Thursday, November 30, 2006

Interesting Transportation Stats

Today's Republican-American leads with a story about the I-84 shutdown due to a chemical spill. Of more interest is some of the stats they compiled.

  • 51 percent: Increase of state population from 1956 to 2004

  • 213 percent: Increase in number of motor vehicles in that same period

  • 56 percent: % of urban interstates considered congested in the state
    during peak travel hours



There are no easy solutions, but getting people to either live and work in a short distance, or within easy access to mass transportation might be a good idea.

Republican American, A Look at Connecticut and the nation's traffic woe's, by the numbers: 11/30/06

Slow News Day Poll

We seem to be talking about presidential candidates lately, and unless you want to talk about how Jodi Rell was nearly stuck in traffic then there's not much else going on in state today. That said:

So. Hillary?
Gah!
Meh.
Yay!
Who?
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

New Possibilities at Norwich Hospital Site

Now that Utopia Studios is apparently (and finally) dead, new offers are starting to come in:
First Selectman Robert Congdon told members of the Norwich Hospital Advisory Committee Wednesday night that in the past week he has received at least one formal letter and phone calls from three real estate brokers and a previous contender to develop the property.

Since the advisory committee and selectmen voted last week to terminate their development agreement with Utopia Studios Ltd., Congdon's office has been contacted by Northland Investment Corp. of Newton, Mass., JHM Financial Group of Stamford and three real estate brokers representing unidentified developers.

In addition, Lebanon developer Mark Fields has said he is interested in reviving his proposal to build his $500 million Thames River Landing project at the site. (Bard)

The idea of some sort of entertainment complex is a good one, especially considering the site's proximity to nearby casinos. A more reliable developer like Northland is probably a good idea, too.

Source
Bard, Megan. "With Utopia Out, The Offers Roll In." New London Day 30 November, 2006.

Vilsack announces for President

Tom Vilsack (D - Iowa) has officially declared himself a candidate for President of the United States.

Vilsack was introduced first by Ruth Harkin, wife of Senator Tom Harkin (D - Iowa). Mrs. Harkin emphasized Vilsack's record on education and renewable fuels (ethanol is based on the corn that is a bulwark of Iowa's economy), and his success in coming from behind in 1998 to defeat a well-known competitor.

Next up was Vilsack's Lieutenant Governor (and recent Iowa Democratic Party Chair) Sally Pederson, whom Mrs. Harkin credited with the election of Democratic officials to Congress and Constitutional Offices, amongst others. Calling her work beside Vilsack an honor and priviledge, Pederson said that Vilsack brought bold change in Iowa, expanding industry and employment in renewable fuels, expanding health care coverage, and improving test scores in the schools.

Then, rather oddly, the stage was cleared while the Mt. Pleasant, Iowa High School band played a respectable version - if that can be said of any rendition of this tune - of "Louie, Louie" (was U.S. Senator Blutarski from Iowa?), and some other tunes. Finally, an off-stage emceee announced Vilsack and his wife and two sons. Christie Vilsack went to the podium and provided the personal backstory before Gov. Vilsack stepped to the podium himself.

Saying that the electoral victory earlier in the month is just the beginning, Vilsack said he is running to challenge us all to bring innovation and bold change to the country. But first, he said, we must face reality. Citing terror, crime, and a national security policy that has weakened the country, Vilsack said the country is less safe than we were six years ago.

He emphasized the transition from agriculture to energy production that Iowa undertook, and credited the air quality in Iowa with it. He talked about the steps taken to improve education performance in the state. And he highlighted the state's success in reducing the ranks of those lacking health insurance.

Vilsack's pitch sounded notes that were reminiscent of Clinton and Kennedy, and called for a substantive debate about the problems the country faces especially the kinds of change that build a competitive national economy for the twenty-first century (emphasizing again and again the need to move away from our dependence on foreign oil).

On Iraq, he said "We must act and act now. We must take our troops out of harms way" and turn the responsibility over to the Iraqis.

Standard fare. He won't be the darling of the left. First to announce, Vilsack enjoys an obvious advantage in the first in the nation Iowa caucuses, which should result in a diminution of the significance of winning the caucuses, unless Vilsack somehow manages to lose (he won't). Iowa will now be about who comes in second, and combined with the reshuffle in the Primary schedule, look for more resources going elsewhere earlier.

Connecticut realpolitik

If you look back at the history of political realignments in this country, other than the formation of the Republican Party (which coincided with the industrial revolution and the push to develop the vast resources of the north american continent) they tend to happen within the two party structure. Advocating a third major party tends to miss the point - the political forest is made up of individual trees.

The Party affiliation of elected officials is very relevant in some ways and pretty irrelevant in others. It is relevant in terms of which caucus gets to set the agenda in the Legislature and Congress. It is not so relevant in terms of how legislation ends up actually getting written and what gets passed into law - not irrelevant, but not predictive.

Party affiliation is also less relevant to how campaigns and the vast majority of the business of politics and governance is conducted as well. Not irrelevant, but to take campaigns as an example, it is only one factor (and not the dominant factor) considered in how to win a competitive race. Who gets to be on Line A and Line B is usually pretty decisive - and there are those instances where for concrete reasons, that standard is superceded.

I respectfully suggest that the fact that realpolitik has triumphed (and Lieberman is a concrete and potent case in point) over the hankering - "left" and "right" - for some sort of ideologically pure fairy tale where the good guys are wearing white hats and the bad guys black hats is worth the time it takes to appreciate it. Acquired tastes often are.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Schumer v. Lieberman?

There are several things that smell wrong in this American Spectator post about Senators Schumer and Lieberman's alleged scuffle over ethics rules, but its probably worth a post:

Sen. Charles Schumer, who in every way but title -- he is vice-chair of the Senate Democrat caucus -- now ranks in the top tier of leaders in the Senate, isn't having anything to do with Sen. Joe Lieberman. This is particularly so as the Connecticut Democrat looks to push his Congressional ethics reform legislation in the coming months.

Schumer, who agreed to retain the chairmanship of the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee for another two-year stint, does not want any hardcore ethics legislation passed on his watch. That's what he has told Senate majority leader Harry Reid, according to Democrat leadership aides.

Last year, Lieberman co-sponsored legislation with Sen. Susan Collins that would have established an independent Office of Public Integrity. While the Senate ethics committee would have oversight, the office would have had the flexibility to investigate ethics complaints and vet filings and lobbyist activities in the Senate. A similar bill was introduced in the House.

Schumer was able to leverage his New York ties to the financial markets and big business to competitively raise money with the Republicans. According to a leadership source, he's not sure he'd be able to do that again under tightened lobbying guidelines.


First of all, I know Democrats don't have the greatest reputation for party discipline, but its still pretty hard to believe that Democratic Legislative aides are trash-talking DSCC head Schumer two weeks after the Democrats took back the Senate in upset fashion. To the "Clinton is a Drug Dealer" American Spectate*. It just seems pretty unlikely (unless the "aide" in question is the new Lieberman Leaker-in-Chief, Marshall Wittmann).

