Sometime next year Governor Rell will run through a speech covering where we are and what her priorities are. But why wait till then?
Unemployment numbers don’t tell the whole story. There’s a conflux of issues that drive a shortage of workers whether it’s the service workers that get bused in from New York state, or corporate office parks that struggle to find willingly businesses ready to lease. And if you’re a small industrial manufacturer either you can’t afford the location or the location is not near your workforce. So that’s the bad news. The good news is that Connecticut sits between two economic engines that have the same issues only bigger. NYC and Boston have higher housing costs and are much more urban. They are also international transportation gateways. Connecticut has moved way past it’s previous role as the scenic drive between NYC and Boston, and now can move into position as the central hub for business that wants to do business in both markets. But to get there, we have to have a high speed, an easy to use transportation system to move people and goods to either end points. Rell should get her congressional delegation together and work out a plan to acquire federal transportation dollars for a big vision project spurring the northeast economic corridor engine.
Rell should get behind, and so should the legislature, the simple concept of GAAP. It’s a move that’s long over due. The legislature may think property tax reform is a higher priority, but in looking at the 49 other states, it’s clear that the path to property tax reform begins with streamlining the bureaucracy. Outsourcing under the present department management structure has proven, most visibly with the DOT, to be a long series of major expensive mistakes. Rell must bring in top level reform minded executive talent. There’s an excellent mayor in NYC she could consult with on how to tackle this task. Every department should be held to some sort of financial accountability and superior performance should be rewarded. But it can’t happen if no one is paying attention, so make the performance transparent and open to public scrutiny.
Connecticut is turning into one big parking lot. Providing high speed access to NYC and Boston will not reduce internal traffic, so a look towards linking our cities to each other with trains or subways would be a good start. The sprawl of the suburbanesque towns who’ve added corporate parks and strip malls to fend off property tax increases is another problem. Connecticut needs more roads, more parking, more mass transit, and more dense urban planning. Incentivize towns to connect corporate parks with mass transit in some fashion and encourage parking lots near train stations. But more importantly, get control of the train tracks and get trains working more often and more reliably to more places.
There are other issues that some would be quick to tack on. Things like public healthcare, health insurance reform etc. For me at least, tackling social service issues while the fundamental operation of the state is in such disarray is kind of like sending out lifeboats with holes in the stern. These ideas are just a starting point.