Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Maps Fixed

The maps are fixed. I actually spent money on this blog, which is a first. They're now located at Image Event, where I've placed them into a public gallery. I've linked to the gallery page, where the default is a smaller map, with the option to select the original hi-res bitmap if you want it. This, I feel, is a bit more user-friendly. Go check it out.

The town council control map is updated to reflect the changes in Bethany and Woodbridge.

You can use this post as an open forum.

Stillborn Baby to get Birth Certificate

Change in Policy may be Opening for Abortion Foes

If a baby is born dead, should it get a birth certificate? Well now they may, according to a new policy from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, who had previously refused to issue birth certificates for stillborns.

The policy change is the result of a year-long campaign by a Norwich couple who desperately wanted a birth certificate for their stillborn daughter. The mother's reasoning hinges on the fact that the state issues death certificates for stillborn babies:

[The mother] disputes the notion allowing birth certificates opens the debate over abortion. On the contrary, she contends, it's the state that does that by insisting on the issuance of a death certificate.
"If my baby was born still, and they give me a death certificate, aren't they then saying she was alive before she born?" [the mother] asked. (Hackett)

Are they? I imagine that the death certificate is issued for record keeping purposes, to record the fact that a baby emerged from the womb dead... but, much as it annoys me, I see her point. Death is an action one can't take if one never was alive. The state erred in issuing death certificates.

What are the implications of this change in policy? For now, they may be next to nothing, since the legislature won't touch the issue:

State Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, introduced legislation earlier this year that would have put Connecticut on the same level as 11 other states with laws allowing for the issuance of stillborn birth certificates. Her proposal, however, was killed in committee -- never even being called for public hearing. (Hackett)

Still, there's a lot about this policy shift that should make pro-choice advocates in Connecticut wary. This is a small victory for those who believe in life before birth, it blurs the lines between life and pre-life, and it exposes the mistake Connecticut has been making in issuing death certificates to stillborns. The most worrying thing, though, is the group behind the effort, Heavenly Angels. The mother, Michelle Sanford of Norwich, is the state's representative to the nationwide organization. This is a deeply Christian support group for parents of stillborns, as this quote from the site's homepage demonstrates:

Most often of the time a grieving parent finds themselves in despair and is completely troubled by the loss of his/her angel. We know all to well this feeling and we are here to say that Jesus can heal your broken heart.

They also claim that their campaign to issue birth certificates for stillborns is not in any way connected to the debate over abortion rights, but read this statement from the founder and judge for yourself:

Does it matter who sponsors your bill? Democrat or Republican? Yes and No. I chose to get a Republican because I felt that they would understand my fight due to the understanding that republicans normally do not believe in abortions therefore they would be more sensative to my story and others.


There's a simple solution here, which is to issue certificates of stillbirth, instead of a birth certificate and a death certificate. This is what the British do. This recognizes the special circumstances of a still birth without giving fodder to either side of the abortion debate. Perhaps when Sen. Prague resubmits this bill next year, this could be her proposal instead.

Hackett, Ray. "Couple's stillborn child to get birth certificate." Norwich Bulletin 31 May, 2005.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

New Campaign Sites

I'm putting together a list of up-and-running campaign sites for this year and next. If you know of any not currently on the sidebar, please list them here.

At this point, it seems that mostly non-incumbents have sites up. Some incumbents have been updating their sites, so I have listed them here. I haven't been able to find a single Republican challenger for, well, anything.

I haven't included Rob Simmons because he hasn't updated his site since the election. I haven't located sites for any of Nancy Johnson's potential challengers, either.

Sites for this November's municipal elections are very much needed.

New poll on sidebar.

Maps are not working. My shady free file storage service seems to have vanished. Figures. I'm working on it, but maps may be down for a couple of days.

Silver Bullets

Hartford Convention Center to Open Tuesday

During the 1950s, Hartford seemed to be a city in decline. Businesses had fled for the suburbs, the city was bleeding population and wealth, traffic on the antiquated streets was terrible and, worst of all, the core of the city was a poor, somewhat blighted neighborhood centered on Front Street.

By the mid 1960s, all this had changed. Front Street had gone, to be replaced by massive new superhighways and a massive urban renewal project called Constitution Plaza. Businesses, such as WTIC, returned, lured by prime office space in a high-profile complex. Money started to trickle back in.

Hartford was saved. Right?

Now, 41 years after Constitution Plaza opened in May of 1964, far removed from the heady optimism and large-scale thinking of the 1960s, it is clear that Hartford not only failed to be saved, but perhaps was critically damaged by that project. A neighborhood was replaced by an impersonal concrete sea far above street level, and the superhighways that were supposed to bring wealth into Hartford have instead strangled it, cutting off downtown from the rest of the city and the city from the river. The city forgot about the people, and built on a scale that dwarfed humans. The result was a city that no one wanted to live or work in.

Now, 41 years later, we prepare to open another urban renewal project (or at least part of one), which once again is supposed to bring Hartford back from the dead. Once again, the scale of the project is enormous, dwarfing even the superhighway it crouches beside, and, yet again, the purpose of the project is to draw all those who left Hartford back into the city.

Yes, this new convention center is somewhat better in conception and design than Constitution Plaza was, and the shopping component of the “new” Front Street will, once completed, hopefully add some human scale to it.

Still, we need to be asking ourselves: is this the right way to “fix” a city?

The, er, “conventional” wisdom tells us that conventions and convention centers are hot, that they bring people downtown, that they help revitalize long-dead urban cores, that they bring money and wealth into a region. They’re silver bullets, just like big stadiums, urban shopping malls, six-lane superhighways and concrete nightmares like Constitution Plaza once were.

Grand as all these things are in conception, they never seem to deliver once they take shape in concrete, glass and steel. This is because the fundamental problems of the city aren’t addressed by extra lanes and off-ramps, high-rise office towers, convention floor space or a Filene’s in the Civic Center. Poverty, drugs, crime and urban blight existed before the convention center and will continue to exist after Thursday’s opening.

The flaw is in the thinking of urban planners. The problem, they theorize, is that the middle and upper classes have abandoned the city for the suburbs and exurbs—if only they could be lured back within Hartford’s borders, all would be well. Somehow.

But a fundamental shift in American society ensures that the middle and upper classes will never return to small cities like Hartford, simply because life in the suburbs is more attractive, safer, and far more convenient. Hartford can't simply offset its drawbacks with trendy clubs, a few upscale stores and an art scene. The convention center isn't deisigned to attract people to the city to stay, of course, but only to entice them there for a few hours and drop their money before they leave. It may be successful at that, for a time, but, like Constitution Plaza and the Civic Center Mall, it can't and won't fix the disparity between city and suburbs.

Hartford needs to capitalize on what it has already rather than quixotically constructing new and different attractions to try and lure rich white people downtown. The successful Learning Corridor next to Trinity College is a great example of what can be done when existing space and resources are used creatively.

Laying aside silver bullet projects in favor of small-scale neighborhood redevelopment will require the abandonment of the idea that Hartford is just as good as, say, Boston or New York. Doubtless, the convention center will be good for the region in some way, but it won't catapult Hartford on to the national scene or really fix the desperate problems faced by so many city residents. To move forward from here, we're going to have to get over our inferiority complex, swallow our pride, and deal with the city that we have, instead of the city we'd rather be.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Base Closing News

$10 million Earmarked for Base

The legislature, typically, is throwing money at the problem:

Saying that Connecticut needs to put money on the table, the state legislature voted swiftly and unanimously Wednesday to allocate $10 million for dredging the Thames River and making improvements at the Groton submarine base... (Keating)

How much of an impact will this really have on the BRAC committee? It seems that almost every affected state is allocating money to try and save bases, some significantly more than Connecticut:

Some states were setting aside money even before the Pentagon announced its decisions on May 13. Those include $261 million in Massachusetts, $250 million in Texas, $23.5 million in North Carolina and $15 million in Florida, said Sen. Cathy Cook, a Mystic Republican whose district includes the base. (Keating)

The article states that the Thames would be dredged to allow large Trident subs to turn around. Tridents, however, are not currently stationed at Groton, probably because of the shallow depth of the river.