Second, check out the second paragraph. For the record, the head of the DSCC has no role in legislation and no legislation is passed "on the watch" of the DSCC head. Also, no matter how much juice Schumer earned by heading the DSCC while it was shocking the world, that doesn't put him remotely close to being able to dictate policy to the Senate Majority Leader.

Those first two points are fishy, but the third one is where the story become down-right impossible to believe. The article seems to be implying that Schumer is against the provision because he is scared that, if it passes, it will severely hurt his fundraising ability (not just the article, but a "leadership source"!). The problem? That particular provision creates the Office of Public Integrity, but has no effect on campaign donations.

But Schumer seems to be dead-set against it, right? Enough to tell Harry Reid that it will not pass on his watch? It may be a tough sell to Reid, however, being as how Reid introduced the lobbying reform legislation that included the creation of the OPI. Especially coming from someone who Co-sponsored the legislation!!! You read that correctly. Schumer co-sponsored legislation that the Spectate is claiming he is fighting to prevent.

Finally, the idea that Lieberman would have anything to do with legislation that cut off lobbyist money from campaign coffers is a joke - In the last six years, he received over $5,300,000 in donations from lobbyists!

Frankly, as long as we are talking about the integrity of our elected officials and their commitment to shining sunlight on previously hidden activities, I would love to hear where the $387,000 in undocumented petty cash distributions went and who they went to. Would the Office of Public Integrity have anything to say about that?

There is a lot for Progressives and clean and open government advocates not to like about Senators Lieberman and Schumer. But, if you are going to attack (one of) them (you know, the one who doesn't carry your water) for something, it might be nice to not just mail it in.

Update:Here is a link to a more complete description of the Lieberman-Collins OPI provision. Note that it has no relevance at all to campaign contributions from lobbyists, which was the premise of the article.

*I know they have a right to name themselves, but so does the DSCC and since the Spectate can't seem to grasp the difference between an adjective and a proper noun, then I will confuse a proper noun with a verb.

Sources:
The Prowler, Shifting Times, The American Spectator, November 27, 2006.
Murray Waas, Behind the Clinton Cocaine Smear, Salon, March 26, 1998.
Jeffery Birnbaum, Ethics Office for Hill Rejected, The Washington Post, March 3, 2006.
The Raw Story, Dem aides upset Lieberman hired former GOP spokesman, The Raw Story, November 27, 2006.
S. 2180, January 20, 2006.
S. 2180, Co-sponsors, January 25, 2006.
The Truth About Joe, FACT SHEET: LAMONT PLAN vs. LIEBERMAN RECORD ON LOBBYING/ETHICS, Undated.

The State of the State

Sometime next year Governor Rell will run through a speech covering where we are and what her priorities are. But why wait till then?

The Economy
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.

The Government
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.

Transportation
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.

Frist won't run for President.

Darn.

So, did he come to this decision on his own or was he pressured not to run?

Speculate away!

A Joe Party.

Joe Lieberman’s phoenix-like recovery from the ashes of his astonishingly bad primary effort has left him (rather ironically) freer than ever to pursue his destiny as he sees fit. He has left the door open to caucusing with Senate Republicans; hired as his chief of communications a man who has probably the most eclectic vitae on the national scene; and talked openly about the potential for a viable third major party in this country. He demonstrated that even a candidate from his own party with a silver bullet issue, a fervent base of support, and unlimited funding could not take him out and, as the truism goes, what doesn’t kill you in politics makes you stronger.

Joe Lieberman is now a franchise like no other in US politics, never mind Connecticut politics. This is not Bernie Sanders. This isn’t Lowell Weicker. This isn’t Ross Perot. Lieberman did what he chose to do and he won.

What if Joe decided to act on his public rumination (if that is all it was) and sought to build on his victory for the Senate? Could he set up shop as a true kingmaker in ’10 in Connecticut? One might wonder if the author of The Power Broker is nurturing a desire to take up the role that John Bailey crafted – first in Connecticut and ultimately nationally – updated for the twenty-first century.

What would it take to do that? As things stand right now, Connecticut for Lieberman is technically a minor party, because it got 1% of the vote in the Senate race, and cannot endorse a candidate for Governor or any office other than United States Senate. “Minor Party status is conferred office-by-office, election-by-election,” according to Michael Kozik, Managing Attorney for the Secretary of the State’s office. “The steps for becoming a Minor Party [are]… first you have to petition onto the ballot under that Party name for some office. Then, you run a candidate and your candidate running under your Party gets at least one percent of the vote. That makes you a minor Party. Then the next time that office appears on the ballot, you can simply endorse a candidate by filing a certificate.”

CfL has a line the next time United States Senator appears on the ballot and not for other purposes. “That’s the basic difference between a Major Party and a Minor Party,” Kozik said “Minor Party you only get your status one office at a time.”

Could CfL become a Major Party in Connecticut? There are two paths to that. “Either your candidate for Governor gets at least twenty percent of the vote, or you have enrolled as members of your Party at least twenty percent of the total number of enrolled party members in all Parties, statewide.” In other words that doesn’t include the Unaffiateds. Although a number of people have randomly told me that they are going to change their registration from Democrat “because you guys threw Lieberman out”, that is an awful lot of Party registration changes.

However, Kozik added this bit of history “It was done this way because the year that Weicker won the Governorship there was concern that the Democrats wouldn’t get twenty percent of the vote. Right after that election, they amended the Statute to put in the 20% of registration provision to keep Major Party status.” Democratic nominee Bruce Morrison got 24% in that election. Figure the “yellow dog” vote is probably lower than that today.

We’ve discussed the widespread disaffection that Connecticut Republicans feel with the national GOP. Lieberman got a significant percentage of the Democratic vote statewide, and Unaffiliateds turned out for him, splitting their tickets after voting for Governor and then coming all the way back up the ballot to vote in the Congressional races. The Legislature is dominated by Democratic caucuses that have significant representation from both the “progressive” and the “moderate” wings of the Party. And political threats have already been made by some activists against some Democrats who refuse to bend to their views.

Lieberman is a man who has thought globally and acted locally from the very beginning of his career, has the ambition of a Presidential contender and world leader and, thanks to his decisive and broadly based victory three weeks ago, owes fealty to no party nor group. Connecticut ain’t New York or California. It is a small state with no clear political pole. If you wanted to undertake a Teddy Rooseveltian project, you might just look for a place like Connecticut to get started.

What would you do if you were in his position?

Reader Contributed Map: Government Styles


This fascinating map of different styles of government in Connecticut cities and towns was created and contributed by reader Max Sklar. It reinforces the point that the smaller towns are run by town meeting/board of selectmen forms of government, larger towns by council/manager forms, and the largest towns and cities by a strong mayor/council form.

Also check out the cluster of council/manager governments in Greater Hartford. Hartford, until just a few years ago, had a council/manager form of government itself. Is this something peculiar to the region?

Enfield is one of the larger council/manager towns. I wonder if eventually we'll migrate to a strong mayor form of government? I wonder if that would be a terrible idea...

Thanks to Max Sklar for his contribution!

