Friday, July 29, 2005

Open Forum/Upcoming Event

There will be a Q&A with John Nussbaum on Monday August 1st from 5:30pm. As always, if you can't make it and have a question for Mr. Nussbaum, please post it here or email it to me. I will post it in the Q&A with your username attached on Monday. Please also read the interview with him if you have a chance.

This is an open forum, otherwise.

Interview with John Nussbaum

This is the full text of my interview of John Nussbaum, a candidate for Secretary of the State. The interview took place on Friday, July 29th, between 12 and 4pm. It is long (almost 3,000 words) but I encourage everyone with an interest in the race to read it. There will be a question and answer session with Mr. Nussbaum on Monday, August 1, from 5:30-6:30pm.

A lot of people don’t know who you are, yet. Tell us a little about yourself, and why you’re running for Secretary of the State.

First of all thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk on your site about my campaign for Secretary of the State. You are providing a valuable service to voters by allowing an early and in depth discussion and forum of the issues.

The reason I am running for Secretary of the State is to provide real leadership on issues that I believe are critical not only to our democracy in Connecticut but to our economic future.

I am not someone who has made a career of politics. I grew up in Darien where I went to public schools until 8th grade, then attended a private school, Hotchkiss, in Lakeville. I graduated with a degree in public communications in 1981 from the Boston University School of Public Communications. I am a small businessman who early on sold municipal bonds and worked in the advertising business before I settled on the real estate business which I have essentially been involved with for close to 20 years, most of that period as a commercial real estate broker and now with my own small company that does both investing and consulting. I should also mention that I have never done any business with any state agency or local municipality, or received any fees or revenue derived from any local or state tax dollar. I am 100% financially independent of the political system.

I have also been a very active and committed Democrat, having participated in and worked on multiple local, state-wide and national races. If you to my biography page on my website there is a lot of biography. In short, I am a very committed democrat determined to provide real political leadership to the citizens of Connecticut.

From your point of view as a businessman, what sorts of things can state government, the Secretary of the State’s office especially, do to promote economic development in our state?

Well, let me just start by talking about our state government. We have known for a long time here in CT that our economic future is dependent on the jobs fueled by small businesses. This is a radical change compared to our parent's generation which was carried by the defense and insurance industries in most of Connecticut. Unfortunately the policies and actions of our state government have been irresponsibly slow in their response to this change. We had a governor who for ten years thought economic development was putting a casino in Bridgeport, buying a football team, starving Metro-North, spending 100's of millions of dollars on a convention center. As far as I am concerned, the bonding money that gushes out of our state government rarely hits the target and creates jobs. Why? How many of the people making these decisions have ever had to make a living in Connecticut, outside of government? Most of them are smart, public service oriented people but they have no real, hands-on, experience with Connecticut's economy. All one needs to do is look at their biographies to understand that. As far as I am concerned there is no sense in the capitol of what a million dollars could really do to create jobs if it was spent correctly and no sense at all of the potential impact on job creation if a $100 million dollars was spent correctly. If they had that sense, they would be focused like a laser on our higher educational system that will train tomorrow's workers; our transportation infrastructure which, in and of itself, will govern the future of our economy and quality of life; and push all economic development back into our cities which will always need to be the commercial centers of Connecticut. And they would be ruthless with our precious bonding money. Unfortunately, we are completely dependent on the leadership at the state government level to have this wisdom because we cannot possibly expect 169 local municipalities to have the resources and coordinate this mission.

That said, the Secretary of the State's office is one of the first stops any new company, partnership, etc. makes in the formation of a new business business. Susan Bysiewicz gets this and has made an excellent start on making that office a real support service for small businesses. I intend to take those services and, specifically, the technology in that office to a much higher level. The Secretary of the State's office has to be both business friendly and user friendly. That office should always be an asset to small businesses, the legal community, etc. that help create the jobs. I will be particularly focused on the online technology available in the commercial recording division.

And I promise you that as one of six constitutional officers with a tremendous political platform that I will weigh in on what I believe is real economic development for the State of Connecticut and the right ideas on how our state government can help create jobs and higher wages, regardless of whether these issues directly relate to the Secretary of the State's office. I believe that is my responsibility as a political leader.

According to your position statement on campaign finance reform, you support the public financing of statewide campaigns. The public is split on the idea, according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll. Why do you think this is the best way to go, and how would you convince reluctant fiscal conservatives?

I think it is clearly in the public's self-interest to finance political campaigns themselves. What I would ask fiscal conservatives to do is look at the money any large organization, public or private, spends on recruiting their key officers...the head-hunting fees, human resources, costs, etc. and compare it to how much it would cost CT to publicly finance the campaigns, as a start, of our candidates for the six constitutional offices. Spending, for example, $4-8 million dollars every four years to, essentially, hire a new governor who will be responsible for about $60 billion dollars of state spending, 50,000 state employees, billions in bonding money is reasonable. I would also ask them if they had to go out and hire someone to run their company, would they allow their competitors to finance this search. That is essentially what we allow with political contributions these days. We allow people whose principle motivation is to do business with our state government to contribute.

However, the real solution to campaign finance reform is free media. Statewide candidates spend at least 2/3rds of the money they raise on a handful of television stations in Connecticut. I believe the public owns this medium and we shouldn't have to pay for the right to learn more about our candidates for government. I believe that the same solution arrived at to qualify for public financing should someday qualify a candidate for media vouchers that they could take to a Connecticut television station. Clearly, this is the most equitable solution to the taxpayer.

Do you believe Susan Bysiewicz has done enough as Secretary of the State to prepare us for the upcoming replacement of our old voting machines? Why do you support optical scan technology instead of computerized voting machines that print a paper receipt?

My approach to this issue was to first understand our current system, then explore all of our options and come to my own independent conclusion on the best technology available to replace our mechanical lever machines that would bring us into compliance with the Help America Vote Act. It was important to me to keep 4 goals in mind:

1. Increase Voter Confidence
2. Increase Voter Participation
3. Make sure no voter is disenfranchised
4. Make sure we come up with the most economical solution for our 169 towns and munipalities.

The main issue I have with the Secretary of the State's office is that I don't believe we are, in fact, exploring all of our options. My understanding is that The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) essentially says that we need to have one machine per polling place and all of our machines need to meet the standard requiring a paper trail in time for the first federal election in 2006. It specifically says we need these machines by January 1, 2006 however our first federal election, a primary, would not be held until August 8th, so I think there is some confusion about the timeline on when these machines need to actually be in place that needs to be straightened out. The bottom line is that the office has put out a proposal for bids for Direct Recording Electronic machines. The Secretary of the States office has said that vendors of optical scan machines were free to bid on that proposal. However, I will tell you that if we have not received any bids on optical scan machines that is a flawed RFP. After all, it is not hard to measure the success of an RFP, just count the number of bids. It is my understanding that we have received bids for only DRE machines which means the clock is running out on our ability to explore both technologies. The public has never been given the opportunity to test optical scanning technology and there has never been any comparative research on DRE machines versus optical scan machines in CT. This would never happen with the traditional introduction of a new product in the consumer marketplace. Anyway, my main point, and I have a tremendous amount of experience with making these types of decisions, is that this issue has not been thought through. The registrars, town clerks and municipal officials have not been fully informed of their options and, more importantly, consulted. If they were, the Secretary of the State's office would hear loud and clear that we need to look at optical scanners. I couldn't even imagine trying to make a decision like this without getting these people on board first. These are the people that will have both the economic responsibility and legal responsibility for making this all work for the CT voter.

Back to my conclusion: The error rate is statistically no different between the two technologies so we need to look at the benfits of one versus the other. The benefits of optical scanning are: We can process voters more quickly thru the polling place. It is an easier technology to understand for all generations of voters. There is more flexibility in setting up the ballot for in polling places with multiple districts. And it is a lot cheaper. It will take at least two, maybe three DRE machines, to replace each mechanical lever machine. In CT, state statute says we need one mechanical lever machine for every 900 voters. A DRE machine may only be able to process 200 voters on election day, so the acquisition costs are significantly different. And the on-going, what I call operating costs including the storage, service, maintenance, all the people necessary to hire, poll workers, machine tenders, moderators, etc. is going to be significantly higher. We are going to have find and train a whole new group of people whereas I believe we could easily retrain our existing personnel to operate optical scanners. Finally, Optical scanners are tabulating machines. If there is any question about the results, you have the hard evidence of the paper ballot filled out by voters themselves that can be recounted, either by hand or by a new scanner. I think this is a lot more secure than having to worry about recounting paper receipts generated by an electronic machine. The electronic machines are not just tabulating machines. They record your ballot, count your ballot and generate the paper receipt for the recount. I would rather have a recount of the paper ballots filled out by the voter versus a recount of the paper receipts generated by a DRE computer.machines which computer scientists, universally, are telling us will never be completely secure.

