Senator Kissel Joins Tolls Protest in Enfield

February 22, 2019

Article as it appeared in the Journal Inquirer:

ENFIELD — In a party-line vote Tuesday, the Town Council opposed Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal to put tolls on Connecticut’s highways as 15 or so protesters outside, picket signs in hand, stood in frigid temperatures to protest the toll proposal.

The resolution, which the council passed by a 6-4 vote, is nonbinding, meaning it has no legal impact but expresses the council’s disapproval of tolls. The council’s Republicans unanimously supported the resolution, while Democrats unanimously opposed it.

Democrats and Republicans on the council agreed that the resolution probably would have no effect on the state’s decision whether to institute tolls. But they differed on whether the council should have addressed the matter.

Councilman Carl Sferrazza said he felt obligated to look out for the welfare of the town’s residents and let the council’s views be known, even though the decision on tolls isn’t up to the council.

If the council waited until “all the facts come in” and a bill was passed, Sferrazza said, it would be too late.

But Councilwoman Gina Cekala said there isn’t enough information available to make an informed decision. Without a bill having been introduced, it’s unclear what vehicles will be taxed, and it is still unknown which highways would have tolls, she said. She said it would be counterproductive to spend time addressing something the council has no control over.

Councilman Robert Cressotti said the council shouldn’t be voting on what he considered to be a partisan resolution. He said the council’s Democrats had no say on the resolution.

But Councilman Joseph Bosco called it “ludicrous” for Cressotti to claim the Democrats weren’t involved in drafting the resolution. He said the Democratic council members had a month to propose changes to the resolution, such as addressing the cost to commuters. He said they didn’t do that.

Residents who spoke before the council on the issue were mainly against tolls, with most citing the increased financial burden tolls would place on residents, especially those living on fixed incomes.

Some residents also expressed concern over increased traffic on secondary roads like Elm Street, as motorists seek to bypass the tolls. They said that could cause congestion and more traffic accidents.

Mary Ann Turner, one of the rally’s organizers, said the idea to demonstrate started during the election, and with the help of Mark Anderson of Granby, things slowly started to come together.

“One thing leads to another, and with a little bit of energy, a few signs, and few email posts, and the next thing you know — boom, bang, bing — you got bodies,” she said.

Among the protesters who stood at Enfield and Elm streets near Town Hall for nearly two hours in 25-degree weather was Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield. Some of the protesters weren’t Enfield residents.

Kissel, who won his 14th term to represent the 7th Senate District in November, said he firmly believes tolls are a terrible idea. He expressed the hope that the rally would show that the opposition has the determination to fight.

Calling tolls nothing more than a “mileage tax,” Kissel said they would just take money out of the pockets of residents who are struggling to make ends meets.

He added it would also be unfair to tax people uniformly, as north-central Connecticut isn’t as well off as Fairfield County.

As cars zipped by on Enfield Street, or Route 5, during the rally, some drivers honked their horns in solidarity.

“The Republicans are on your side. We want to make sure Enfield stays a great community, and tolls aren’t going to be a benefit to this,” Turner said. “All these people who aren’t picketing, they know we’re on their side.”