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Senator Tony Hwang Talks to Y’s Men

151105 Y's Men Hwang UntermeyerTony Hwang (R – 28), one of two senators representing Westport in the General Assembly, spoke to Y’s Men on Thursday morning. After serving six years as a representative, Hwang was elected to the senate in 2014.

He is a ranking member on the Housing and Labor and Public Employees committees, and a member of the Commerce and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

Hwang had looked forward to speaking to Y’s Men because “you make a positive difference in the community, you demand accountability from politicians,” and “you all vote.”

Hwang’s father and mother fled Communist China for Taiwan. His father later left Taiwan when he recognized that without an education he could never advance and came to America by himself “looking for a better life.”

He worked his way from bus boy in New York’s Chinatown to chef in a Watertown, NY, Chinese restaurant. His family followed when Tony was eight, seven and one years after his father.

Hwang began his American experience living in public housing and starting school as a remedial English student. Supported by “passionate, caring teachers” — he added later “Educators are the greatest equalizer in our society” — and by programs including Head Start and Upward Bound, he graduated from a high school in Syracuse he compared to those in Bridgeport

He was accepted to Cornell. There an admissions officer told him “We see the potential in you and I will simply ask that, when you graduate… you remember to give back.”

“That’s been a mission that has guided me ever since.”

“Showing my Republican roots,” the Senator said “We have to allow people to succeed.” I believed in (Obama’s) hope and change. But the government has replaced the initiative for individuals to succeed with an “entitlement aspect.”

As a beneficiary of some of what the government provides, he commented “Life is not fair, but we can all make this a better place.”

If everybody in Bridgeport felt the way Y’s Men do about accountability and engaged in the political process in their own self interest Bridgeport would be a different city, he asserted.

During Q&A he addressed three top of mind issues:

About GE, whose headquarters is in his district, he said their leaving Connecticut seems about “95 percent certain,” not because of taxes, but due to a “lack of vision” by our state government, that every year it changes the rules, and GE can’t do business in that environment.

GE’s footprint extends beyond the many small businesses suppliers it uses and the taxes it and its nearly 8,000 Connecticut employees pay. One example — the company and its employees provide Coastal United Way with nearly $6 million. “Who replaces that?”

About the state’s budget crisis, he said “I have benefits no one should have… choices have to be made.” He added that many non-profits provide services the state offers for fifty cents on the dollar, and wondered why state supervision requires so many senior managers.

Hwang expressed disappointment that state unions had volunteered to find $150 million in cost savings, committed to putting out suggestion boxes, but never followed through.

Asked about infrastructure upgrading, he said bill approximates $10 billion, that “I’m willing to make that investment… but not for pet projects sponsored by special interests,” and that 30 year bonding is the way to fund.

Photo by Larry Untermeyer

Roy Fuchs