Thursday, April 28, 2005

Open Forum

What's on your minds?

Fairfield County Still #1 in Per Capita Income

County is Home to some of the Nation's Poorest Cities

Fairfield County just keeps getting richer, although I doubt anyone in Bridgeport has noticed.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released a table showing per capita personal income for metropolitian statistical areas. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk CT is first, with an average personal income of $60,803, far beyond that of #2 San Fransisco-Oakland-Fremont ($46,958) and nearly double the national average of $31,472.

In fact, all four major MSAs in Connecticut ranked among the top 40 in per capita income (Excel table).

Yet Connecticut's cities have some of the worst poverty in the nation, the government is deeply in debt, and our muncipalities can barely afford gas for school buses.

The numbers are, unsurprinsingly, misleading. The cost of living is higher here than in other parts of the country, which makes that figure less impressive, and a few individuals skew the number much higher than is really representative of the population. If one were to, say, saw Greenwich off the end of the state, average income in both Fairfield County and the state of Connecticut would drop sharply.

The point here is that statistics like these can paint a too-rosy picture of life here, and that we shouldn't forget reality in favor of reassuring numbers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

DeLauro: Boycott Wal-Mart for Mother's Day

Boycott to Protest Treatment of Women

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3) is urging consumers to avoid Wal-Mart when buying a Mother's Day gift to protest the company's rotten treatment of women:

DeLauro, D-Conn., wants consumers to join with her in supporting a federal lawsuit that accuses the nation's largest retailer of discriminating against women.

"When it comes to the treatment of its women employees, Wal-Mart's low prices come at a cost," she said at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

The lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart's female employees earn less and are promoted less than their male counterparts. (AP)

Of course, Wal-Mart treats all of its employees badly, but there is strong evidence that women are treated even worse than the average Wal-Worker.

I can't imagine DeLauro will be reciving a campaign contribution from Wal-Mart any time soon.

"DeLauro calls for boycott of Wal-Mart." Associated Press 27 April, 2005.

Winchester Dems Back Bysiewicz

Isn't it a little early for this?

Secretary of the State and 2006 Connecticut gubernatorial candidate Susan Bysiewicz joined secretary of the state candidate Audrey Blondin at the Winchester Democratic Town Committee Tuesday night.

The two received support from and spoke before the committee at the Winsted town hall to solidify their base in preparation for next year’s political campaign. The committee unanimously voted to lend their support to both candidates. (Strauss)

Bysiewicz is a bit behind DeStefano in the money race, but she's apparently already locking up the support of town committees. It seems a bit premature for the DTCs to formally back any of the candidates at this point in the cycle... but hey, Winchester can do what it wants.

Bysiewicz offered a few specifics on what she'd do as governor:

Bysiewicz spoke of her desire to ban no-bid state contracts, describing briefly her backing of legislation that would ban such contracts for projects of over $500,000. She also lauded her own office’s fiscal responsibility, urging the need for fiscal responsibility in a state that is looking at a $1 billion deficit and job losses.

"We’ve lost 64,000 jobs in this state," Bysiewicz said.

As a means of creating jobs while healing the sick, she endorsed stem cell research, saying that Connecticut is an ideal place for research in the field, due to the reputation of its universities and hospitals.

"Here in Connecticut, 18,000 people are employed in that field," she said. "We could triple the number of jobs in that area." (Strauss)

She's offering pretty vague stuff, but it's all very likable. It's still difficult to pin her down on the ideological spectrum, mostly because she's been quite good at avoiding specifics. She seems to be running more on her own charm and sincerity than on a clear and detailed platform, in contrast to rival John DeStefano, who has staked out a very well-defined patch of political ground by releasing weighty policy statements.

If this keeps up, the debate is going to look something like this:

DeSTEFANO: ...And that is my 58-point plan for fixing DCF. As you can see, not only will it fix all the problems with the system, but it won't cost us a dime and will turn downtown Hartford into a lemon-scented paradise.
(*crickets chirping*)
BYSIEWICZ: I like voting. I also like kittens. (smiles)
(*wild applause*)

Strauss, Karsten. " Secretary of state in Winsted." Torrington Register-Citizen 27 April, 2005.

Democrats to Take Budget Proposals to the People

Change in Strategy Follows Rell/Amann Spat

Better late than never.

Despite a pledge to vote on their proposal as early as this week, Democrats postponed a vote Tuesday night on a $15.5 billion budget proposal they knew would be immediately rejected by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

Democrats said they will instead begin selling their plan to the public - spreading the word to citizens back in their hometowns. (Keating)

At last, some sense! The Democratic plan can be sold to the public on the following grounds:

1. Desperately needed help for cities, towns and school districts
2. Easing property tax burdens
3. Taxing those who can most afford it
4. Providing health care for those who need it most

If the Democrats sell their plan in a sensible, responsible way instead of resorting to strongarm tactics like Amann has been threatening, they will probably gain enough support to get at least some of what they want.

Rell's people have been criticizing the move:

Rell's spokesman, Dennis Schain, responded. "The Democrats are missing the boat once again if they think this is about sales and marketing," he said. "The governor's budget plan has widespread popular support because it's the right plan for our state. ... The Democratic prescription for the budget gap they created is to raise a billion dollars in taxes for a billion dollars in new spending." (Keating)

I'm not sure what he's talking about. The two proposed budgets are clearly not a billion dollars apart. The Democrats' budget is $15.5 billion, while Rell's is $15.27 billion (Keating). Both violate the state spending cap, but for different reasons, and both raise taxes in various ways. This shouldn't be too hard to sort out.

I imagine that Rell will compromise, and we'll get a budget that no one is entirely satisfied with, but everybody gets a little something out of. A possible compromise would be a lesser increase in cigarette and alcohol taxes coupled with a smaller "millionaire's tax" to pay for essentials like municipal aid, schools and transportation projects. I could live with that.

Keating, Christopher and Bill Leukhardt. "Democrats Shift Gears On Budget." Hartford Courant 27 April, 2005.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Simmons Wants Funds for DHS Office at Sub Base

Is he gaining ground for base, or trying to soften the blow?

Rep. Rob Simmons is hopeful that he has secured money to establish a Homeland Security office at the Groton Sub Base:

U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons told a business group Monday that he thinks he has lined up funding to locate a joint state and federal Homeland Security office at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.

That would give the base an additional advantage in the upcoming battle over Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, the 2nd District Republican told about 150 people at a breakfast meeting of the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce at the Radisson Hotel. (Hamilton)

The idea here is to get more than one service at a single base, which supposedly helps when the base is being considered for closure.

I have seen in several places, however, the rumor that the list is essentially done. The article in The Day seems to agree:

Simmons told the chamber that he's heard a major newspaper has obtained a “bootleg copy” of the base-closure list and will run it in coming days. But [chairman of the Sub Base Realignment Committee John] Markowicz said he's also heard that Pentagon offices continue to go through the preliminary list and it could change at any time in the next 21/2 weeks.