Quote of the Day

Dodd on his presidential chances, from Political Wire:
"I sort of have a unique position because I have experience, but I’m sort of a fresh face. I know that’s kind of silly. I’ve been in the Senate 25 years."

Of all of the candidates thus far, Dodd has the best hair. That thing is like a helmet. But that's kind of all he has going for him.

Marriage

Last week Bush adviser and marriage cheerleader Ron Haskins spoke to the Connecticut Association for Human Services about the importance of marriage to reduce poverty. He also broke away from other conservatives and said that Gay couples should be allowed to marry as well.

From the article:

"If you are concerned about children, then children will have a better chance in a married-couple family," Haskins said. "There are advantages to children living in a married-couple family," Haskins said. "And government cannot make up that difference."

Haskins told his audience that the "bully pulpit" - politicians, policy-makers and other opinion-formers must stress the case that marriage is one of the surest means of furthering the interests of poor children. He did not press for any specific governmental policies.

Notably, Haskins said that his theory on the benefits of marriage includes gay couples, an admitted break from the position held by many conservative Republicans. Creating jobs, providing support for low-income parents entering the workforce and expanding quality preschool programs are also crucial in helping improve the lives of impoverished families and children over the long term, Haskins said.


Also speaking was Jodie Levin-Epstein another expert and Democrat with a different take on how to reduce poverty.

Levin-Epstein said putting money into the hands of low-income parents through an earned income tax credit also helps. She said existing research in the United Kingdom, where officials are trying to eradicate poverty by 2020, shows that low-income families do not use the additional money for alcohol or tobacco as some might believe, but for work-related costs such as improving their transportation, buying a phone or getting better food for their kids.

Levin-Epstein, a Democrat, said her main concern about advocating marriage is when it becomes a matter of government policy. She said there are also studies that show children of couples who divorce are sometimes worse off than those in single-parent households because of the resulting emotional turmoil and other issues. Stability and support in a two parent home is key, she said.


It should be noted that while Haskins was invited to speak, promoting marriage is not on the organization's 2007 agenda.

We've discussed how to battle poverty before, but I don't recall promotion of marriage being mentioned as a solution. Personally I think any state money to combat poverty would be better spent on job training, child care, health care, counseling, education etc. Promotion of marriage wouldn't even make my top ten list. What's your take?

Source
Poitras, Colin. "Expert Espouses Marriage To Reduce Poverty". Hartford Courant. 11/29/06

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

1st and 3rd District Maps: Zzzzzz

Is there anything the Republicans can do to win (or even do respectably well) in these districts? They haven't won the 1st since 1956, and the 3rd has been in Democratic hands since 1982.

Or are Larson and DeLauro set for life?

I can think of only one thing, really, that would pose a threat to either of them--and that's if we lose a CD in 2010.

Open Forum & Links

  • Joe Lieberman is making Democrats nervous.
  • Connecticut is GIVING AWAY $20 MILLION...for stem cell research.
  • Joe and the Muddled Middle, Howard Dean keeps his job at the DNC, thankfully.
  • Could Dick Cheney be next?
  • One fantastic anecdote, via TPM:
    At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.
    Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

    “I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

    Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t. It’s safe to say, however, that Bush and Webb won’t be taking any overseas trips together anytime soon.
  • Did Gov. Rell and Romney "cut and run" from their state parties?

Things to Think About

In 1956, thanks in part to the popularity of Dwight Eisenhower, Republicans ruled Connecticut.

In that year, Prescott Bush (R) defeated Rep. Thomas Dodd for a U.S. Senate seat, joining Sen. William Purtell (R).

All six congressional districts were won by Republicans. Dodd has been the lone Democrat, but his open 1st District seat was won by Republican Edwin May.

Republicans also dominated the legislature. They controlled the House, as they almost always did in those days when every municipality had exactly two state representatives, by a huge margin, and won the state Senate by a margin of 31 to 5. The only Democrat left in office was Governor Abe Ribicoff, who suddenly found himself all but irrelevant.

1958 was a different story altogether. Democrats surged. The incredibly popular Ribicoff handily won re-election, and took the entire ticket with him. Thomas Dodd won Purtell's Senate seat. All six Republican members of Congress were turned out and replaced by Democrats. Edwin May would be the last Republican to represent the 1st District. Better yet for Democrats, they retook control of the state Senate and won the state House of Representatives for the first time since the Civil War. That remarkable victory set the state for fundamental reforms which would change the way Connecticut was governed. Republicans, who just two years before seemed to have a lock on Connecticut, suddenly found that they had nothing at all.

Things change.

4th District in '08

MattW has posted a diary over at MLN speculating about possible candidates to challenge Chris Shays in 2008. He offers a lengthy list of possible candidates and a mini-analysis of potential strengths and weaknesses. A few of us have added our own suggestions in the comments section.

Can Shays be defeated next time around? And more important, is it worth putting funds and energy into another battle?

With the right candidate I think Democrats can run a third competitive challenge. As Genghis pointed out when he mapped the 4th Diane Farrell came within 3% of Shays, closer than her 5% loss in 2004. Farrell shouldn't run again, but looking over Matt's list I think there's hope for an '08 challenge to succeed.

What are your thoughts?

Election Wiki Update and Open Forum

I wanted everyone to know that I have updated the elections wiki, which has been generalized for all Connecticut elections instead of just 2006.

This means we can start putting data about upcoming municipal elections into this wiki. The CT Election 2006 wiki was a good source of information--I would like to see the same level of coverage, if not better, for municipal elections. There has not much information about these elections on the Web in the past, so I think it will fill a need.

Also, somewhat off-topic (but related to Web 2.0 applications like wikis), you may want to check out a new site called NewsTrust, which is a new way of rating news stories.

What else is happening today?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mayor DeStefano's Staff Shakeup

Paul Bass has an article up about upcoming changes in New Haven Mayor John DeStefano's administration.


Mayor John DeStefano is expected to announce a shake-up of top positions in City Hall this week, including the switch of top aide Karen DuBois-Walton (pictured) to the number-two post in the housing authority.

DeStefano said he can't comment yet on the changes except to say that they're coming. The announcement will come as DeStefano returns to his job as mayor in earnest after three years running for governor. Critics charged that DeStefano and his top aides put the city on hold during that time and failed to address pressing issues like crime and taxes. Since returning to City Hall full-tiime this month DeStefano has announced a bold plan to revive community policing while planning a far-ranging shuffling of key positions in his administration.


I don't live in New Haven so I don't have a sense of it's residents feel about DeStefano's campaign or how much time he spent on running for higher office while also running the city. It's certainly an understandable feeling though.

Source
Bass, Paul. "Shake-Up Looms At City Hall". New Haven Independent. 11/27/06

NYT on Local Property Taxation

The NYT had an interesting article recently on property taxation that attempts to explain why property taxes are the way they are (in short: there is no good answer to that question) and looks (extremely briefly) at some potential solutions (in short: there are no good ones):

Yet in Fairfield, the owner of a house worth $580,250 -— the median sales price in 2005 -— paid $6,037 in property taxes, while the owner of a comparably priced home in Glen Ridge paid nearly twice that, an analysis of 2005 property tax and real estate records by The New York Times shows.

