Thursday, August 04, 2005

New Haven Advocate Attacks DeStefano

Independent Paper Highlights Campaign Contributions, Eminent Domain

The New Haven Advocate is apparently sick of John DeStefano. The alternative weekly went after the New Haven mayor on the issues of eminent domain and campaign contributions in their latest issue, which can be seen here.

Campaign Contributions

The Advocate suggests that a significant portion of DeStefano's war chest comes from those who either directly or indirectly owe him part or all of their livelihoods:

All the while, John DeStefano continues raking in campaign contributions from people who owe him their livelihoods. People who work at or get contracts from City Hall, over which he presides as New Haven's mayor. People who work for the school system whose board he appoints. People who want public favors--including public money--for their downtown real estate projects.

And people who would love to have a good relationship with the man DeStefano hopes to be: the governor of Connecticut. (Bass)

Unfortunately, there is nothing illegal in that. No, it isn't particularly nice, and a lot of it certainly can be construed as suspect (which is what the Advocate does), but it's above board. If, say, there was evidence that campaign contributions were being exchanged for political favors, that would be something else. However:

[DeStefano] says he makes it clear that donating has nothing to do with whether contributors do business with the city. (Bass)

The point of the article seems to be that DeStefano isn't as "clean" as he says. Is that legitimate? Here's the question the Advocate doesn't quite get around to asking:

Can a candidate be an aggressive, bare-knuckled fundraiser and a strong proponent of public financing of campaigns? If a candidate tries to be both, is it hyprocrisy or simply realism?

Realistically, DeStefano needs an enormous amount of money to have a shot at going to Hartford in 2007 and pushing public financing through. But his unwillingness to give up the money he's raised should public financing occur for next year, coupled with lurid reports like this about the untidy side of his finances, may not win him enough credibility with voters to get him there. It's a very fine line to walk.

Eminent Domain

This article, much like the last one, blurs the line between news and opinion while once again trying to call DeStefano on his supposed hypocrisy. There's a lot of innuendo and name-calling in this article, but here's the key piece:

DeStefano's eminent domain record in New Haven is awash in complexity and defies easy labels. Much of this ambiguity derives from the fact that, unlike the New London government, DeStefano has employed eminent domain for unambiguously "public" projects, not to turn land over to private developers for their profit. (Abadi)

Actually, that makes things less complex than, say, New London. Most of what DeStefano's administration used eminent domain for was, of all things, schools. Most of the rest of the article deals with accusations of an opaque process and outraged businesspeople and residents from the neighborhoods where the projects were slated to go, but that seems to be par for the course where eminent domain is involved. No one wants to leave his/her home or business, even when the project is a good one and has a clear public use.

The kernel of truth hidden in the article seems to be that DeStefano has shifted his position on eminent domain ever so slightly. Ho hum.

On the Attack

Both articles are clearly designed to be attack pieces, which the full title of the second article should make clear: "The Bulldozer Stops Here: John DeStefano supports eminent domain and dont (sic) let him tell you otherwise".

They don't like DeStefano at the Advocate. Who knows why? It might have to do with the fact that he doesn't agree with them on every issue, or just that he's been in power for a long time in New Haven.

The credibilty problem doesn't lie with DeStefano, here, but with the Advocate. Mixing personal opinion into articles clearly classified as "news" torpedoes any legitimacy the paper may have had, and the amatuerish writing doesn't help.

Now, I like alternative newspapers: they often report on the seedy little doings of government that get unnoticed by bigger and more respectable outfits. These two articles, however, make the Advocate look more like a bunch of hacks rather than an actual newspaper.

And for crying out loud, could they at least spell-check? Sheesh.

Bass, Carole. "You Say You Want a Contribution...." New Haven Advocate 4 August 2005.

Abadi, Cameron. "The Bulldozer Stops Here." New Haven Advocate 4 August 2005.


Ebpie said...

I just posted this in the open forum section, but I'll put it up here again as it is fairly relevant:

Anyone see that editorial on Malloy in The Day? Between that and a of couple articles in the Stamoford Advocate and Connecticut Post Malloy has been getting some great press as of late. This stands in stark contrast to what the papers have been writting about DeStefano as of late. Granted it is still early, but first impressions do matter.