Why didn't we do this years ago? Allowing Tridents to be stationed at the base would increase the military value of the site, obviously--so why wasn't it done after the 1993, when the base was saved by a whisker? Why didn't the state do all it could to help preserve the base then instead of reacting now? Wishful thinking?

Hate to say it, but I'm not liking our chances.

What a Mess

The AP is reporting that the base site is incredibly polluted, so much so that it may not be possible to build homes and commercial businesses there:

For decades, the land around the U.S. Navy's 575-acre submarine base was a dumping ground for whatever it needed to dispose: sulfuric acid, torpedo fuel, waste oil and incinerator ash.
Even some areas that have been cleaned could pose health risks to construction workers and future residents if the base were to disappear, the documents show.

And while the Navy pledges $23.9 million toward cleaning the base it opened in 1868, they said Wednesday that cleanup will only be to industrial standards. State officials fear the money won't be nearly enough to make the land fit for waterfront homes, condominiums or recreational facilities. (AP)

Nice of them. The base is a Superfund site, which gives you an idea of just how bad it is. It could be that the Navy is lowballing the cost to further justify closing the base, but what this means is that once the cleanup is done, the town of Groton is going to be left with land that can't be used for anything but an industrial site, and it's doubtful that industry is going to rush into the vacuum.

Timeline of Base Closure

The Day has a timeline of the closure process, which includes a map of polluted sites. According to the Navy, the base would finally be closed in 2011, when most personnel would leave.

The Nautilus, which is to remain anchored at Groton, would be the only sub left in Connecticut at that point.

This gives the state plenty of time to prepare and to try and attract new businesses and opportunities to southeastern Connecticut.

Keating, Christopher. "Legislature Approves Base-Saving Spending." Hartford Courant 26 May, 2005.

"AP Enterprise: Connecticut sub base a 'minefield' of pollution." Associated Press 26 May, 2005.

Hamilton, Robert. "Navy Details Phaseout Of Groton Base." The Day 26 May, 2005.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Open Forum

Probably no posting Wednesday from me... I'll be at meetings all day. Feel free to fill in the gaps.

House Dems Propose Public Financing of Statewide Campaigns

Compromise Bill Would Limit Lobbyist Contributions

House Democrats are proposing a "compromise" campaign finance reform bill that seeks to address many of the continuing ethics violations plaguing our state. Here are some of the details from the Hartford Courant:

The Democrats' legislation would create one of the nation's few systems of publicly financing campaigns for governor and other statewide constitutional offices, beginning with the 2010 elections.
Under the plan, gubernatorial candidates who raised $250,000 through small donations - 90 percent of which came from Connecticut residents who were not lobbyists or state contractors - would be eligible for $1.25 million in public money for a primary campaign and $3 million for a general campaign.
Lobbyists would be limited to contributing no more than $100 to any campaign.
The bill also would offer a limited form of public financing for the General Assembly, a system based on a Nebraska law. Legislative candidates who accepted spending caps of $150,000 for a Senate general election campaign and $30,000 for a House race would get public funds only if an opponent exceeded the cap.

The full public financing for statewide races and limited public money for legislative campaigns would come from a $10-to-$20 surcharge on fines and a $30 fee for filing civil lawsuits for claims over $2,500. The new fees would raise $5.3 million annually, the Democrats said. (Pazniokas)

This is a step in the right direction. Full public financing of all campaigns was tried in Massachusetts, but failed because the state didn't have the money for all state campaigns (including the legislature) and the Republican governor worked against it. But limited public funding of campaigns has a strong chance of survival here.

Governor Rell, who opposes public funding, has dismissed the bill. She shouldn't. While this bill won't ban lobbyist contributions completely (that may not be legal), it will limit their input and influence and guarantee financial equity in most campaigns.

Of course the bill isn't perfect, but a bill that had everything either the governor or the Democrats wanted wouldn't pass. Full public funding is very unlikely, and incumbent Democrats appear too wedded to lobbyists and other special interests to cut them off completely.

Campaign finance reform is something people want, if the success of John McCain's campaign in Connecticut in 2000 was any indication. The governor should grit her teeth and, in the spirit of compromise, accept this bill, which goes a long way towards fixing most of the ethical problems she has been so concerned about.

Rell did make one salient point, however:

Rell, who is opposed to public financing of campaigns, has said she would consider such a measure only if legislators cut off the flow of special interest money into their own campaigns. (Pazniokas)

Now that would be refreshing.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Surprise `Compromise'." Hartford Courant 24 May, 2005.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Going Nowhere, Slowly

State Not Addressing Many Transportation Issues

Last week, the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee voted to throw out a proposed gas tax that would have helped to pay for a multimillion dollar transportation plan proposed by Governor Rell. The plan itself remained largely unchanged, with money earmarked for specific road improvements shuffled around to other projects identified by the Transportation Strategy Board. Rell's plan focuses on adding over 300 cars to Metro North's New Haven Line, and making improvements to I-95.

This is a small step in the right direction, but leaves the state dealing with a host of unresolved transportation issues. Here is a partial list of problems and possible solutions (feel free to add your own):

1. Route 11. Weren't we supposed to finish this thing twenty years ago? Every election season candidates campaign on a promise to "finish Route 11," but so far the bridges over CT-82 in Salem still lead to dirt trails instead of I-95. Southeastern Connecticut could use the economic boost the finished road would provide, especially given recent events.

2. Route 6. Wetland issues and NIMBYs have held up the building of a planned expressway for decades, while people continue to die on "Suicide 6." An expressway linking I-384 and the US-6 expressway in Willimantic would be a benefit for eastern Connecticut. Let's find a solution now.

3. I-95 in Fairfield County. Probably the biggest transportation nightmare in the state. Fairfield County is a parking lot during rush hour: how can this be fixed? Rell's proposal to add cars to Metro North is a good start, but are there other solutions? Adding yet another lane is probably not the solution, since traffic will continue to increase beyond the roadway's capacity. Decent local public transportation might be a start. Would putting the tolls back in force people on to the trains and buses?

4. Hartford County. Public transportation in most of Hartford County is terrible at best. The New Britain-Hartford busway is stalled, last I heard, and it really wasn't all that great of an idea to begin with. Why tear up train tracks to put in a bus line? Why not have, say, trains? Light rail ideas like the Griffin Line north of the city have been floated for years without any solution or serious proposals. Traffic, in the meantime, is getting worse. A proposed commuter rail line between New Haven and Springfield may help, especially by constructing new stations in Newington and Enfield.

5. I-84 . I-84 is a mess in the western part of the state. This is a major national thoroughfare now, especially for truckers, and it should be treated as one. Adding another lane and making other improvements to interchanges, etc., is necessary.

There are many others I've left off this list, like the enticing possiblity of building a bridge across the Sound, but feel free to comment on them.

A wise mix of improvements and upgrades to public transportation and traditional highway systems will help to improve our quality of life and to keep Connecticut economically viable. Like it or not, highways and other forms of transportation drive economic growth, and should be one of our top priorities.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

If Base Closes: Then What?

