Within the last few weeks lawmakers, municipal officials, and advocates all have asked Gov. M. Jodi Rell to release a strategic economic development plan for the state. But as of Thursday her office was still claiming she doesn’t have it.
Under a bill signed into law in 2007, the Department of Economic and Community Development was to submit a plan to the governor articulating a vision for Connecticut for the next five, 10, 15, and 20 years. The plan was to be submitted July 1 and the governor was to approve or reject it by Sept. 1.
State Sen. Gary LeBeau, D-East Hartford, wrote Rell and DECD Commissioner Joan McDonald on Aug. 21 inquiring about the plan’s status. As of Thursday, LeBeau had not received a response and said he would send another letter because he believes Rell has received the plan.
“I was led to believe it was completed,” LeBeau said. “I don’t know what the hold-up is.”
In a phone interview Thursday afternoon, Rell spokesman Rich Harris said the document hasn’t arrived.
“All I know is that we’re waiting on a final draft from the DECD,” Harris said. “The DECD is working on it and we expect to get it.”
Jim Watson, spokesman for the Department of Economic Development, confirmed what Harris said.
“We haven’t transmitted it yet, but we expect to in the next few weeks,” Watson said, describing the document as a comprehensive report somewhere in the ballpark of 500 pages or more.
Heidi Green, executive director of the smart growth advocacy group 1,000 Friends of Connecticut, said the legislation has a 60-day trigger in it that says “the plan is effective upon approval by the governor or 60 days after the date of submission.”
Because of this provision, both Green and LeBeau say questions about whether Rell has received the plan are worth discussing.
Concerned that the plan has yet to be made public and may already exist, Green said she sent this Freedom of Information request to both Rell and McDonald last Friday. Under the FOIA, Green should receive a response by the end of this week or Monday at the latest depending on when the mailed letter actually was received.
Regardless of whether the document exists, Green said it is supposed to be “a comprehensive plan on how we move the economy from where we are to where we want to be as a state.”
She said it would be “disconcerting” if the plan was going into effect without first being made public. In addition to promoting smart growth and determining where the state should be focusing its economic development efforts, Green said the completed plan could help the state obtain funds for high-speed rail and other targeted transit investments discussed by the federal government.
LeBeau, who also is exploring a run for Rell’s seat in 2010 and is chairman of the legislature’s Commerce Committee, said in a press release last Friday that the state is “in the midst of probably the worst economic crisis that Connecticut has seen in modern times, and it is imperative that any plan that will help position the state to emerge and thrive be vetted and implemented as soon as possible.”
The legislature directed that the plan must include a review and evaluation of Connecticut’s economy, including an analysis of its housing and labor markets and demographics; review factors that impede economic development; identify economic clusters that are growing or declining in the state; articulate a vision for Connecticut; establish clear and measurable goals for the state; and recommend how to achieve them.
On Tuesday, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy – another one of Rell’s possible challengers in 2010 – also questioned the status of the plan.
“The Governor refused to take a position on the state budget and now has apparently refused to take a position on an economic development and smart growth plan that could potentially help put Connecticut’s economy back on track,” Malloy said in a press release. “This is a two-year plan that is supposed to guide our economic development and smart growth strategies; it’s a plan for which the state paid $500,000; and it’s a plan that technically, by default, is supposed to now be in place. Yet, in the face of all that, our Governor has no opinion on it.”
Click here to read the 2007 press release from Rell’s office after she signed the legislation.