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Meet the Candidate: Janée Woods Weber

Janée Woods Weber. Submitted photo

We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to meet the candidates running in the Nov. 5, 2019, municipal election. 

Compiled by Ronni Newton

We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to “Meet the Candidate” – designed to help them get to know the candidates running for office in the 2019 municipal election.

Identical questionnaires have been sent to all candidates, and each profile received has been submitted directly to We-Ha.com by the candidate or the candidate’s campaign management. The responses have not been edited but have been formatted to match our publication style. Questions left blank have been deleted.

As profiles are received, they will be published on We-Ha.com under the “Government” tab. We-Ha.com is not making endorsements of any political candidates but we are publishing this information in order to assist voters in being informed and prepared when they go to the polls on Nov. 5.

If you are a candidate and wish to submit a profile, please return it by email to Ronni Newton at [email protected] as soon as possible.

Name: Janée Woods Weber

Age: 43

Party, position seeking: Working Families Party, Town Council

Family information: My husband Matthew and I have two children, Jakob (age 20) and Avery (age 15).

Other occupation, if applicable: I am the Director of Organizational Culture at the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, a philanthropic organization that focuses on equity in education within the state of Connecticut.

Political experience: In 2018, I was appointed to the Lamont-Bysiewicz Transition Policy Committee for Women and Girls, which made recommendations to the newly elected Governor encouraging the passage of legislation for Paid Family and Medical Leave and raising the minimum wage to $15. I was recently elected as the Co-Chair of the Connecticut Working Families Party and have served on the State Committee since 2017.

Other relevant experience: I serve on the Board of Directors for the Greater Hartford Arts Council, which provides resources to support the region’s arts and cultural sector, as well as connect people with the arts in their community. I also serve on the Board of Directors for Training for Change, an organization that supports activists and community organizers trying to create positive social change. This summer, I joined the Board of PoliticaCT, a nonpartisan nonprofit that recruits and mentors women to run in state level elections.

I have participated in our Dr. Martin Luther King Celebrations as a member of the planning committee and as a speaker.

Why are you running for office? I’ve been delighted to call West Hartford my home for 14 years and I’m grateful for a diverse community where my husband and I have been able to raise our children in safe neighborhoods and enroll them in outstanding public schools. I want to give back to the community that gave us so much.

I’m running on the Working Families Party line because the two party system isn’t working well for a lot of us, especially for those of us with new ideas or personal identities that challenge the status quo. And in local governments, we need to make space for fresh voices and different life experiences, especially from people like women and people of color who have been seriously underrepresented in the past. We need more women in office and we need more women of color in office. I’m running to earn a minority party seat on the West Hartford Town Council so that I can carry the voices and experiences of working families, middle class people and folks with low income, people of color and everyone else in our community who doesn’t feel like they walk with privilege. We all deserve a seat at the table and that’s what my campaign is all about.

What issue(s) are your primary area of focus? Creating safer streets for pedestrians and bicyclists is a priority. The addition of bike lanes around town was a step in the right direction but we still need a lot of public education about how to share the road. We must address excessive speed on some of our busiest roads, especially near schools and parks. We need to explore ways to enforce the laws and regulations that keep everyone safe, without resorting to over-policing.

Our local economy would become even more vibrant by increasing the life cycle of a dollar in West Hartford by encouraging residents to do business and increase their engagement in recreation within the town borders. One issue I’ve heard mentioned often is the cost of parking and how residents don’t like going to the Center or Blue Back Square and paying the same rate as nonresidents. It’s time to think about a parking pass or some other kind of reduced rate for residents so that patronage of those areas is as strong as possible.

Attracting more businesses, especially locally owned businesses, is of the utmost importance because they contribute to our tax base and that helps to alleviate the tax burden on our residents. We have some exciting new development happening in town and we should be vigilant about how those deals are being shaped and ultimately who is benefitting.

And, of course, I hold our schools as a top priority so that all of our children receive an excellent education, regardless of background or income level.

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing West Hartford today? West Hartford has earned a well-deserved, highly positive reputation for our excellent public schools, beautiful parks, attractive neighborhoods, and great recreation and shopping. We are a desirable suburb with community wealth, which can mask the fact that we also have a significant number of people struggling to get by, from seniors living on modest fixed incomes to working families living paycheck to paycheck. The perception that we are as affluent overall as some of our neighboring suburbs can hurt us as we seek our fair share of state funding and try to develop budgets that must accommodate a widening spectrum of community needs during a time of rising costs.

Please provide a brief statement regarding your opinion of the Town of West Hartford’s fiscal situation, and what, if anything, can be immediately addressed. (This question is more relevant to Town Council candidates, but Board of Education candidates are welcome to comment on the school budget.)

West Hartford’s fiscal reality is that even while we have been able to preserve funding for many services and amenities, costs are rising and hard choices will need to be made about what we choose to prioritize and protect in the town budget. A budget is a practical document but it is also a moral document- where we decide to invest our dollars reveals what we value as a community. We need to fund our schools, create solutions for better road safety, maintain our infrastructure, and support public safety while being mindful that the taxes are becoming a hard burden for some of our working families and can prohibit some people from being able to buy a home. As a Town Councilor, I would be excited to bring fresh eyes to looking for ways to address the best use for surpluses, increase efficiencies and reduce waste, and encourage financial stability, without promoting cuts that harm our children or the environment or compromise our ability to remain a community that is widely regarded as one of the most desirable places to live in Connecticut.

What do you feel differentiates you from other candidates also running for this position? For the last decade, my career has focused on civic engagement and social justice advocacy. West Hartford is becoming increasingly racially and economically diverse as we welcome new people into our community and the economy continues to squeeze working people and families. I have years of experience helping people across the country facilitate community dialogues that lead to action planning on economic, diversity and inclusion issues, such as access to quality education, building prosperity, addressing discrimination, and creating inclusive communities. This experience will be helpful as we, as a changing community, navigate the difficult financial choices that will be facing us.

I am a first time candidate and the first ever Working Families Party candidate in West Hartford. Our town has been well run, in general, but we would benefit from the inclusion of a fresh, progressive perspective in a minority party seat on our Town Council. Those seats have been held by only Republicans for many years.

Anything else you would like to share?  I put a lot of thought into my decision to run for public office and it is my years of participating in grassroots advocacy and activism combined with a passion for community service that has brought me here. I sought out advice and training from political experts and current elected officials to prepare myself to take this step. I was an inaugural member of Emerge CT, a political training organization that selectively recruits Democratic women to run for public office in Connecticut. I completed almost 70 hours of training over a period of five months.

Local elections matter because these are the issues that impact our daily lives. I encourage everyone who is able to, to make their voices heard and vote in this election.

I would be deeply honored to serve you and our beloved community as a Town Councilor. I humbly ask for your support and will continue to work hard to earn your vote on November 5th.

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