“Until I see (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld's name on the official list, it falls into the category of rumor,” Markowicz said. “But I have to say, rumors today probably have a lot more credibility than they have in the last couple of years.” (Hamilton)

We'll be watching for that "bootleg" list. But, in the meantime, here are a few questions:

If a DHS office is established at the base, would it remain open if the rest of the base closes? If so, that could soften the blow a bit.

Both Simmons and Markowicz seem to believe that the list can be changed, even once it's officially released. Can the sub base get off the list once it's official?

How much influence do politicians actually have over BRAC? Simmons seems to think that breaking with DeLay would harm chances of keeping the base. Is that actually true? Since Rumsfeld makes the final decisions, I imagine that it could be.

In other news, 2nd District challenger Joe Courtney has announced that he's raised about $60,000 so far, which isn't bad for a guy who started just a few weeks ago. No other Democrats have shown interest in the race so far, and Courtney has shown he can raise money. Possible closure of the base plus a strong, well-funded Democratic challenger could equal the perfect storm for Simmons.

Hamilton, Robert A. "Simmons Seeks funds To Bolster chances Of Sub base's Survival." New London Day 26 April, 2005.

Murphy Enters 5th District Race

Southington, er, Cheshire Democrat Christopher Murphy has announced he'll be seeking the nomination for the 5th District congressional seat currently held by Nancy Johnson. Here's his line:

Murphy, who is the chairman of the state’s Public Health Committee, said Johnson does not vote outside of party lines and rarely takes a stand against policies that harm valuable social programs.

"People in the Fifth District are fed up with the Republicans’ drive to destroy health care, Social Security and education," he said, "and Nancy Johnson’s complicity in all that is unexplainable." (Moore)

Not bad. Let's see if it resonates with 5th District voters.

Murphy had been widely expected to throw his hat into the ring following his move across his state senate district from Southington to Cheshire. Cheshire falls within the 5th District, while Southington falls within John Larson's 1st District.

Also in the race is Waterbury alderman Paul Vance, who announced about a week ago.

Keep an eye on the Fifth District Congressional Watch for more.

Moore, George. " Murphy to challenge Johnson in 2006." New Britain Herald 26 April, 2005.

Monday, April 25, 2005

May Elections -- 4/25 Update

Update 5/3/05--Results posted:
May Election Results

Two weeks to go!


Apparently there's a flap about Mayor Ron San Angelo's use of a town-owned car for official business:

When [San Angelo] ran for office two years ago, he pledged to end a practice of letting borough employees take town cars home. But he excused himself from that rule the day after his election, ordering that a town-owned 1999 Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser be equipped with a police radio and made available to him.
...Records the Republican-American obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that his driving record with the car has been marred by at least two incidents -- an accident last October for which he was at fault, and a warning from the police chief about his driving.
Naugatuck pays $1,770 per year for insurance coverage on San Angelo's town car, a 5-year-old vehicle the town got for $1 after the lease was up.(Dalena)

I've been predicting a big win for San Angelo, simply because Democrats are so divided in Naugatuck, but a whiff of corruption or even minor abuse of power might be able to turn this one around. Naugatuck could be a test case for how important ethics really are to voters.

There's also a land proposal being made by Curtis Bosco, the endorsed Democratic candidate:

Curtis Bosco's plan involves creating two commercial parks east of New Haven Road, the main attraction being an indoor sports stadium on land owned by local business owners and brothers David and Harold Lineweber.

It also would include building age-restricted housing, four roads and a pedestrian walkway.
Petitioning candidate Peter Jurzynski said he is against Bosco's plan because it "ruins the sanctity of neighborhoods." He objects to the downtown redevelopment plan created by Fairfield developer Alexius Conroy and supported by San Angelo and Bosco for the same reason. (Siss)

No, I'm not sure what he's talking about, either. But development and land use will always be big issues in local races. There seem to be few differences between the two major candidates on redevelopment, however.

Dalena, Doug. "Mayor's car use, driving criticized." Waterbury Republican-American 22 April, 2005.

Siss, Will. “Borough candidate’s development plan controversial.” Waterbury Republican-American 21 April, 2005.

Woodbridge and Bethany

There was a quick "meet the candidates" feature in the Amity Observer:

Meet the Candidates.

This is nice, but gives us very little about the candidates' stances. Maybe we'll see more in the coming weeks.

Bolton, Andover, Union

There is no news that I am aware of for these towns. If you know anything, don't hesiatate to post it!

Stonington Considers Council/Manager gov't

Which form of town government is best? It depends on the town

The Charter Revision Commission in Stonington has recently recommended that the town's form of government change from the traditional town meeting/board of selectmen to council/manager. This means that the First Selectman, who can function something like a strong mayor in larger towns, will no longer have direct control over town departments. The administrative functions of the town would be assigned to a town manager, who is hired by the town council for that purpose.

Current First Selectman Bill Brown, once in favor of the charter revision, has not surprisingly turned against the measure that would cost him his position.

"I believe that we need to maintain the current form of government," Brown said in a recent interview in his office at Town Hall. Brown admits that being First Selectman has influenced his opinion. "Having sat here in the office for a year, I realize it's that personal contact with the constituents that's more important than anything else," Brown said. Calling it the "purest form of government" Brown said the first selectman is easily held "accountable through elections." A town manager, on the other hand, would feel obliged to "serve the will of the council"... (Peurano)

Obviously, he's a bit of a hypocrite and some of his assumptions about town managers are just plain wrong. However, that aside, this piece of news brings up the excellent question of whether town administrators should be elected or appointed, and of how towns can best govern themselves.

Town meeting/Board of Selectmen

By far, the most popular form of town government in Connecticut is the town meeting/board of selectmen form, which 109 towns practice (according to statistics from the state). This form of government can take a number of varying forms, but its essential quality is that an elected board of some kind, either a board of finance or the board of selectmen, prepares the budget, which is then approved by the voters in either the town meeting or an open referendum.

This is one of the oldest forms of government in America, and is the direct ancestor of the first democracies that emerged in New England nearly 400 years ago. It is also the most openly democratic of the three forms, since most people involved in the governing process are directly accountable to voters.

That said, it can be clunky and inefficient, especially when a majority of the populace doesn’t care enough to attend town meetings or vote in referenda. This can lead to a town’s budget and policies being controlled by a small, vocal minority, such as taxpayers’ groups who put low taxes before essential services.

This form of government seems to work very well for small towns, especially those with under a few thousand people, where a large percentage of the population can attend town meetings. This form of government is especially popular in the extremely small towns of Western Massachusetts, where some towns clock in at around 150 people. But what is good for Andover and Union may not be good for Ellington or Stonington, which are much larger.