Whatever machine or technology we use I want a uniform system to monitor, train workers, maintain, service and store. One technology and one system will be far more economical to the towns and state to implement and maintain. Creating a system with different technologies to be serviced and maintained, to be trained on and certified, will reduce our ability to keep costs down. The frustrating part is that while this proposal was issued, a machine was federally certified that would allow a disabled person to make up a paper ballot that could be scanned. So if the Secretary of the State's office certified that machine we could, in fact have a uniform system.

We need to remember that the Secretary of the State is not just the chief elections officer but is also, in essence, the chief consultant and advisor to town and cities on how to deal with these election issues. One of the main reasons I am so focused on this issue is that
we have $33 million dollars, thanks to Senator Dodd, to fund this transition and our success or failure with this decision will have a big impact on local budgets.

According to your biography on your site, you have run for statewide office before (governor in 1998 and 2002), but were unsuccessful. There are five other Democrats in the race for Secretary of the State as of now. Also, a July 8th report by the Hartford Courant stated that you have fallen behind current leader Rep. Andrew Flesichmann in fundraising. How do you plan to be successful this time around, especially considering the size of the field and your current fundraising disadvantage?

True, I am the most experienced statewide candidate in this race. Unfortunately, there were not a lot of people willing to take on John Rowland in '98 & '02 so I am encouraged to see that there finally is a strong field of gubernatorial candidates committed to the same issues I care so passionately about for CT. The Democratic Party in '98 and '02 came to a different conclusion on who the best candidate would be versus Rowland and I respected their decision and did everything I could to help both tickets win. Running for Secretary of the State in 2006 is simply a continuation of my commitment to try to provide real political leadership, not just to Connecticut but to the Democratic Party. I cannot think of a more exciting time to be Secretary of the State. We have a tremendous opportunity to improve our voting systems for generations of voters and I believe I am uniquely qualified in this field to make this happen successfully as well as be part of the team that helps create jobs in Connecticut. And as one who was kept off the ballot in '98 and '02, I would expect you to understand that I have a particular interest in the election duties of that office.

If I learned anything in '98 and '02 it was that it is extremely important to first build the political momentum, starting at the local level by going out to the town committees in your party and then developing a real statewide base of support and organization. My priority this time is to get out to all 169 towns in Connecticut. I have been to 76 towns since February and am well on my way to accomplishing this goal by the time we reach the convention. I can assure you now that I will be on the ballot. I have every confidence that the voter this time, finally, will determine the right outcome. My second priority is to firmly establish my agenda and ideas for the Secretary of the State's office. We are off to a great start and I am looking forward to continuing this discussion of ideas and a plan of action for the Secretary of the State's office. I think my message is clearly starting to resonate within my party and even starting to slowly attract the general publics' attention. Hey, there are a lot of people out there just as disgusted as I was that are looking for real leadership and new blood in Connecticut politics. I clearly represent that to a lot of people.

Anyway, we are now starting to do the necessary fundraising and focusing on meet & greet small fundraisers to, again, build our statewide organization. If anyone reading is interested in helping, e-mail me directly at While our priorities this year may be different from the other candidates in the field, I can also assure you, upfront, that we will both raise and have the necessary resources to get our message out.

It is my belief that early organization, strong ideas, and hard work are going to be the determining factors in this race. Not money. Therefore, we are focused on running our own campaign, on our own timeline, and with our own strategy and objectives in mind.

Thank you, Genghis Conn!!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Open Forum

I'll be posting an interview with John Nussbaum tomorrow (Friday) afternoon.

An article was just posted on the Courant's site about Blumenthal's opinion of Rell's veto and resurrection via executive order of the ethics bill.
Blumenthal Gives Ethics Recommendations

A new Quinnipiac Poll shows that people are against the sub base closing. Shocking. Actually, there appears to be very strong support for making our eminent domain laws stricter. That's good--it'll put pressure on the Democrats to act.

So far your responses to the Rell poll (see the sidebar) have trended towards either the fact that she isn't a felon or the schoolmarm persona as the major reasons behind her popularity.

I have finally seen the DeStefano DVD, and the "negative" stuff is pretty tame. The papers made it out to be much worse than it actually is. What will happen if one of the Democrats comes out with something really negative?

What else is going on today?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Municipal Elections -- Greater Hartford

As a reference, here are links to more stories from the Courant about municipal elections in Greater Hartford. A lot of slates were picked over the past few days.

Avon, Avon, Avon
Canton, Canton
Enfield, Enfield, Enfield
Farmington, Farmington
New Britain
Plainville, Plainville
Rocky Hill
Southington, Southington
Suffield, Suffield
West Hartford
Windsor Locks, Windsor Locks

This is far from a comprehensive list. More to come later! Post your town's (or region's) news here!

New Poll/Upcoming Events

The weekly (er, biweekly?) poll section has been updated with a poll that tries to get to the bottom of the governor's ridiculously high popularity. Feel free to try and explain in it more than a glib sentence here.

Upcoming events: I will post my upcoming interview with John Nussbaum (candidate for secretary of the state) this Friday, July 29th. A Q&A session with him will take place from 5:30-6:30 on Monday, August 1st.

Also in the works for interviews/Q&A sessions: State Senator Chris Murphy (candidate for Congress, 5th District) and Joe Courtney (candidate for Congress, 2nd District). I'll announce times soon, though they should take place in the next two weeks.

Poll: Rell Stays Strong

Blumenthal Clear Choice Among Democrats--Bysiewicz Second

New Quinnipiac Poll

Jodi Rell wasn't supposed to do this well. Her first budget was supposed to sink her astronomical numbers, or so the conventional wisdom went. Then, when her approval ratings remained high, the fallout from her first legislative session was supposed to drag her down to more reasonable levels, but apparently that hasn't happened either. Previous poll numbers were inflated, said her opponents, from a scare over her health in January and Rowland's sentencing in April.

Jodi Rell has been governor for a year, and her approval ratings are as high as they ever were, down only a single percentage point from the astronomical 80% approval given to her in April. Quinnipiac University is reporting that her approval rating is 70%, and her disapproval rating is down a point to 9%.

Further in to the poll are the reasons why Rell is so popular. 82% say she has strong leadership qualities, 75% say she cares about the needs and problems of people like them, 86% say she has a likable personality, 79% say she works well with other political leaders, and, when asked whether they thought she was too liberal, too conservative or just about right, 75% said they believed she was about right.

She's a likable moderate, and people in Connecticut approve of that.

Of course, the fact that only 33% thought were either somewhat or very dissatisfied with the way things are going in Connecticut helps her a lot.

Governor's Race

More bad news for Democratic candidates in this poll, although it's still pretty early. Rell is favored over all the Democratic candidates besides Blumenthal by very wide margins. She is favored over Blumenthal himself 49-37, which may be troubling for her as she hasn't quite hit the 50% mark incumbents are expected to be at in that matchup. Still, since it's vanishingly unlikely that Blumenthal will actually run this time, that matchup probably won't happen.

The numbers for the Democratic nomination are pretty useless, because they include Blumenthal, who is favored by 49% of Democrats. Interestingly, the fundraising-impaired Susan Bysiewicz comes in second with 12%, John DeStefano third with 9%, Kevin Sullivan fourth with 7% and Dan Malloy fifth with only 3%. But again, this number isn't all that helpful for figuring out where things will be a little over a year from now, because of Blumenthal's inclusion. At least Dodd has been dropped from that particular question.

The most interesting number has to do with the attempts of several Democratic campaigns, most notably John DeStefano's, to link Rell to Rowland's administration. Quinnipiac asked: "Jodi Rell was Governor Rowland's Lieutenant Governor for about 10 years. Does Jodi Rell's association with John Rowland make you more likely to vote for her for governor, less likely to vote for her for governor, or doesn't it make a difference?"

78% said it made no difference.

Other Politicians

George Bush did poorly in Connecticut (again). He has only a 36% approval rating here. Both U.S. Senators have approval ratings in the 60s, with little recent movement in either direction. The other statewide figure whose approval rating was measured by the poll was Blumenthal, who is approved of by 73%. This is also consistent with his other ratings.

