Paul Crisci, a Republican, is challenging with two-term Democratic incumbent Christine Cohen for the 12th State Senate District seat, which includes the towns of Guilford, North Branford, Branford, Durham, Madison and Killingworth.
Crisci grew up in the Bronx, in a family he described as “of nominal means.” He worked in the automotive industry until 2005, when he opened his multistate consulting and marketing firm Park Group Solutions. He also coached his daughters little league and travel softball teams and led the nonprofit Connecticut Seahawks Girls Fastpitch Softball organization.
Crisci talked to CT Examiner about his “commonsense” platform for governing Connecticut. He talked about the need to support police departments with the tools to address crime and gain public confidence, the importance of creating a “soft landing” for people during inflationary times, his goal of attracting more businesses to the state and the need to fully prepare for the arrival of electric vehicles.
CTEx: Tell me about the most important things in your platform — things you want to see change.
CRISCI: I’ve said that my platform has been common sense. And I kind of touch on it with accountability as well. And everyone says, well, that’s not a platform. And I said, well, ask me a question and I’ll give you a commonsense answer.
Of course I have concerns. The economy is absolutely one of them. The crime rate. There’s been concerns with some of the things with the school curriculum, but those things are fluid situations. The reason why I say common sense is that what is today’s issues and today’s concerns are not gonna be [issues], in maybe 18 months from now.
And as a senator, you have to be able to have the fortitude, the ability to be able to address those issues. What you don’t know, you don’t know, but you need to be able to go, dig in and find out and vote your best answer based on, one, what your district wants, and secondly, what’s best for the state —- not just party lines and not just because we have to go along with it.
CTEx: What do you believe is the state’s role in making Connecticut affordable for residents? And is there a state-level response to inflation?
CRISCI: I don’t hold Governor Lamont, or leadership or my opponent responsible for the inflation. They don’t have control over those things. What I do hold leadership accountable for, and what I believe would be my role, is to do everything in our power to soft land during bad times. It’s preparation before application — and this is a problem that our country has as a whole. We tend to spend money we have without thinking about tomorrow.
There has to be a rainy day fund. There has to be safety measures in place. I grew up in very nominal means. I don’t have a sad story, but we were poor. We just didn’t have money. I had a great childhood. But my parents also had to figure out what got paid first. What was most important?
I’m fine with giving money to the environment. I’m fine with helping people. I’m fine with doing all these things, but you have to have the money to pay for those things first.
We should have been prepared. We’re talking about a surplus —- now, again, there’s questions of whether that surplus is really there or not. Governor Lamont, you’re a businessman. You should be seeing the signs that we are hitting inflation and probably a recession.
I question why our leaders, people in the capitol, decide to give themselves a raise now. It’s not a good time to do that.
I also believe that we have to attract more businesses into the state so that they can pay taxes. We have chased a lot of businesses out of the state. There are other states that are much more business friendly. [Attracting businesses]will encourage people to work here, which will then encourage people to pay taxes and won’t put the burden on the people that stayed behind.
I also think that the negotiation of contracts — I believe that there are opportunities to save money in the state so that we spend less.
CTEx: Do you believe the tax cuts that were enacted in the legislature last session were good policy, or would you prefer to see other tax cuts or changes?
CRISCI: A lot of those are tax holidays. They’re not tax cuts. And this is what frustrates people on the political level. Where was these decisions prior to this? It looks very convenient that six months before an election, we’re going to do tax cuts. I took the liberty of going up to the capitol and observing. We spent a lot of time arguing about some frivolous things and I do mean frivolous things, things that had nothing to do with the economy.
We can’t just cut taxes. Obviously the state has to be paid for. Look at your spending first. Look at how we can not affect people first and then cut the taxes where necessary.
So yes, some of the things that were done were good. I think there could be done more. And I think it comes from us being more accountable to what we’re spending in this state and how we’re doing it.
CTEx: Are you satisfied with the state’s attempts to balance its energy goals with the cost of electricity and gasoline right now? What could be done better?
CRISCI: I’ve said this a bunch of times — nobody says, “Oh, we really need a dirty environment.” Nobody ever says that. That’s ridiculous. I live in Connecticut. I love it. It’s beautiful here. I want it to stay beautiful and I want it to be healthy. What I don’t appreciate is the manipulation of statistics, “convenience statistics” at times.
Let’s go on a national level: Electric vehicles. There’s nothing wrong with evolving. We had horse and buggy at one time. There were steam engines. Of course we should evolve to the best, but I believe it’s reactive, not proactive, sometimes. And I feel it’s rushed. We have to be able to know all the facts about what we’re doing.
Infrastructure’s important. And I will not tell you that I know everything about the infrastructure, but we are not prepared. The price of electric cars are very expensive. I know that the administration is encouraging — we’ll use those words — encouraging the automotive industry to get on board and get on board fast.