This form of government is used by medium-sized cities and towns, and is the second most popular governmental style. As discussed above, a town or city manager is appointed by the council to appoint department heads, oversee staff and prepare the budget for council approval. These towns may have a “mayor”, but in many cases the power of the mayor is limited. Enfield, for example, has a mayor who is chosen by the council and whose function is basically that of majority leader. Other towns have mayors who are directly elected, but even their powers aren’t particularly great.

What’s good about this form of government is also what’s bad about it. The town/city manager is not accountable to the voters, but only to their elected representatives. This means that the manager doesn’t have to run for office every two years, but it also means that voters don’t have a direct say over what he/she does.

This form of government is very stable, but this, too, can be both good and bad. Bad habits and inefficiency can crystallize during the tenure of a manager (which can last for a long, long time) without the constant flux of election cycles to shake things up. Of course, this means that progress on issues that voters don’t necessarily understand can be made, and that a new government won’t be able to completely upend the town structure.

It helps that the manager is a professional, although this doesn’t guarantee a good manager. A dedicated professional will likely take much more time and effort to govern the town departments than a mayor or first selectman who is doing the job for free.

Medium-sized towns and cities use this form of government, as it allows a growing administrative burden to be taken off the shoulders of elected officials who are not equipped (or paid) to handle it. There are rarely town meetings (usually there aren’t any at all), and in most cases residents do not directly vote on the budget.


This is the form of government in the state that the least number of towns use, but more people live under it than do under either of the other two. Large cities and towns use this form of government, in which a strong mayor or a strong council oversees all aspects of town/city government and bureaucracy, including the preparation of a budget and the appointment of department heads, although sometimes the budget is prepared by an independent board of finance instead of the council or the mayor.

The advantage of this form of government is that elected officials, directly responsible to the voters, are in charge of managing everything. This can also be a drawback, especially if the elected officials are corrupt or incompetent (although, to be fair, town and city managers can also be incompetent and corrupt).

Hartford recently changed its charter to create a strong mayor form of government instead of the council/manager form it had been under for decades. Eddie Perez is Hartford’s first strong mayor, and he has a great deal more power than his predecessor, Mike Peters, who was little more than a figurehead.


So which form of government is best? Each form has its advantages and drawbacks. What seems to work in practice is that form of government is related to size. The average population of towns with selectmen/town meeting forms of government is 9,660, for council/manager towns it is 27,169 and for mayor/council towns the average is 52,973 (State of CT). The dramatic progression in size suggests that selectmen/town meeting works best for small towns, council/manager for medium-sized ones, and mayor/council for large cities and towns.

Each form of government adapts itself to the town it serves. If a town has a need for a complex bureaucracy, a council/manager form or a mayor/council form might be best, depending on the needs of the town. If a town doesn’t have a large bureaucracy and a citizenry interested in the governance of its town, the town meeting/selectmen form is best.

Certainly the larger a town gets, the less useful town meetings and budget referenda become. Representative government becomes more productive than direct democracy when a large percentage of the citizens don’t participate. The logic of having an unelected manager also decreases as the size of the city and the bureaucracy expands.

So which is best for your town? Stonington is probably doing the right thing in opting for a manager as the town grows and becomes more complex... but it may be a long time before citizens afraid of losing control of their government see that, in fact, they’ve strengthened the stability of their town.

Peurano, Heather. “ Fate of Stonington's Leadership in Hands of Selectmen. The Stonington Times 22 April, 2005.
A useful site for definitions of each government type, but twenty years out of date otherwise.
The state's statistics on towns and cities.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Open Forum

A problem with redirecting people to the Blogger start page has been fixed.

Go ahead and bring up whatever subjects you want. Budget, candidates, the new pope (not technically a CT issue, but the large Catholic population in our state makes him very relevant) and whatever else matters to you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Civil Unions Signed into Law

Gov. Rell signed legislation today that legalizes civil unions for same-sex couples, following the passage of the bill by the Senate. This is the first time a U.S. state has enacted a civil unions law without the pressure of the courts.

It isn't perfect, not by a long shot. But it's a major step forward, and I'm proud that it happened here.

Update on Budget Situation

Amann Fires Back

House Speaker James Amann blasted the governor's reaction to a Democratic budget proposal that would exceed the spending cap and increase government spending by 13% over the next two years in a press conference yesterday:

Holding Rell's written statement aloft at a news conference, Amann dismissed it as "amateur hour" and vowed to quickly pass the Democratic budget proposal that would increase spending by 13 percent over the next two years. If she vetoes a budget, he said, Democrats would put another one right back before her.

"Let her veto it. Let her get carpal tunnel," Amann said, referring to the painful condition of the wrist often caused by repetitive motion. "I don't care." (Keating)

...And that was basically it. Very little about why the Democratic proposal should cause the governor to declare an emergency or extraordinary circumstances, which are the only two ways the spending cap can be exceeded under our state constitution. This statement seems to sum up the feelings of the Democratic leadership:

"We're the majority party," Amann said. "This is a democracy. We certainly can run a budget." (Keating)

Yes, and the governor can certainly either veto it or refuse to allow Democrats to exceed the spending cap! That's her perogative under the law. Just because the Democrats have a substantial majority in both houses doesn't mean they can ignore the constitution. "Amateur hour" indeed!

There is a strong case to be made that the sad financial state of cities, towns and schools does constitute an emergency or extraordinary circumstances. But the Democratic leadership has completely dropped the ball, preferring to try and strongarm the governor into doing what they want instead of arguing the merits of their position to the people. If this fight escalates and Democrats don't change their tune, they could pay for it at the ballot box in May, November and in 2006.

Source: Keating, Christopher. "House Speaker Vows Budget Blitz On Rell." Hartford Courant 20 April 2005.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Democrats' Proposed Budget Would Shatter Spending Cap

Rell, whose budget also exceeds cap, furious

The Appropriations Committee voted yesterday to approve a Democratic budget that well exceeds the state's constitutionally mandated spending cap, drawing harsh criticism from Gov. Jodi Rell, who says she will not allow the increase to happen. Exceptions to the spending cap require the governor to either an emergency or the existence of extraordinary circumstances, which Rell has said she will not do for the Democratic proposals.

Rell has also proposed exceeding the spending cap, however, in order to provide more money for nursing homes. Democratic lawmakers apparently took this as a signal that she was willing to ignore the cap.

The Democrats' proposal includes the following:
--Allowing families making 150% of the poverty level to enroll in HUSKY
--Eliminating a $3 co-pay for Medicaid fee-for-service recipients
--Restoring cuts made to health services to legal immigrants
--Two more building inspectors
--An increase in funding for UCONN
--More money for municipalities and schools
(Lucas, Keating)

Appropriations Committee co-chair Rep. Denise Merrill said that Rell and the Democrats weren't that far apart. The Democrats plan to spend $261 million more than Rell the first year, $389 million the second--this may seem like very little compared to a budget expected to top $15 billion, but it's still significant. She also showed a distressing lack of understanding of the spending cap:

"I don't think the cap was ever meant to be a straitjacket...I think it was meant to be a guide." (Keating)

Some history for Merrill: The spending cap was enacted as part of the widespread response to the extremely high spending of the O'Neill years, which also included the implementation of the income tax. It was approved by the General Assembly and the voters in 1992. It states:

General budget expenditures authorized for any fiscal year shall not exceed estimated revenue for such fiscal year.