Other recent polls from Quinnipiac:
April 6, 2005
February 18, 2005
January 13, 2005

Monday, July 25, 2005

Open Forum

Just for the record, Jodi Rell is still not running yet. No word as to when an actual announcement will come. Blumenthal hasn't made up his mind yet, either.

Anything else going on?

Campaign Sites -- Secretary of the State

Dems Fight for Attention in Crowded Race

The race for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of the State is a tightly-packed one, with six declared candidates fighting for limited money and attention. Top administrative jobs don't come open very often, so when Susan Bysiewicz decided to run for governor, a small horde of Democrats leapt at the chance to take her place. Why the massive throng? What's so great about being the Secretary of the State?

Well, very little, except that it's a high office and it's uncontroversial. If you're a Democrat in search of the governor's mansion or a spot in Congress, being Secretary of State is not a bad way to start. So this is a race that bears watching, if only because it will give us a good indication of whose star is rising in Connecticut.

Four of the six candidates have operational websites. Bob Landino's has had a "coming soon" message message for some time, and Norma Rodriguez-Reyes of New Haven has yet to put up a site. Republican candidate Richard Abbate only recently declared his candidacy, and so has no site as of yet.

So what have the others done with their sites so far? It's worth noting that these sites are still young, as the campaign hasn't really gotten underway (note: candidates listed in alphabetical order).

Audrey Blondin

Blondin's site has a professional look to it, with a clear menu and not-too-intrusive graphics, but it can be a bit hard to find specific information. There is no search function as of yet, and the only position statement I was able to find was buried deep within the blog section.

However, this is the only site thus far that has a blog, which suggests that campaign blogs are starting to filter down to some of the less important races. It's good to see that Ms. Blondin has a blog going (even if it's rarely updated thus far) and that comments are enabled (although no one has posted a comment as of yet).

Andrew Fleischmann

For a guy who has raised a ton of money, this is one lousy site. However, Flesichmann's campaign is young yet, it could improve.

There is very little useful information here (besides the lengthy biography), and the site as it stands right now is comprised of the biography, a search page, contact information, a site map and a place to contribute money. The site map and the search function suggest that this site is going to expand.

Evelyn Mantilla

Mantilla, who offically declared her candidacy recently, just put this site up within the last couple of weeks. The loud banner header with the moving graphic and the background with the stars and the slanted words are a distraction from what is otherwise a pretty workable site.

There seems to be a lot of potential here, as suggested by the issues page, which has a few subject headings but no actual position statements yet. Also, there is no way for people to contribute to the campaign online, yet, which could be a drawback. There is also no search function. But there's a nice biography and photo gallery, and with a little work this site could be very nice indeed.

John Nussbaum

That waving flag icon is hypnotic... I just can't stop staring at it.

And if I click on it... I'm taken to the contribution page! Wow. Slick.

This is the most comprehensive site thus far, with links to actual position statements, good information about voting procedures, a very detailed biography page and a form to set up a time to actually meet the candidate in a group (Audrey Blondin will come talk to you as well, through the "house parties" idea also used by the DeStefano campaign).

There is no interactive section here yet, either, and no search function.

Note: John Nussbaum will be joining us early next week for a Q&A session.


This is obviously a campaign in its very early stages, at least in terms of web presence. For example, only one of the sites has a search function, only one is using a campaign blog, position statements are hard to find, and none of the sites are available in languages other than English. It will be very interesting to check back on these sites early next year to see how they have evolved.

Candidate Sites -- Governor

Friday, July 22, 2005

Legislature Will Not Override Vetoes

Despite having a supermajority in the state Senate and falling short of one in the House by only two seats, Democrats have elected not to try and override any of Gov. Rell's vetoes this year.

House Majority Leader Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, said Thursday that Democrats instead are contemplating trying to pass revised versions of some vetoed bills in a special session later this year. (Pazniokas)

Do Democrats feel that they don't have the votes in the House (or the Senate) to override? There was a minor furor over an ethics bill that was vetoed because of anti-privitization language (the governor later enacted much of the ethics bill through executive order) and Democrats certainly seemed outraged enough about the veto of the so-called "junk food" bill, which would have banned vending machines selling junk food from school cafeterias. Surely there must be two Republican members of the House who feel strongly about one or both of these issues.

Then again, the problem may be other Democrats. The Democratic leadership hasn't proved particularly adept at keeping the troops in line.

Whatever the reason, no veto overrides this year.

The article is interesting for a historical perspective on vetoes, however. Some choice passages worth quoting here:

Rell signed 301 bills into law. Her nine vetoes are fewer than average for a first-year governor. Even Democratic Gov. William A. O'Neill, who vetoed only nine bills in his last four years as governor, rejected 15 bills in his first year.


Political analysts sometimes use vetoes as a yardstsick of a governor's ability to work with the General Assembly. Governors often veto more bills in their first year than any other.

Republican Thomas Meskill was the extreme example, vetoing 175 bills in 1971.

Overrides have become rare in Connecticut: The last governor from a major party to suffer an override was Democrat Ella T. Grasso in 1980. It happened three times that year.

O'Neill and Republican John G. Rowland each served 10 years without a single override.

In the four years between O'Neill and Rowland, the legislature overrode Lowell P. Weicker Jr. 17 times. But as a third-party governor, Weicker had no party allies in the legislature. (Pazniokas)

Weicker, of course, was a liberal Republican who turned his back on the party, so it was unlikely that anyone from the GOP would side with him. Democrats were a little wary of him, as well. It's interesting that Rowland never had a single override.

A list of Rell's vetoes is here.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Democrats To Let Vetoes Stand." Hartford Courant 22 July, 2005.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Open Forum

What's new?

BRAC - Does Hope Still Exist?

It's been a while since we've talked about the ongoing BRAC process, mainly because I've been convinced that the various efforts being made by the state will have no effect whatsoever. However, a few recent developments have led me to believe that there may be a few shreds of hope left to cling to after all. Here's what we've got:

Worries about "abandoning" the Northeast

BRAC chairman Anthony Principi has expressed concern that the military is virtually abandoning the Northeast:

"I remain very concerned with the recommendations to close nearly all the military facilities in the Northeast, New England in particular," Anthony Principi, chairman of the independent Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, said at a hearing Tuesday.

Principi listed several Northeastern facilities the Pentagon has recommended for closure, including the Groton submarine base. He said he wanted his fellow commissioners to consider his concern.

Another commissioner, retired Gen. Lloyd "Fig" Newton, the only BRAC commission member from New England, said, "Others of us feel the same way." (Scott)

Very encouraging. I'm glad it occurred to someone that removing so many military facilities from the most densely populated part of the country is a bad idea. Whether his concern will lead to the striking of the Groton base from the list is still unclear.

Cheaper to Keep Subs Here

The most powerful argument used in 1993, when the Pentagon first wanted to close the base, was that the cost of closure and removal of the submarines was far higher than the Navy had estimated. Well, if it worked then, why not now?

When it comes to the proposed closure of the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, are the U.S. Navy and the state Department of Environmental Protection really looking at the same 700-acre site?

There is a $133 million difference between what the two agencies say it would cost to properly address decades of environmental ravages from pollutants such as lead, diesel oil and PCBs. (Tantraphol)

The Connecticut figure is far higher, of course. Another interesting money-related argument is that it would actually be cheaper, base boosters say, to move submarines from Norfolk to Groton:

The team fighting to save the Naval Submarine Base in Groton has submitted a 300-page report to the federal base closure commission that estimates the Navy could save as much as $230 million over the next 20 years if it moves 11 submarines from Norfolk, Va., to Connecticut. (Hamilton)

Again, I'm not sure how convincing that argument will be, but it's a very interesting new wrinkle.

At this point it's hard to know what to expect, but the fact that solid arguments tied to cost are being made and the BRAC chairman seems sympathetic are positive signs. We should permit ourselves, perhaps, a small sliver of hope.

Tantraphol, Roselyn. "Sub Base Cleanup Figures At Odds." Hartford Courant 21 July, 2005.

Scott, Katherine Hugh. "Principi: Region may lose too much." Norwich Bulletin 20 July, 2005.

Hamilton, Robert. "Officials Have Doubts About Plan To Close Groton Base." New London Day 20 July, 2005.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Audrey Blondin Q&A

Welcome, Audrey, to Connecticut Local Politics.

Everyone who has questions should post them here. I'll be reposting questions that were posted elsewhere, with the name of the writer attached.