The wide variation in property tax bills in communities around the region illustrates how difficult it may be for elected officials, promising to address growing concern about the property tax burden, to come up with quick-fix solutions when there are so many factors driving tax rates up or down.


< Aside >Apropos to absolutely nothing, the article contains this line:

School districts in New York must pay the cost of teacher pensions, a responsibility that grew substantially in the years after poor stock market returns in 2000 and 2001. In New Jersey and Connecticut, the state pays for teachers' pensions.


Oh, really?

< /aside >

So how do we fix it? To me, it doesn't sound like there is a good answer (but the first politician who proposes one wins - whatever he/she is running for), but somehow (at least) partially untying educational spending from local property taxes would have to be part of any solution. What is your solution? Fight it out in the comments.

Source:
Fessenden, Ford, Why Property Taxes Are All Over The Charts, New York Times, November 25, 2006.

Charter Revision for New London?

The Day is reporting that the Charter Revision Commission in New London is recommending a total overhaul, including a shift to a strong mayor form of government instead of their current council-manager format:
Arguing that the city suffers from long-term economic stagnation and lacks an articulated vision for the future, the commission has called for an overhaul of the city charter that would scrap the city manager-city council form of government. Under that system, in place for the last 85 years, the council determines policies, and a city manager appointed by the council carries them out.

The Charter Revision Commission is instead advocating a strong mayor-city council system. A full-time mayor directly elected to a four-year term without a term limit would be empowered to lead the city, with the ability to hire a chief of staff, appoint and dismiss the heads of city departments, sign contracts on behalf of the city, propose annual budgets and veto votes of the council. The council would act primarily as a check on the powers of the mayor, with the ability to approve some appointments, override mayoral vetoes by a two-thirds vote and work with the mayor and finance board to come up with an annual budget. (Stoll)

This is a pretty interesting argument. The conventional wisdom seems to be that the selectmen/town meeting form of government works best for small communities, the council/manager form works best for medium-sized towns and urban areas are best served by the strong mayor/council form of government.

But how true is that? Hartford changed its charter a few years ago in just such a manner. Some argue that the city was helped by the change, while others seem to think it allowed Eddie Perez to become some sort of tin-pot dictator.

I wrote extensively about the different forms of government in Connecticut in this piece last year. The vast majority of towns in Connecticut have some sort of selectmen/board of finance/town meeting form of government, but most of those towns are smaller. A statistic:
The average population of towns with selectmen/town meeting forms of government is 9,660, for council/manager towns it is 27,169 and for mayor/council towns the average is 52,973.

Larger towns seem to gravitate towards having a strong mayor, while small towns like to keep the selectman/council form of government. A council/manager form of government is sort of a compromise between the two. Sort of. The form of government seems to depend on how active the government needs to be.

So what's right for New London? Should they retain their current form of government, which seems to be broken, or take a gamble that a new form of government will work better? In the end, only New London's people can make that decision.

Source
Stoll, Elaine. "Complete Overhaul Best Way To Fix NL Government, Says Charter Commission." New London Day 27 November, 2006.

Rebuttal to Justice Borden

Last week, I posted on Justice Borden's opposition to a Constitutional Amendment that would subject the judicial branch's rule and procedure making process to legislative oversight.

In Yesterday's Courant, Mitchell W. Perlman, former Executive Director of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, provided a rebuttal on the Op-Ed Page. While I still agree with Justice Borden (and my discosure of having taken the Justice's Statutory Interpretation class still applies), Mr. Perlman is persuasive and worth a look:

Justice Borden's argument against this constitutional amendment was two-fold. First, he argued that the recent scandal that precipitated the call for such an amendment had nothing to do with the judicial branch's power to make rules governing the courts.

Second, he maintained that such an amendment is unnecessary now since internal reforms are already under way that, if implemented, will provide for far greater transparency than is currently the case.

It was a good argument, articulately presented. But I think it falls short on both accounts.
...
The fact is, there is no guarantee without a constitutional amendment.

Why is this so important? In effect, Justice Borden is attempting to establish within the judicial branch, by rule and policy, something akin to our Freedom of Information Act. But alleged violations of these provisions would not be reviewable by, or appealable to, any independent authority, such as the Freedom of Information Commission. Nor would any rule change be subject to legislative approval, as it is in the federal system.

Thus, any newfound transparency would be exclusively at the sufferance of the very judges who, in the future, may decide to close records or proceedings from public scrutiny.


Go read the whole thing and let me know what you think in the comments!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Gallo May Quit as GOP Chair

Interesting AP article out on the wire from Susan Haigh. Some quotes worth discussing:
"Does the GOP in Connecticut have a problem? You bet it does," Cafero said. "I think part of that problem is, we have failed to define ourselves as Connecticut Republicans and frankly have allowed the national Republican party to define us."
[...]
The state party could soon be looking for a new leader. Chairman George Gallo said he is considering leaving the position in January. Cafero recently tapped Gallo as his caucus' new chief of staff.
[...]
Despite the losses, Gallo said he is optimistic about the Republican Party in Connecticut, pointing to the fact that there are more GOP officials running local cities and towns than Democrats. (AP)

So, Gallo may go in January. Any ideas on who might replace him, if he does decide to leave?

Cafero is blaming the ills of the state party on the national one, as are many others. There's a lot of truth to that, of course, but the fact is that in 2002, the party still didn't do well in the legislature even with a popular Republican, John Rowland, at the top of the ticket and three strong Republicans winning congressional seats. So maybe it isn't the national party, at least not entirely.

Gallo's point about municipalities is interesting. Republicans can take solace that they do, in fact, do well in the towns. But that doesn't always mean success at a higher level. Party seems to mean more to voters the farther up the ladder one goes--probably because a town council member can know a significant percentage of his or her constituents personally, while a state representative or state senator often can't.

Source
Haigh, Susan. "GOP seeks rebound from election losses, a legislative defection." Associated Press 26 November, 2006.

Connecticut Political Maps

This post will be the central location for all Connecticut political maps created and posted on this site. I'll be adding a "maps" button to the navigation on the top of the page.

Governor 2006

U.S. Senate 2006

1st Congressional District 2006

2nd Congressional District 2006

3rd Congressional District 2006

4th Congressional District 2006


5th Congressional District 2006

State Senate 2006

State House of Representatives 2006


Democratic U.S. Senate Primary 2006

Democratic Governor Primary 2006

Democratic Lt. Gov. Primary 2006

Older maps are in thumbnail form

Presidential Election 2004


1st Congressional District: 2002, 2004


2nd Congressional District: 2002, 2004


3rd Congressional District: 2002, 2004


4th Congressional District: 2002, 2004


5th Congressional District: 2002, 2004


State Senate 2004


State Representatives 2004


Governor 2002


Town Council Control 2005


Municipal "Top Office" 2005


Town Council Control 2003


**these maps were created for reference purposes by Genghis Conn, and are based upon a map of CT town boundaries found at the DECD and information on election results from the Secretary of the State's office or other official sources. Email for more information.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Holiday Weekend Open Forum

I got a notice about re-assessment from the town of Enfield the other day. Apparently, the assessed value of my home increased by something like 75%. Gah! I am not looking forward to my tax bill this year.

