Tuesday, July 11, 2006

John DeStefano: The Communicator Governor

The Town Line Diner in Rocky Hill nestled in a working class neighborhood in a Wal-Mart shopping center typifies the suburban towns that lie along I-91 between New Haven and Hartford. It was here that John DeStefano met with CLP as part of our series on "Meet The Gubernatorial Candidates".

DeStefano, never shy about talking about politics, and what he thinks, opened the conversation with a speech, "just for you guys."

The Big Idea

"Good politics is porous, and it's open"

For DeStefano, the son of a New Haven police officer, it has meant a greater accessibility and openness to new ideas on how to tactically change policy. No matter where a question started, DeStefano invariably brought it back public education and how New Haven has brought many different approaches together from community based policing to establishing a "Democracy School" to foster an open, bottom-up, approach to government.

"Everything I thought about making the public schools successful, I just think, it is essential to strong democracy," explained DeStefano. "In New Haven , it meant something called Democracy school, we actually run classes on civic engagement.

He then touched on plans to sign a vendor to create a wireless network in New Haven, making it the first wireless city in Connecticut.

From his stands on community based policing to universal healthcare DeStefano believes in the give and take of the ideas is the path to good governance.

DeStefano acknowledges that much is work in New Haven has been through the efforts of the many people trying different things but always with an eye on building consensus. As DeStefano pointed out whether it was the Sikorsky labor dispute or the Yale labor dispute, the negotiations were a study in understanding human nature.

At times during the wide open conversation, it seemed that DeStefano was running against Hartford instead of the mayor from Stamford, although Malloy was never far from the conversation.

His recent comments about Jodi Rell's proposals addressing the violent crime in Hartford had stirred emotions. He stood by his words though, adding that you "Can't police yourself out of this."

Specifically to Rell's proposals; "Jodi's response is literally that, a 1950's southern response. I don't think she gets it."

DeStefano's experience in New Haven has led him to be much more interested in engaging populations where they are and much more interested in prison relief programs.

Like many good conversationalists, the subject turned to other related issues, and DeStefano pounced on the estate tax.

Criticizing Dannel Malloy and Jodi Rell, DeStefano says its absurd to fix or eliminate the estate tax. To DeStefano there's no linkage between wealthy families and job creation in this case.

DeStefano held more contempt for eliminating the car tax. He explained how he believes that the benefit of eliminating the car tax is exclusive to wealthy people only, providing the anecdote that Greenwich resident, Tommy Hilfiger who owns 21 cars would get the most benefit from eliminating the car tax. What DeStefano does not say is that Greenwich also has one of the lowest car tax rates in the state causing the disparity between the Greenwich Hilfiger often paying less in tax per car than the average 1992 K-Car owner in Bridgeport.

Tomorrow is another day.

Echoing the words of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind, DeStefano opined, that If you don't get everything you wanted to day, tomorrow is another day. To make a city strong - he spoke to making it safe - making the schools work for the middle class and increasing economic opportunities.

"Your usual small town isn't begging for wal-mart, they just want to make their school budget work, right? Well maybe there's a way to do both. You got to believe in the win-win."

With suburban sprawl DeStefano paints a wistful look at how urban areas and the suburbs can coexist because the urban areas want the density and the suburban areas just want to preserve the character of their towns.

DeStefano bristled at the suggestion that his city still had a reputation that people from the suburbs avoided coming into New Haven.

"The fact is I have school district with 21,000 kids, 1700 of them are suburban kids that come form 21 school districts. I have the largest inner district magnate program in the state of Connecticut."

"People come in each and every day sending their kids to come to public schools in new haven."

"Look at whose renting housing in downtown New Haven."

"There's a generation of kids experiencing New Haven starting at 11 o'clock tonight. They are suburban kids."

But DeStefano's support of the kids coming into New Haven wasn't all that evident just a few years ago where the city of New Haven fought to close down clubs like The Tune Inn and refused to give permits to local young artist groups like ideat village. Local merchants too remain wary about DeStefano's new wisdom regarding local businesses, smarting from his strong support to the ill-fated Long Wharf Mall. As for the perception about New Haven it remains, out there whenever there's talk about the economic benefits of various New Haven festivals.

And when it came to building big box stores, New Haven wasn't the choice of Walmart (Branford), Target (Milford), Best Buy (Orange), Sam's Club or Lowe's (West Haven & North Haven).

DeStefano deserves credit for creating Connecticut's cultural capital, with strong support for education, the arts, and for making New Haven a more enticing and safe city. But his message of regional economic development still isn't reaching his suburban neighbors.