Audrey answered all of the interview questions that I sent her here in this forum. For your reference, here are the questions (also, it's just good fun to post that Bysiewicz quote):

1. Most readers don't know very much about you. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, and why you're running for Secretary of the State?

2. What's the first priority you would have as Secretary of the State, should you be elected?

3. There are five other Democratic contenders for the office of Secretary of the State, and at least one Republican. How do you plan to get voters to take notice of your campaign in this large field?

4. The Hartford Courant reported on July 8th that you're far behind current leader Andrew Fleischmann in fundraising. Is this going to significantly handicap your campaign? How do you plan to make up this ground, especially consdering the size of the Democratic field?

5. In her biography of Ella Grasso, current Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz wrote that "As a state's chief elections officer, the Secretary of State had the happy task of traveling around Connecticut urging people to vote. The Secretaryship offered the golden opportunity for high visibility without the liability of controversy … Further, the position had come to be regarded as… a stepping stone to
higher office." ( Do you think that this is still true of the position, or has it changed since Ella Grasso's day?

6. You appeared with Susan Bysiewicz at a Democratic Town Committee meeting in Winsted in April. Has she endorsed or supported your candidacy in any way?

Municipal Elections - Fairfield County

Here are some quick links to stories about municipal elections in Fairfield County.

Stamford (R)
Stamford (D)

I'll post information about other regions and more news about Fairfield County in the coming weeks. Add what you know about Fairfield County elections here.
Hartford County.

Reminder Audrey Blondin, Democratic candidate for Secretary of the State, will be with us for a question and answer session tonight at 7pm.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Republican Declares Candidacy for Secretary of the State

Republican candidates (at least those who aren't already in office) have been hard to find lately. I suppose one can't blame them. Republicans haven't put much of an effort into running for Congress in the heavily Democratic 1st and 3rd Districts in a very long time, and neither U.S. Senator has faced a serious challenge from the other party in more than a decade.

However, a Republican candidate has finally popped up in Cheshire. The registrar of voters of that town, former race car driver Richard Abbate, has declared his candidacy for Secretary of the State. His platform?

The former race car driver is about to run on a we-know-what-running-an-election-really-entails platform. He feels that Susan Bysiewicz, the current secretary of the state, doesn't know what it's like to run a local election, and that the office needs someone with his experience. (Porter)

Interesting. Actual policies to follow, I assume. However, he's counting on a big boost from Governor Rell to help him out, and is a bit hesitant to run if she isn't leading the ticket:

Technically, Abbate hasn't filed papers with the secretary of the state's office, yet. He's waiting for Gov. M. Jodi Rell to officially declare her candidacy, which he expects will happen next month. He doesn't want to be a "lone ranger" candidate.

"If in fact Jodi decided not to run, I'd have to take a look at who is going to be at the top of the ticket," Abbate said. "I'm not interested in being Don Quixote tilting at windmills. I suspect it will be Governor Rell." (Porter)

I wonder if that sense of doom about the possibility of Rell not running is pervasive in the state party? I can't blame them for that, either, I suppose. They have an extremely short bench, and no statewide elected officials other than Rell herself. But what Abbate said here speaks volumes about the weakness of the state Republicans.

So far Abbate has the Republican field all to himself, in contrast with a very crowded Democratic side. I wouldn't be surprised if no other challengers emerged. The last Republican Secretary of the State was Pauline Kezer, who ran for governor in 1994 (she was defeated in the primary by John Rowland) and left office in January 1995. Before that, Democrats held the post from 1959, when Ella Grasso took that office, to 1991, when Julia Tashjian left it (for reference, there's a nice list on the Secretary of the State's site). Abbate faces a very steep uphill climb, indeed.

Porter, Caroline D. "Abbate ready to enter race for secretary of the state." Meriden Record-Journal 19 July, 2005.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Upcoming Event / Open Forum

Wednesday night from 7pm-8pm there will be an open question-and-answer session with Democratic Secretary of the State candidate Audrey Blondin. Go ahead and post questions here if you don't think you'll be able to make it. There hasn't been much talk here about the Secretary of the State race, so this is a great chance to understand the issues involved. I'll post another reminder tomorrow.

Otherwise, this is an open forum.

Municipal Election Notes--Hartford County

Candidates will be selected by their respective parties all over the state over the next few weeks. Here is some of the latest news from Hartford County:

(Note: I served with Bill Lee on the Enfield Revitalization Strategy Committee for two years--he's a good guy, I'm glad to see him run. Scott Kaupin was one of our council liaisons, and he's a good guy, too. Last time a lot of the GOP vote was siphoned off by a taxpayer's party: we'll see if that happens again this time)


Rocky Hill, Rocky Hill 2



How are municipal elections starting to shape up in your town?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Rell's Approval Rating Remains High

Quick polling news.

Gov. Rell's approval rating remained very strong following the end of the legislative session. Survey USA has her July rating at 73%, which is a rise from her May rating of 66%. Only 18% disapprove of her.

Rell is popular across the board, finding approval among Republicans and Democrats, young and old, conservatives and liberals. She is especially popular among women, people over 55, conservatives and moderates.

This is pretty consistent, and has been for a year. Can Democrats still claim a honeymoon period, or will they admit they have a huge hill to climb?

Rell Skips Out

Ethics, Disinterest or Hypocrisy?

Governor Rell is missing yet another national function. Apparently, she actually is attending the National Governor's Association meeting this year (I watched some of this on C-SPAN. Vernon's own Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) was the chair--I have to say that I was less than impressed by him, despite the fact that Democrats are touting him for President in 2008), but once again she's skipping most of the social aspects of the meeting, this time for a vacation with her husband. This isn't the first time she's ducked out on all or part of meetings with other governors and national politicians:

Rell also skipped the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington, passing on a chance to meet President Bush. She barely showed her face at the Republican National Convention last summer or at the Republican governors' meeting in Boston last month. All the events are heavily subsidized by special interests. (Pazniokas)

There are a couple of possibilities here:
1) Rell genuinely doesn't like special interests and lobbyists, and stays away from parties where lots of them will be mingling. There is probably at least a little truth to this, but it can't be the whole truth. Rell apparently had no problem dealing with lobbyists during her campaigns with Rowland, and, as Pazniokas notes, her birthday party was attended by an old friend, a lobbyist who represents a soda company.
2) She's polishing her image up for the campaign. Rell is very image-conscious, and wants to distance herself from Rowland (who loved socializing with other pols, potential donors and lobbyists) as much as she can. She wants to portray herself as a different kind of politician (which she is, to some degree), and someone who is not beholden to lobbies and monied special interests at all. There is a bit of daylight between the image and the reality, of course, but that doesn't matter as long as the image holds up.
3) She's uncomfortable with the national scene. Maybe it's just not her thing. After all, she's a big fish in a small pond when she's in Hartford. When she leaves, she's just the governor of a small northeastern state. She's also broken with the national Republican party on several issues, like the minimum wage, public financing of campaigns and, most importantly, civil unions. If she were to meet President Bush... what would they say to one another?
4) She isn't running, and therefore doesn't feel like she has to butter these people up. ...Nah, she's running.

Skipping these national get-togethers may help her image (especially if she claims she's saving us money by not going--remember Ella Grasso paying her own tolls?), but it may hurt her in the long run, for two reasons, both of which are neatly summed up here:

"Who do you go to for money" if you are loathe to network those with power and money? asked John F. Droney Jr., a former Democratic state chairman. "And who do you call when they are going to close your sub base?" (Pazniokas)

Good points. Fundraising aside, when Connecticut needs help on the national scene, wouldn't it be important to know and work with those who might be in positions to assist?

John DeStefano, who has been the most vocal of the three declared candidates in his criticism of the governor, contrasted her reluctance to meet with other governors with his own experiences:

In his campaign for governor, DeStefano has touted his own experience at networking: the contacts he made climbing the leadership ladder within the National League of Cities. Rell should be doing the same with the National Governors Association, he said.

"If you are Arnold Schwarzenegger, you don't so much have to play in the sand box with the other kids - because you are Arnold Schwarzenegger," DeStefano said last week. "But if you are the governor of Connecticut, no matter how good you are, you want to add muscle by establishing these relationships." (Pazniokas)

Interesting. Is it just me, or has the Courant's coverage of DeStefano shifted slightly in the past couple of weeks? Instead of being just one of the pack, he's being covered more like the front-runner-presumptive now. That could be both good and bad for him (ask Howard Dean).