Studies Show Impact of Base Closures Often Exaggerated

Let's assume the worst is going to happen: The Groton Sub Base is going to shut down. It won't happen right away; these things take time. But in a couple of years, the last subs and sailors will be gone.

What will happen to the Groton-New London area then?

So far, the predictions have been dire. Economic free-fall as a result the loss of thousands of jobs both on and off the base is assumed as a given. So far, the only questions seem to be: How badly will it hurt? Will the rest of the state be dragged down with the southeast? Will we ever recover? and How large will Joe Courtney's margin of victory be?

But let's leave off from the gnashing of teeth and the rending of garments for a moment, let's put the governor's Sub Base "Strike Force" aside for now and take a look at what may actually come to pass.

Here are a few examples of towns where long-established military bases departed, showing that when the ax finally does fall, it won't be as bad as we think:

When Castle Air Force Base near Merced, California, received notice that it was on the list of military bases to be closed, the public braced for a major catastrophe. Newspaper headlines announced the concerns of a community facing doom. Near the base, shopkeepers, bar owners, fast food restaurant managers, and local government officials tearfully anticipated that their community would become an economic backwater or ghost town. Local commissions were formed to try to save the base and the community. Leaders rushed to Congress to complain that closure would ruin their already fragile economy. Congressmen returned to assure citizens that closure would be fought. Task forces estimated the projected tragedy for the County--retail sales would fall $105 million, 3,700 jobs would be lost, County population would decline by 18,000 persons, the unemployment rate would increase by seven points, and decline would spiral (Castle AFB Task Force 2000, 1991). (Bradshaw)

Sounds familiar. Then what?

When the base closed, many compensating factors softened the impact on local markets: military retirees' spending shifted from the base commissary to local stores, purchases made by the base were primarily nonlocal anyway, toxic cleanup replaced construction expenditures on the base, housing construction continued, and military retirees' health care became privatized. These factors helped limit decreases in employment; in addition, many jobs held by departing military spouses became available to nonmilitary workers. Contrary to predictions, unemployment rates increased only moderately, and there was no significant decline in the population. Predictions of dire consequences from a military base closure often prove false because they overstate the effects of economic multipliers and fail to account for the fact that communities often rise to the challenge by forming new alliances and strengthening their organizational capabilities. (Bradshaw)

This article is interesting in many ways, as it examines the positives and negatives of base closures in a reasonable manner. The above example is but one instance of a base closure not having nearly the impact that local communities feared. In fact, Charleston seems to have actually fared better after its historic Naval base left:

Officials express relief that the days of dependence on one employer are over. "In hindsight, the closing of the base was a wake-up call that we can't sit back on our laurels and depend on the federal government to furnish jobs," said North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey. His counterpart in Charleston, Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., agreed that something good came out of crisis: "We have a stronger economy now than ever." (Jacobson)

Which isn't to say that it wasn't difficult to lose that base. There's no denying that jobs will be lost and that communities will suffer. But the amount of suffering appears to have been overstated by economists and politicians:

Economists overstate the impact of a military pullout. Jon W. Grafton, an economic-development official in Alexandria, says that because troops buy food at commissaries and other goods at the post exchange, the loss of a military job is equivalent to the loss of just a third of a civilian job.
When a base closes, few workers lose jobs. About 76% continue to work for Uncle Sam or retire. Only 8% are laid off, according to the Pentagon. And new jobs totaling 60% of the lost slots have been created at bases closed for at least two years. (Crock)


Many fears based on industrial dislocation experiences are not applicable to base closures. Compared to a factory or industrial plant of the same size that quits and locks its gates, military bases that close move most of their personnel to other bases, and civilian employees are eligible to be transferred to other government jobs around the country. (Bradshaw)

The more serious problem for New London County, then, is the continuing decline of Electric Boat and other defense-related industries. Unfortunately, little can be done to keep EB going at this point.

Studies show that the towns which suffer the most are the ones who are completely dependent on military bases for their economies (Bradshaw). This is not the case in New London County, which had begun to diversify its economy during the 1990s, when it became apparent that the defense industry would be severely cutting back its activities in the area. Projects like Utopia Studios will help to fuel southeastern Connecticut's new economy, which will be based more on tourism and white-collar industry than on the old standbys of defense and manufacturing. Pfizer is another good example of what the economy of that region will look like in the future.

So yes, losing the base will hurt. It's going to be hard to see the Navy leave after all these years... but if and when they do, we may find that the economic impact won't be quite as harsh as we thought.

Sources and further reading (no links, sorry--all in subscription databases):
Bradshaw, Ted K. "Communities Not Fazed." Journal of the American Planning Association 65.2 (1999).

Crock, Stan. "The Real Math of Military Shutdowns." Business Week 03/29/99.

Jacobson, Louis. "There is Life After a Military Base Closes." National Journal 32.17 (2000).

Schulte, Bret. "A Rough Road Once the Pentagon Pulls the Plug." U.S. News & World Report 138.19 (2005).

Spiegel, Peter. "Close a Base, Create a Job." Forbes 160.6 (1997).

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Military, Economic and Social Value

Commission Questions Navy About Sub Base

I'm really not sure if we should be encouraged by this or not. The Navy is very intent on closing the Groton base, but BRAC itself seems to have a lot of doubts. Here are some excerpts from yesterday:

The Navy

On the difficulty of the choice:

"It was a very difficult process for our department," Navy Secretary Gordon England said. "These bases listed are where men and woman in uniform are highly regarded by the communities they are located in."

"New London is a perfect example of the very difficult choices we had to make," said Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations. "There is a heritage in New London, a very personal relationship." (Hackett)

On why the choice was made:

"The real break point," Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Anne Rathmell Davis said, "was multifunctional bases. The others scored in the mid 60s compared to New London, which was about 50." (Hackett)


But times have changed, Clark said. "A few years ago we had 100 attack submarines. The numbers are now in the 50s.

"In the future, it will be in the lower 40s. We've got too much structure. We've got to redirect resources," he said. (Lightman)


The Navy is estimating it will cost $679 million to close the Groton facility, $230 million to make improvements at Kings Bay, resulting in an overall savings of $1.6 billion over 20 years. (Hackett)


But there was plenty of discouraging information, too, perhaps nothing more than the presentation by Davis, the Navy's deputy secretary, who said that the sub base had come in 12th out of 16 bases in a ranking of overall military value.

Officials determined that “both Kings Bay and Norfolk had a significantly higher military value than New London did,” Davis said. (Mann)

The BRAC Commission

The Economic, Social and Structural Impact

The explanation of the cost came after a question from BRAC Chairman Anthony J. Principi, who said the commission will have to take into account not only the effect of base closures on communities –– clearly the focus for Connecticut, which would lose more jobs under the proposed closures than any other state in the nation –– but also the effect of job gains from closures and realignments elsewhere.

“One of the factors we have to consider is the ability of receiving institutions, both on the base and in the surrounding community, to support” new residents and installations, Principi said. (Mann)


Principi had another thought, asking England whether the Navy had considered the impact not just on the New London community, but on the Kings Bay base and the surrounding Georgia area, as thousands of people would be relocated there. The recommendation calls for moving the submarines and repair facilities from the New London base to Kings Bay, Ga., and Norfolk, Va.

"I haven't been to Kings Bay in some time," said Principi, "but it seems they have limited infrastructure, at Kings Bay and in the county." (Lightman)


“One of the factors we have to consider is the ability of receiving institutions, both on the base and in the surrounding community, to support” new residents and installations, Principi said. (Mann)


Retired Army Gen. James T. Hill asked why Norfolk, already crowded and hardly in need of more work, was being considered as a site for the New London subs. (Lightman)


Philip Coyle, a Clinton administration assistant defense secretary, questioned several cost savings estimates.