But there are problems. Do we know what we’re gonna do with these batteries in 10 years from now, with these cars. Where are we getting rid of them? Where are they getting disposed of? Um, are there any issues with fires in these cars? The average electric vehicle requires 2000 microchips, approximately, where the combustible engine has 200.
In the meantime, we should be able to have enough to be able to make gas more affordable at the moment while we transition into that electric vehicle. It seems like we’re pushing for 2022, 2024, 2025, to get these vehicles out there. I don’t know if we are doing everything we can to make the transition.
But when you talk about the environment, there’s more than just the electric vehicles. We have beautiful shorelines, but what are we doing inland for all of the farmers in the state that need assistance? And I take that into consideration and I know there’s agricultural things that may require environmental attention. It’s not as sexy, it’s not as exciting, but it definitely requires attention.
CTEx: What do you think the state should be doing to address crime?
CRISCI: During the last number of years, people saw things on the news that scared them. Our politicians didn’t do a good job of making people feel safer and understand.
If there’s going to be a Police Accountability Act, people really need to understand what’s in that act. And they have to remember that police officers — 99% of them are regular, everyday people that go and leave every morning and their wives and their husbands and their children, in the back of their mind, worry about them. We didn’t do anything to make those people feel better. They feel alienated.
Right at the moment, depending on where you live in Connecticut crime is not terrible. It’s not, like, overwhelming, but it creeps in. Little things keep happening.
Right now, car theft is a big deal in my area. They’re not really professional car thieves. Real car thieves know how to wire a car, how to break the locks — these kids are going and checking for whoever leaves their keys in their car and they’re driving off with a car. That’s what happens now. But then the next part is they learn to be a little bit better, and then they learn how to steal the car. And then at some point someone comes out of their house and tries to stop them, and God forbid gets into a confrontation and then dies. That’s a problem.
We need to see what the idea of taking away police confidence does to the future. Right now, in many neighborhoods, speeding is an issue. On the highway, there’s starting to be road rage. The police have become reactive, not proactive. We have to find the medium.
Now we should train the police. We should make sure that they’re safe. We should make sure that we don’t have incidents like we had that hurt people. Whatever race it is, no one should get hurt by a police officer unfairly, but yet at the same time, we can’t go so far to the other side that we put ourselves into a position that public safety is an issue.
As far as schools, we’ve had 10 years since Sandy Hook. You have 84 million people in this country that own guns, probably multiple guns. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. I’m thrilled with what I saw up at the Capitol in DC. I finally saw compromise. I finally saw what I was looking for, which was them all working together to recognize things.
At the end of the day, guns are a symptom of a problem. They aren’t the initial problem. The initial problem is, why do people want to do these things to small children and people? What is going on with the illegal guns on the street? And why are we not getting rid of them? If we are that concerned, then we need to lead by example.
CTEx: Are there things you would change about the Police Accountability Act?
CRISCI: I requested to Governor Lamont in my six point proposal, repeal the accountability act, bring the police unions in, bring Republican leadership and Democratic leadership in. Do it right this time. Sit at the table.
Have everybody involved, and I’ll even do one better, bring in some community leadership, not to sit there and argue, but ask — What does the perfect public safety person look like? If we had to build the perfect police officer, what would that person look like?
And back into a commonsense, smart way to hold the police accountable, but understand that they are putting their lives on the line.
CTEx: We’ve heard for the last couple years about academic loss. We’ve heard about the need for mental health support. What is your priority with education in the state?
CRISCI: A lot of people talk about mental health as though it’s just cut and dry. Things have evolved. We didn’t have the video games that we have today. If you’re going to allow this kind of exposure to this kind of content, then you need to have some sort of curriculum, some sort of measures, social workers, child psychologists — that’s gotta be part of the state’s budget and maybe the federal budget to be able to help with these things.
We do need to have a curriculum on how to handle things in kids’ lives. How to decipher where a movie is, where a video game is. Why not evolve that class? We have social network classes. We have college classes on social media. Why not have something on how to handle all of these things —- including social media.
There’s been conversations about critical race theory. There’s been conversations about sex education, gender. We should evolve our history books constantly. And if we have things regarding Critical Race Theory, we should absolutely be improving our history books to teach more. The more knowledge we have, the more we should have there, but it shouldn’t be opinion. It should be facts.
Parents are worried about indoctrination. The majority of teachers are all good and they stick to the curriculum. But there are ones that may go too far, sometimes as far as their personal views, their political views. And we have to have some measurement of allowing our students to think for themselves, to choose a side, not to kind of be nudged or to think that they’re wrong for thinking a certain way —– whether it’s their faith, whether it’s their politics, whatever it is.
So I think our history books need to be improved. I think those history books need to have more information in them. I don’t want to erase our past. I want to improve the information on it.