Genghis Conn said...


Haven't, yet. Here's a link for the curious. He's been out meeting with a lot of editorial boards, gathering good press. There was another pretty favorable write up of him in the Journal Inquirer a few weeks ago.

Julio Gonzalez said...

I think the Advocate articles are more a reaction to the fact that they wrote a nice piece about the DeStefano campaign's organizing earlier. They don't want to be perceived as "in the tank" so they have to outline the messier parts of mounting a statewide campaign. And it is good information for the public to have and I rather the media vet my candidate on these issues now than later in the campaign.

Hopefully, they will write similar pieces about the other candidates, but in particular, Gov. Rell once she announces. She has received the least scrutiny.

Malloy's themes sound similar to those featured in our campaign's DVD. Sometime soon, Byziewics will also begin to pop her presence into the print media, and she'll probably deploy a similar economic message. After all, it sees that only Gov. Rell and her team are unaware the Connecticut is one of the worst economic performers in the country.

I am optimistic that over a year of combined fire from Democrats on the Rowland-Rell era's hurtful economic preferences will crystallize the substantial downside of keeping Rell in office.

DeanFan84 said...

Hi all!

Re: the Advocate pieces. Shame on them. Really.

If they wanted to write about insiders providing the bulk of donations in State politics, they should have included examinations of the donor lists of Malloy, Bysiewicz and Rell as well. It's all the same game. Everyone plays it.

But trying to knock John DeStefano with this bogus "expose" is just plain wrong. It's incredible that they failed to note John's role as a leading proponent of campaign finance reform and the public funding of campaigns.

Check out this 12/03 Advocate piece.
"New Haven's not giving up. Progressive activists and the DeStefano administration are returning to Hartford with a new plan to make the city Connecticut's first with publicly funded elections."

Quoted DeStefano " "Let us start in New Haven" to clean up elections, he declared last week. "Democracy, openness, fairness all make sense." "

(Of course the state legislature never passed the enabling act that New Haven was lobbying for.)

Regarding eminent domain, the Advocate piece was more lame than low. Look, nobody likes the public taking of private property. But if you live in a fully developed area, with no vacant land, your municipality often has no other recourse if it wants to do future developments.

The real debate, and reform, ought to be about putting together a state-level committee to determine just compensation in such cases. My feeling is that the property-owner should be provided 125% of actual value when the property is taken for a public use, and 150% of actual value in a case like New London's Kelo.

If you make the takings expensive, (by over-compensating the property owners), and you have fixed this problem. I mean how many folks would be upset if you took their 200K house, and paid them 300K for it?

DeanFan84 said...


As you are a self-confessed Republican, I can easily understand why Dan Malloy has more appeal to you than John DeStefano.

After all Malloy is a proud card-carrying member of the DLC,-- the hawkish, corporatist outfit that wants to pretend it speaks for "mainstream" Dems.

I encourage everyone to read more about this Vichy group. Here are some good links.

The DLC's man behind the curtain is Will Marshall, who is a PNAC signatory. I.E. a Neo-Con. Like the DLC and Lieberman were pushing the Iraq Invasion, BEFORE 9/11.

A good portion of the DLC's funding comes from not only corporate PACs, but also the right-wing Bradley Foundation. Geez, I wonder why.

Ebpie said...

So far Malloy seems to be more in tune with my philosophy than DeStefano, but I am looking forward to learning more about the candidates in the coming year. My biggest qualm with DeStefano is that I haven't gotten that campaign DVD yet. I ordered it the day it came out!

Shonu said...

Ebpie, Yours was the only DVD returned because of an inoccrect address--we sent it again and it was returned again. We thought you may have given us a false address for kicks. Sign up again if you want one for real.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, DeanFan. You have crystalized exactly why Connecticut was 50 out of 50 in job creation last year, why we only created a paltry 91,000 new jobs, and why we are ranked the worst in the country in terms of business climate. There really is a disconnect between the real world and fantasyland when someone like Dan Malloy and groups like the DLC are not considered "mainstream."