Panel member Coyle also lamented, "we've stirred up a lot of people who don't want to move to a new location." (Lightman)

On Strategic and Military Value

Commission Chairman Anthony Principi, former secretary of veterans affairs, looked almost sad. "From a strategic risk perspective, it makes sense?" he asked.

"Yes sir," Clark answered. (Lightman)


Officials determined that “both Kings Bay and Norfolk had a significantly higher military value than New London did,” Davis said.

That prompted a question from retired Air Force Gen. Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton, a Connecticut executive added to the commission at the last minute, in a move thought to be a coup for the state.

“Was it that drastic a difference?” Newton asked. “Were we close?” (Mann)


"There's a lot of information we do not have available to us yet," Newton said. (Lightman)

The Others

On Cost Savings

But local leaders are questioning the Defense Department's estimates, particularly the $23.9 million for environmental cleanup of the Groton base.

"If you believe that, you're living in Disneyland," Sen. Christopher J. Dodd said.

"This is an issue that will be decided on military value," U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman said. "I don't accept their figures of increased value at the other bases." (Hackett)


“Obviously, we believe the answers that were given, both on military value and on the cost of closing and moving, are not right,” Lieberman said. (Mann)


[Complaints] ranged from lowballing the cost of cleaning up decades' worth of pollution at the base, which would drastically affect how much the Navy will save by closing the base, Markowicz said, to the fact that the military may have to spend more than $200 million to accommodate the submarines and staff that would travel to the Kings Bay base under the Navy plan. (Mann)


The most glaring admission was that the Navy will spend nearly $300 million to build new piers at Kings Bay to accommodate the subs being transferred there from Groton, as well major infrastructure needs on the base and neighboring community of St. Mary's to accommodate the influx of personnel.

"Spending $300 million seems to fly in the face of cost savings, doesn't it?" said U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, after the hearing. (Hackett)

On Military Value

The Connecticut congressional delegation and Markowicz saved their sharpest skepticism for the assertion that Groton's base is less valuable for military purposes, a position Markowicz called inexplicable and which left Simmons thumping out a rudimentary map on a hallway wall to demonstrate to a throng of reporters how much closer subs based in Connecticut would be to any possible military threat in Asia. (Mann)


"How does Kings Bay (Ga.,), that doesn't have any fast attack submarines or a sub school, have a greater military value than Groton?" said John Markowicz, chairman of the Subase Realignment Coalition, the group battling to save the base from closure. (Hackett)


“If there's excess structure,” Simmons said, “why are we investing in new structure?” (Mann)

On the Commission

"What I heard was a willingness to listen," said Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, after a 21/2-hour hearing on proposals that would affect the Navy. (Lightman)

So, after all that, what are our chances? I think we won't know for quite some time, but there do seem to be some problems with the Navy's argument that may at least keep the door open for the base.

Amidst all of this, Simmons is trying to save himself by co-sponsoring a measure that would put off the BRAC process for two more years, according to The Day. How utterly ridiculous. Let's get this done now, at least, so that families aren't left hanging for another two years.


Mann, Ted. "Navy: Sub Base's Military Value Low." New London Day 18 May 2005.

Lightman, David. "Navy Brass Grilled." Hartford Courant 18 May 2005.

Hackett, Ray. "Navy: Sub base falls short." Norwich Bulletin 18 May 2005.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Search Feature Added

Site update: I've added a Google search box down underneath the blog roll. It works well enough, but doesn't catch the most recent stuff. For example, searching for "DeStefano" won't get you today's post, since Google's robots haven't come across it yet.

You can use this as an open forum.

DeStefano: Too Much?

New Haven Mayor Alone Among Dems in Launching Criticisms

Just after the announcement that the Groton Sub Base was on the recommended closure list, Connecticut's political leaders held a press conference. Governor Rell took the stage with both Democratic senators, as well as congressmen/women from both parties. The visual spoke for itself: we're going to work together to try to save the base.

Then, later that day, John DeStefano released this:

Connecticut workers have a right to ask: Where has Governor Rell been? The work required by our political leaders to prevent today’s announcement was work that should have been done over the past year. Sadly, until recent weeks, she has refused to travel to Washington to lobby on behalf of Connecticut’s working men and women. Now she says she is “shocked” at the Pentagon’s decision..

Governor Rell may be “shocked” at today’s announcement, but what’s really shocking is the lack of leadership that results in the loss of tens of thousands of Connecticut jobs. (link)

I'm not sure whether this is ballsy or just divisive and petty. I'm also not sure if what he said is a legitimate complaint. It wasn't smart of Rell to miss the conference, but was it that vital? After all, the governors of New Jersey and Maine were at the conference, and they got screwed, too.

But let's say that it is legitimate to connect the loss of the base with skipping the conference. Is now the right time to levy this kind of accusation? Other Democrats are jumping on board the bipartisan bandwagon:

"Look, I think the governor has a done a tremendous job to this point. I can't comment on what other candidates say," [U.S. Rep. John] Larson [D-1] said. "That's up to them to choose and pick their words. But I do think the governor is doing the very best job that she can. We're going to work alongside of her to try to make this happen." (Keating)

This is the time to stand together, putting the best interests of all the people of Connecticut first. Towards that end, I have called the Governor and offered her my assistance, and those of my advisors, in fighting to keep the many important military installations open. The ongoing operation of these bases and the jobs they provide is vital to the economic stability of our great State. --Dan Malloy, from his website (.pdf file).

And so on. I haven't heard of a single other Democrat who has come out taking shots at the Republicans over this. Joe Courtney, for example, is running against Rob Simmons but has not attacked him for his failure to keep the base of the list in the first place.

Yet, one has to admire DeStefano's actions. It's a gutsy, bold move, and there may be a small measure of truth to his accusation. He's proving that he's not afraid to come right after Rell on even the most sensitive of issues.

Let's see if it pays off for him.

Keating, Christopher and Mark Pazniokas. "Parties Unite Against Closing." Hartford Courant 17 May 2005.

There is a stirring reponse to this on the DeStefano campaign site.

Monday, May 16, 2005

More Polls

In last week's way-too-early poll about Democratic contenders, most of you supported Mayor John DeStefano of New Haven (68%). Perennial favorite None of the Above came in second (15%) with Bysiewicz (11%) and Malloy (6%) rounding out the field. There were 71 votes cast.

The way, way-too-early general election poll showed the generic Democratic contender far ahead of Jodi Rell, 72%-25%. Only 61 people voted in this one.

What do these polls tell us, besides the fact that a lot of Democrats hang out here? (I think we knew that) Not too much. The choice of DeStefano is interesting, but again, it's early.

If anyone wants to defend their choices, this is the place to do it.

I've put up some new polls, this time more topical.

Budget (Open) Season

It's spring, and time once again for that unique rite of New England's small towns, in which the people gather at the polling places to vote down their towns' budgets.

Back when these towns were just creating their charters, people obviously thought it would be a good idea for the citizens of the town to have direct control over the budget process. It makes sense, doesn't it? It's the people's money that's being spent, so they should have the final say in the matter.

Unfortunately, this is in practice a terrible idea. Modern budgets are extremely complex, and become more so the larger a town becomes. Therefore, it isn't the people who draw up the budget, but (in most cases) either a board of finance or the board of selectmen/town council. In towns where referendums are held, the budget, once passed out of the creating body, goes directly to the people for a simple "yes or no" vote.

How can a complex budget with hundreds, even thousands of items and expenses in it be reduced to a simple yes or no? In referendum country, it usually goes something like this:

YES = Children!
NO = Low taxes!

