An Interview With Connecticut State Senate Candidate George Colli

I recently had the opportunity to interview State Senate Candidate George Colli.

George is running to represent Connecticut’s 7th Senatorial District (Somers, Enfield, Suffield, Windsor Locks, Windsor, East Granby, and Granby).

This is a law blog and not a political blog but there’s certainly an overlap seeing how lawmakers make laws which is why I’ve asked George questions related to issues tackled by this blog in the past.

George is as exciting and motivated of a candidate as can be found anywhere in Connecticut.  As a small businessman, George understands the challenges faced by Connecticut’s small businesses.

Listen to what George has to say because he’s a rising star in state politics and a Red Sox fan.

What are the most significant issues facing Connecticut today?

George Colli: The most significant issue is the state of our economy. The Enfield region had the highest job loss in the state in 2007. Over 1700 jobs were lost. The second highest region in the state for job loss was in New Haven with 200 jobs. The cost of doing in business in North Central Connecticut gives no incentives for new industries or business to come into the state and seems to work against existing businesses looking to grow. Without these jobs available, young people are going away for college and never coming back. To keep the best and the brightest in the state we need to actively and aggressively sell this area to companies. We need to have a clear vision for what we want our area to become and then go out and make that vision a reality.

What are your plans to address those issues?

George Colli:  I would start by looking to market our area’s strengths. The 7th District can become major economic engine for the state by taking advantage of the infrastructure and natural resources we already have in place. We are the transportation hub for the state of Connecticut. We have a major International Airport in Windsor Locks, a major interstate splitting the district in I-91, proposals for two state-of-the-art train stations and bus service hubs in Thompsonville and Windsor Locks. We have the beautiful Connecticut River. The potential for generating business and tax revenue in and along these areas could have a huge impact on the next generation. Hotels, shops, offices, small businesses would bring jobs, allow folks to work closer to home and save themselves the grind of a daily commute back and forth to Hartford, Springfield or beyond. As the next Senator, I would work to bring industries and companies in that would add to the heritage and traditions to our communities, not work against them.

How did the new campaign finance laws influence your decision to seek office?

George Colli:  The new public financing laws were a major reason for me deciding to take this step. As a newcomer to the world of elective politics, the idea of spending all my time chasing donations from friends and supporters would be a brutal way to introduce myself to the district. The new system has allowed me to spend a good majority of my time reaching out to constituents who have never been involved in the process. It has allowed me to attend community events where I’ve had the chance to meet sometimes hundreds of people in a day. That one on one contact is what I truly enjoy about campaigning. I have learned so much about my neighbors and what their dreams and goals are for themselves and their families. The fundraising is still a major part of the campaign, but it isn’t the only part anymore. I am proud of the work we did in reaching the fundraising goals. In just over eight weeks time we received over 520 individual donations and over $15,000. As of the July 10 filing deadline, we doubled my opponent’s intake in both donors and donations despite the fact he has been raising money for 8 months. The overwhelming support we have had in such a short period of time is a real indication of the desire people have for real change in this district.

What are your thoughts on Connecticut’s probate court system?

George Colli: The inconsistencies town by town in how the probate courts are run are a major problem. I have much more research to do on the subject as to how best resolve the issue. I will seek advice from people who know much more than me as to how the system needs to be fixed.

What can the legislature do to stimulate and promote small business growth in Connecticut?

George Colli:  The legislature needs to understand the mindset of the small business owner. They can begin by fully funding the PILOT program. Towns go through a brutal budget process each year. They depend on the money that is promised. When only cents on each dollar that is promised is brought back to the towns, it puts the municipalities in a tough situation. It is businesses and homes owners who make up the shortfall. The state needs to understand what it costs to heat our businesses, to turn the lights on, to pay for insurance. To give you an example – my family is involved in a restaurant in Enfield. In 2003, the electric bill for the year was $29,000. The bill at the end of 2007, the bill was $60,000. For 2008, our electricity month by month is up 10% and is increasing as we speak. That’s 120,000 more chicken wings a year we need to sell just to make up the difference in our electric bill. Or 12,000 more Bud Light drafts. The state needs to think in the long term rather than just two-year election cycles.

Red Sox or Yankees?

George Colli: RED SOX!!! Greatest moment I ever had as a Sox fan was being at Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. I was sitting directly behind the Yanks bullpen and Papi’s walk off homer landed ten feet to our left. Fenway was electric that night. It didn’t matter that they were still down 3 games to 1 and no team had ever come back from such a deficit. Walking out of the field that night made all the years of pain I withstood as a fan worth it. Then we all know what happened next…