Campaigns tend to resemble the battlefields of ideas that only the campaigners seem concerned about. Oh sure, they run focus groups and polls, listen to ardent supporters and activists and distill the cacophony to positive spinology with a side dish of attack the other guy. But in the end, the bullet point driven spiel sounds hollow to most voters because it lacks authenticity.
Take Rell’s elimination of the car tax proposal. On the surface a good idea. Anyone can see that there is something inequitable when the owner of Honda Civic in Bridgeport pays 3x the car property tax than the owner of the Honda Civic in Greenwich. The opposition to the idea formed its battlefield along the “who’s going to pay for it” line and the idea, the part about the inequity and more problematic the inefficiency of the tax got lost in the battlefield.
The interesting thing was that prior to the proposal, there was no groundswell of people clamoring for it’s repeal. Plenty of people don’t like it, or think its to high, but it wasn’t even near the top of the list of what concerns most residents.
Likewise, healthcare. The Malloy and DeStefano campaigns released plans to address and issue that really doesn’t affect most residents. Like the car tax, people don’t like that their health care costs too much, or that they have to wait for doctor appointments, or change primary care physicians with each insurance plan or employment change. But it’s not near the top of the list of what concerns most residents.
So why aren’t the campaigns talking about what really concerns residents most? Part of the answer, is that they don’t really know. To know what the majority of the state’s residents are concerned about means that you have to listen to concerns expressed by people and companies that don’t vote. Part of the answer is also that they do know, but since there are no clear cut answers to these problems they simply ignore them. Somehow, I don’t think the guys who sat around the oak table plotting the American Revolution thought that way.
So what is the biggest problem facing Connecticut? Simple. Gridlock. Our state, despite its many virtues, is completely and totally hampered by the difficulty in moving people, goods and services efficiently and cost effectively. Our roads and highways are commuter parking lots, our parking lots are overflowing, our train infrastructure has little intrastate capabilities, and we have failed to compete economically with our neighboring states. There are no cheap internet services. There is no investment in optimizing government through regionalization and technology adoption. There is no education strategy for adapting our workforce to new needs.
You can’t expect job growth without addressing the brain drain of this state. When young people can’t afford to live and work in the same town, they move to where they can. When companies can’t attract top shelf talent, they move to where they can. Only a few years ago it was difficult to manage a workforce that was decentralized. Today its not. Tomorrow it will be even easier. Without location based amenities to compete with against other states, Connecticut will creak to a standstill, becoming a larger land-based Nantucket where home renovations and tourism fuel a seasonal economy with imported workers.
With the capital markets in New York City and the intellectual markets in Boston, Connecticut is in the perfect position to grow the next generation of industry leaders. Without the political will to address the ability of people, goods and services to flow freely within the state as well as to New York City and Boston, it won’t happen.
Will any of the candidates for Governor speak to the future of Connecticut in the information age? Somehow I doubt it.