There was a lot of talk during the campaigns about property tax reform. Anytime, folks. Whenever you're ready.

Anything else happening this weekend?

More Speculation on 2008

There's been some talk, (here and here), about the possibility of a McCain/Lieberman 2008 presidential ticket. This idea is resurgent mostly because of Lieberman's new communication director, Marshall Wittman, having strong ties to McCain. The timing of a McCain/Lieberman ticket in 2008 is just wrong. We needed it in 2004, when the role of American Deomcracy idealism was not devalued around the globe. For 2008, we need a presidential candidate who needs to reset the direction of American foreign policy in a bold engaged direction, and not succumb to an isolationist domestic agenda.

The GOP contenders offer up the concept of building walls, literally, on our borders. Rasmussen says Giuliani, Rice and McCain. All three are comfortable with the bunker mentality that looks inwards.

On the Dems side, at least according to a CNN poll, you have Hillary, Obama, Edwards, and Gore, we get Domestic policy wonks and little in the way of global anything, with the exception of Gore.

And then there is Dodd. Today's Courant reiterates, he's not on the radar, as a presidential candidate yet. But his focus on America's standing in the world is the right one. The real issue for 2008 is not going to be on the failed policies of Bush, but on the fundamental issue of whether we Americans see the world as it is, or as we'd like to see it. Whether Dodd will rise above the popularity contests that have become the presidential aspirant races will remain to be seen. The direction of the 2008 race will turn on what happens in Iraq. Bush may still control the military, but the debate about America's role in the world is now in the hands of Congress.

Friday, November 24, 2006

State House of Representatives Map: Supermajority



This is the last major map in the series (I'll get to the boring 1st and 3rd Districts in December).

This map doesn't look much different from the 2004 map. Democrats made some inroads down on the Fairfield coast and in the Farmington Valley. Republicans picked up a seat in Bristol. Eight changes of party out of 151 seats, by my count. You can see from the map that most seats were won by 20% or more. Many seats were not contested. Democrats are winning unopposed in the cities and some older suburbs, while Republicans are winning unopposed in rural Western Connecticut and elsewhere.

One (more) thing for Republicans to worry about is that they seem to be being pushed away from the coast and out of Greater Hartford. Interior portions of Fairfield, New Haven and Litchfield Counties are the only real safe GOP territory left, aside from isolated spots scattered around the state. Districts along that frontier, which runs down the Farmington Valley through the Waterbury area down to the western New Haven suburbs, then down the coast to Greenwich, will be ones to watch next time around.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Have a good holiday! We'll be back Friday.

In the meanwhile, this can be an open forum.

No Special Session

Older news, but worth mentioning:
House Democrats on Monday ruled out a special legislative session to take up energy legislation, choosing instead to schedule a public hearing before the end of the year.
[...]
Lawmakers believe the state needs at least 500 to 750 megawatts of additional power and are considering allowing the state's two major electricity distributors -- Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating -- to produce that power.

Perhaps energy will be taken up during the next session. With rising electric rates, it should be.

Source
"House Democrats scrap special session on energy." Associated Press 20 November, 2006.

Utopia Studios Dead (Again)

I often can't remember whether Utopia Studios is dead or alive. Apparently, it's dead again:
The Preston Board of Selectmen terminated a development agreement today with Utopia Studios of New York, which proposed the $1.6 billion project including movie studios, a climate-controlled theme park, hotels and an arts school on the former Norwich Hospital property.

Preston officials said Utopia failed to meet numerous deadlines, particularly for a payment of more than $56 million.

Utopia Studios says they're good for the money. They swear, they put it in the mailbox yesterday. Seriously, the Town of Preston should check their mail right now. Utopia Stuidos bets it's in there.

I think at this point that Preston is absolutely right to walk away from this one and never look back. It was a nice opportunity, but it always seemed too good to be true.

Source
"Preston Pulls Plug On Massive Project." Associated Press 22 November, 2006.

A Reason to Exist

I saw this over at FireDogLake today (boldface mine):
Those "centrists," the people who can be convinced to swing Democratic in one election and Republican in the next, who don't make up their minds until the night before an election or just run in the voting booth and pull all the top levers are probably not engaged in the political dialog to the point that they will want to "interact" with those who bring them their news. They might be stupid, apathetic or working three McJobs just to make ends meet but they're probably not going want to spend their leisure time shootin' the shit with VandeHei. People who are engaged political junkies tend to have strong opinions and they want to interact online with others who are like minded.

If anyone out there is wondering why this site exists, this is why. I simply don't accept that the statement I've placed in bold is true.

Let's put aside the breathtaking ignorance and arrogance of the rest of that comment for a moment. We shouldn't be interacting only with "others who are like-minded," and I don't believe that most political junkies really want that and that alone. That's why this place exists--it's a neutral ground where everyone is welcome, and anyone can discuss, debate and interact with people who may have radically different political ideas. Let's face it--our country has been too polarized politically for quite some time, and Hamsher is contributing to the problem. If we can't talk to one another, if we can't understand or at least see where the other side is coming from, then we can't ever find common ground. How then are we going to move forward?

And, for the record, I am a moderate who thinks deeply and at length about politics and issues. I don't know the voter she describes. I do know that she is hurting her cause more than she is helping it, again.

Gay Marriage Before the State Supreme Court

From the Courant:
Lawyers for eight same-sex couples seeking the right to marry will file their brief in the state Supreme Court today, setting the stage for an epochal legal battle on whether Connecticut permits gay marriage.
[...]
The essence of the appeal is encompassed by a rhetorical question in the brief, a draft of which The Courant obtained Tuesday:

"Given the legislature's enactment of the civil union law after this case was filed, and its acknowledgement of both the common humanity of gay people and their rights to equal treatment in their family lives, is it constitutional for the legislature to deny marriage while it also creates, only for gay people, a separate legal regime, with a different name, and deems them eligible for all state-based rights available to married spouses?" (Tuohy)

This lawsuit was dismissed in Superior Court earlier this year, on the grounds that civil unions provide the same legal rights as marriage.

Gay marriage/civil unions were a non-issue in the 2006 campaigns. I have to think that, even if the courts do force the legislature to legalize gay marriage, that most people in Connecticut will simply shrug and go about their daily lives.

But I could be wrong about that.

Source
Tuohy, Lynne. "Gay Couples Demand Marriage." Hartford Courant 22 November, 2006.

CT Hands Out First Stem Cell Grants Today

From the Courant:

Connecticut handed out $20 million to scientists working on groundbreaking research into the use of embryonic stem cells Tuesday, becoming among the first states in the nation to step into a role the federal government has refused to take on.

Exploring how to regenerate muscle or bone destroyed during warfare and understanding how brain cells go bad were among the 21 projects selected by the state's stem cell research advisory committee, which was charged with dispersing the first installment of the state's 10-year, $100 million commitment to stem cell research.

