For all the political junkees, the 2010 Gubernatorial race for the Democratic nomination reached full throttle today with the first candidate and non candidate debate this morning, March 14, 2009 at the Groton City Municipal Building where declared candidate Jim Amann, exploring candidates Dan Malloy and Susan Bysiewicz (Susan B from now on), and non candidate Nancy Wyman answered questions from representatives of the various Towns and Cities in SE CT that are in the Eighteenth Senatorial District.
The get together was labeled a “Leadership Forum” and was organized by Scott Bates of Stonington, one of the 18th District Democratic Central Committee representatives. The meeting started with a brief statement from the non candidate Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who was not participating in the forum. The AG stated that he was looking forward to working with everyone in the room as he ran again for Attorney General and worked to re elect Senator Chris Dodd, who is being unfairly harrassed by political charges.
Next, the Mayor of the City of Groton, Dennis Popp, welcomed all to his City Hall and gave a short safety lecture pointing out the exits, the restroom locations, and what actions to take in the case of an emergency. This should be done at all meetings so that people unfamilar with the meeting room and the building have that basic information. Well done to Mayor Popp.
Each participant (I will not say candidate is not all are officially candidates for governor) was then given the opportunity for an opening statement. Obviously I am editing their statements and may miss some item that the participant considers key to their presentation. I hope a member of their ‘camp’ will make any appropriate corrections or additions in the comments sections if I do so.
Susan B – Connecticut is losing young people more rapidly than any other state. One half of those who leave the state for college never return. Last year Connecticut lost 40,000 jobs and is on track to lose 90,000 more in 2009. Thirteen thousand businesses closed their doors forever last year. The state needs to get back on track. Action items: 1. Lead in green technology; 2. Lead in Stem Cell Research; 3. Develop mass transit and deep water ports in Bridgeport and New London. 4. Decrease the achievement gap between urban and suburban children – educate youth for the green technology jobs. 5. Focus on small business. Ninety percent of jobs are created by businesses of less than fifty employees. a. Small business biggest challenge is Health Care. The health care program sponsored by Speaker Donovan last year and vetoed by Governor Rell is a good first step and should be passed again in the current legislative session. b. Utiity costs for small business are too high. Small businesses pay thirty perctn more for electricity because they don’t have the bargaining power of a large business. Governor Rell’s proposed budget has eliminated funding to help small businesses.
Governor Rell has been reactive, not proactive. She has no plans. The state needs a hands on governor that will attend cabinet meetings and work full time. Democrats need to win and Susan B is the only candidate that has won a state wide primary and then a general election and polled ahead of all other candidates in the Quinnipiac Poll.
Dan Malloy – The state needs to elect a governor that will turn the state around. When voters elect a democrat they get a governor that knows how to get government right. If you believe in government’s ability to get the job done, you can get the job done. Democrats built Social Security and Medicare. Republicans don’t treat people well. A governor must have a vision and a sense of accomplishment. Our people are losing jobs and the governor doesn’t care. A governor must come to work more than three times a week. The governor dissembles. For example, on Monday she said the projected budget deficit was $8 Billion and then on Wednesday she submitted a budget with only a $6 Billion deficit accounted for. Democrats need to call the governor on this. the public needs to be educated on these issues.
In Stamford Malloy says he has improved public safety, reformed the public health system and made sure that city expenses were increased less than inflation. He recently spoke to Health Care workers who would not be able to do their jobs under the proposed Rell budget. The state should not fix its budget problems on the backs of the sick and elderly. The state needs a governor that will address the issues, not make PR releases.
Jim Amann – He claimed to be “a beach kid from Milford.” He has had four years experience as an Alderman and eighteen years in the State Legislature. His proofs of accomplishments are the solutions to Connecticut’s problems that the Democratic majority passed in the State Legislature (not Governor Rell or the Republican minority). He works for a Win-Win solution, finding common ground. For example, it took two years of work to pass the compromise for Teacher pensions.
There are challenges ahead and the state needs to work as a team with a 20/20 vision plan, not reacting to the latest headline. The answer to CT problems is job creation. Jobs in Stem Cell research, Fuel Cell production, and the Film industry as exemplified in the Hollywood East program. Governor Rell works for PR, not for substantive change. A four to six hour a day governor is not effective.
Connecticut makes submarines, helicopters, fuel cells, and space suits. The CT worker is highly skilled and ready to succeed. The State needs leadership.
Nancy Wyman – We need to elect a Democrat to get the state on the right track. She is not a candidate at this time. She has a full time job and comptroller. The state must tell the truth about its finances. There is a $9 Billion deficit on an $18 billion (that is what I heard but it could have been $80 billion) budget. the solution won’t be by budget cuts alone. It must be solved by coming together for solutions. A recent “small” audit of a State Department found one third of budget was not being spent. There is a new concept – the Agencies talk to each other and share data. This will lead to significant savings. Governor Rell and OPM still do not know how to go in and look at the costs of the State Agencies. Governor Rell was duplicit. She forgot she must deliver a balanced budget. She is using one time revenue sources to balance the budget. She must negotiate with the unions and there is no way to balance the budget without raising taxes. Governor Rell cuts funds for the Poor to balance the budget. Small towns state aid is cut. We should not let Govenor Rell get away with a PR only approach.
There was time for six questions that each participant answered in rotating order.
Question – What is your plan for State wide Health Care?