This comes with a whole host of arguments, pitting anti-tax cranks against overzealous soccer moms in a titanic battle over whether or not to hike the mill rate from 32 to 34. Invariably, the budget is framed by how much it raises taxes. This is a disservice both to the citizens and to the framers of the budget, since it portrays the budget simply as a burden for the people to bear rather than a complex document that can be drastically affected by forces outside the town's control. Cuts in state aid and the loss of business and industry (i.e. the tax base) can be budget-busters, forcing a town to increase taxes dramatically just to keep services steady.

Another problem is dreadfully low attendence. An example from a regional school distruct:

Barkhamsted residents passed the budget by a 110 to 60 vote; Colebrook 82 to 42; New Hartford, 323 to 240; and Norfolk, 85 to 26. (Jordan-Reilly)

This budget actually passed, but look at the numbers:
Barkhamsted had 170 votes cast. Barkhamsted has 3,494 residents. Colebrook had 124 votes, New Hartford 563 and Norfolk 111. The populations of those towns, respectively, is 1,471, 6,088 and 1,660. Even if only half of the citizens are registered to vote, those numbers are still abysmal. By comparison, 887 people voted in the 2004 presidential election in Colebrook: more than seven times the number who voted in the referendum.

The usual pattern is: the lower the turnout, the less chance a budget has of being passed.

So what we have here is a system that reduces complex budgets to simple yes or no votes, and leaves the final decision up to a relatively small portion of the voting population. Is this really the best way to decide something so critical?

Here is a partial list of towns and regions that have defeated budgets in the past few weeks:

New Milford
Regional School District 9
Guilford (library expansion)
Regional School District 6
Regional School District 15

A fluke in Bloomfield meant that the budget passed automatically. There were not enough people at the town meeting to get a quorum.

Cited Source
Jordan-Reilly, Melissa. "Region Officials Thrilled With Budget’s Passage." Tri-Corner Extra 6 May 2005.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Open Forum

You can put reactions to the sub base closing, the Ross execution and anything else that's on your mind here.

Apparently, The decision to recognize the Schagticokes and the Eastern Pequots has been overturned.

Black Friday

Ross Executed, Sub Base on Closure List

What a terrible day.

For the first time in more than forty years, a New England state has executed a man. He was a horrible, wretched man. I don't think I'm sorry he's dead. I am sorry that it was Connecticut who killed him. Those on the left here (and even those in the center) tend to think that we're superior to other parts of the country, that we don't let our baser instincts rule us quite so much. Well, maybe that isn't as true as we'd like.

Worse news is that the Groton Sub Base is on the BRAC's list of bases to be closed. The Air Guard Center in Windsor Locks and the Army Reserve Center in New Haven will also be closed, but Groton... that hurts.

I went to college in New London. My dorm window overlooked the Thames River. One of the most incredible sights I could see was a submarine slowly crawling up or down the river. When they came home, all the men would stand out on the deck. Once, on a fishing boat out of Niantic, a submarine passed within a couple hundred yards of us. I can't tell you how awe-inspiring they are unless you've seen one yourself, out there on the water.

For this place, for Groton and New London for all the surrounding towns and, indeed, for all of Connecticut, the sub base is a matter of pride. David Bushnell of Saybrook invented the first submarine--the Turtle, which he used to attack warships in New York harbor during the Revolutionary War. Subs have always been built here. The Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, is anchored at Groton. My dad took me to see it when I was a kid--it made a big impression on me. Groton bills itself as the Submarine Capital of the World, and up until now that claim has stood up pretty well.

I don't need to tell you about the economic impact. Of course it will be devestating. The emotional impact of seeing the base shut its doors may very well be worse.

I can't say it's unexpected. This has been in the works for years. But, like Lieberman said this morning, it's like a punch in the gut all the same.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Simmons Staffer: Democrats Want to see Base Closed

This story from The Hill shows what Simmons's strategy might be if the base were to be on the BRAC list tomorrow:

“There are opponents of Congressman Simmons who would love to see the base shut down,” [Simmons Chief of Staff Todd] Mitchell said. “They don’t seem to be able to win on tying Rob to the president or [House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay [R-Texas], so they would love to see the base on the list.”

Brian Hamel, a former GOP congressional candidate in Maine who now consults for communities facing military-base closures, said that if the base is closed Democrats would definitely use that against Simmons by citing the immediate economic loss to the district. (Savodnik)

Yes, Democrats will use the closure of the base against Simmons. And why not? He made it a campaign issue in 2004. If the base stays open, he'll be trumpeting it to the stars in 2006. Absolutely, Simmons has left himself wide open for that line of attack.

The idea that Democrats secretly want to see the base closed is nonsense. I imagine that only Republicans work at the base or benefit economically from its existence, right? This statement by Mitchell is more than a little panicked and desperate, and shows just how worried Simmons is about his political future.

Therefore, if the base goes, expect to see a lot of attacks on Democrats for being anti-military out of the Simmons camp.

Savodnik, Peter. "Fate of Rep. Simmons, sub base intertwined." The Hill 12 May, 2005.

News Roundup 5/12

Ross May Die Early Friday

I've mostly avoided talking about Michael Ross and the endless legal circus surrounding his upcoming execution, but since it looks as if it might actually happen this time...

There are dozens of stories out there right now about Ross and the continuing appeals being put forward by members of his family and other advocates.

Tomorrow, maybe, then, this whole thing will be over. Then, once Ross is finally dead, maybe we can talk about the death penalty in a more sane manner.

Rell Testifies About Schaghticoke Recognition

Gov. Rell and other state political figures testified before a Senate committee yesterday about the faulty tribal recognition process that led to the BIA recognizing the Schagticoke Tribal Nation.

This is, I believe, the first time that Gov. Rell has traveled to Washington as governor (correct me if I'm wrong-I know she skipped the governors' association meeting). She also spoke with the congressional delegation about the future of the Groton Sub Base and other matters. Her full testimony is here (registration required).

The BIA has lost a lot of credibility, as the recognition process for the Eastern Pequots and the Schagticokes has shown. It needs to either be fixed or replaced.

Umpires, Other Sports Officials, May Get More Protection

The House approved a bill yesterday that would make assulting sports officials a class D felony. That means that if you shove the ump because he called your kid out, you could face five years in prison or a $5,000 fine.

Umpires, a protected class? Where will this end? Will they target "hate speech" against refs next? Will the chant "A rope! A tree! Hang the referee!" become a thing of the past? Does this mean jail time for the guy at Wolf Pack games with the poster of the linesman's head up his own ass? Stay tuned.

Last Minute Effort to Keep Sub Base off List

A report out Wednesday shows that the Groton Sub Base has high military value and "wastes no space." This report appeared just two days before the announcement of the initial list of base closures, which is expected out tomorrow morning.

We'll all be waiting.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Rell's Approval Slips 14 Points

Governor's Rating Still 4th Highest in Nation

A new poll released by Survey USA shows that Governor Rell has one of the highest approval ratings for a governor in the country. Her 66% approval rating (23% disapprove) is fourth on the list behind North Dakota's John Hoeven (71%), South Dakota's Mike Rounds (70%) and Wyoming's Dave Freudenthal (67%).

Rell has the highest approval rating east of the Mississippi, and is comfortably ahead of the national average (41% approval, 48% disapproval). Most governors in the country fared poorly. The worst were Gov. Frank Murkowski of Alaska (27%) and Gov. Bob Taft of Ohio, whose 19% approval rating shows that having a portly presidential ancestor doesn't guarantee success.