The ghosts of DeStefano's pasts stand in contrast with the DeStefano of the present. The DeStefano of the future though seems headed in the right direction.

"It's time to regional planning and development. You gotta start thinking this way. It's bull that we are paying $5 million a year for Wal Mart, one of the wealthiest corporations on planet earth, not to get way, to get away with not having decent health care for their employees. "

Whether its universal health care or transportation, the issues that drive change must be paid for. To this, DeStefano gave a thoughtful response.

"You have to explain to people why they should care about paying for it. This is not about getting people in Farifield County home earlier at night. It's about growing jobs and wealth."

Jobs cluster around transportation infrastructure ports and then highways. You gotta give people the reason."

"How do you pay for it? One you have to have a governor who doesn't refuse to go down to Washington D.C."

This is where DeStefano of the future broke free from the every day reality of a political record.

"Connecticut in America, has a special role in creating change across the nation. Civil rights laws, or the character of the nations economy. Connecticut has always been the kind of place where things happen --first. It's something we've lost in our politics and in our policy."

"We've had that tradition of being innovators and ingenuity. And we're not anymore. On some social policy we are, right, campaign finance reform... Think about this, in one year, out of the legislature, it didn't come out of the governor's office, campaign finance reform and civil unions."

"We ought to be doing that on redefining the economy."

As he said, "A smart little state like Connecticut does it, makes it work, makes some mistakes, fixes the mistakes, That's Connecticut's gift to the rest of nation, this constant sense of innovation and new ideas."

Whether DeStefano succeeds in his mission to win the Democratic primary on August 8th remains to be seen, but for DeStefano, tommorow will always be another day.


Anonymous said...

My word processor finds a synonym for "porous" is "soft"

Perhaps it knows more about John DeStefano than his own supporters

CTOctaneBlue said...

I can't believe DeStefano's first quote in this blog post!!!!! If good politics is porous and open... ha! DeStefano needs to practice what he preaches! As many will remember, he strung along Audrey Blondin as an LG candidate to the bitter end in a ploy to win the nomination. In the week before the convention, DeStefano indicated to several campaign officials close to Blondin that he would choose her to LG. They were kept out of the secret meeting on the Thursday night before the convention, where Scott Slifka was given the LG nod as payback for the endorsement of Kevin Sullivan (both KS and Slifka are from West Hartford). However, DeStefano's plan ultimately back-fired, because without a public announcement of his LG candidate, delegates in the 5th CD loyal to Blondin chose instead to support Malloy. So to sum it up.. in his LG choice, DeStefano was both secretive and manipulative... and I have no reason to believe that he would be any different as the governor of Connecticut.

Speaking of Blondin, yesterday she endorsed Malloy- read about it here. Many other elected officials and town committee members from the 5th CD were at the endorsement as well. Malloy also just announced that his campaign beat JDS in fundraising for the 4th straight quarter. Malloy is running a great campaign, and will be launching an advertising blitz starting this week in his effort to win the primary. Four weeks to go until the primary... this should get interesting!

The True Gentleman said...

Great effort, turfgrrl. As I've made clear in prior posts, I do not care for many of Mayor DeStefano's policies and/or plans (or Mayor Malloy's either), but it is great that he spent the time with you to share his thoughts.

I think his positions concerning the estate tax and car tax are misguided (as is his willingness to want to go to Washington, DC to have the feds help out - funny, he always needed the state to bail him out in New Haven, and if he's governor he's already needing the federal money for his plans). I also think some of your comments, turfgrrl, are completely erroneous (For example, "DeStefano deserves credit for creating Connecticut's cultural capital, with strong support for education, the arts, and for making New Haven a more enticing and safe city.").

turfgrrl said...

The True Gentleman -- If not New Haven as cultural capitol, then? I think JDS has made NH better, but agree that his position on the car tax is wrong,

HealthcareNOW said...

CToctaneblue -

A word of advice. You've got to stop sounding so goddamn bitter in your comments. Everytime you come here it's to talk about Audrey Blondin and how she's the second coming for a state that has no idea who she is and to bash John DeStefano because he didn't pick her. I guess the difference was getting a better job or something? I dunno what you do for her, but I mean please your comments are too much Audrey and too bitter. You sound like someone that hasn't gotten over a relationship, that's a killer no-no in politics.

