Friday, July 01, 2005

Interview with Dan Malloy

The following is the entire transcript of my interview with Stamford mayor Dan Malloy. The interview was done over email between 2:30 and 3:30pm on Friday, July 1st, 2005.

Hello, Mayor Malloy. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me and the readers of this blog. Let’s get right to it:

Here’s a question I imagine you get a lot. You were recently cleared of all wrongdoing following a seven-month corruption investigation by the chief state’s attorney’s office, during which you suspended your campaign. This has cost you a lot of time and money. How do you plan to recover that lost ground?

First let me say thank you for allowing me to participate in today's discussion. I am deeply honored that I am the first political leader that you’ve invited.

Let me also say that I have led a public life since 1983, and one of the great joys of my life has been this service. You are right that the state's inquiry, based on politically motivated charges, was concluded with an absolute vindication in writing. In that letter I was publicly thanked for my full cooperation in this matter. As a former prosecutor, I felt at the time that I became aware of this inquiry that I needed to demonstrate to the broad public that I took this matter seriously and in fact honored the process. Therefore, I took the extraordinary step of announcing to the public that I would cease fundraising during the course of the inquiry.

However, I never ceased to campaign for the office of Governor, because I knew from day one that my vindication would come. I visited more than forty town and city committees, and I must say that I was very gratified at the remarkably positive response and proactive give and take on issues that I experienced.

Finally let me say that those seven months were some of the most difficult that my wife, our children, and myself have ever experienced. However, today my commitment to public service is stronger than its ever been, and I am fully focused on Connecticut's future. We need a governor with a vision, a voice, and a proven track record of accomplishment.

All right. However, according to an April Quinnipiac Poll, most voters in Connecticut outside Fairfield County don’t know who you are yet. Those that do may vaguely remember a investigation for corruption (but perhaps not the fact that you were cleared). How do you plan to change this? What message do you have for Connecticut voters outside of Fairfield County?

Let's take those one at a time.

First, by primary day everyone going to the voting booth is going to know who the candidates are. Having said that, I believe that same poll showed that everyone in the field were closely clustered together in terms of name recognition. A primary electorate will be pretty well informed of what the candidates stand for. In the months ahead, I will explain my vision with the people of Connecticut and explore with them fully my record here in Stamford. I will take my campaign to every city and town in this state. There will be no candidate campaigning harder or speaking more clearly to assure that the voters understand that I have a vision and a plan for a better Connecticut.

They will come to know that I set high standards for accountability and for ethics in government. They will understand that in Stamford we take the public trust seriously. and they will be fully aware that investing their trust in me will lead to a new and brighter CT where job creation and retention will be our focus, where our policies will support a better lifestyle for all of Connecticut's residents.

With respect to your last question, I don't think any of my issues are Fairfield County issues -- Jobs, transportation, affordable housing, education, health insurance for the working poor, the environment and open space.

The legislative session has recently wrapped up for the year, though several special sessions have been called. You’ve been critical of the governor as of late. If you had been governor this year, what would you have done differently/the same?

First of all, I would have announced my priorities well before the start of the session. I believe that the job of a governor is to spell out the direction he or she wishes to take the state and to communicate that vision consistently and lead the legislature in the direction of implementing that vision.

For instance, we should all be disappointed that campaign finance reform has yet to be enacted. However, I would fault the governor for what has been characterized as 11th hour theatrics, i.e. her conversion to public finance of campaigns literally hours before the session was to end. Likewise, the Governor's weak leadership in transportation needs to be understood for what it is - that is, too little too late. We know that the transportation strategy board three years ago said the state needs to spend an additional five billion dollars over the next few years to make real progress on transportation in the state.

The Governor's proposal however only allocated 1.3 billion dollars in additional spending over a 10 year period of time, and all but 187 million dollars of that package will be spent on rail cars or fixing rail cars. Realistically speaking, that leaves too little money to be spent on I-84, I-91, I-95, and other major roads. In essence, her package will at best keep us current with the construction inflation rates.

I spend a lot of time talking about transportation because I believe transportation improvement is strongly related to the state's number one issue: job retention and growth. Just this week, the FDIC ranked CT in last place in job growth in the nation, and I have yet to hear a response from the Governor. That's not leadership.