Faced with federal restrictions on the use of embryonic stem cells, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, Maryland and Illinois have all responded by agreeing to fund stem cell research on their own. Tuesday's grants were among the largest awards to be dispensed by a state so far.


I had no idea that Connecticut's stem cell funding was so ambitious.

Source
Hathaway, William. "Money For Stem Cells". Hartford Courant. 11/22/06

Poll for Republicans

It seems like Connecticut Republicans are in free-fall lately. What do you think they can do to turn things around? Or is it a lost cause?

What should the state Republican Party do to turn itself around?
New leadership
Embrace more socially conservative positions
Consistent message
Focus on fiscal conservativism (i.e. tax cuts, less spending)
Recruit better/more visible candidates
Embrace more socially liberal or moderate positions
Run candidates in every district
Distance themselves from the national GOP
Embrace national GOP - including Bush
Work on discrediting Democrats
Stronger voter outreach
Better coordination of campaigns
Things are fine - do nothing
I'm a Democrat - this is great!
Free polls from Pollhost.com
I'm sure I missed something. Please add it in the comments.

Pilgrims NOT Puritans

This is the time of year that a lot of folks that don't know their history very well confuse the passengers of the good ship Mayflower with the dastardly Puritans that followed them a mere decade later.

That Puritan invasion was the reason that the Rev. Thomas Hooker led a small band of men here to found what is now Connecticut.

-ACR



At the Twenty-Second General Congress of the Society of Mayflower Descendants held in Plymouth on September 13, 1960, the following resolution previously proposed by Deputy Governor General Louis Ellsworth Laflin, Jr., (IL) was adopted:



WHEREAS, William Brewster (1566-1643) and William Bradford (1589-1657) professed to be PURITANS while members of the Anglican congregation (1602) of Richard Clyfton at All Saints' Church, Babworth, Nottinghamshire; and



WHEREAS, The Hampton Court Conference of 1604 forcibly removed 300 clergymen from the Church of England, and from that church's PURITAN faith, including Richard Clyfton and John Robinson, the first two pastors of the Mayflower SEPARATIST "PILGRIMS" of 1620; and



WHEREAS, William Brewster and William Bradford started the 1606 Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, SEPARATIST congregation, the first on English soil, together with Richard Clyfton and John Robinson, as a direct result of forcible ejection from the PURITAN branch of the Anglican Church, and



WHEREAS, There are only two known persons, out of the 104 Mayflower passengers (including the two babies born) who were Anglicans and PURITANS: Christopher Martin, Governor of the ship, and his step-son, Solomon Power, neither of whom left any descendants;



THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, By the General Board of Assistants at its annual meeting in New York, September 19, 1959, that the term "PURITAN" should not be applied to any passengers of the Mayflower of 1620, which carried the first settlers of Plymouth Plantation, except to Christopher Martin and Solomon Power, and in the name of William Brewster and William Bradford, only before the year 1604 or 16 years before the Mayflower sailed. After 1604, all of the 1620 Mayflower "PILGRIMS" were SEPARATISTS.















PILGRIMS
PURITANS
Arrived
1620
Arrived
1630
Governors

Carver and Bradford
Governor
Winthrop
Plymouth
Colony
Massachusetts
Bay Colony
Friendly
with Indians
for 40 years
Indian
problems
from the outset
Paid
Indians for land
Seized
Indian lands
Communal
living
first seven years
Individual
profit
from the outset
Democratic,

consensus of the governed
Authoritarian
Separated
from
the Church of England
"Purified"
the Church
from within
Not
a single
prosecution of witchcraft
Prosecuted
and
executed for witchcraft
Representation
and
equal inheritance
Nothing
to compare
Forerunner
of
US Constitution &
Declaration of Independence

Nothing to compare
More
tolerant than the Church of England
Intolerant

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Urban Leaves GOP

Kevin Rennie at Hotline reports:
More proof that New England Republicans are in danger of taking up permanent residence at the margins comes this morning when a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives switches from Republican to Democrat. North Stonington Republican Diana Urban, elected to a fourth term two weeks ago, often voted with Democrats in the legislature. Her departure from the ranks of the GOP reduces their number to 44 of 151.

I can't imgine the Republicans are going to miss her very much. But I suppose Rennie has a point, sort of. Is there a place in Connecticut's GOP for liberal Republicans?

Speaking of Republicans, the Courant ran a decent piece by Rick Green on the future of the state's Republican Party. He interviewed Mayor Ryan Bingham of Torrington, as well as Sen. Andrew Roraback and others. There's a lot of individual talent in the Republican ranks. Here's a quote I like from Sen. Roraback:
"We have done a poor job articulating why it is a New England Republican is a desirable animal."

They have. Perhaps if Republicans run hard as fiscal conservatives and social moderates, they could become a credible alternative to the Democrats again. For now, though, the failings of the national party are hurting them badly.

Source
Green, Rick. "Searching For A GOP Pulse." Hartford Courant 21 November, 2006.

Update 12:33pm: Check out Colin McEnroe's blog for more information on why Urban switched. Seems like it was more about committee assignments than anything else. Go take a look.

Rolling in It

We're rich! From the AP:
The state budget surplus for this fiscal year has more than doubled to an estimated $486.5 million from last month as an improving economy brings in more tax revenue, Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Tuesday.

The estimate by the governor's budget office jumped from $220.1 million last month and is more than half the $940.5 million surplus compiled in the year that ended June 30. (AP)

Plans for the surplus include the creation of a money bin for the governor to swim in.

Source
"State surplus balloons to $486.5 million." Associated Press 21 November, 2006.

State Senate Map: Few Changes


Two seats changed parties: the 16th and the 19th. A few new faces will come in, most notably Doyle in the 9th, Maynard in the 18th and Debicella in the 21st.

There was a close race or two. Sen. Herlihy has taken Sen. Kissel's spot as the Republican whose margin of victory was the smallest. Bill Finch survived his second run-in with Robert Russo without too much trouble, and Dave Zoni made a race of it against Sam Caliguiri.

But really, the status quo in state senate races seems to be huge margins, weak opponents and very, very little in the way of change.

Managing Money Poorly: Connecticut Innovations

The Journal Inquirer is reporting that Connecticut Innovations is basically ... inept. How else to explain how a 2005 audit turned up things like the failure to to collect revenue from public utilities, and managed to execute contracts without signatures of either the executive director or VP of Finance. This is the agency that shepherds the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund.
Officials at Connecticut Innovations Inc., a quasi-public evelopment agency, have ignored their own rules in approving various e penditures and contracts, including "personal service agreements" tha cost more than $75,000 and were awarded without competitive bidding the state auditors say.

The auditors also say the agency, which administers the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund - which uses money from assessments on utility bills to promote renewable energy sources - may not have collected all of the revenue to which it was entitled. (source: Journal Inquirer)


The article goes on to report that Connecticut Innovations gets its funding from the two utility companies, CL & P and UI.
The fund gets monthly payments from two utility companies, the auditors said, but its documentation supporting the amounts paid by one "consisted of only an assessment calculation," while the other "provided only a check."