The are a number of reasons Connecticut's economy is lagging, not the least of which is the fact that the private sector is suffocating under the weight of unecessarily high government taxes, regulations and costs. Over the years the far-left in the legislature has overwhelmingly passed legislation which substantially increases taxes, healthcare costs, workers comp costs, etc., and whether you want to admit it or not, the unreasonably high cost of doing business in our state is the reason we can't move forward economically.

Knowing this, I haven't seen any of the candidates lay out a plan to make Connecticut a better place to do business (and therefore create jobs).

One can talk all they want about how they are pro-working class, but it is disingenuous and false unless you also create a healthy business environment. (Don't take this out of context, that doesn't mean that we need to start a Wal-Mart style "race to the bottom," rather we need to not be so bent on driving the private sector out of our state and pandering only to the special interests.)

Howie said...

If you add all those "evil" contributions together, they amount to less than 5% of what he has fundraised. A little ridiculous to base a story on - but perhaps the Advocate will take whatever can get their sagging readership up.

More interestingly - I'm always intrigued by this little debate over DeStefano's stance on public financing. I'm personally a pretty rabid public financing freak, and have spent a great deal of energy over the last 4 years helping to lobby for the cause in Hartford. That said, when did the Democratic Party suddenly decide that a litmus test for being a good gubernatorial candidate was willingness to GIVE AWAY hard-raised campaign contributions???

Let me be very clear. If Malloy or Bysiewicz are stupid enough to give up their warchests, they do not deserve our votes. Democrats need to start WINNING, and that means being aggressive, not being afraid to raise money, and DEFINITELY not giving their money away. And yes, I'm still desperate to see PF passed – but for gods sake, let’s not change the rules in the middle of the game, and let’s not be afraid to win. Us Democrats can not afford to be the official party of wusses anymore.

And for Mr-Freemarket-Anonymous-DLC/Republican who just posted. It's not like we're coming off a 12 year run of socialism in the state. A mainstream REPUBLICAN called the shots. That said, you've got very reasonable points. You should check out the DeStefano economic plan - he wants aggressive movement toward much of what you're talking about.

Julio Gonzalez said...

To Anonymous,

I can’t recall that many veto overrides by the Democrats in the legislature of Rowland or Rell concerning business or taxation. So it is a little disingenuous to argue that the “hard-left” has been running the state’s economy into the ground. Perhaps a more accurate and less partisan description of our state’s FISCAL order in the last 12 years is that we’ve found a middle-of-the road approach where in good times there have been tax cuts AND social spending and in bad times there have been tax increases and some spending cuts. Sadly, our overall economic policy has been a piecemeal vision of pet Rowland (now Rell) projects, as well as initiatives by determined legislators and chief municipal officials.

John DeStefano’s believes that a growing economy is the better way to finance key social spending on education, transportation, and economic development. He recognizes that perpetual tax increases are a downward spiral due to their long-term effects on the business climate and the location of high-income people. Similarly, he recognizes that in some areas such as manufacturing, targeted relief is in order. Rell has never identified an economic plan.

However, I would argue that your broader critique about the business climate misses the mark because laissez-faire is actually what has caused the problem. Connecticut has the 44th worst energy costs, which are a major business cost driver, precisely because government has no plan and nobody has taken the leadership to make generation easier – NIMBY is bipartisan. Similarly, I think it is odd for someone to argue that “government” is driving exploding medical inflation when we have a PRIVATE system. John DeStefano has identified a series of medical and administrative innovations to help cut costs, and he is considering leveraging what we already publicly spend on health care to create a choice-based regime where everyone gets to pick a plan, fostering private-sector competition, helping set realistic budget estimates for spending, and using government’s scale to reduce cost for private employers. Have you ever heard Rell talk about driving down energy costs, or using government’s scale to put pressure on health care inflation to make Connecticut more competitive? No, because she has no economic vision.

Anonymous said...

You make some valid points but re: your assertion that the private healthcare system is the cause of inflated healthcare costs, I would point to the fact that Connecticut has some of the most substantial healthcare mandates in the country, thus seriously driving up the cost. A state that once had 15 or so healthcare mandates now has close to 60, resulting in more uninsured people.