The general assembly shall not authorize an increase in general budget expenditures by the greater of the increase in personal income or the increase in inflation.

Doesn't seem like a "suggestion" to me. That was certainly not the intent of the legislature and the people in 1992. Now, the spending cap has been violated before during the Rowland administration (Rowland in each case declared extraordinary circumstances or an emergency), so this sort of tinkering with it is nothing new. However, the Democrats in the Assembly apparently want to put the cap aside, as they have not clearly explained why their increases deal with extraordinary circumstances or an emergency of some kind.

The Rell budget is stingy in a few crucial areas (why slash health care for immigrants?) and somewhat strange in others (laptops?), but it at least appears to follow the rules set down by the state and the people thirteen years ago. Democrats need to strongly make the case for the most critical of their proposed increases (cities and towns, for example) and bring the governor to the negotiating table. Otherwise they risk losing both the increases and a lot of political good will.

Keating, Christopher. "Democrats: Caps Off." Hartford Courant 19 April 2005.

Lucas, Fred. "Rell rips $31.7B spending proposal." Danbury News-Times 19 April 2005.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Ed. Commissioner Sternberg to Meet with Spellings Today

Meeting with U.S. Sec'y of Education Likely to Focus on No Child Left Behind

(Note: I'll be posting on something of a reduced schedule this week, due to a very interesting research project that I'll clue you in on when it goes public)

Connecticut's Commissioner of Education will meet with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today following a contentious exchange of statements over Sternberg and Attorney General Blumenthal's opposition to the controversial No Child Left Behind act. Spellings had referred to opponents of the law as "un-American," and parroted the oft-used Bush Administration talking point that opposing the law is a sign of the "soft bigotry of low expectations" towards poor and minority students. Sternberg had demanded an apology for the remark, but none has been forthcoming.

Spellings has shown herself to be no different than her predecessor Rod Paige in her haughty and condescending attitude towards education professionals (Paige, if you remember, famously compared the NEA to a terrorist organization). Spellings has never taught a class or even worked in a school, so her appreciation for and understanding of the people and issues of the system she oversees is limited at best. She is, to be frank, little more than a mouthpiece for administration policy. Sternberg should expect to make little headway today.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Open Forum

What's going on in your town?
Municipal election information always welcome, especially about Andover, Bolton, Bethany, Woodbridge, Naugatuck and Union, who are holding town elections in about three weeks.

Get Met

Rell, Blumenthal Take on MetLife over Job Cuts

Somewhat overshadowed by the historic vote over civil unions has been more bad news for Hartford, this time in the form of job losses resulting from MetLife's proposed takeover of Travelers. At least 600 jobs will be lost, according to MetLife.

Both Governor Rell and Attorney General Blumenthal are trying to resolve the problem, although they're taking slightly different tacks. Rell has been negotiating with MetLife to get them to try and reduce the number of job cuts. This strategy hasn't been particularly successful, as the company seems unwilling to cut fewer positions. Blumenthal, however, is taking a more direct approach:

Blumenthal said he would intervene when the state insurance department begins its approval process. He said he wants to protect up to 800 jobs that he maintained may be lost and would also insist that MetLife continue investments in local charitable and cultural programs that Travelers has had.
"This acquisition is against the public interest because it will destroy jobs, damage our economy and disadvantage families," he said in a statement. (Insurance Journal)

The phrase "against the public interest" is important. The state insurance commissioner, Susan Cogswell, can block the merger if it is deemed to be against the public interest. In this case, it obviously is.

It should be noted that mergers like this one are rarely, if ever, stopped. The insurance commission appears to be a rubber stamp body in this regard. I don't think that any have been stopped in Connecticut. If Blumenthal succeeds, the effects could potentially be widespread and powerful.

Blumenthal has been very much in the spotlight lately. In the past few weeks he has announced a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education for failing to fund No Child Left Behind, he has given George Jepsen the nod to run for his position next year, and now this. It is, to say the least, a bit unusual... and has picked up the hopes of Democrats who either want him to challenge Jodi Rell for governor or (less likely, but far more intriguing) Joe Lieberman for senator. These firm, decisive (and popular!) actions are boosting the Attorney General's image around the state and the country. Could Blumenthal, after years of hibernation, be emerging on the national scene once more?

In the meantime, the matter of MetLife is still unresolved. Blumenthal warded off criticism of being anti-business by saying:

"We're not trying to bar MetLife at the door... We welcome them if they are good corporate citizens." (Haigh)

So far they show all indications of being quite the opposite. This merger might be great for MetLife, but it's bad for Hartford and bad for Connecticut. Here's hoping he scares them into some better concessions.

Haigh, Susan. "Blumenthal seeks denial of Travelers acquisition." Associated Press 13 April, 2005.

Rinde, Meir. "Cutting Our Losses." Hartford Advocate 14 April 2005.

"Conn. AG to Oppose MetLife-Travelers Life Merger." Insurance Journal 14 April 2005.

Civil Unions Pass House

But not before an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman is added

I'm disappointed with the state House this morning. You can read about it here, and see the breakdown of how representatives voted here.

The addition of a "definition of marriage" amendment was not necessary, although perhaps a few lawmakers felt a bit more comfortable about passing the bill with it attached. Well, good for them. It probably would have passed without it, though, and Blumenthal's legal opinion that the bill wouldn't allow marriage probably meant that Rell would have signed it regardless. But the House decided to take the safest middle road here, and the bill that was passed is now a bit less of a milestone and a bit more of a roadblock. It's a bitter victory at best.

But let's take stock for a moment. While the bill is not perfect (it never was), it's still a landmark piece of legislation. This is the furthest any legislature in the country has gone on this topic without being compelled by a court. It waters down the social conservatives' argument that this particular issue is being advanced solely by politicized judges, and not by the elected representatives of the people. Most importantly, the rights this bill grants are the same legal rights that married couples enjoy.

This bill would have been impossible thirty, twenty or even ten years ago, and it's currently impossible in most of the rest of our country. So yes, progress has been made, even though it's not all that we might have hoped. More progress will be made in the future, and perhaps there will come a time when civil unions are so common and obviously harmless that to deny same-sex couples the simple word "marriage" will seem absurd. The people of that time will look back on this bill and shake their heads at how strange the denial of marriage seems.