Amann – We tried a hyprid plan but then decided to concentrate on kids which turned out to be the Husky Plan. The Pooling plan supported by Speaker Donovan is a good step. It should pass this year. The State should not wait for the Federal Government but develop its own plan.
Susan B – Strongly for health Insurance. The Pooling Plan could cut costs in half. State can’t wait for Federal reform. Also supports a comprehensive Health Care plan.
Malloy – Has supported health plan for long time. There should be one solution for all. There is a self insured program in Stamford to reduce overhead costs. Connecticut should stop leaving dollars in DC. The State should not use the budget cap to punish health care providers. However, the governor is not believe in Universal Health Care. We need to rebuild the public health system. The delivery of preventive care should be available to all.
Wyman – Pooling mihgt not be the total answer. There is a need to offer other plans, possibly a health care subsidy. In any case there is a need of a fiscally responsible health care plan.
Question: What are your ideas for Property Tax Reform?
Wyman – Get control of Heath Care costs. Flat education funding is really a decrease in funding. Use the Stimulus to fully fund the ECS contribution to towns and cities. State funding of Health Care and education would take pressure of cities and towns to raise property taxes.
Malloy – Elect a Mayor. He is experienced with property tax problems. Right now, the state government takes away from Towns and Cities. The state contribution to cities and towns is thirteen percent less. Problem is funding of urban schools. If elected, would build a coalition for property tax reform, improve education and provide other support to towns to lower the local expenses.
Susan B. – She is looking at a regional solution to the problem. Towns pooling resources for purchasing and other activities. The State should be organized into regional economic development districts to get the federal dollars available. State should fund Special Education then get the funding from DC.
Amann – Now is an opportunity. The governor has not attacked property tax reform. Priority would be to veto any unfunded mandates. Keep promises to fully fund ECS. Support regionalization and provide incentives to encourage Towns and cities to work together.
Question: What should Democrats do to win in 2010?
Malloy – Stop allowing Governor Rell from setting the agenda and the debate. In good times the Republicans have not worked to grow the state. It has been a government of indifference. We should come together
Susan B.- Get off of Governor Rell’s priorities. Need to show where she just doesn’t get it. Susan B. claims to be able to compete with Rell’s message.
Amann – Have a good game plan. Does not think that Rell will run in 2010. Dems need to work to be proactive, not reactive. Continue funding “Hollywood East.” Have definite plans to keep kids in CT.
Wyman – Talk about the issues different from the governor. Party must be unified in November. Governor Rell is a nice person but not hands-on governor. Work the health care, jobs, and education issues. They are strong for democrats. Show what Rell is doing wrong and how Dems would do better.
Question: What will you do to help Entrepreneurs?
Susan B. Loves Entrepreneurship. Currently working with State and community colleges to support local entreprenaurs by providing programs and networking possibilities. Assist in selling out of country where profits are higher.
Amann – Hollywood East is example of helping entrepreneurs. Need to get young people involved. Need to provide support for worldwide endeavors.
Wyman – More support in education. Provide Middle School and High School support for budding businesspersons.
Malloy – Impower the entrepreneur by 1. Controlling Cost of Health Care; 2. Lower property taxes. 3. Remove State bottleneck in supporting entrepreneaurs. Build a background that encourages original ideas. High school and community college structure needs to change to encourage and teach the young entrepreneur.
Question: What is your vision for improving Connecticut Transportation?
Malloy – There is no greater impediment than I 95. According to the current Commissioner of the Department of Transportation (CONNDOT) it takes eleven years to go from concept to plans. This must change. The template in CONNDOT must be broken. A tunnel in New York harbor would improve transportation into New York city. There are no parking facilities at train stations to encourage train travel. Current efforts are too small. The current governor is afraid of big issues.
Wyman – Need to reorganize CONNDOT to get anything done. The CONNDOT culture must change. Where else would we need to redesign highway drains to actually drain (I84 project).
Amann – The legislature had a good idea in 1990s and established the Transportation Strategy Board. It said over $13 Billion would be required to rebuild the highway infrastructure. Governor only funded $1 Billion. After Mianis River Bridge collapse, it only took 2 months to write the action plan and start carrying it out. Need to encourage more train usage. Knocking off train travel time is one way to encourage more utilization. More trains to SE CT would help limit I95 usage.
Susan B. – Need regional solutions to solve the problems.
Question: What will you do to improve relationship with mayors and first selectmen?
Susan B. – As Secretary of the State she meets regularly with mayors and first selectmen. Eastern CT officials don’t see much of Hartford elected officials. Will meet with officials. Susan B plans to meet with ET CT officials on a regular basis.
Amann – All voices should be heard.He will continue to talk and listen to local leaders.
Wyman – Regional meetings with local officials important, especially before the budgets come out in March. A governor must be governor of all of CT.
Malloy – Elect a local government person. He would sit down with the Mayors. We elect people and they become disconnected from their roots. Malloy will hold town meetings so that when he screws up everyone will know about it and will let him know.
Tis concluded the two hour session. The “leaders” plan to do this again at the Vanilla Bean Cafe in Pomfret, CT on MAR 24, 2009 at 7:00 PM. The goal, by my understanding, is to have a similar meeting in every Senatoral District so the various Town Committees can get to know the candidates.
This has been a long post. I hope everyone enjoys the account.
Posted on March 15, 2009
Here is a link to the Norwich BULLETIN’s account of the Leadership Forum