.

Fix the state’s budget process. Partisan bickering, shortsighted legislators, and knee-jerk reactions to profound economic challenges are what got us into our current fiscal mess.  All of that has to change. Revenue projections have to be realistic, the hard decisions about spending priorities need to be reality-based, and the budget development process needs to be inclusive, not exclusionary. In Essex, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents work together to focus on doing more with less. The result: our taxes are lower than 90% of the municipalities in our state. 

Set an example of non-partisan cooperation. I have built my success in business and government based on inclusion, and listening to ideas, regardless of the party affiliation of the source. Partisan politics got us into this mess…clearly it is the way out.

Q4: Why are you running for this position?

My commitment to public service and civic involvement stems from the lessons my father taught me when I worked in his small grocery store in Brooklyn, New York. He said that everyone has a responsibility to make his or her community a better place to live. To quote him: “”You cant just take…you have to give back.”  I have been fortunate in my life. I have built a successful business, and I have a beautiful family (my partner, Jacqueline Hubbard and 5 wonderful grandchildren). Today, I see a crucial need to give back to the towns in our district, and I am at the stage of my life when my experience will allow me to live up to the teachings of my father.

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