Soon we'll have a better idea of where Rell stands and what she intends to do about fundraising. She has indicated she'll announce her intentions to run (or not) after this stretch of vacation. I have a feeling she'll do okay raising money. The larger questions about building relationships and possible hypocrisy, however, remain.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Absences Make Rell Watchers Wonder." Hartford Courant 17 July, 2005.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Open Forum

What's up today?

It's been suggested that the comments feature around here could be improved. Blogger's simply aren't all that great. I agree about that! I'm looking into it. I'd love to have threaded comments, but I am on a budget (is it free?) and don't have too much time to look. Any help would be appreciated.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

DeStefano Goes Negative REALLY Early

The AP is reporting that John DeStefano's campaign has recently released a DVD to his supporters with the following image:

"John Rowland may be in jail, but the same old leadership with the same old policies are still in charge," a voice says as a black-and-white image of Rowland and his inmate number fades slowly into a picture of Rell. (AP)


Well, there's an awful lot more where that came from. It hasn't even started yet. We can expect there to be plenty more lines like this one, too:

DeStefano, in his video, tells viewers: "The way I win this race is by convincing people that there's a choice to be made here ... a choice between the corruption of low expectations and the choice for accomplishment." (AP)

Everybody see the word "corruption" in there?

Yes, I know that this is just a video meant to work Democratic supporters into a lather, but it's a good indication as to what the Democratic line will be next year. Whether any of it will stick or not is anybody's guess.

Another ugly campaign. I just can't wait.

"DeStefano Links Rell To Rowland, But Will It Stick?." Associated Press 14 July, 2005.

Farrell to Challenge Shays Again

Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell will be challenging Rep. Chris Shays (R-4th District) again in 2006. Farrell came within 4 percentage points of defeating Shays in the rapidly shifting district in 2004. So far, she has no Democratic opposition. Here's what she had to say:

"In the past two years, Connecticut's highways have become more congested, our schools have received fewer dollars, and our families and seniors have lost even more ground when it comes to their disposable incomes and their access to health care," Farrell said.

"We need a congressman who's wedded to the people and families of this district — not to an extreme leadership that is frighteningly out of touch with Connecticut." (Urban)

So that's the line. We'll see if it works, especially since Shays and guys like Tom DeLay aren't exactly friends lately. The widening split in the GOP is evident from the vast gulf between the two.

The conventional wisdom is that Farrell has a very good shot of winning this time. Shays seems vulnerable, and Farrell did very well last time. Let's take a look.

First, let's look at the 4th District, which is shaping up to be just as interesting as the 2nd:

Note the drastic erosion of support for Shays, whose margin of victory in 2002 was much safer. How much of this, however, was the result of the race at the top of the ticket? The presidential election map may provide a few more clues:

John Kerry did remarkably well in the 4th District, which has long been a Republican stronghold. A few of the key towns where Farrell had the most success, such as Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, Weston and Redding, also went pretty heavily for Kerry. How much of her success was bound up in his? Will she be able to do as well (or better) without either a Kerry to vote for or a George Bush to vote against?

So--is the 4th District really moderating, or is it a fluke? Well, the town council control map shows that eight of the seventeen town councils/boards of selectmen are now controlled by Democrats, which suggests moderation. This isn't to say that Republicans aren't strong in Fairfield County: they are. They're simply a bit less strong than they were three years ago, when John Rowland and Chris Shays carried the area during the nationwide Republican rout of 2002. Democrats are expected to be stronger in 2006, and a competitive governor's race with a strong Democratic candidate will help her as well.

So therefore Farrell certainly does have a chance to do well, even if a John Kerry isn't at the top of the ticket. A Rell landslide, however (should one occur) might sweep Shays back into office. The bottom line is that there is now no certainty in a district that once was a Republican lock.

Urban, Peter. "Farrell-Shays II coming in 2006." Connecticut Post 14 July, 2005.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Open Forum

Tell us what's happening in your part of CT!

Also, if, as several have suggested, anyone wants to post some information about themselves, which could include but is not limited to: background, political beliefs, who (if anyone) they are working for, and anything else they feel is important. Something like this, perhaps:

Display Name: Genghis Conn
Guiding Political Beliefs: Moderation in all things (moderation included). I tend to be a bit center-left, but I'll listen to what everyone has to say if it sounds reasonable.
Background: Former high school teacher (and, because of that, a former member of the CEA), current librarian's assistant and grad student in library science.
Campaigns worked on: An amazing failure of a Green Party state rep. campaign in 2002, and, before it tanked, the Balducci for Governor campaign in 1994 (I cut articles out of newspapers for a day). That's it.
Conflicts of Interest: I don't have many. I was on a volunteer town board for a few years, but mostly I'm just a voter.

If you want to post this kind of information, feel free. However, no one is required to do so.

Simmons on Guanatanamo Bay: Try the Rice

Controversial Prison More "Open" Than Connecticut Facilities, Says Congressman

Rob Simmons toured the much-criticized Guantanamo Bay prison Tuesday, and apparently found it quite nice, for a prison, and superior to Connecticut prisons in at least one respect.

Detainees at Guantanamo Bay are treated well, the food is good and the medical care seems decent, Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, said Tuesday. He and nine other members of Congress took a half-day trip Monday to the Cuban military prison to see for themselves if harsh criticism leveled at the base was justified.
"Guantanamo had a lot of openness I have not seen in penitentiaries in my own state," Simmons said, recalling that he felt "claustrophobic" during a recent visit to Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers.
He also said the food was surprisingly good, including "the best institutional rice I've had." (AP)

I don't want to get into a huge discussion about Gitmo, but I have noticed that whenever anyone defends the place, they bring up the food. Apparently it's pretty good--or at least what they served the members of Congress was pretty good.

At this point everything Simmons does is political, so his decision to travel to Guantanamo Bay has to be viewed through a political lens. But does this help him? The people defending Guantanamo Bay (especially using food references) tend to be pretty conservative. Simmons might be trying to appeal to deep-pocketed conservative forces to help him with re-election next year. I don't know how much it will help him in his district, which mostly voted for John Kerry and is more concerned with Groton than with Gitmo.

Saying that the correctional facility in Somers is somehow worse than Guantanamo Bay, however, won't help. Somers is a reliable Republican town-- but neighboring Enfield is where most of the correctional officers who work at that prison actually live. Any kind of swing away from Simmons in Enfield, the most populous town in the district, could be a disaster.

Source: "Simmons Tours Guantanamo." Associated Press 13 July 2005.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Q&A With Paul Vance

Alderman J. Paul Vance of Waterbury will take your questions from now until 8:00pm. Welcome, Paul!

Quick Update Some technical difficulties have thrown us off a bit. Paul should be here to answer questions now.

In the meantime, he has answered some of the questions already posted here.

A List of Gov. Rell's Vetoes, So Far

The governor has been busy vetoing bills since May. So far, I have counted nine bills vetoed by the governor, none of which have been overturned despite the large Democratic majority in both the House and Senate (the Senate actually has a supermajority of Democrats). Gov. Rell has used her veto power more frequently than her two immediate predecessors, John Rowland and Lowell Weicker, both of whom were loathe to veto anything if they could help it.

Here's a list of the vetoes so far, with results, sources (no links, sorry--a lot of the stories have been pulled from the free web) and my opinion of each.

1. May 19, 2005

What: A bill that would “prohibit Connecticut's social services commissioner from agreeing to a federal reimbursement rate less than the standard 50 percent” Essentially, it would reduce the administration’s ability to negotiate with the federal government on Medicaid reimbursement.

Why: Rell will not cede power to the legislature.

Result: Not overridden.

Opinion: This is a separation of powers issue. Rell acted correctly in the executive branch’s defense.

Source: Haigh, Susan. “Rell issues first gubernatorial veto”. The Associated Press State & Local Wire 19 May, 2005.

2. June 2, 2005

What: A bill equating the sentences for crack with those for cocaine. This bill is part of an effort to address the racial disparity in Connecticut prisons.

Why: “Rell, a Republican, said the bill ‘sends an inappropriate message that the enforcement of our drug laws, especially with respect to crack cocaine, is being eased.’”

Result: No override, although a new bill may be in the works at some future point.

Opinion: The bill was a good first step, and drug dealers don’t care about the messages state government sends. Rell is just trying to appear tough on crime.

Source: Haigh, Susan. “Rell vetoes bill that would have equated crack and powder cocaine.” The Associated Press State & Local Wire 2 June, 2005.

3. June 15, 2005

What: A bill to remove junk food from vending machines in schools.

Why: The governor thinks it’s a local control issue.

