On Jan. 25, during a press conference CCM commissioned to release its report, “This Is Different – Securing the Future Service Sharing and Revenue Diversification for Connecticut Municipalities,” a reporter asked Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin if the General Assembly adopted the recommendations in the report in their entirety, would the city of Hartford be solvent? The Mayor’s answer: “This would put our city in a position to be stable and I think to become vibrant.”
Now on the surface there is nothing remarkable about that statement. After all we have seen other proposals that help out the city of Hartford as well as other struggling urban centers across Connecticut. But there is a reason why this Report is Different. There is a reason why the Mayor’s response to the question is remarkable. The recommendations in the report that the Mayor and others were referencing were developed by a panel dominated by members from small rural as well as suburban communities.
When you take a look at the 21-member panel, as well as the 25-member Board of Directors that had to accept adopting the panel’s recommendations, what you see is representation from every region and demographic across Connecticut. You see elected Republicans, Democrats, and appointed town managers who represent urban, suburban, and rural communities. You see men and women. You see communities from every COG region in Connecticut. If you look closely enough, what you will see is the panelists who developed these recommendations meet the same composition as the General Assembly.
What made their work product so special is that in the end they voted in complete unanimity to pass out the report as a comprehensive way to make Connecticut competitive again. Sure there were conservative panelists who sunk in their chairs when endorsing some of the revenue diversification recommendations. Equally there were liberal members who shirked at the notion of upsetting public employee unions with some of the cost control and efficiency recommendations.
If you speak to any elected local official who gave hours of their time sifting through mountains of regional and national data, they will each tell you that there are segments within the report that fall outside their political ideology. They will also tell you that the comprehensive set of recommendations would lift up every community in the state.
We can only hope that as the 2017 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly enters the critical stages of developing a balanced approach to the state’s budgetary challenges, our elected state representatives follow the same path. The new balance in the General Assembly provides the opportunity to bring comprehensive solutions to Connecticut’s looming challenges. The other side of that balanced equation is political gridlock.
Municipal leaders showed that leading in a bipartisan fashion for the betterment of all, while truly different, is possible. Our state leaders should follow that example and display the same courage. Sustainable solutions will not be found by simply cutting costs or raising revenue. Unfortunately, fairy dust and magic beans won’t work either. Real solutions require comprehensive reform in both areas. The comprehensive recommendations found in “This Is Different” are solutions tailored with the next generation and not the next election in mind.
Joe DeLong is the Executive Director of CCM, which is Connecticut’s largest nonpartisan, statewide association of towns and cities, representing 158 member municipalities. CCM’s goal is to improve everyday life for every Connecticut residents by sharing best practices and objective research to help our local leaders govern wisely. CCM advocates at the state level for issues affecting local taxpayers, and pools its buying power to negotiate more cost-effective services for communities.
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