They added that while the agency requested more information from the utilities after the period covered by the audit, only one had responded.

CII officials said they agreed with the auditors' findings and recommendations concerning its contract and invoice approvals and personal service agreements, according to the review.

The officials also said they would request a meeting with each electric utility to review the procedures in place and reports available pertaining to the billing and collection of the Clean Energy Fund charges. (source: Journal Inquirer)
Meanwhile CL &P wants to raise electricity rates 8.9%. UI should be announcing its rate increases this week. So must for deregulation and innovation. What was that about the liquid gas terminal in Long Island Sound again?

Journal Inquirer, Auditors rap development agency for contracts, Clean Energy revenue by Don Michak 11/20/06

Monday, November 20, 2006

U.S. Senate Map: Lieberman Triumphant


It's strange to compare the map of the general election with the map of the primary (below). Some common themes emerge, such as Lieberman's utter dominance of the Naugatuck Valley. But otherwise there are few similarities.

We can speculate on the effect this race had on the congressional races. For example, there are a lot of similarities between this and the 2nd District map, suggesting that maybe Joe Courtney owes Ned Lamont a thank-you note. Why did UCONN turn out in such huge numbers, after all?

Chris Shays might owe Joe Lieberman one, too.

What both of these maps show is the complete breakdown of the Democratic Party as a useful and functional machine to get candidates elected outside of core urban areas.

There's a lot to talk about, here. What do you think?

Sullivan Redux

Disclosure: I have taken Justice Borden's class, enjoyed it, and found him to be a good teacher.

Acting Chief Justice Borden has announced his opposition to a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would subject the judicial branch's rule and procedure making process to legislative oversight. From the Courant:

Some officials who looked into reforming the judicial branch this year called for the amendment in response to a controversy involving former Chief Justice William Sullivan. Sullivan admitted that he delayed the release of a Supreme Court decision in March and April to help fellow Justice Peter Zarella's chances of being confirmed as his successor.

"I don't see the link between the rule-making power and the incident that has spawned this whole situation that I've been living under for the past seven months," Borden said, referring to the Sullivan controversy.
...
Borden said Thursday that several steps are already underway to make the judiciary more open, including guaranteeing access to judges' attendance records and opening judges' meetings to the public.
...
Borden set up his own committee this year to look at ways to improve the openness of the judiciary. He endorsed 35 of the committee's 38 recommendations, including a pilot program for cameras in courtrooms and posting criminal docket information online.


Although presented as a reaction to the Sullivan scandal, this amendment, if enacted, would not actually have any effect on the problem. In Sullivan's case, the rules for Judges was not at issue; it was clear (see below) that Sullivan broke the existing rules. This strikes me as an attempt by the legislature to use the Sullivan incident to grab power over the judiciary. Now, to be clear, we can argue about the merits of the amendment (personally, I think keeping the judiciary as insulated as possible from the politics inherent in the legislature is a goal of paramount importance), but there is no argument about the relationship between the amendment and the Sullivan scandal - it simply doesn't exist.

In other Sullivan news, former Chief Justice Sullivan received a 15 day suspension for holding up a decision to enhance the prospects of Justice Zarella succeeding him as Chief Justice:

The council voted 10-2 that he had not prejudiced the impartial administration of justice and brought disrepute to his judicial office. There was no smile, no evidence of relief.

The council voted 8-4 that Sullivan failed to observe high standards of conduct and preserve the integrity and independence of the judiciary. It voted 11-1 on what many had called the slam-dunk count: that he allowed his social or other relationships to influence his judicial conduct. The council unanimously rejected charges that Sullivan failed to promptly dispose of the business of the court and that he failed to discharge his administrative responsibilities.


The article correctly notes that the 15 day suspension was not the real punishment. Being "the first judge in the nation ever to be disciplined for holding up release of an opinion" and the irreparable damage to his legacy and reputation is the true penalty.

Sen. Andrew McDonald, the co-chairman of the judiciary committee, said there is little historic framework out of the Judicial Review Council against which to measure the severity of Sullivan's sanction. Only three judges since 1989 have received suspensions - one for five days, one for 15 and one for 30.

"By the precedents of the JRC, this is not an extraordinary penalty," McDonald said. "This was a clear manipulation of a branch's governmental operations for a brazen political purpose, to undermine a constitutional [confirmation] process."

But McDonald acknowledged the intangible penalty Sullivan has paid.

"In many ways, this is the denouement of Justice Sullivan's career," he said. "He's paid a personal price, as well as a legal price now."

Cappiello Drafting Ban to Robocalls

Robocalls, whether they are political or not, are a nuisance.
"I have done (automated calls) in the past because my opponent was doing it," said state Sen. David Cappiello, R-Danbury. "There were a lot of hotly contested races this year and people got called nonstop. Stopping these calls would level the playing field."

Cappiello is among several lawmakers who said they were drafting legislation to include the political robo-calls in the do-not-call list.

Indiana, Minnesota and New Hampshire include politicians in their do-not-call lists. However, most other states, as well as the federal do-not-call lists, make exemptions for politicians. (source: Danbury News Times)
The problem is that there is no easy way to stop the calls from happening. An outright ban would be appreciated, but there are legitimate issues about protected speech. The solution lies somewhere in between and somewhat further. Any direct mail or robo call should have a mechanism for opting out. And the simple way to accomplish that is to have the opt out notice as part of the voter registration file. State Senator Cappiello is right to bring up this issue, but why stop at the robocalls. Let people opt out of all unsolicited mail, political or not.


Danbury News Times, Officials ready to target robo-calls by Fred Lucas, 11/16/06

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Role of Political Parties in CT Politics

After being re-elected just last week, Sam Kitzenberg a State Senator from Montana has changed his registration from Republican to Democrat. This action will break an even tie in Montana's State Senate. This is especially interesting because the Montana State Legislature has no tie breaking mechanism and there's a very real possibility that the State House could find itself tied as well. Details of the switch and the state of Montana local politics can be found here.

When reading about Kitzenburg's switch my first thought was that had I voted for this guy I'd be pissed. Political affiliation means something to me, and 99% of the time a candidate's party plays a role in how I vote. It's especially important for a legislative seat where an elected official is expected to caucus with one side or another.

Connecticut voters don't seem to share my feelings about party affiliation though. Unaffiliated votes outnumber those registered in both parties. Voters are happy to elect Rell while at the same time giving our State Legislature a super-veto-proof majority. Senator Lieberman won with a majority of the Republican vote, which helped to assure a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.

What role do you think political parties play/should play in Connecticut? If say Jodi Rell or Chris Dodd chose to switch parties tomorrow would it matter to you? And if party doesn't matter can you see Connecticut eventually holding non-partisan elections?


Source
Robbins, Jim and Johnson Kirk. "Montana Balance of Power Shifts With a Single Seat". New York Times. 11/18/06

2nd District Commentary

It was nice to have a few days away from things. My wife and I painted our kitchen wall. Seriously, someone left avacado green paint underneath 70s-era wood paneling in there. Yuck. I'm amazed we were able to eat for all those years.