Result: Lots of griping and swearing, no override.

Opinion: The local control argument is a little shaky, since the state regulates and oversees so many other facets of education. However, I frankly don’t believe the government should be involved in this at all. I’ve never been a fan of the so-called Nanny State, which wants to protect you (and your children) from your own stupidity. If you want your children to be healthier, teach them about nutrition, tell them to go outside and play, or pack them a healthy lunch without giving them money for the vending machine. Sheesh.

Source: Pazniokas, Mark. “Rell Vetoes Junk Food Bill.” Hartford Courant 15 June, 2005.

4. June 27, 2005

What: A bill that would have required the administration to provide a written statement to the legislature when laying off more than five percent of a state agency’s workers.

Why: Rell felt the legislature was infringing on the executive’s powers.

Result: No override.

Opinion: The legislature apparently had no influence over the decisions anyway: why did they need a written statement? Just to have something to criticize?

Source: Keating, Christopher. “Rell Rejects Limits on Executive Powers.” Hartford Courant 28 June, 2005.

5. June 27, 2005

What: A bill that would have required legislative approval of any application for waivers from the federal Department of Social Services.

Why: Separation of powers, again, and Rell felt it was unnecessary and cumbersome.

Result: No override.

Opinion: Again, it’s unclear why the legislature needed to approve the applications. This could be very irksome when the legislature is not in session.

Source: Keating, Christopher. “Rell Rejects Limits on Executive Powers.” Hartford Courant 28 June, 2005.

6. July 1, 2005

What: A bill considered to be the centerpiece of ethics reform that would have placed limits on the relationship between government and contractors, among other things.

Why: The governor and legislative Republicans thought that the bill’s restrictions on privatization of state services were far too harsh. In a strange turn of events, the governor vetoed this bill, then signed a budget bill—the anti-privatization language of which was nullified by the veto—she had initially opposed, and then implemented some of the reforms of the ethics bill through executive order.

Result: Democrats were left flabbergasted. No override so far, but the bill will come back, perhaps next year.

Opinion: It’s hard to know what to think about this strange veto. On the one hand, it makes Rell look soft on ethics, supposedly her strong suit. It’s also, as Rep. Caruso said, dangerously close to a line-item veto. On the other, she implemented some of the measures anyway and approved the budget, and the political dance she pulled off, despite what you may think of the end result, is an impressive manipulation of the system. Still, this was a mistake on Rell’s part. Her priorities should have been to get the ethics reform package done first, and then deal with the consequences. Democrats will make much hay of this next year

Keating, Christopher and Colin Poitras. “Rell Vetoes Ethics Bill.” Hartford Courant 2 July, 2005.

7. July 11, 2005

What: A measure to free SBC from regulations its newer competitors aren’t bound by.

Why: Unresolved questions about the bill were not addressed in time.

Result: Rell says she will sign the bill next year if it is passed and the questions are resolved.

Opinion: In the meantime, SBC will still have one hand tied behind its back. They’ll lose customers, maybe lay off some workers. Oops. Maybe it would be better to pass the bill and clear up the messes later.

Source: Singer, Stephen. “Rell vetoes bills on telecommunications, e-mail, juvenile center.” The Associated Press State & Local Wire 11 July, 2005.

8. July 11, 2005

What: A bill that would exempt legislators’ emails from Freedom of Information Act inquiries.

Why: The governor believes that legislators should not have special protections from FOIA.

Result: The email server at the Capitol will suddenly have a lot more free space.

Opinion: This was a bill passed in the middle of the night, right before the end of the session. Suspicious… she’s right to veto it.

Source: Singer, Stephen. “Rell vetoes bills on telecommunications, e-mail, juvenile center.” The Associated Press State & Local Wire 11 July, 2005.

9. July 11, 2005

What: A bill calling for the review of the troubled Connecticut Juvenile Training School.

Why: A similar study is already in the works, apparently. She also felt that a provision calling for the school to never be used as an adult prison was unnecessary, and promised never to use the facility as an adult prison while governor.

Result: Nothing yet.

Opinion: Huh? I applaud the governor’s attempts to streamline state government, but this seems like another odd use of the veto.

Source: Singer, Stephen. "Rell vetoes bills on telecommunications, e-mail, juvenile center." The Associated Press State & Local Wire 11 July, 2005.

Paul Vance Q&A Tonight

This is just another reminder that the question and answer session with Congressional candidate Paul Vance will take place tonight from 7-8pm.

His interview, which was done Friday, is here for your reference.

If you can't make it and have questions for Paul (and you haven't posted them already), post them here or email them to me.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Progress on Eminent Domain?


The leadership of the state House and Senate have just announced that legislative hearings are going to begin to explore the some 80 state statutes that apply to eminent domain in Connecticut with an eye toward preventing what happened in New London in the future.

Speaker of the House Rep. Jim Amann of Milford says they want to take a good look at the issue, including holding public hearings. (AP)

This has apparently grown from just a Republican issue to a bipartisan one, which gives it a much better chance of resulting in some sort of meaningful change. So what happened? Did the leadership go home after the special session to find angry and frightened constituents banging at their doors? Well, maybe not, but it's a good bet they felt at least some pressure from the home front. It wasn't a terribly popular decision, after all.

Source: "Lawmakers Tackle Changes To Eminent Domain Law." Associated Press 11 July, 2005.

Open Forum

What's new around the state?

New Poll -- Economy

In last week's poll, an overwhelming number of you cited the sputtering economy as the state's biggest problem. This week, there's a poll about what we can do to fix the problem. Feel free, as always, to post defenses of your choice here, or suggest possibilities that aren't in the poll.

REMINDER Paul Vance Q&A is tomorrow night at 7pm.

Ridgefield to Seize Land for Private Development

Original Owners of Parcel Charge Violation of Fair Housing Act

This time there are no families being displaced. There is no high-profile lawsuit, no precedent to set. There is just a bitter sense of the way things are going to be from now on.

Ridgefield, one of the richest towns in Connecticut, wants to take undeveloped land currently owned by a developer to build private office space. The developer wants to build moderately-priced single-family homes instead, and charges that the town's move is a violation of the Fair Housing Act:

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi sent a letter to Eureka V [the developer] in 2001 offering to buy the land for $2.7 million. He also wrote that if necessary the town would take the property through eminent domain.

Eureka V went to federal court asking for an injunction against an eminent domain move and alleged Ridgefield is violating the federal fair housing law by attempting to prevent Eureka from building houses for people with school-age children. (Tuz)

The last part is interesting, although the land is currently zoned commercial anyway so no houses could be built there. "Houses for people with school-age children" sounds like homes that are ever so slightly lower in price than others in Ridgefield, although it's very hard to tell from that sentence. Ridgefield could be trying to keep the kind of riff-raff who buy $300,000 homes instead of $550,000 homes out, but probably not.

So why does this matter? It's a fight between the town and a developer over an empty lot. If nothing else, this article also provides an excellent example of what I would consider to be "public use":

Ridgefield has taken land from Eureka V once before. In December 2000, the town took 458 acres known as the northern parcel of Bennett's Pond and paid Eureka V $12.2 million. That property was sold to the Department of Environmental Protection and is being maintained as open space. (Tuz)

Maintaining open space is a public use. Private offices are not.

The point is unfortunately moot, for now. We shouldn't expect cash-strapped municipalities to show restraint and good judgement when faced with private developers willing to help add to the grand list. New London certainly isn't. And, with a special session to address eminent domain an increasingly dim possibility, we shouldn't expect things to get better any time soon.

Tuz, Susan. "High court ruling affects Bennett's Pond." Danbury News-Times 10 July, 2005.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Alderman J. Paul Vance Interview

J. Paul Vance of Waterbury, president of that city's board of aldermen, is seeking the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 5th District. This is the slightly edited (two separate emails on the same question combined--that's it, the text is all there) transcript of my interview with him, which was conducted over email on Friday, July 8th, 2005.

There will be a question and answer session with Mr. Vance on Tuesday at 7pm.

Alderman Vance, thank you for taking time out of your day to talk with us. We all appreciate it!

First question: I don’t think that many of the readers of this blog know much about you. Tell us a little about yourself, and why you are running.

Without sounding too much like someone who is recounting a resume, let me first give you a bit of my background. I was born and raised in Waterbury, my father is a 30+ year vet of the State Police (he is the spokesman) and my mother is an emergency room nurse. I am a product of Waterbury schools and I am a graduate of Villanova University (BA), Seton Hall Law School and Columbia University (MPA). I am a lawyer here in Waterbury and I have served since 2002 as the President of the Board of Aldermen. I am very proud to have run for office during the worst time in Waterbury's history and we have accomplished great things. Waterbury is on the right track, I am worried about the direction of our district.