But, they will conclude, it was a marvelous piece of legislation for its time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Open Forum

Midweek. Waiting for the House to vote on civil unions. You can view the proceedings live (starts at 1pm) at CT-N's site:

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Fifth District - Paul Vance in

Waterbury Alderman to Compete for Democratic Nomination

Alderman J. Paul Vance of Waterbury has announced his candidacy for the Fifth District congressional seat currently occupied by Nancy Johnson.

Vance... said he was undaunted by challenging the New Britain Republican, saying her long service in Congress hurts Johnson as much as it helps.

"She's been representing Washington for three or four decades, it's time we had someone represent this district," Vance said. "I've lived in this district, I know the district, I think I have good ideas," Vance said.

There are a few other possibilities, none of whom have declared anything yet:

Sen. Christopher Murphy... said Monday that he is seriously leaning toward seeking the nomination, but has yet to make his final decision, but welcomed Vance into the fold of potential candidates.

"Paul and I are friends and we share the same goal in the end which is to replace Nancy Johnson with a good, committed Democrat," Murphy said. "I don't see any reason why in the end we won't be working together toward that goal."

[Assistant Majority Leader] Rep. Demetrios Gianarros, D-Farmington, also has been among the Democrats considered likely challengers to Johnson.

I know next to nothing about these people. Do any of them pose a serious threat to Johnson? I'm waiting for Fifth District Congressional Watch to pick up on this one.

Gambini, Steve. "Vance aims to take on Johnson for Congress." Waterbury Republican-American 12 April 2005.

News from Orange

It's great to have news and information about politics in our towns; in fact, that's one of the reasons I started this site. Reader Sten Westgard sent us some information from Orange, down near New Haven. I will mostly let his piece speak for itself:

Since you've covered some town news, I thought I would send some details to you about Orange.

On Sunday night the Orange Democratic Town Commitee held its annual awards.
Around 130 people attended, at $50 a head. It was dedicated to several honorees and their amazing service to the community and Democrats. That's really local stuff, inspirational to me, but probably not of interest to you or the rest of the state.

Orange used to be a Republican lock, and now it looks bluer than blue. There are very few Republican office holders around here. The Amity school board, the Orange [board of] selectmen, one of the state reps, one of the state senators, and US congressperson are all held by Democrats or by majorities of Democrats.

Many of those people were in attendance last night. Many of the state figures noted again and again that Orange is well respected in Hartford. Is that true? I don't know.

I don't know, either, but your meeting did rate some state bigwigs like Blumenthal and DeLauro. That's pretty decent!

Rosa De Lauro was there - on crutches - stress fracture of her hip! But looking well and talked about her trip to Rome. She had been there when the Pope was getting very sick, then flew back to the states, then turned around and flew back to Rome as part of the US delegation. She said the funeral and the reverence was one of the most amazing experiences of her life.

Richard Blumenthal spoke about No Child Left Behind, and fired back at the "un-American" insult thrown at him. There was at least one joke about him running for Governor.

Check today's post below. Might not be a joke much longer! I have to say, he's been seeming more and more like he's running for something lately.

Malloy spoke very briefly. He's a good speaker. About all I can say about him.

Susan B. did not attend. Sent her regrets.

State Sen. Gayle Schlossberg was there, a bit late because of her nephew's birthday party. State Rep. Paul Davis was also there.

[First Selectman] Mitchell Goldblatt was also there, and as he is up for re-election this year, there were a lot of mentions of him and his coming campaign. I'm new to Orange, so I don't know his chances, but I can say that there was a lot of confidence in the room.

The biggest issue in Orange has been Stew Leonard's. There have been a lot of hearings on the economic impact, the zoning changes, etc., etc., I think the pro-Stew crowd is wearing out the anti-Stew crowd simply by talking them to death. When it came up 7-8 years ago (long before my time) it was like a blood feud, this time it's a dignified debate.

Y'know, I've been hearing references to the Stew Leonard's off and on for quite some time. When I last drove down to Orange, the place was plastered with pro and anti-Stew signs. What's the issue? Orange seems to have a lot of suburban retail development already, so I don't know what the fuss is about ...What's a Stew Leonard's, anyway? I know it's a sort of produce store...

No Lieberman, although he had been invited, at least according to the early notices of the event. I have no idea about his schedule, which could very well have been in conflict with last night. No one mentioned him last night in the speeches. No one said anything good. No one said anything bad. He just wasn't there in either in flesh or spirit.

The same goes for DeStefano. His name never came up. And the early notice didn't mention trying to invite him. You would think that New Haven's mayor would have a better relationship with his neighboring communities.

That is odd. I would have thought he'd be trying to court town Dems, especially those from nearby. Not surprised about Lieberman, though.

I have lived less than a year in Orange, and have had very little interaction with the Democrats. So my perception may be very different than the true natives and partisans of Orange.

Sten Westgard

Your perspective is very much appreciated. Thanks for the letter, Sten!

If you have information or news about local political happenings, either send them along to me or post them in open forums on the weekends (I may start posting open forums more often if there's a demand).

Jepsen to explore running for Attorney General

Blumenthal's Plans Still Unknown

Former Democratic state chairman and 2002 Lt. Governor candidate George Jepsen is planning to form an exploratory committee for a possible run for Attorney General next year.

This move adds new fuel to the speculation surrounding current Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has been touted as a possible candidate for governor next year. Jepsen spoke to Blumenthal before filing papers:

"[Blumenthal] was comfortable with it. He gave me a green light to go ahead," Jepsen said.
"I believe there is a legitimate possibility or even a probability [Blumenthal] will not seek a fifth term as attorney general," Jepsen said. (Pazniokas)

Huh. Is it possible that, after all this time, Blumenthal is finally going to run for governor? Blumenthal was, as ever, not forthcoming.

Blumenthal said Monday he has no definite timetable for making a decision about 2006.

"I wish him well," he said of Jepsen. "It puts no pressure on me." (Pazniokas)

I'll still believe it when I see it, but this is a huge step forward for Blumenthal. If he enters the race, he'll be the immediate Democratic front-runner, and he'll have the best chance of any Democrat to win the governorship since Bill O'Neill.

I'm not sure that's enough for Blumenthal to toss his hat in the ring, but it may very well be the last chance he'll have to do so.

Source Pazniokas, Mark. "Jepsen Weighs Attorney General Bid". Hartford Courant 12 April 2005.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Lieberman in Trouble with Town Committees?

Interesting post by Myrna Watanabe, Harwinton's Democratic town chairwoman, on Swing State Project. Here's the upshot:

If the state Democratic convention were held right now, Lieberman wouldn't have the votes to get the nomination without doing some very, very, very serious arm twisting--and even then he might not have the votes. Maybe the population still likes Joe Lieberman, but his friends in the Democratic Party are having second or third thoughts about him.