When it comes to [sex education] … kids are still innocent. They’re not born with hate or dislike for each other. We’re teaching kids hate. Respect your neighbor, respect your classmates. We’re not picking gender and we’re not picking race when we’re in there. We should work harder to teach the kids that.
And if [the district] is going to [teach sex education] then a parent should have the right to step away from something like that. Because the fact of the matter is if we turned around and tomorrow, somebody decided to come up with the idea of teaching, I don’t know — religion, Christianity in schools — a lot of parents would not be okay with that, who don’t believe in Christianity, and they would want to opt out of that class. Why should parents not have the right to do that?
They cannot opt out of math. They can’t opt out of science or things like that, but out of things that are experimental or new, that really are not with the ABCs — I think we have to let those kids develop on their own.
CTEx: What are your priorities around making healthcare affordable and accessible for Connecticut residents?
CRISCI: If this was put in front of me, the first thing I’d ask is, okay, who’s our professionals? Give me everybody we’ve got. I would go around and investigate what the answers were. Then I would talk to financial people.
Our healthcare system has become a business. It’s not okay. And I don’t know what that means. Am I saying it should be socialistic medicine? I can’t answer that right now, but we do have to do something about it. We cannot continue to have seniors paying these insane prices for medication. It doesn’t make sense. We cannot continue to have single moms or single parents trying to figure out how to keep their kids healthy and using an emergency room as their preferred physician. It’s not okay.
We went from single point doctors to a bunch of doctor groups in one place. And I know for a fact that from a financial standpoint, a business standpoint, they are required in many cases — eight minutes. You have eight minutes to see a patient. Give ’em a prescription, get ’em out the door. That’s not healthcare. We’ve got to do better.
And if I’m elected, I would absolutely make that a priority to figure out how the state could make that happen.
CTEx: What is the state’s role versus local role in affordable housing?
CRISCI: From what I understand, there are certain guidelines in there that allow people to game the system. That’s the problem. The developers have an opportunity to game the system. And again, this has all to do with zoning laws and stuff like that.
I live on a postage stamp. And across the street from me, there’s a little tiny house. It’s a cottage. It’s very pretty. And it’s on a half acre of land. Are we gonna allow that half acre of property to put seven units on it? Where are the boundaries?
People should have the right to have a say in their area. But at the same token, you can’t just have people not be allowed to live. Affordable is fine, but let’s make sure that we’re not just gaming the system based on what the federal government, the state government have its guidelines, and now developers figure out how to get around the rules so that they can make more money. That’s not okay. if we’re gonna do things for the right reason, I’m willing to listen.
CTEx: What is your opinion on the legalization of marijuana? Are there things in the law that need to be changed?
CRISCI: Marijuana’s been around for a long time. Everyone says you should legalize it, but what they’re not looking at is all of these new strains of these exotic marijuana products that are being put out. They don’t know where the health factor is. Is this causing depression in kids? We’re so worried about mental health and we’re worried about school safety and public safety, we’re not asking ourselves — the people that are going to be smoking this — does it cause depression like alcohol does? Is there any cancer causing effects in this?
We have taken away cigarettes. Cigarettes are bad. We have put all kinds of taxes on them. Public trust announcements: do not smoke, but here’s marijuana. So where does somebody go with that? Are we saying that marijuana smoking is safer even with all the chemicals they’re putting in there? They’re doing vaping. Is vaping bad? Now we have public address announcements on stuff like that.
What I’m very worried about moving forward in the future is that two o’clock in the morning commercial that says, “If you’ve been … you may be entitled to a settlement,” Fill in the blank. And I’m afraid that what we’ve rushed to so much in legalizing marijuana is – that’s fine, to each their own, but it’s got to be safe.
We can’t keep just giving vices out and putting things in that are hurting our public. Does this make kids less smart God forbid if they’re smoking that? What’s the legal age? Are we promoting that enough?
Even in other states, there’s really no guidelines. It’s just available. Come here, come there. But I’m not seeing the public address announcements or the disclaimers that are warning against what’s bad about this stuff. I don’t know if we know or not, but we need to.
CTEx: Where do you see yourself in today’s Republican party?
CRISCI: Regardless of whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, this is not the party I knew. We used to have people that were ladies and gentlemen and may have argued out, but this has become a reality TV show, It’s not the politics I grew up on. It’s not the people I respected, and I want to see it change. So I’m going to do my best to bring back some civility if possible.
I don’t care about Republican, Democrat, independent. I care about what’s best for the people.
I know that if I’m elected, I’m going to be the disruptor. I’m going to be the guy that’s not going to just sit and vote party lines. I am not going to just sit there and go along with it. No one’s pulling me off to the side and saying, “Paul, you have to do this.” I’m not playing the political game. We’re not going to wrap things up into a bill. I may be the person that’s everyone’s worst nightmare, because I’m just not going to play the politics. I’m going to use my common sense. I’m going to listen to people and then I’m going to apply it where I go. I think that we need more of that in our state, town and federal level.