My mother and father have taught me important values; hard work, honesty and, most of all that a leader should seek out opportunities to serve the community whenever and wherever possible. As the son of a cop and a nurse, I have seen firsthand that you can change people’s lives through public service. My father's grandfather (in Torrington) and my grandfather (from Waterbury) were the product of immigrants who believed that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you had the opportunity for a good life for your family.

I am afraid that our government is starting to forget about the American dream for the middle class. I came back to my hometown after school and saw a place that had been let down by politicians and I chose to get involved. I love where I am from and my wife and I plan on building a home and making a life here. I can't wait for the opportunity to fight for my neighbors, the people of the towns and cities of this district, in Congress.

Outside of the political arena, I was married in September (the 24th) to a beautiful girl from Waterbury, the former Michele Mays. We can't wait to have children. Michele's support and encouragement is so important to me in this race and in life.

I have been a volunteer for St. Peter and Paul's School/Church in Waterbury. I serve as the women's assistant basketball coach at Crosby High School and last fall I coached 6-8 year old flag football.

What else? -- my first job was as a cashier at Crutch & McDonald Pharmacy in Litchfield (owned by my Uncle Bob) and as a paperboy in Waterbury for the Republican-American.

The last book I read (I read every night, at times to my wife's chagrin)--Misdemeanor Man by Dylan Schaffer

I am a proud member of the AOH in Waterbury.

You’re running against longtime incumbent Nancy Johnson, who is now seeking her thirteenth term in Congress. As you know, it’s tough to knock off incumbents in this state. How do you plan to succeed where so many others have failed?
Nancy Johnson has served in Congress for parts of three decades and in public life for part of four decades-- which is certainly laudable. With that being said, good people can have bad ideas. My opponent needs to be held accountable to the people of this district, not the the DC people that fund her campaign.

Over the course of opponent's twenty year career in Congress Connecticut has lost more jobs than anywhere in the country. She is a supporter of the privatization of Social Security but has been silent on the issue and does not go to these many community forums. She voted to support the war in Iraq and we deserve an explaination about our 'game plan' over there. As a member of Ways and Means, she should explain why our troops complain that they are not getting proper financial support. The public deserves an advocate and honest, simple answers-- not DC games.

Over the past several months, I have been building a campaign structure, talking to town committees, Rotary Clubs and community organizations and raising money. I started early because my opponent is an entrenched incumbant and I look forward to a hard fought campaign. One of my political role models is Harry Truman who was known as "Give em Hell" Harry. His response was basically, "I just tell the truth and [my opponents] think it is hell." That is the type of campaign that my opponent can expect!

The oddly-shaped 5th District was a place where President Bush found a lot of support and where Nancy Johnson won an overwhelming victory in 2004. Can a Democrat win it?

Yes, no doubt in my mind that a person with clear values can win this election. Nearly every town in this District has been represented in Congress by a Democrat by either Jim Maloney or Toby Moffett. That being said, what is most important is that voters tend to support the person that is most in touch with their views, values and concerns.

Nancy Johnson is a nice woman but she’s is out of touch and has consistently supported the President instead of her constituents. She voted for the War in Iraq when we should have hunted down Bin Laden. She voted to reward those who have already won life’s lottery – the wealthiest among us – by giving them additional tax breaks while ignoring the needs of middle-class families in Danbury or Farmington who are working hard to save for retirement and pay for their children’s college education. Finally, Rep. Johnson has voted to repeatedly ship good-paying, high wage jobs overseas. It’s important to remember that these aren’t just manufacturing jobs going to China and Mexico. Why am I always calling India or the Philippines when I have a computer problem – why can’t we provide incentives for companies to hire American workers to answer these questions, after all, we’ve given them plenty of help moving jobs out of Connecticut, it’s time to bring them back.

You’re a pretty young guy. Do you think your relative youth (compared to Johnson) is a strength or a handicap? How would you answer the inevitable charges that you lack the experience to go to Congress?

Thanks for the compliment – I don’t always feel so young and I have the gray hairs to prove it – but if successful next year, I’ll have just about the same amount of experience in government as Rep. Johnson did prior to her election. (Rep. Johnson was a CT State Senator for five years, 1977-1982). Also because I run citywide, I represent more people then Rep. Johnson did when she was in the State Senate.

I am proud to have solid experience, the kind that is a product of hard work and homegrown values and I am proud of my record of public service. With my experience, I bring energy, drive and the determination to make life better for our families.

Let’s talk about policy. Homeland security is on people’s minds following the terror attacks in London. What measures would you support or propose if elected to keep our country safe?

The attacks in London as well as the attacks on 9/11 are a clear message to our nation’s leaders that we need to shift resources, troops and attention and wage the right war – the war that hunts down and eliminates Bin Laden and Al Qaida. Instead, we are stuck in Iraq with no clear exit strategy, with Saddam Hussein behind bars and with Americans being attacked every day while Bin Laden runs free in the mountains in Afghanistan. It’s time for a change, we need to hunt down Bin Laden and Al Qaida. If elected to Congress, my first and foremost concern is to get more troops where it matters – in Afghanistan – to get rid of the world’s primary source of terror – Al Qaida.

I would also be a supporter of programs such as COPS, a program that put so many police and public safety resources into our communities and has been undersupported by this adminstration.

What issues do you feel are priorities for the 5th District that aren’t being addressed by this Congress and the Bush Administration? What legislation would you propose or support, if elected, to remedy this?

As I mentioned earlier, the needs of Fifth District families are being ignored by Congresswoman Johnson and President Bush. On the issues we care most about, our representative in Congress supports the President instead of the people of the fifth district communities, her constituents. The big issues that need immediate attention include waging the right War on Terror instead of being bogged down in Iraq, creating more jobs here in Connecticut instead of shipping them overseas, protecting Social Security for our generation and having a tax system that rewards the middle class – I look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats alike, just like I have in Waterbury, to solve these problems.

How do you plan to reach out to those voters who live in more rural areas and have tended to vote Republican over the past two decades?

I have strong family roots in this district, not only in Waterbury, but in Torrington, Litchfield, Watertown and in other towns throughout this district. So while I am born and raised in Waterbury, I have spent a great deal of time in the rural areas of this district. I will reach out to voters living across this great District in the same way I have in Waterbury, by coming to them, by sitting down and listening to their concerns, and working together to help solve their problems. I know it is more important sometimes to be a good listener than a good talker.

Whether you live in Canaan or Cheshire, Bethlehem or Bethel, my belief about being your Member of Congress is simple, I understand the daily rush of life, between going to work and raising children, seeing friends and family, that’s why I’ll come to them, holding town hall meetings and going door-to-door to hear about their concerns and problems. The families of this district deserve attentive, responsive representation and that’s just what I’ll give them. I can't wait for the opportunity!

Thanks for all of the questions, I look forward to Tuesday's Q & A.

JPV, Jr.

Open Forum

I should have the Paul Vance interview up sometime today... don't forget his Q&A is next Tuesday evening at 7pm.

This forum is for further discussion/comparison of the two gubrnatorial interviews and Q&A sessions. What did you think? How did the format work? Was this a useful/informative exercise?

This forum is also for anything else that's on your minds.

Q&A With John DeStefano

Mayor DeStefano, welcome to Connecticut Local Politics. People should post questions here. I will make the attempt to post as many questions from previous posts/email as I can.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Interview With Mayor John DeStefano

The following is the entire text of an interview I conducted with Mayor John DeStefano of New Haven, currently seeking the Democratic nomination for governor of Connecticut. The interview took place between 8:15pm and 9:50pm on Thursday, July 7th, 2005.

Good evening, Mayor DeStefano. Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to talk with me and the readers of this blog. We all appreciate it.

To begin with, security is very much on people’s minds, today. You’ve dealt with a lot of security issues as the mayor of a city that functions as a port and a regional transportation center. What measures would you implement as governor to make our state’s transportation network and ports of entry safer?

First, great to be here. I love the idea of talking WITH fellow citizens rather than AT them. Seems to me that we get more done when we create the opportunity to see things from each others point of view. So thanks for this opportunity and all that you and your readers do everyday to get us talking with each other.