I also got a chance to write another piece for the Courant on the 2nd District's close races. Go check it out and, since you can't comment on articles there, come back here and tell me why, exactly, I'm wrong.

I should have more maps, including the U.S. Senate map, up this week.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Weekend Open Forum



What else is going on?

You've Got Mail: What's Wrong With Government Policies

Sheila Chunis works for Connecticut as a state Social Services employee. She also has a son who serves in Afghanistan with the Connecticut Army National Guard. In typical bureaucratic fashion, the behavior of employees and state computers has spawned a series of rules about what state employees can and can't do on those state computers. A rule enacted last May, according to the Journal Inquirer, specified what employees could do with email:
Not only did it prohibit state workers from using their state e-mail address for personal use while on company time, it also prohibited accessing private e-mail accounts on the Internet.

State workers were allowed, however, to read e-mails from their children's teachers or exchange e-mail messages with co-workers to plan social events, such as a baby shower or retirement party. (source: Journal Inquirer)

This rule followed a scandal involving Veterans Affairs employees. It's reasonable to expect that government employees not misuse state resources. Focusing, however, on the minutia of what emails that they can and can't read and send is simply ridiculous. The policy exists simply because computer use is easier to track. And tracking computer use as a measure of productivity is the wrong thing to focus on. Fortunately, Governor Rell stepped in and clarified the policy to a degree:
On Thursday afternoon Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced that the e-mail policy for state employees would change to allow them to send and receive messages from their workstation to deployed relatives in the military ... "Separation due to military service is difficult on everyone, and we want to do all we can to support our troops and their families," Rell said in making the announcement. "This change will allow those who are bravely serving overseas to stay in touch with their loved ones."

Under the policy change, employees can now read and send e-mails to immediate family members serving overseas during their lunch periods and other breaks after first notifying supervisors. (source: Journal Inquirer)
This change does not go far enough. In an age when multi-tasking dominates the information technology productivity gains, it's time that bureaucrats stop looking for ways to treat their employees like lab rats, and focus on the performance of the job and service to the public. It is counter-intuitive for government officials to bemoan the state of the social networks that bind communities and then create an employment environment that seeks to cut off interaction between families.

The Journal Inquirer, You've got mail - and it's OK: Rell changes policy so state employees can send e-mail to deployed relatives in military, by Kym Soper 11/17/06

Friday, November 17, 2006

Christiano Wins in the 124th by 27 Votes

Details here.

Even though the Election Day results showed that Christiano beat Republican incumbent Jack Stone 4,447 to 4,427, or by 20 votes, state law requires a recount if the outcome is less than a vote equivalent to one-half of 1 percent of the total number of votes cast for the office but not more than 2,000 votes, or if the outcome is less than 20 votes.

According to Town Clerk Betsy Browne, state statute required the results of the recount to be announced by Nov. 15. The 134th General Assembly district comprises both Fairfield and Trumbull; Fairfield conducted its recount Tuesday and Trumbull conducted a recount on Wednesday. Final results showed Christiano beat Stone 4,454 to 4,427.


The Courant also has an updated breakdown of votes by town here.



Source
Lynch, Erin. "Christiano Declared Winner". Fairfield Citizen-News. 11/17/06

2006 2nd Congressional District Map


Popping up quickly to post this map, which is pretty interesting to look at. Basically, Courtney picked up lots of support away from New London County, and Simmons's support there wavered just enough to allow Courtney to grab the close win. Compare this with the 2002-2004 map. Pickups for Dems from 2004: Andover, Bolton, Enfield, Ellington, Vernon (in a big way), Chaplin, Old Lyme, Lyme, Stafford, Killingly and, of course, Willington. Pickups for Republicans from 2004: Hampton.

Politcal Ads Too Negative? How About A Law?

The Courant reports that Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, is calling for a law to regulate what he calls the most negative campaign season in history.

Williams would create a citizens review panel to consider complaints of unfair advertising and determine if candidates were in compliance with the code of conduct.

In cases involving candidates participating in public financing, the panel could withhold funding from offenders or allow extra funding for those victimized.

The panel could pressure candidates not involved in public financing by offering a public, nonpartisan judgment on the accuracy or fairness of advertising, he said.

"Campaigns should be opportunities to inform, not mislead," Williams said. "Voters are interested in issues, not insults."

He declined to identify any campaign that he found offensive, but he said the recently concluded season was the most negative in state history.
(source: The Courant)
Trying to regulate speech is always a dicey proposition. As Nancy Dinardo pointed out later in the article, one person't lie is another person's spin. If law makers really wanted to address the negativity in campaining they would work on ways to get the money out of advertising, and into real substantive debate about ideas and issues.

If the FCC grants a license to tv and radio stations and has some requirement about broadcasting for the public good, why aren't our lawmakers exploring ways to provide time for political advertising as part of public air time? And why not look into reducing the window that political speech can be aired on tv and radio? But maybe the biggest scourge is the ubiquitous lawn sign, not the ones that dot laws of residences, but the ones that show up on public space and stay long past the elections they serve?

If negative advertising exists to "inform voters" how about combating the distortions with greater transparency to what our legislators are actually doing. Why don't we have attendance records of meetings easily available to the public (online), or records of PACS or lobbyist donations linked to the bills that are voted on by legislator? There are many ways to curb misinformation, discuss away.

The Courant, A Call For Action On Political Ads, by MARK PAZNIOKAS 11/1706

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Open Thread

Why would Dodd make a good President?

Dodd Introduces Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act

Press Release in Full:


November 16, 2006

Washington- Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), an outspoken opponent of the Military Commission Act of 2006, today introduced legislation which would amend existing law in order to have an effective process for bringing terrorists to justice. This is currently not the case under the Military Commission Act, which will be the subject of endless legal challenges. As important, the bill would also seek to ensure that U.S. servicemen and women are afforded the maximum protection of a strong international legal framework guaranteed by respect for such provisions as the Geneva Conventions and other international standards, and to restore America’s moral authority as the leader in the world in advancing the rule of law.
“I take a backseat to no one when it comes to protecting this country from terrorists,” Sen. Dodd said. “But there is a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this. It’s clear the people who perpetrated these horrendous crimes against our country and our people have no moral compass and deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But in taking away their legal rights, the rights first codified in our country’s Constitution, we’re taking away our own moral compass, as well.”
The Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act:

* Restores Habeas Corpus protections to detainees
* Narrows the definition of unlawful enemy combatant to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the United States who are not lawful combatants
* Bars information gained through coercion from being introduced as evidence in trials
* Empowers military judges to exclude hearsay evidence they deem to be unreliable
* Authorizes the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the Military commissions
* Limits the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and makes that authority subject to congressional and judicial oversight
* Provides for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to determine the constitutionally of its provisions

“We in Congress have our own obligation, to work in a bipartisan way to repair the damage that has been done, to protect our international reputation, to preserve our domestic traditions, and to provide a successful mechanism to improve and enhance the tools required by the global war on terror,” Dodd said.


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