Interesting. Essentially, the writer is claiming that Lieberman has lost so much support among town committees that his renomination is in serious doubt. Yet he does well among Democrats in general (66% approve) according to the latest poll, so one of two things is happening here:
1. Town committees are out of step with the Democratic public. It could be. The town committees are comprised of the most loyal and hardcore of partisans, most of whom despise Lieberman for his support of the war and what they see as disloyal remarks and actions towards the party. Democrats statewide may not share their sentiments.
2. The poll is for some reason not catching Democrats turning against Lieberman. This is in fact what Wantanabe suggests:

If I were in Lieberman's shoes, I wouldn't get too comfy with the poll numbers because they do not detect the undercurrent of dislike and mistrust.

Possibly. I'd like to see a few other polls corroborate the Q-poll's findings. However, the numbers in this particular poll don't find that "undercurrent" anywhere, as 65% of Democrats said Lieberman deserves re-election, 67% said he has strong leadership qualities, 68% said he cares about the needs of people like them, 63% said he shares their views on issues they care about, 69% said he pays attention to Connecticut issues and only 28% of Democrats said he was too conservative, while 59% said he was "about right". But again, the poll could be skewed. More evidence is obviously needed.

Both possibilities could have a certain amount of truth to them. Perhaps the sentiment against Lieberman is a bit stronger than the poll suggests, and perhaps the town committees are reacting to Lieberman more strongly than their constituents.

So what does this mean for Lieberman? Potentially a lot, but probably not much. If a theoretical primary challenger could count on the support of the state's Democratic machinery, the prospect of running against a formerly unbeatable incumbent senator doesn't look quite so daunting. Perhaps a big-name Democrat (Blumenthal? Maloney?) will be lured into the race.

However, there is no real reason to believe Lieberman won't get the endorsement of the party until a majority of town chairs come out against him, and, even if they do, Lieberman may very well have enough popularity among Democrats to win a primary against the endorsed candidate.

If town chairs really feel this strongly about Lieberman, they should give the Courant or the Register a call and say so. But I have a feeling that most will wait to see whether Lieberman comes crawling back, which he probably will to some degree. Also, local committees will think more and more of winning an election than they will about ideology as November 2006 draws nearer, at which point they will sigh, swear, grit their teeth and support Joe. By next year, I imagine that the town chairs will be singing his praises once more.

Shays vs. DeLay

Congressman Distances Himself from Majority Leader

You've probably noticed all the press Rep. Christopher Shays (R-4) has been getting this weekend. His quote, if you missed it:

"Tom's conduct is hurting the Republican Party, is hurting this Republican majority and it is hurting any Republican who is up for re-election," Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., told The Associated Press in an interview, calling for Delay to step down as majority leader. (AP)

Here's another:

"He is on the thinnest of ice as far as I'm concerned," said Shays, who noted that the conservative Texan has been reprimanded three times by the House ethics committee. "That is disquieting. It raises huge questions that Democrats have a right to raise." (Urban)

Wow. Shays has been critical of DeLay before, but this is pretty strong. He could be seen as actually encouraging the Democrats to attack (which they will). We can safely assume that DeLay won't be coming to Greenwich to campaign for Shays anytime soon.

What's Shays up to? Is this part of his political plan?

[Scott McLean, a professor of politics at Quinnipiac University] said that Shays is doing the smart thing by initiating a pre-emptive strike.

"I would think he would be crazy not to, given his political situation," McLean said. "He's not going to score any points by embracing DeLay, and there is no love lost between them." (Urban)

As we've already seen from an analysis of two recent District 4 elections, Shays's district is changing rapidly. He's been pegged by Democrats as one of the Republicans most likely to lose in 2006--but unlike Rob Simmons, who has toed the party line in exchange for a steady stream of cash, Shays has broken from DeLay and the conservatives in the party.

Is running against his own party the only way Shays can win in 2006? DeLay and GOP conservatives like him are not popular here, to be sure. Tellingly, Shays is acting less like a typical Republican congressman and more like popular governor Jodi Rell: strong on ethics, moderate on social issues, and prudent on fiscal matters (Social Security). If it works for Rell, why not for Shays?

It's a risky gamble. The Republican leadership controls an unimaginable amount of campaign cash: Shays is risking losing his funding. Of course, he represents one of the richest districts in the country, so funding might not be a huge issue.

Of course, voters might decide that they want an actual Democrat in Congress instead of a Republican who sometimes reminds them of one. In a race which revolves around figuring out which candidate is less like Tom DeLay and the Congressional Republicans... won't Congressional Republican Shays come out a loser? That's the biggest risk of all.

"GOP congressman says DeLay should step down as House majority leader." Associated Press 10 April 2005.

Urban, Peter. "Shays: DeLay on thinnest ice." Connecticut Post 10 April 2005.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

May Elections Update

Update 5/3/05--Results posted:
May Election Results

Municipal elections for several towns are happening the first week of May, so let's check in on some of the races:


Democrat Laurence Grotheer is challenging Republican Amey Marella for the post of first selectman/woman: (analysis)

Democratic challenger Laurence Grotheer claims that Marrella's appointment of Brian Luciani to the Board of Police Commissioners and his subsequent chairmanship should have resulted in the town changing insurance carriers.
Luciani supplies insurance to town employees through his business Group Insurance Associates which, Marrella said, he has been doing for many years. (Albert)

A tempest in a teapot, at best. But let's see if a supposed ethical lapse on the part of Republicans can help swing GOP-leaning Woodbridge over to the Democrats.


There is a four-man race in Naugutuck between Democrat Curtis Bosco, current mayor Ron San Angelo and independents Peter Jurzynski and William Woermer: (primary results, commentary, original analysis)

How much of Alexius C. Conroy's Naugatuck Renaissance Place concept for revitalizing downtown will become reality won't be known for several months, but Mayor Ron San Angelo wants voters in next month's mayoral election to believe none of it can happen without him.

San Angelo has made the introduction of the Fairfield developer's proposal the centerpiece of his re-election campaign, and declared that a vote for him is a vote to move the project, and the borough, forward.
Curtis Bosco, the Democratic nominee, has pointed out that Democratic Mayor Joan Taf authorized the Mount Auburn study and gave economic development officials the go-ahead to speak to Conroy. Economic Develop-ment Commission Chairman Chester Cornacchia, appointed by Taf, suggested he look at Naugatuck as a potential development site.

Bosco has said he supports a grand plan to revitalize downtown, but warned that Conroy's vision is a long way from ever becoming a reality. (Dalena)

The "revitalization" project in question is a huge mixed-use complex that may cover up to 148 acres and cost more than $700 million. There are few specifics currently available about the plan. Jurzynski and Woermer weighed in:

Peter J. Jurzynski came out strongly against the project several times before and after Conroy's presentation. He said he is against the project because he does not believe it contains enough job-producing industry or a corporate office building, which he said are the only things that will produce economic benefits for the borough. Nearly shouting into the microphone during the public hearing on the project, he said it does nothing to help poor people and the elderly.