I also find it incredibly odd that everytime DeStefano's name is mentioned on this site, a fierce tide of vitriole comes in what seems like a flash. It's funny because whenever I see DeStefano's name mentioned on My Left Nutmeg the people over there seem to embrace his progressive message.

Is this site the most popular site for Malloy and Republican supporters now? The posts on CLP are always quality, it's just the comments that are so unbelievably Republican and right-wing that make me wonder.

Genghis Conn said...

If Connecticut has a cultural capital, New Haven is probably it. There's a more vibrant arts and music scene there than probably anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

Good post. Only one complaint--there is a Walmart and a Lowes in New Haven. They are actually right next to each other.

The True Gentleman said...

I am not disputing that New Haven is the cultural capital of Connecticut - I think it is. But I DON'T believe that Mayor DeStefano is responsible for that - I believe that Yale University is.

The True Gentleman said...

healthcarenow, my differences with Mayor DeStefano have nothing to do with the fact that I am republican, but from the fact that I lived in New Haven and have experienced his policies. I think that gives me the ability to critique them.

Anonymous said...

Yale has been in New Haven for 305 years. If the University was the sole genesis of New Haven's Renaissance, don't you think it might have happened sooner?

Anonymous said...

I do not think the solution to our economic challenges is some wimpy guy who thinks we can put an art gallery on every corner.

Once CT was the "arsenal of democracy". What are we now, the yuppie paradise?

turfgrrl said...

The True Gentleman -- Yale plays a big part in New Haven, true. But the symbiotic relationship could have been ignored like it was prior to JDS or enhanced, like it's been under JDS. I can't criticize him for working with Yale, since it largely resulted in a better New Haven.
I don't think it qualifies him for being our next governor though, as you point out, and I've in the past, New Haven relies too much on Yale, state and federal funds to exist, let alone grow. JDS has not demonstrated an ability to stem the outflow of corporate, high tech, or manufacturing businesses.

turfgrrl said...

anonymous -- I was thinking the Foxon site was North Haven ... I just looked it up and it is New Haven.

GMR said...

JDS seems to be obsessed with class warfare. How he could possibly think that the car tax only benefits the wealthy, and then citing Tommy Hilfiger as an example, is beyond me. He obviously thinks that either there are a lot of wealthy people or that they all live like Hilfiger.

Everyone with a car pays the car tax. Sure, Tommy Hilfiger pays the most now and would therefore benefit the most, but so will everyone else who has a car. Well, actually, in the pure economics sense, what happens is that the state will reimburse the towns for lost revenue. The state will therefore have to either cut spending, or raise some other tax, or go into debt to cover the shortfall. However, eliminating the car tax would get rid of a very regressive tax, in that the wealthy towns have lower mill rates due to larger grand lists.

What strikes me about JDS though is that he really seems to just throw out proposals, and I can't imagine that anyone on his campaign staff has really thought about how these proposals could be implemented, and if they did, what their effect on the state would be, and what effects they would have on people's behaviour.

Look at his transportation policies, for instance. On his web page, he laments that Bradley has only a few international flights, to Canada. What makes him think that the airport could possibly have transatlantic flights, when Logan and JFK aren't really that far away? Actually, he wants transpacific flights as well. Why does he think there is enough demand for there to be these types of flights? Hartford is the 44th largest metro area in the country, it's just not a major city. It doesn't even have a major league sports team (although I guess if anyone asks, he'll promise to bring back the Whalers).

Widening 95 is something I'm all far, but how is he going to pay for it? Would the federal government pick up some or most of the tab? And he seems to want to have commuter trains going everywhere. Along I-84 for instance. Has this ever been an issue? Does the state own the land to build the tracks and stations? How is it going to afford it? How many people might ride this train?

He wants to extend Route 7, which would be great, but how the hell is he going to do this with the fierce opposition from environmentalists and NIMBY folks? And where's the money going to come from?

Yeah, freight rail is underutilized and Metro North has issues, but many of these are the result of events beyond Connecticut's borders. Metro North is the only rail system that uses both a third rail and overhead wires, so you cannot just buy ready made rail cars. The VA cars are going to be used on spur lines (and shore line east), which are Diesel and then those cars are going to be used on the main lines. There's no major freight rail crossing near NYC, and if one happens, it'll be a federal issue (pushed through by CT and NY sens and congressman) and the governor of CT has little to no influence on this.

That equal pay for equal work plan is a complete fiasco. It may sound all and good, but when you think about how it's going to be implemented, with the state reviewing people's salaries and then trying to determine, instead of the market, which job is equivalent to which other type of job, you'll get a complete mess.