However, this number is actually fourteen points lower than her most recent approval rating, which, according to Quinnipiac University, was 80% in April. This is the lowest approval rating Rell has received during her time in office.

This could mean that Rell's support is finally eroding, as many Democrats have been predicting and hoping it would. The two most recent Quinnipiac polls were influenced by Rell's battle with cancer and John Rowland's sentencing--this one probably more accurately reflects statewide approval of her actions instead of events surrounding her.

Still, following a month in which Rell was involved in a budget battle, signed a controversial civil unions bill and promised to sign a minimum wage hike, she's doing pretty well. If this number accurately relfects how people feel about her governorship, then people seem to like what she's doing. This number has the potential to be very solid, unlike the much higher figures we saw before. Democrats can be encouraged by the slide in Rell's numbers, but should wait to see whether it stabilizes or continues to fall before celebrating too much.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Budget Surplus: What Should be Done with It?

The projected budget surplus may reach $700 million, according to some legislative fiscal analysts.

This could really save Rell and the Democrats from budget Armageddon. What should be done with it?

Well... we have an awful lot of debt. In fact, we're one of the worst states in the country when it comes to our bonded debt (currently $13 billion). We should try to pay down as much of that as is feasable, to save ourselves money in the future.

The teachers' retirement program is dangerously underfunded, as is the retirement program for state employees:

The actuarial value of the teachers pension fund assets is about $9.847 billion, while the actuarial accrued liability is $15.071 billion, according to the nonpartisan legislative analysts. That leaves an unfunded liability of about $5.224 billion, or 34.7 percent of the total. In other words, the state is funding 65.3 percent of what it needs for the pension fund.

The state funds an even smaller percentage of the state employees pension. According to OFA, the actuarial value of the state pension fund is roughly $8.230 billion, while the actuarial accrued liability is about $15.129 billion, leaving an unfunded liability of $6.890 billion. That means the state funds just 54.5 percent of what's necessary to cover the total. (Breen)

Cities and towns desperately need money, too, and it's almost certain that some of the surplus will go their way. Both Rell and the Democrats support sending at least $100 million to municipalities.

I'm very relieved to see that no one is talking about tax cuts (at least, not yet).

If the state government is smart about this surplus, it could really be a boon. Let's try to learn from the disaster that the federal government made out of their surplus, and manage this one wisely. Paying down the debt and more fully funding retirement programs is a good way to ensure that we'll be on firmer financial footing in the future.

Breen, Tom and Keith Phaneuf. "So there's a surplus -- what about state's debt?." Journal-Inquirer 9 May, 2005.

Monday, May 09, 2005

BRAC: List to be Released This Week

Soon we'll know.

Southeastern Connecticut has been holding its breath waiting for the list of base closures to be released. It won't be much longer: the report is due out sometime this week, probably Friday (the 13th--how appropriate). While we wait, here's the good and the bad news:

The good news is that the cuts may not be as deep as feared.

"Without final figures, I would say the percent will be less than half of the 20 to 25 percent that has been characterized previously," [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld said in a conference call Thursday with newspaper editorial writers across the country, according to two writers who were on the call. (AP)

Why the change? Hard lobbying by cities and states has apparently been a factor, as has the argument that the bases are needed for homeland security.

The bad news is that if Groton goes, a huge hole will be ripped in the economy. We already knew that, of course, but now we know just how bad it will be:

If the Naval Submarine Base in Groton is shut down, the state economy would lose as much as $3.3 billion a year and as many as 31,500 jobs, according to a state report released Wednesday. (Hamilton)

This isn't just a New London County problem. The state stands to lose a lot of revenue, and the huge job losses will mean an increase in the demand for state services there, putting a strain on services everywhere else. That's just for starters, too. It could be a disaster.

Rep. Rob Simmons (R-2), aware of how closely his political future is tied to the base (look at the 2nd district map--see how support for Simmons drifted down towards the southeast in 2004? That's the military vote, without which he can't win), has been working furiously to protect it. His latest project is trying to secure funds for a Homeland Security post at the base (bases with "mixed use" are reportedly looked upon more favorably). We'll know his fate after this week, too.

Keep an eye on Second District Congressional Watch for more details.

"Rumsfeld Sees Fewer Base Closings." Associated Press 6 May, 2005.

Hamilton, Robert A. "New Report Raises Stakes For Potential Base Closing." New London Day 5 May 2005. (registration required)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Polls, Early

Okay, some new polls on the sidebar, under the maps. Go ahead and vote!

I know, it's early. But it would be nice to see where everyone is at.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Malloy Renews Candidacy

Here is a quick excerpt from the email Dan Malloy has sent to his email list, which is also posted on his website:

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Chief State's Attorney's Office fully vindicated me and announced that it had officially closed its inquiry into contract awards and contract work in Stamford.
My team and I are continuing to move forward with my candidacy for Governor. I am committed to pushing for meaningful debate on the future of our great State. I believe that Democrats will see me not only as the candidate with the most experience, strongest record of accomplishments and clearest vision for Connecticut's future, but also the candidate who stands on unquestionable ethical ground. Simply put, mine is the candidacy that represents the highest ethical standards in government, and I can bring that ethic to Hartford on behalf of all the people of Connecticut.

All right, then. Malloy running as the "ethics candidate" is a novel strategy, but one that could backfire dangerously. At this stage in the game, though, Malloy needs to shoot for the moon.

I'm fascinated by the decision to shut down the campaign while the investigation was going on. This was both a smart and a stupid move. It was smart because it allowed him to insulate himself from negative statewide attention. It was stupid because it stalled his fundraising, which now lags behind Bysiewicz and DeStefano. It was also stupid because it raises a lot of suspicions. Was he expecting to get caught, and needed the time to prepare a defense? Or did he know that he'd be vindicated, and decided to use the moment to relaunch a campaign that most in the state hadn't heard about?

Malloy did very poorly in the last Quinnipiac Poll, which showed him at the bottom of the Democratic pile. However, he also had very low name recognition. He's betting that positive attention will raise both numbers.

Will he succeed? I doubt it. He's running as a moderate who believes strongly in ethics. He's Jodi Rell. We already have one of her, and she hasn't been under investigation for corruption lately. Unless he can make more of an impression, he's doomed to stay in Stamford.

Open Forum

So... there's a lot of small stuff going on. The cell phone bill, the anti-tailgating initiative, incremental budget progress, Rell putting a good word in for greyhounds, Dan Malloy cleared of wrongdoing, etc.

The Malloy thing is interesting, but I doubt he'll be able to make much of an impact. Then again, I know very little about him.

Hartford: Demand for Services Outstrips Revenue

Growing Budget Gap could Cripple City

We hear a lot of talk about urban renewal, especially in Hartford. Downtown revitalization was, at least for a time, on everybody's mind, and it's sure to come to the fore again when the mammoth new convention center opens this summer, and when the construction of new residential towers where the Civic Center Mall once stood really starts moving along.

It's easy and reassuring to believe that new construction and a little tweaking of the parking authority will fix the problems facing the capital city. It's soothing to think that the worst is finally over for Hartford, that the free-fall begun forty years ago has at last come to an end, and that Hartford is, as the signs say, "New England's Rising Star," if only because there's nowhere to go but up from here.