A follow up to that: Are there specific improvements you want to see made to transportation in Connecticut? Should we, for example, widen I-95 or put more emphasis on public transportation? How will we pay for it?

Let's begin where it hurts the most: paying for it. The reality is CT spends a lower percentage of its tax dollars on transportation than most other states in the nation. If we are to preserve jobs in CT we are going to have to bite the bullet and straighten out our transportation mess.

I believe CT citizens want dedicated taxes for additional transportation spending and I will work with the legislature to make sure the people of CT get what they want and need. With respect to specific projects, I believe we should be working with NY State as it analyzes a lower Hudson crossing including rail. It is in our best interest to see more goods move through our state on rail than is currently taking place.

Secondly, I believe our commuter rail system should be operated more like a subway system. People shouldn't have to wait an hour for a train. Specifically, in non-peak commutation periods we need more frequent trains on the Metro-North corridor. Also, we need expanded service on the shoreline connecting the shoreline to concentrations of employment within the state.

I also believe that there are little used rail lines that could be bolstered and provide additional rail commutation opportunities, such as a New Haven to Hartford to Springfield line, increased service on the Danbury line, and a Waterbury connection.

With respect to our highway system, we need to modernize our highways. In some places, that means additional lanes. In others, access lanes running from exit to exit or entrance to entrance. We need broader use of modern communication technologies to inform people of the delays they can expect and alternative routes they might utilize.

I will also say that the day has come where the plethora of dangerous entrances and exits on the merit, on Wilber cross, on 95, should be redesigned. Every time I pick up a paper and learn of some young driver killed in an accident trying to maneuver through a badly designed structure, it sickens me.

I also called for a renewed emphasis for working with industry for staggered starting and ending hours as well as a renewed commitment to van pooling. Additionally, we should work with employers to allow for a larger percentage of their employees to telecommute at least one day a week. That is a policy which I have encouraged in the city of Stamford.

I did want to talk to you about the disturbing numbers from the FDIC that you mentioned just now. We rank last among the 50 states for what the FDIC calls job stagnation, we are 32nd in the nation in job growth, our employment levels are at 1990 levels--and the possible closure of the sub base will make things worse. You have criticized Gov. Rell for not having a clear plan to save and grow jobs. What specific steps do you plan to take if elected governor to improve our economy?

I suspect the Governor was surprised by the FDIC report. Let me assure you I was not. I've been mayor of the city of Stamford for 10 years, and during the last 6 years I have noticed a precipitous drop off in inquiries regarding relocating business to CT and fewer people looking to grow their business in CT.

I would not have waited for this report to have a response. And yet here it is, 48 hours after release of the report, and the Governor has said nothing.

I've already stated that our transportation inadequacies are one of the many reasons jobs are not growing in CT, and what I would do about it. But I also believe that the lack of an affordable housing plan in CT is having a negative effect on the ability of people affordably live and work in this state. In Stamford, we require all developers to contribute to or build affordable units as part of their overall development plan. We need to be as creative on the state level.

I also believe that this state's lack of support for its urban centers, and particular urban education improvements, is also a cause for the FDIC findings.

Recently, the BRAC commission's initial report called for a closing of the naval base at Groton. In my opinion, the state should have done more to prevent Groton from being on that list. Here again, the Governor waited for a crisis before she acted. As governor I would implement an aggressive, proactive economic development plan to identify and retain at-risk employers and attract new companies as we compete in a world economy.

Recently, we've read of a mortgage company which was looking to consolidate one thousand jobs in CT, and its inquiries to state and city agencies were largely rebuffed. So much so that they are now considering moving to MA. In my discussions with the insurance industry leadership, I have been told on numerous occasions that other states are pursuing our insurance industry with detailed analysis of how their state tax policies, housing policies, and educational policies would benefit that industry.

Most of all we need to listen to what our industries need, and respond. That's not happening now.

All right. I'd like to give readers plenty of time to ask questions of their own, so we'll shift over to the open forum, now. Thank you very much for your time, Mayor Malloy.

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