"As mayor, I will push for and obtain major employers -- Conroy/San Angelo/Bosco will give you more condos and higher taxes for the people in neighborhoods," Jurzynski writes today.

At least a dozen residents left the hearing as he continued to speak.

The other petitioning candidate, William Woermer, has his own vision for a downtown revival -- a convention center and live theater area from Maple Street south to the General DataComm, with shops and restaurants, a parking garage, a hotel complex and a glass walkway to the railroad station, "all built architecturally in mind of the Whittemore and Tuttle traditions."

His plan would require only the General DataComm parking lot and the building that houses Nardelli's, Rosenblatt's and a coffee shop. (Dalena)

Since it's likely that San Angelo will win re-election, I imagine that this project will stay on target. But should it? This has the look and feel of a "magic bullet" solution--something that will, in one shot, fix everything. Somehow. I don't know the specifcs (apparently, no one does but the developer) but I'm usually leery of super-sized downtown development projects like this because a) the money can be better spent on smart, quality small-scale neighborhood redevelopment, and b) invariably, half of the thing stays unbuilt when the town runs out of money or the developer backs out.

More updates as they happen.

Albert, Bridget. " Ethics concerns aired." Orange Bulletin 6 April 2005.

Dalena, Doug. "Naugatuck's downtown plan." Waterbury Republican-American 10 April, 2005.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Open Forum

What's on your mind?

Senate Approves Civil Unions

Poll Shows Support for Bill

Yesterday the state Senate approved a bill granting civil unions to gay couples 27-9. The bill will go to the House of Representatives perhaps as early as next week.

Here's a remarkable statistic:

Half the Senate's 12 Republicans and all but three of its 24 Democrats voted for the measure.

It's refreshing to see broad bipartisan support for this bill, which is the first of its kind in the nation not prompted by legal action that has a chance of becoming law.

A Quinnipiac University poll out this morning shows that state residents agree with the Senate; 56% of them agree that same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions. Nationally, only 45% of those polled by Quinnipiac supported civil unions. Only 42% of Connecticut residents supported full marriage rights for same-sex couples, but this is much higher than the national figure of 31%.

This poll thankfully puts to rest a deeply flawed poll commissioned by the Family Institute of Connecticut, a socially conservative group opposed to gay marriage, which suggested, among other things, that 78% opposed same-sex marriages, while only 19% supported it.

One of the central goals of the "Family Institute", forcing a nonbinding referendum on civil unions, was also defeated by the Senate yesterday by the same margin, 27-9.

Now the action shifts to the House, where the bill is expected to pass:

...Proponents said they have 83 solid votes in the House, where 76 votes are necessary for passage. Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven, the lead sponsor in the House, said the lopsided Senate vote could win over undecided House members. (Pazniokas)

Governor Rell has also indicated her support for the measure, and is not likely to feel pressured to veto it from far-right groups, especially after a poll released yesterday showed her with an 80% approval rating.

I'm actually quite surprised, although very pleased, at the lack of a fuss this bill has generated. I expect it will pass the House easily, and become law later this year.

Sources Quinnipiac Poll, March 29-April 4 2005.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Senate Backs Civil Unions". Hartford Courant 7 April 2005.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

New Quinnipiac Poll: 80% Approve of Rell

Poll Shows Widespread Support for Rell, Lieberman

There is a great Quinnipiac Poll out this morning. Prepare yourselves for a long entry, there’s lots to go over:

Governor Rell

Governor Rell’s numbers remain extremely high, despite two months of budget wrangling and talk of raising taxes. 80% approve of the way she’s handling her job—up 6% from February. Incredible. The conventional wisdom was that her numbers would sag as she got down to the business of hammering out a budget with the legislature. Apparently, the public has taken her side in most of the quarrels she’s had with Democratic leadership. Even Democrats favor her overwhelmingly: 78% of them approve of her (up from 71% in February).

What do people like about the governor? 32% said that what they like most about her is her honesty, integrity and straightforward manner. 17% said that what they like most is the fact that she is “cleaning house” and enforcing ethical standards. When asked what they disliked about her, 39% said that there was nothing they disliked.

How to explain her high numbers? “ ‘Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell's numbers went up most likely because former Gov. John Rowland was back in the news and voters remember that they were glad she was there to take over,’ said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D," (Quinnipiac Poll). So Democrats eyeing her job for next year shouldn’t be too discouraged, and we can expect her numbers to drop when the next poll is released. How much they drop may depend in large part on events in the legislature over the next few months. Progress on campaign finance reform (an area in which the Democratic leadership is looking increasingly bad), ethics reform and civil unions may contribute to keeping the governor’s numbers high. A possible nursing home strike, her proposed gas tax and an increasingly vocal group of Democratic gubernatorial candidates may drag those numbers down.

Governor 2006

Again, Governor Rell is looking good against most Democratic candidates. Here are a few samples of gubernatorial matchups:

Jodi Rell: 50%
Christopher Dodd: 39%

Jodi Rell: 46%
Richard Blumenthal: 43%

Jodi Rell: 64%
Susan Bysiewicz: 21%

Jodi Rell: 64%
Kevin Sullivan: 22%

Jodi Rell: 66%
John DeStefano: 19%

What’s interesting here is that the two “candidates” who do the best against Rell are probably not going to enter the race. It’s surprising, given Dodd’s high approval rating, how poorly he fares here. Only Richard Blumenthal is close, coming within 3% of the governor (just outside the margin of error). Right now, the only thing that I could see stopping Rell from entering the race next year would be health concerns or a desire to leave public life.

Democratic Primary 2006

If the Democratic primary for governor were being held today and the candidates were Christopher Dodd, Richard Blumenthal,Susan Bysiewicz, Kevin Sullivan, John DeStefano and Dan Malloy for whom would you vote?

Dodd 35%
Blumenthal 33%
Bysiewicz 7%
DeStefano 6%
Sullivan 4%
Malloy 3%

Frustratingly, this tells us very little about what’s actually going to happen next year, as Dodd and Blumenthal, neither of whom are likely to run, are included.

Favorable/unfavorable ratings show us that the public has heard very little about the most likely candidates:

Percentage of persons who say, when asked if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the following public figures, who say they haven’t heard enough:

Dodd 10%
Blumenthal 13%
DeStefano 49%
Bysiewicz 51%
Sullivan 53%
Malloy 78%

Both DeStefano and Bysiewicz have raised an awful lot of money to turn those numbers around. I doubt that any of the campaigns are concerned.

Lieberman Primary

Sen. Lieberman continues to have a strong approval rating, despite recent media attention paid to a possible primary challenge next year.

67%/22% (4/6)
69%/20% (2/18)

The numbers are a bit different, but the change is within the 2.5% margin of error. Essentially, Lieberman’s recent actions in the Senate and the attention being paid to a possible primary next year haven’t changed his numbers in any statistically significant way. His numbers among Democrats are 4% lower than February (70% to 66%) but that drop is within the 4.1% margin of error for Democrats. More disheartening for Lieberman foes is the fact that 66% feel Lieberman deserves re-election. This includes 65% of Democrats. 63% of Democrats (57% total) say that Lieberman shares their views on issues they care about.