He's got the state pension fund investing $50 million "to support high-performance energy projects with strong returns." If there are a bunch of potential projects out there with good returns, investors will be swarming over them. Those private equity, venture capital and hedge funds in Greenwich and NY: they're looking for deals. They want good returns. There's no political incentive required. If you're a fund manager, you don't make the big bucks unless you are getting into deals with good returns. Almost all state pension funds already allocate some money to these funds. Let's face it, if the government needs to be coercing the state pension board into investing in various projects, their returns are not so great for the risk involved. And to those state workers who are relying on pensions for retirement, don't let this guy decide how to invest your money.

A lot of what JDS advocates sounds great at first blush, but there's just no way that most of it can happen or will really work.

He seems to think that a lot of this stuff can be paid for by jacking taxes up on the super-wealthy or by taxing Walmart. There's just not enough super wealthy people to pay for all the stuff he wants (the transportation stuff, lower property taxes, universal health care). Especially when you factor out the wealthy people who cross state lines into Manhattan to go to work. NY State is keeping those income taxes, so CT gets none.

Anonymous said...

how about a state pension fund investing its money so it can pay pensions?

Anonymous said...

John DeStefano doesnt know where Litchfield County is anymore actually it slipped his mind once he picked Scotty too Hotty Slifka for Lt Governor.

Well on August 9th DeStefano will remember Litchfield County and how he screwed them over for The Morons of West Hartford when we all vote for Dan Malloy and Mary Glassman and we will say DeStefano Who? Slifka who?

A Different Anonymous (No! Really!) said...

Thanks for starting the day with loads of laughs.

First snicker ...
To DeStefano there's no linkage between wealthy families and job creation in this case.
Right, because as we know, it's the poor people who create jobs, what with their investments and capital gains and constant business expansions.

Second snicker ...
Echoing the words of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind, DeStefano opined, that If you don't get everything you wanted to day, tomorrow is another day.
Well fiddle-dee-dee, he's got my vote.

Third snicker ...
"There's a generation of kids experiencing New Haven starting at 11 o'clock tonight."
Yes, and one or two of them will likely experience the ER at Yale-New Haven Hospital, too. Welcome!

Fourth snicker ...
This is where DeStefano of the future broke free from the every day reality of a political record.
Not to mention the every day reality of, well, reality.

Fifth, and loudest, snicker ...
" ... out of the legislature, it didn't come out of the governor's office, campaign finance reform ... "
On what planet, Johnny? Everyone else who was watching saw a governor dragging a legislature, kicking and screaming, through a couple special sessions to actually pass a bill they all claimed they wanted but lacked the guts to pass.

JohnBoy says good politics is porous. Maybe, but nowhere near as porous as his definition of the truth.

bluecoat said...

except for a couple of her lod sychophants, Jodi got few legislative Republicans to vote for CFR; let's be real...

A Different Anonymous (No! Really!) said...

Makes no difference, bluecoat: The impetus came from the governor - if she hadn't forced the issue, it never would have happened.

bluecoat said...

It makes no differnce that the Republicans in the legislature didn't vote for Jodi's CFR stuff as long as hse pushed it and gave the Democrats what they wanted? OK, sure spin is fine...butwhy didn't they just buy better glue?

bluecoat said...

why didin't they just buy better glue?? somebody's favotite supplier here??
and I don't know if anybody cares but I consider this significant in CT:Skakel Plans Supreme Court Appeal 1:23 PM EDT, July 12, 2006 By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, The Associated Press
$8 million tax break for company close to Rowland
By Don Michak, Journal Inquirer

Anonymous said...

John DeStefano will not be our next Governor just as Scott Slifka will not be our next Lt Governor and THANK GOD Ned"Left Wing""I am buying my way into The Senate" Lamont will not be our US Senator.

I am looking forward to Dan Malloy defeating Jodi Rell for Governor,Mary Glassman beating Michael Fedele for Lt Governor and Joe Lieberman beating Ned Lamont.

Real True Americans not Anti-war lets turntail and run like you left wingers want to do.

bluecoat said...

Malloy is a 'turn tail' like Farrell but backs Joe - vote for the opportunisitc egomaniacal Democrats - you got it anonymous

Anonymous said...

Ned Lamont Wrong for The Senate Wrong For Connecticut!!!!!

I will vote for the Real American who works hard and doesn't have to buy his senate seat Joe Lieberman

i am anonymous and I approve this Message!!!!!!!