'Baby steps to normalcy:' State reps. host 'brown bag' lunch in Fairfield to hear from residents

FAIRFIELD — Two state representatives gave constituents a chance to chat with them at an event on Wednesday.

“I feel like everyone has been somewhat isolated these last four months,” said Rep. Brian Farnen (R-132). “People are still just kind of getting out there, and we wanted to make sure we did this outside, with masks and that we did it following social distancing requirements. So, it’s just some baby steps to normalcy and being able to engage your representatives.”

Farnen and Rep. Laura Devlin (R-134) hosted their “brown bag” lunch from noon to 1 p.m. With face masks and social distancing required, Farnen said they wanted to give residents an opportunity to ask questions.

People trickled in and out of the Sherman Green event. Farnen said people had been asking questions about a lot of the issues at the forefront of American politics today.

“We’ve gotten questions on school reopening,” he said. “We’ve gotten questions regarding statutes, and questions about defunding the police.”

Farnen said he and Devlin are allowed to take “baby steps to normalcy” because of the progress the state has made in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he wishes southern and western states would follow Connecticut’s lead.

“Hopefully, if they make the right decisions now, it will help for us as we enter the fall,” Farnen said.

Cathy Politi, a Fairfield resident, said she went to the event to share her concerns about the state and the direction it was heading.

“We’re not in a very good fiscal condition,” Politi said. “We really haven’t been for a long time. So, I’m just trying to figure out what can be done.”

Politi pointed to the fact that Democrats have controlled the state legislature for nearly three decades, and said she wanted to see Farnen and Devlin support conservative bills that help reform spending.

“We are in a really crucial time right now,” she said. “In a good way, we have kind of a housing boom. So, if we can get our fiscal house in order, we’d be in good shape.”

Politi said she enjoyed the event and the chance to speak to her representatives.

“It’s important to see your legislators get involved, because I don’t see too many people focusing on Connecticut — they’re focusing on national issues,” Politi said. “I think, this year, it’s important to focus and separate national politics from state politics from national politics.”

Devlin said the event was a chance for she and Farnen to listen to people. She said the people she talked to were interested in the direction of the state and the way it would come out of the pandemic.

“Certainly, school reopening is a big topic,” Devlin said. “That is probably the biggest the hurtle that we are going to be facing locally and as a state.”

According to Devlin, legislators going into session next week will be focusing on two primary topics: absentee ballots and police reform. She said absentee ballots will be important in the upcoming election, even if a vaccine is developed.

“People are rightly concerned ... especially seniors, about leaving their homes,” Devlin said. “They don’t even go out for groceries. They have their children taking care of it.”

Devlin said she was concerned that there may be a desire to make a wide-spread absentee balloting more permanent, adding that they should not rush to that decision.

Regarding police reform, she said most of what is being looked at from a state law perspective, such as banning chokeholds, are already policy in the police departments in her district.

Ira Robbin, a Fairfield resident, said he came to the event to see what the Republican representatives had to offer as well as share his views on what he thinks they should be pursuing.

Robbin said he has three main positions he wanted the representatives to advocate for: an increase in police funding and reform, protection of state monuments and then creating a procedure for activists to go through when painting murals on state roads or at public universities.

“I think we need more police to protect us,” Robbin said, adding that they should also increase funding so law enforcement officers could get the training needed to be more effective at their jobs. He said he wanted Farnen and Devlin to stand strongly against defunding the police.

Speaking to his concern about monuments being taken down, Robbin said he was fine with people going through the proper channels to take one down — just not with them tearing it down illegally. He said he was interested in having police departments assign officers to protect the monuments and statues.

Referencing private citizens painting “Black Lives Matter” on public roads across the country, Robbin said he wanted the legislators to come up with a proper process for activists to go through.

“I’d like them to (address that) by the state saying (doing so) is illegal,” he said. “Or, if it is legal, there should be some process that you go through to get your mural approved and there has to be some public support. I don’t want a Nazi symbol but, if 1,000 people say they want it, I guess we couldn’t stop it under an equal application of the law.”

Robbin said he wanted the representatives to take a stronger stance on the issues, but they seemed hesitant to do so.

“I got part of the response I wanted,” Robbin said. “I was pretty satisfied. They understood the points. They accepted the input and had constructive comments back.”