In fact our campaign has been focused from DAY 1 at a grassroots connection (the first BLOG, the first house meetings, connections with social justive and issue groups) to promote working together. Every success that we have enjoyed in New Haven in the last decade has resulted from a team effort based on our mutual interest in each other's success.

And, it was awful and terrible what happened in London and has happened to so many families over the last several years. That said this morning our City increased police presence at our train station (one of the busiest AMTRAK stations in the nation) upon hearing of the London attack. We have generally found that risk assesment (what might be a target), good information (who's doing what where) and visible presence all compliment the efforts of our Federal partners. The biggests risks are two fold, of a different nature and at the same time related.

First, ports of entry remain largely unpoliced in America. This is a limited risk in Connecticut as the greatest threat derives from container shipping - while most of our imports are petroleum. In New Haven we have worked mightily with our 9 private port operators to secure perimeters and access of ships and their personnel to the city. This should be a principal priority for Connecticut.

The larger issue remains our ability to respond in a smart and effective fashion to a biological attack. During the anthrax incidents of several years ago we found that the State Health Department was quickly overwhelmed in their ability to test all the samples New Haven was sending them. At the same time our local and coordinated response was, simply put, not good. Since then we have worked hard at table top and field exercises with partners throughout the region and with the institutional and private sector to quickly mobilize, diagnose and fashion appropriate responses to incidents involving biological threats to large segments of the population.

This area remains the one of largest concern for the entire state.

Apart from security, what seems to be worrying people in Connecticut right now is the economy. Following the release of data last month from the FDIC that shows Connecticut leading the nation in job stagnation and ranking 37th in job growth, you said that “Connecticut has every reason to dominate the idea economy—every reason except the necessary leadership.” What specific steps would you take as governor to improve the state’s economy?

First, let's define the problem in real terms. Being last in job growth means our kids move elsewhere to get jobs (only Alaska loses more 25 to 34 year olds than Connecticut). It means that making tuition payments is incredibly hard. And economic stagnation means all of us pay higher taxes because there are fewer taxpayers. And that's the record of the Rowland Rell years as we see yet another company - Wednesday it was Exxon Mobil announcing it was going to close it's Stratford plant - take 100 jobs and one of the town's largest taxpayers out of Connecticut.

So here's my thoughts:

1. Focus state efforts on companies that export goods and services - and therefore import jobs and wealth. In Connecticut we have two principal clusters to accomplish this: manufacturing (which includes R&D) and financial and insurance services. That means tax policy, incentives and land use strategy ought to support those companies - and we need to stop doing the stadiums, convention centers and arena's that add little to the economy beyond their initial construction activity.

2. Second, transportation infrastructure. Since the beginning of time job and wealth creation have occurred along transportation infrastructure. First ports, then rail and now highway. Connecticut has 5 transportation corridors. Two run east-west (I-95 coastal and I-84 from Danbury to Waterbury to Hartford out to eastern Connecticut) while three run north south (Rt. 8 into the port of Bridgeport, I-91 into the port of New Haven and 395 into the port of New London). We need to upgrade the road system, commuter rail (much better along I-95 and introduce commuter rail along I-84 and I-91), freight rail (to get from northern New Jersey to Connecticut freight rail must go north of Albany), look at water borne passenger and freight and tie it all together. And that doesn't get done for the $1.3 billion the Governor wants us to spend over the next 10 years.

3. Third prepare our workforce. The fact is our kids are going to have to go up against a whole workforce we never had to - in eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, India, China, Asian rim nations, etc. We need our kids to get started with universal pre-k so they arrive at school ready to learn, we need to dramatically strengthen math, science and computer skill curriculum in middle and high school and tuition must never be a barrier to a state University or community college seat.

We can compete. We can create jobs and wealth. We have done it in New Haven with the bio sciences and places like Pfizer and IKEA and our port. I'm sure there are other great ideas that others might have too - and I would really like to hear their thoughts.

A quick follow-up: you seem to think that the building of large-scale projects like the convention center don't work. Gov. Rell in her inauguration speech indicated that she favored smaller-scale neighborhood redevelopment and revitalization. Do you agree with that? Is this the way to go to help our cities?

The best way to help cities and towns is first to make them safe and to make their schools places of choice. If we don't accomplish these basics everything else is impossible. In New Haven we first got crime down 60% and had 1,300 kids from 27 SUBURBAN towns coming to our public schools everyday (in the state's largest inter-district and magnet program - we have 9 high schools for instance) - then we saw all the people and businesses moving Downtown. And it got done because we worked together and stuck to a vision that we all shared.

What Gov. Rell says and what she does are two different things. We have the same Rowland leadership at Economic and Community Development and Transportation. Property taxes are crushing families - and the Governor offers no solution. No entry level housing is being built in the state - where are the kids in high school today going to buy a home?

Everyday we lose jobs and little bits of our kids future. Think about it. Most of us growing up in Connecticut a generation ago (Kathy and I are each 50) knew we had to work hard, but could reasonably expect to do better than our parents. Is that really true today? And if it were, wpould so many kids and jobs be leaving the State? We can do better.

Well, I'm 27, and I hope to stay forever, if I can.

Two more questions, if you have time. You recently called the Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Kelo v. New London allowing private property to be taken for private development "a sound decision." Why is that? If elected, would you sign or veto a bill,currently being proposed, to change Connecticut law to prevent this use of eminent domain?

In New Haven we have taken homes for public school construction - and several folks didn't want to leave and some felt that their relocation expenses and purchase price was unfair. Those issues went to court and we're resolved. However it remains one of the things that I found difficult, though necessary to do (although I am sure that the homeowners found it more difficult). The issue is what is a public purpose and really what is a resonable exercise of eminent domain. The bill that I understand Rep. Ward is suggesting would eliminate all takings unless it were a public facility. That's just plain too far the other way. Talk to somone who has lived next to a house that had been abandoned 10 years ago and you'll know what I mean. At the same time Rep. Ward's bill would seem to permit what George Bush once did - take houses to build a baseball stadium (Arlington, Texas). Is that a better taking than a blight taking? And what about New London where 50% of the Grand List is tax exempt and local property taxes are killing local home owners?

So let's have a discussion about what is a public purpose and what isn't. As currently proposed Rep. Wards bill goes too far. And maybe what we have now goes too far. Let's find something resonable and realistic.

Last question. So far, there are three declared candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor: yourself, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy. Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan is expected to join the race shortly. In what areas do you believe your plans, policies and philosophy are different from theirs?

I'll let them and Dick Blumenthal who I resonably expect to get in the race, to speak for themselves. Let me point to the following areas:
1. I have a record of accomplishment in bringing diverse and competing interests together to get tough things done that make life better for people. We have innovated and done things differently to make things better for families. New Haven in 2005 has undergone a dramatic turnaround because we have defined the areas where we agree (rather than where we disagree) and acted upon it.
2. I have a record of State and national leadership in getting hard things done with people who typically disagree. I can't imagine a more important quality for being an effective Governor. In 2003, I was elected President of the National League of Cities - the largest and oldest association representing over 18,000 of America's cities and towns. I worked hard to build consensus among diverse interests so we could aggressively and effectively lobby on key issues like homeland security funding. Today, we are reminded of how important that is. In 2003, I served as Chair of the Sate's Blue Ribbin Commission on Property Tax Reform and Smart Growth Incentives - unaminously adopted by a Commission of big and smal towns, businbess and labor. That took consensus-building and leadership. I'm proud of working effectively with coalitions of people who all care deeply but see things a little differently.
3. We are running a campaign that can win by putting together a truly grassroots effort--we've reached out to 4,000 contributors, we get at least 1200 hits daily on our web site, our campaign blog was the first in the state to welcome your comments and is updated regularly with thoughtful updates, and our campaign is the first in this race for Governor to use technology in the form of our campaign video to take our campaign into the homes of our supporters and help them organize their friends and neighbors through house meetings. We have raised far more dollars than any other campaign, and it's because I am serious about having the resources necessary to communicate with Connecticut's voters, it's because I am serious about winning this race and it's because I have worked to make sure we will have the resources we need to do so. We are assembling a coalition of labor (we have the first and thus far only labor endorsement from the Connecticut Building Trades - the State's 2nd largest union), activists, and those typically NOT drawn to politics. We're going to win this race and it's going to be because everyday, we are bringing people back into politics, where they belong. We are going to run the best grassroots campaign this state has ever seen. That's why we're different and that's why we're going to win.

Thank you very much for an informative and interesting interview, Mayor DeStefano. We very much appreciate your time, and we will see you tomorrow morning at 8:00am for an open question and answer session.