Two hours before dawn on August 22, 1991, a tie vote in the state Senate was broken by Lowell Weicker’s lieutenant governor, whose action guaranteed that a state income tax would be imposed on the people of Connecticut. The spending spree enabled by that infamous vote was the chief cause of our subsequent economic decline. Since the tax took effect, we rank dead last in economic growth among the 50 states. It matters who breaks ties in the Connecticut Senate.
The continuous unfolding news accounts of Haddam Selectwoman Melissa Schlag and her exercise of free speech rights by taking a knee on July 16 and kneeling on both knees at (the July 30) Monday’s Board of Selectmen fortnightly meetings have drawn the attention of the state and nation, with a mix of ire and support by local residents and veterans as her actions were vilified loudly by political campaigners for statewide office, and later with an additional pile on by other candidates.
Low completion rates are a problem at some of Connecticut’s four-year public state institutions. A recent report outlining the number of bachelor’s degree earners reveals a significant gap in the graduation rates between the four-year public state institutions that make up the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities and the University of Connecticut. Although in-state, undergraduate tuition costs at each of the five public institutions are the same, their graduation rates are vastly different. The CSCU graduation rates are lagging behind those at UConn, and strategies need to be instituted in the CSCU system to correct this discrepancy.
For years, legislators sang the praises of juvenile review boards, because community-based JRBs helped kids succeed more frequently– and more cheaply – than the juvenile justice system. But when the General Assembly moved juvenile justice from one state agency to another, it neglected to move the funding for JRBs that serve our largest cities. That means fewer second chances and fewer essential services – mainly for young people of color and from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our state frequently cannot find the money to support these youth, though the funding for the more expensive strategies of prosecution and even incarceration is never in short supply.
Based on a new study by Wirepoints released in June, Connecticut once again makes the rogue’s gallery of pensions for state employees. Most analyses of pensions focus on the unfunded liability – amounts due for which no funds have been provided. This type of analysis leads to the logical conclusion that more funding – more taxpayer dollars – is required to close the funding gap. Connecticut’s current governor and legislature have indeed been very good at raising taxes – the largest increases in our history over the last few years – but still unfunded pension obligations continue to grow.
It is obvious that arts and culture keep our towns and cities hopping and vital, especially when you see restaurants filled on nights that theater, museums and galleries have events. Our elected leaders understand how important arts, culture and creativity are for building strong communities. Candidates are also learning that over 90 percent of Connecticut’s arts and culture supporters vote. With this year’s gubernatorial election in high gear, as well as many other legislative races, it’s important that we hear from the candidates on these issues, particularly as Connecticut’s funding for arts and culture has continually declined, bucking the national trend and while surrounding states are increasing their investment. This is a missed opportunity to have a real impact on our state’s economic health, our education system, and quality of life.
Twenty five years ago Hamden was a healthy, thriving town with generally happy residents. Taxes were manageable, schools were good and the town had excellent services. Town workers were fairly paid and got great benefits, particularly top-notch, town-funded health care and a generous defined-benefit pension plan. The Hamden real estate market had its ups and downs but was as strong as most in the area. Unfortunately, decades of miss-management and union commiseration have reversed the town’s strong prognosis.
I arrived home from classes excited about the warm weather that guaranteed I would play soccer with my friends that evening. As I was finishing my reading assignment for 10th grade English, I received a phone call from my mom informing me my dad was at the police station for a minor traffic violation. Naively I thought to myself, “He’ll be home tonight,” but as I entered the lobby I was greeted by my mother with tears racing down her face. Immediately, my heart sank as I heard the words, “They called ICE on him, he’s being deported.”
When the Democratic Party ramped up its attacks on Russia during and immediately after the 2016 election, the rhetoric was reminiscent of that used during the Cold War. It portended the hysterical reaction being displayed by political leaders (including our own congressional delegation), the media, neo-cons, and most astonishingly, “liberals” who, after years of rejecting the duplicity of U.S. intelligence agencies and criticizing the U.S. government for its treachery in other countries, now suddenly embrace the establishment’s narrative without any thoughtful analysis.
“Train time is your own time” was the old marketing slogan of Metro-North, encouraging commuters to kick back and enjoy the ride while reading, working or taking a snooze. But in reality, train time is shared time. They don’t call it “mass transit” for nothing as passengers much share their space with a hundred other commuters on each rail car.