Apparently, then, there is no popular groundswell of support for a primary against Joe Lieberman at this time. This could change as Lieberman foes become more vocal and candidates emerge.

Those are the highlights. The entire poll is extremely interesting, and I suggest that you all go and take a look at it yourselves. Once again, here’s the link:

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Connecticut will sue Federal Government over No Child Left Behind

Blumenthal to challenge controversial law

According to AP reports, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will argue in a lawsuit against the federal government that the No Child Left Behind act of 2002 is illegal.

The lawsuit will contend that the law illegally requires states and communities to spend millions above what federal funding provides to create standardized testing and initiate school reform efforts, Blumenthal said.

"This law is outrageously wrong. It's bad education policy, but it's also blatantly illegal," Blumenthal said.
A recent analysis by Connecticut education officials found that the state will have to spend $41.6 million above what federal funding provides to meet the law's mandates by 2008. Towns and cities will have to spend about $700 million collectively across the state, the report said. (AP)

This is a bold move by Blumenthal, and one that I cautiously applaud. I'm not a legal expert, so I don't know that he has a legitimate case, but I do know from my experience as a teacher that the law places an unfair burden on local school districts, many of which lack the ability of the federal government to raise funds to pay for it. For example, a significant majority of our school districts' budgets are subject to voter approval. This is a messy process (who wants to vote to raise taxes?) which almost always results in the school district getting less than what it actually needs. If the federal government expects local districts to pay for the law it enacted, vital programs will suffer (like music, art, athletics and drama) as will the materials budget (which pays for books and computers).

Even if it isn't illegal, it's massively unfair and hypocritical. I imagine that this case will, if nothing else, make that clear to a wider segment of the populace.

As for Blumenthal... what a great piece of publicity. The CEA will love him.

I had been of the opinion that he wouldn't be running next year. This makes me re-think that... but only a little bit. We'll see.

Source: "Connecticut to challenge No Child Left Behind education law." Associated Press 5 April 2005.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Politics Before Security in New Haven?

Democrat-Represented New Haven Received No Homeland Security Funds for Port

The Danbury News-Times reports that the Port of New Haven is extremely vulnerable due to an apparent lack of interest from Washington:

New Haven, which the Department of Homeland Security rated as a "high-risk city" in 2003, received none of the $49 million in Homeland Security grants targeted for port security last year.
...New Haven is arguably one of the most at-risk ports in New England. Home to a large commercial cargo facility as well as the second-largest oil terminal in the Northeast, experts say it could be a terrorist target. (Reid)

That's odd. Are there comperable decreases in other, similar port cities?

The city of Bridgeport received $600,000 in federal grant money for port security, while the Bridgeport Port Authority, a separate entity, got $3 million.
New London received $150,000 from the federal grant. The city has yet to spend its grant money, said a spokeswoman for Police Chief Bruce Rhinehart. (Reid)

It's worth noting that the Coast Guard and the naval base provide some extra security for New London. So what's going on here?

Bridgeport and New London have something else in common. Both have Republican representation in Congress. U.S. Rep. Christopher P. Shays, R-4th Dist., respresents Bridgeport while Rep Bob Simmons, R-2nd Dist., represents New London.

New Haven has a Democratic representative, Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd Dist. "If homeland security is our country's top priority — as the Bush administration continues to tell us— then why is New Haven no longer a high-risk city and why is it losing $10 million in funding?" DeLauro said.

She said changes in grant eligibility were "made without prior warning and there are many questions that need to be answered."
DeLauro stopped short of accusing the Bush administration of playing politics. However, according to the list of grant recipients from the Department of Homeland Security, nearly 70 percent of port funding went to states with Republican governors or to districts with Republican members of Congress. (Reid)

Outrageous, although those statistics may very well be misleading (California and New York, for example, probably get a lot of port funding--both have Republican governors, as do we). Where are our senators on this? Lieberman supposedly lives in New Haven, shouldn't he be concerned with or at least aware of security problems at the port? There is no reason why New Haven shouldn't have the same level of security as Bridgeport.

Source: Reid, Chipp. "Politics may aid security funding". The News-Times 4 April 2005.

Congress Removes Barrier to Tolls

Tolls on Connecticut Borders a Possibility

If you commute across the state line, this is distressing news:

Congress nudged the door ajar for "gateway tolls" on Connecticut's borders.

Tucked into the 1,075-page transportation bill that recently cleared the House of Representatives are provisions that remove, under some circumstances, federal financial roadblocks that have stopped states like Connecticut from imposing new highway tolls. (Urban)

Great. I have nightmares of a toll booth on the Enfield/Longmeadow border, now.
This is a terrible idea for the following reasons:

1. There is a lot of cross-border economic activity, where people will drive from out of state to shop at malls and other retail establishments near the border. Enfield is a great example of this. I routinely see license plates from Massachusetts and Vermont in the parking lots of Enfield stores. The Danbury Fair Mall is another example, and the Crystal Mall in Waterford is a third. Tolls on the highways leading to these places will make out of state customers think twice.

2. Congestion will get much, much worse because of toll plazas. The border crossings are often very busy as it is, with the exception of I-395 and I-84 into Massachusetts. Fairfield County will suffer especially from this.

3. Commuters will start taking side roads unsuited to heavy traffic to avoid paying entry/exit tolls. This means more road repair for the state and for border towns.

I hope our elected representatives had the decency to stand against something so clearly counter to the interests of the state:

All five Connecticut representatives opposed the original amendment. But Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2, swam against the tide and voted in favor of the amendment.

"Rob felt it would be wrong to allow these tolls not to go to new construction only," "Whether you are a trucker or motorist, you already pay a toll in the form of a gas tax," said Todd Mitchell, Simmons' chief of staff.

Simmons is the only member of the delegation on the House Transportation Committee. (Urban)


Source: Urban, Peter. "Bill could take toll on roads." Connecticut Post 4 April 2005.

Connecticut Man Appointed to BRAC Committee

This info is a bit old, but worth talking about. A retired Air Force General, Floyd Newton, will take an open spot on the BRAC committee. He is from Connecticut. Previously, the panel didn't have anyone from the Northeast at all. This is a step in the right direction, but by no means guarantees the Groton base will stay open.

There are already several strikes against New England bases, including cold weather, a high cost of living and communities not seen as "military-friendly". Hopefully Newton will be able to counter some of that.

A Connecticut man. Interesting. President Bush certainly didn't have to pick someone from here. He could be feeling the need to shore up Republican support in the wake of the Schaivo mess and his diminishing Social Security numbers... A few months ago, the administration was acting like it didn't need Shays or Simmons. Maybe now they do.