For the 120,000 or so legal residents of the city, this is far from the truth. Hartford has a lot further to fall, if predictions about the city budget are any indication:

Thanks to an 8 percent tax hike [Hartford Mayor Eddie] Perez has proposed, the revenue and expense lines are joined at present, but they soon spread apart, with spending expected to exceed taxes and other revenues by more than $25 million next year, in part because of a $5 million dip in revenues. The gap nearly doubles to $48 million in 2007-2008. (Rinde)

Hartford's income can't meet the needs of its citizens--this is obvious. Why is this happening? Here are some reasons:

--A drop in state aid to cities and towns is partly to blame, but this is the least of Hartford's worries.
--A huge drop in property values means that less revenue is coming in to the city. This has been an ongoing problem for decades.
--People are leaving. Hartford's population has been falling dramatically, losing about 20,000 residents between 1990 and today. Hartford is now slightly smaller than New Haven and much smaller than Bridgeport, both of which have managed to stem their population losses for the time being.
--Businesses are leaving. WFSB's upcoming flight to Rocky Hill is just the latest example of a Hartford corporation abandoning the city for the suburbs.
--Hartford's relatively small land area (17.3 sq. miles) means that very little new development that doesn't involve massive and expensive demolition and clearing can be done. Most developers aren't interested.

Couple this with the fact that the need for services is increasing, especially as the population becomes more and more marginalized, and the picture becomes depressingly clear. Hartford and other cities like it are in deep, deep trouble.

Quick, gaudy fixes like a convention center or glitzy new apartments don't address this problem--in fact, they may make it worse. So what can be done?

Hartford is surrounded by some of the richest towns in the state: West Hartford borders the capital city while the wealthy Farmington Valley is just a few miles away. Is regionalization of some services the answer? I can't imagine that Avon and Simsbury would ever go for such a thing, but West Hartford, East Hartford, Wethersfield, Newington, Windsor and Bloomfield might. The regionalization of police, fire and ambulence services could benefit everyone involved. A combined bureaucracy and a pooling of resources could save money and time. The same is true of a regionalized school district, in which students would have a lot more freedom of movement and schools wouldn't be entirely shackled to the vagaries of insular town budget processes (Windsor is an example of how a suburban district can be ruined by an extremely tight anti-tax monetary policy).

In reality, the borders between the city and the towns surrounding it are increasingly meaningless anyway. A lot of the commercial and industrial functions of the city have spread into the suburbs, and the entire region is bound together into a single interdependent economy. Politically, city and suburbs have found they must increasingly work together in order to make progress and address tough issues that spill across borders. The Capital Region Council of Governments is one way in which this is happening.

Like it or not, regionalism is already happening. Maybe it's time to take the next steps, to save a vital urban core from sinking completely into debt and chaos.

Rinde, Meir. "The Coming Storm." Hartford Advocate 5 May 2005.

Newton Investigation: Wiretap Yields Results

FBI Reports 391 "Incriminating" Calls During 178-day Wiretap

I have to say, this doesn't look good:

The FBI intercepted nearly 400 cell phone conversations it deemed incriminating during a six-month wiretap last year in the corruption investigation into state Sen. Ernest Newton, according to court records and officials.
The FBI labels calls as incriminating if they are relevant and advance an investigation. The calls can be as explicit as describing a crime or as vague as the scheduling of a meeting.

While the number of incriminating calls pales in comparison to the thousands that led to the convictions of former mayors Joseph Ganim in Bridgeport and Philip Giordano in Waterbury, wiretap experts called it significant. (AP)

Newton is one of the most visible and influential members of the Senate, but is currently under investigation for illegally funneling state money to family members. His Capitol offices were searched in January. No arrests have been made, yet.

Democrats don't need a cloud of corruption around one of their top members. Pressure on Newton to resign has apparently abated for now, but fresh news like this (even about a wiretap that ended in November) could increase it again. Republicans may take the time to highlight Newton's difficulties when two competing ethics bills come before the General Assembly in the next few weeks.

As I said, it doesn't look good.

"AP NewsBreak: Newton wiretap snares 391 'incriminating' calls." Associated Press 5 May 2005.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

May Elections: Democratic Gains in Bethany, Woodbridge

Last post on the May elections...

The Orange Bulletin reports that Democrats came up big in Bethany and Woodbridge on Monday:

But while [Republican First Selectwoman Amee] Marrella won her seat back she lost the edge she had on the Board of Selectmen when Republican Judith Schwartz lost to Democrat Sandra Stein. Previously, the board was Republican dominated.
In Bethany, it was a Democratic sweep. ...Democratic First Selectwoman Derrylynn Gorski won 1,111 votes, Republican Newton Borgerson garnered 834 votes and unaffiliated candidate Boaz Itshaky won 52 votes. The Democrats now dominate all boards with the exception of the Board of Finance. (Albert)

So, to sum up, there was a little movement on Monday towards Democrats in traditionally Republican areas. In Andover, the board of finance will now be dominated by Democrats. Woodbridge, which had been trending Republican, is now back in Democratic hands. Naugatuck remained dominated by Republicans, but the Democrats did pick up a seat on the board of burgesses (the town council), narrowing the Republican majority to 5-4. The biggest surprise of the night, however, was Bethany, which had been considered a GOP lock but is now controlled entirely by Democrats. In fact, the only town that didn't see any kind of Democratic pickup at all was Bolton, which stayed essentially the same.

Republican incumbents, like Marrella and San Angelo, mostly did well, but Republican challengers fared very poorly.

Here's my final take on the results:

--Democrats picked up a few seats in nontraditional areas
--Incumbents by and large fared very well
--Non-incumbent Republicans were mostly unsuccessful
--Ethics, while a big issue in a few campaigns, didn't appear to affect the voters very much
--Third-party challengers did poorly outside of Naugatuck

In all, a good night for Democrats and incumbents. I will be updating the town council control map soon--Bethany and Woodbridge will change from red to blue.

Albert, Bridget and Pamela McLoughlin. "Dems sweep Bethany while Marrella wins, loses BOS seat." Orange Bulletin 4 May 2005.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Rell: Minimum Wage Hike "Reasonable"

Bill would Raise the Minimum Wage to $7.65/hr

In yet another move unlikely to win her friends in her own party but seemingly designed to secure her re-election, Gov. Rell said Monday that she supports a bill currently pending before the Senate that would raise the state's minimum wage to $7.65 per hour.

"I think the minimum wage bill, as it has gone through, is a reasonable one," said Rell, who had declined to comment when the bill was passed last week. (Keating)

During the debate, House Republicans repeatedly decried the measure, saying the bill would eventually hurt low-income workers because employers would be forced to lay off employees due to rising labor costs. In addition, other workers who currently earn more than the minimum wage would demand higher pay as their lower-paid colleagues received increases, Republicans said.

Rell, though, largely dismissed many of those arguments, saying that few workers actually earn the minimum wage in Connecticut.
..."Those companies [that pay minimum wage] understand what their responsibilities are to their employees, and if that is the case and they aren't complaining about it, then I don't think that they believe that they will lose jobs because of it. Long-term, it could be a different story if you were changing [the wage] dramatically, but not at the rate they're proposing." (Keating)

Essentially, Rell believes that both the wage hike and the pool of workers making minimum wage is too small to have the kind of serious economic impact members of her party always claim whenever this debate comes up.

And, as far as I can tell, she's absolutely right. I have never seen a shred of evidence that raising the minimum wage has ever caused massive layoffs or widespread economic devestation. Besides, the rising cost of essentials like food and gasoline means that our dollars don't go as far as they used to. An increase in the minimum wage is not only morally sound, but necessary to keep pace with the cost of living in Connecticut.

But let's take a look at the numbers, just to address the arguments of small business owners like Rep. Anthony D'Amelio, who says that:

...raising the minimum wage could force him to lay off employees in the small restaurant he owns. Young workers who clean tables in the restaurant are paid the minimum, he said.
"It's not going to help people," D'Amelio said of the increase. "You are going to hurt the very people you seek to help." (Keating)

The wage will be rising from $7.10/hr to $7.65/hr. Say you have an employee who works eight hours a day, which is pretty standard. That means he or she will get $4.40 more per day. If this workers works a standard 40-hour workweek, he or she will make $22.00 more per week than he or she used to ($284 to $306). If this worker works 50 weeks per year, he or she will make $15,300 instead of $14,200, an increase of $1,100.

