Candidate profiles for 125th District: Mark Robbins
Mark Robbins, a member of the New Canaan Conservation Commission, calls himself a fiscal conservative and an avid environmentalist. He said he is the first Democrat in 26 years running for this seat.
"One of my greatest strengths, if elected, is a practical one," Mr. Robbins said. "If elected, New Canaan and Wilton will have a seat at the table for the first time in many, many years. I would be not just the fiscal conservative with a successful track record in managing budgets, but I would have a seat at the table as a member of the majority party. For the first time in decades, New Canaan and Wilton would have an opportunity to be heard, not shut out of the discussions. I would be that voice so New Canaan and Wilton could be heard."
"Energy is central to my platform," Mr. Robbins said. "We are at the vanguard of the energy revolution, which will provide an immediate source of jobs coupled with municipal and residential tax savings."
He said New Canaan "provides an easement for the Yankee gas line, which provides an inexpensive, clean-burning source of energy for neighboring towns, but since we haven't tapped it, we're left in the dark."
Mr. Robbins said the state is handicapped by the most expensive energy costs in the country, combined with the least reliable service. Power generation and gas pricing are areas where he would champion tax cuts at the legislative level. "I would fight to roll back the gas tax and zone pricing for gasoline, which collectively yields the most expensive gas prices," he said.
"Innovation is in our DNA in Connecticut," he said. "We have solved some of the most complex problems and had some of the most innovative solutions to engineering and environmental problems in history."
At the municipal level, Mr. Robbins said, he would focus on more ways to get third-party energy providers to fund energy-efficiency programs at zero cost to taxpayers. He said he has the knowledge to do so, referring to his experience building LEED-certified (leadership in energy and environmental design) homes in the state as well as his role as co-chairman of the Connecticut Green Building Council chapter.
Referring to Fairfield County as the "ATM for the state," Mr. Robbins said dedication should be given to a more modernized, 21st-Century transportation system — for example, more cars on the tracks and better access to the trains, including parking, a jitney that helps people get to the trains, cleaner cars, and Wi-Fi.
"It is the cheapest, safest and cleanest thing to do," he said. "A dollar spent on the railroad alleviates $3 spent on I-95."
Mr. Robbins said he is not interested in expanding the Merritt Parkway or I-95. He wants people to use the trains to reduce carbon emissions and accidents.
"A specific bill to champion is the fact that the money that we pay for our tickets goes into a general fund and is not directly required to go back into railroad investment," he said. "As a legislator, I would like it to be directly reinvested into the railroad to benefit the people in these two towns."
Mr. Robbins also said it is necessary to implement safer bicycle lanes and convenient bicycle storage on the trains.
Mr. Robbins believes in giving small businesses tax incentives to grow and favors a tax freeze.
"I am in favor of a tax freeze and specific targeted tax cuts. It's a great sound bite to say I want to cut taxes 10%," he said, referring to his opponent Tom O'Dea's tax plan. "If you say that at the state level, that means increasing tuition for state schools, and the aid for the elderly and poor for home heating oil relief would go down."
A way for towns to save money, he said, is to deploy programs that create a framework for municipal operation and sharing. For instance, he said, Wilton and New Canaan could share Public Works equipment and specialized assets. If that were the case, he said, equipment maintenance could be consolidated and fuel purchasing could be shared.
He also supports a regionalized form of dispatch. He said each town has its own emergency call center staffed 24-7. Mr. Robbins' idea is to consolidate the town call centers, as some other state municipalities do and as is done in Los Angeles.
"It's not sacrificing safety," he said. "It's municipal cost sharing. We would maintain local control of our own community, but we can share on public works and public safety and health departments."
Mr. Robbins is a self-employed real estate developer who specializes in planning and building sustainable homes. He is a trustee of the New Canaan Nature Center and serves on the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Committee of Soundwaters, a Stamford-based nonprofit agency dedicated to the preservation of Long Island Sound. He said he has 18 years of practice in the building and construction trade, managing large budgets and municipal approvals, working with state agencies and creating a revenue base for communities he built.
He is also the co-chair of the Connecticut Green Building Council's Green Homes Committee, was a former Columbia University adjunct faculty member, teaching sustainable development and renewable energy systems, and was on New Canaan's Long-Range Planning Committee.
"I'm thrilled to have this opportunity and I am self-employed," Mr. Robbins said. "I make my own schedule — it provides me with the flexibility to pursue this with an absolute focus on representing the constituents so I can be an effective voice for the residents of New Canaan and Wilton in Hartford."
Mr. Robbins is funding his campaign through the citizens election program, which provides grants to qualified candidates who have to follow specific guidelines. There is a maximum of $100 in donations per person, with no money from lobbyists or state contractors, Mr. Robbins said.