The politician knocks on the door once. Twice. She steps back on the front stoop so as not to appear intimidating, and eventually, someone inside cracks it open, and peers out warily.
The Listening Visit is a scene Democrat Rachel Khanna has repeated thousands of times. Another is The Event: an announcement, rally, or non-profit visit. Greetings, brief remarks, a grip-and-grin selfie or 10, and lots of listening.
You might think this would get wearying in comparison to the important work of legislating. Freshman state representative Khanna’s first year in Hartford turned out to be memorable for addressing big issues. Connecticut enacted the largest ever middle-class tax cut on a solid bipartisan vote, expanded and protected womens’ reproductive rights, and passed a comprehensive bill to reduce gun violence.
But since the state legislature adjourned, Khanna’s done The Listening Visit or made personal calls to 1,500 households in her district, and is going to as many as six events a week during this holiday season. “I hadn’t anticipated how much of the job is listening to people, and I like that,” she says. “A lot of times people just want to be heard. That’s good for me, because I’m not a big talker.”
Khanna’s district, the 149th, includes Pemberwick, Glenville, the Greenwich backcountry, and northwest Stamford. She’s heard about concerns ranging from education and flooding, to high rises. (The last stems from absurd allegations raised by Republican candidates during the recent campaign.)
She was inspired by visits to unheralded organizations supporting our neediest neighbors, such as Filling in the Blanks, a charity that provides meals and snacks to the children of low-income, working families, and Jewish Family Services, which helps resettle refugees of all backgrounds. Khanna notes that 28% of Greenwich households are classified as unable to afford life’s basic necessities, even though they’re employed and housed.
“As someone who sits on the appropriations committee, I hear from so many nonprofits about the needs of those they serve,” Khanna sighs. “There are so many competing requests.”
One bill Khanna sponsored caught the attention of a GHS student. The Act Concerning Clinical Placements for Nursing Students, which passed, is intended to encourage more people to enter health care. It appears to have worked in this case. “I greatly appreciate your effort, especially since it is something I would love to pursue in a future career,” the student wrote her in an email.
When Khanna ran for election in 2022, she knocked on over 3,500 doors, a feat that is credited in part, for her upset victory. Now it’s central to how she assesses her value to her constituents. “Meeting people and attending events is my favorite part of the job. People are really grateful to have their state reps join their celebrations, and hear their concerns.”
Popular programs on chopping block as BOE struggles to meet BET budget guidelines
In early January the Board of Education will vote on its budget, which may include painful choices to cut up to $3.2 million in an attempt to meet guidelines set by the Republican-led BET. Many of the school district’s expenses are non-negotiable, such as contractual salary increases, required investment in our growing Special Education population, and rising energy costs. That means any savings have to be wrought by cutting programs.
Last Thursday, dozens of parents filled the BOE meeting room, urging the Board not to reduce elementary school weekly gym time, nor cut K-2 foreign language offerings at Julian Curtiss School. Other cuts under consideration are to the elementary school Advanced Learning Program (ALP), and reductions to the teacher headcount at Greenwich High School.
The Board of Education will meet in January to vote on a final budget. Residents with concerns about the proposed budget cuts can email the BOE here: BoardofEdMembers@greenwich.k12.ct.us
|Volume 2, Number 29 • December 21, 2023
|Paid for by the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee.
|Greenwich Democratic Town Committee P.O. Box 126 Greenwich, CT 06836