Is that hard for a small business to bear? It can be, especially if times are tough. But there are two good arguments for it that make economic as well as moral sense:

1. A rising tide lifts all boats. This is the opposite of "trickle down" economics, in which we trust the rich to spread their wealth around. Essentially, if people are making more money, they'll spend more money. Where will they spend it? Probably in places that hire people for minimum wage, like big box stores and restaurants. Unlike trickle-down economics, this theory has the advantage of actually working.

2. Employee retention. Connecticut is bleeding population, as recent reports have shown. We may lose another congressman in 2010 if this trend continues. Shouldn't we make our state more attractive for young people, so that they stay here instead of migrating out west or down south?

Not that this matters to Rep. D'Amelio. I wouldn't want to be one of his busboys right now.

Keating, Christopher. "Rell Backs Minimum Wage Hike." Hartford Courant 3 May 2005.

May Elections -- Results


Democrats picked up a seat in Andover's board of finance election, where longtime Republican chairman Ylo Anson was not re-elected. Democrat Marie Burbank was elected to the board for the first time, while the other two candidates, both of whom were cross-endorsed by both parties, won re-election. A Republican fire commissioner also lost his seat.

Rabkin, April. "Anson loses Andover Finance Board seat to Democratic surge." Journal-Inquirer 3 May, 2005.


Democratic First Selectwoman Derrylyn Gorski won re-election over Republican Newton Borgerson and independent candidate Boaz Itshaky. No word on other races in this town.

Albert, Bridget. " Gorski, Marrella continue to lead." Orange Bulletin 2 May 2005.


Republican Robert Morra was re-elected as First Selectman over Democrat Leslie Shea. Republicans did well in most other races. The Board of Selectmen will continue to be dominated 2-1 by Republicans.

Heuer, Max. "Morra wins another term in Bolton as Republicans maintain dominance." Journal-Inquirer 3 May, 2005.


Democrats split their vote between endorsed candidate Curtis Bosco and petitioning candidate Peter Jurzynski, allowing Republican Mayor Ron San Angelo to win another term.

Unofficially, San Angelo received 2,989 votes, 42 percent of the total, followed by Democratic challenger Curtis Bosco, who took 2,458 votes, 34.6 percent.

Petitioning candidate Peter Jurzynski received 1,518 votes, or 21.4 percent, and William Woermer, another petitioning candidate, gained 139 votes, or 2 percent. (Siss)

Republicans kept their majority on the board of burgesses despite losing one seat to Democrats.

Siss, Will. "Mayor wins 2d term with 42% of vote in 4-way run." Waterbury Republican-American 3 May 2005.


Republican First Selectwoman Amey Marrella defeated Democrat Laurence Grothier. No word on other races in this town.

Albert, Bridget. " Gorski, Marrella continue to lead." Orange Bulletin 2 May 2005.

This was a pretty good night for incumbents in most towns. Accusations of ethics violations against incumbents in both Woodbridge and Naugatuck did not have enough of an effect to block their re-election. Party control hasn't shifted in any of the races we know of, except on the board of finance in Andover.

I will post more information as it becomes available. I'll especially be watching to see if Woodbridge and Bethany cough up some more results.
Final results and analysis

Monday, May 02, 2005

Election Alert: May Municipals Today!

Vote Today in Andover, Bethany, Bolton, Naugatuck, Union and Woodbridge

A quick guide:


The major election this year is for the board of finance, as Andover’s board of selectmen, unlike those in most other towns, serves a four-year term. The current board was elected in 2003. There are four candidates running for three spots on the board of finance, which draws up the budget for approval by the selectmen and the voters, two of whom have been approved by both Republicans and Democrats. Here is a link to the ballot.


Democratic First Selectwoman Derrylynn Gorski is running for re-election against two candidates, Republican Newton “Skip” Borgerson and independent centrist candidate Boaz Itshaky (links are to profiles recently published in the Orange Bulletin).

Each candidate released a statement in the Amity Observer detailing why voters should vote for them:

Gorski, not surprisingly, wants to keep things running pretty much as they are while encouraging economic development. She has faced a Republican board of selectmen and has had difficulty with them. Borgerson, among other things, wants to take the power of preparing the budget away from the board of finance and give it to the first selectman. Borgerson has been endorsed by the Amity Observer. Itshaky wants Bethany to withdraw from the Amity school district and build its own high school.


Incumbent First Selectman Republican Robert Morra is facing Democratic Selectwoman Leslie Shea. An article in the Journal-Inquirer points to the sewer project along Route 44 as a key to the election.

Morra has been in office since 1989, and is running on his experience. Bolton’s board of selectmen is currently controlled by Democrats.


I’ve already said most of what I need to say about Naugatuck, the most interesting race of the year so far. Republican Mayor Ron San Angelo is facing Democrat Curtis Bosco and independent candidates Peter Jurzynski and William Woermer. There are many issues in this campaign, including San Angelo’s use of a town-owned car, seniors, downtown redevelopment and much, much more.
(town car, economics and revitalization--scroll down, primary results, commentary, original analysis)


I have no idea what’s going on in Union. They are scheduled for an election today, but I have heard not word one about it. I’ll post when I find out more. Union, Connecticut’s smallest town, is currently controlled by Republicans.


Republican First Selectwoman Amey Marrella is facing Democrat Laurence Grotheer for the town’s top spot (links are to profiles in the ever-helpful Orange Bulletin). Profiles in the Amity Observer:

A few ethics problems have cropped up for Marrella, but other than that the campaign has been pretty quiet. Woodbridge is narrowly controlled by Republicans. Marrella has been endorsed by the Amity Observer.

Polls are open right now, and will stay open until 8pm. I’ll post results tomorrow.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Rell Mulling Full Term

I'd say it's almost definite that she will run, but she's been interestingly difficult to predict so there's no way to say for sure.

Here's what Gov. Rell had to say to WTNH on Friday:

WTNH: "So you're up for a statewide campaign?"
RELL: (Laughs) "So am I up for a statewide... we still have a little time to make that decision, but, as you ask me that Mark, I have to tell you, we are giving it more and more talk time, shall we say, within the family."
link to interview

Cagey. But it sounds like she's given it some thought, and she's ruling out nothing. Of course, she's had a pretty good couple of weeks. Her approval numbers are through the roof following Rowland's sentencing and incarceration, she has the Democrats over a barrel on the budget and she came through a potentially devestating fight over civil unions with flying colors (liberals are happy she signed the thing, conservatives are happy she was able to pressure the House to stick that definition of marriage in there).

Statewide prospects for Republicans don't look good for 2006, and a Rell candidacy might be the only bright spot in an otherwise dismal year for them. I do expect a few GOP pickups in both houses of the General Assembly, which right now is tilted absurdly in favor of Democrats, but the Republicans will come nowhere near a majority. The only statewide office they can win will be the governorship--all other offices (attorney general, sec'y of the state, treasurer, etc.) will in all likelihood be retained by Democrats. Republicans are also in serious danger of losing two of their three congressional seats (Shays and Simmons) without the chance of picking up a win over either DeLauro, Larson or Lieberman.

Republicans who want to see a government that isn't controlled entirely by the opposite party should be breathing a bit easier.

Davis, Mark. Interview with Gov. M. Jodi Rell 29 April, 2005.