If you’re a fan of both Gov. Ned Lamont and the state of Connecticut itself, this has been a rough few weeks — or months, for that matter.
All but the most adoring of Nedophiles expected there would be a learning curve for a businessman transitioning-to-governor who had never run a government enterprise before. What we didn’t know was exactly how steep that curve would be.
First of all, I was shocked by how quickly the rank-and-file of the Democratic Party cast their lot with Lamont last year. There were a number of candidates with impressive government resumes who could have hit the ground running. To wit, former West Hartford mayor and ex-state lawmaker Jonathan Harris; and longtime Connecticut political officeholder Susan Bysiewicz, who eventually became Lamont’s running mate. There were still other strong contenders who probably could have been talked into running if party elders had sent a clear signal of their acceptability: former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei; Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman; and comptroller Kevin Lembo.
I’m guessing Lamont’s momentum heading into the convention was a reflection of the fact that a) Lamont had plenty of money and b) Bridgeport Mayor (and convicted crook) Joe Ganim was going to petition his way onto the primary ballot no matter what happened at the convention and if there were several candidates on the primary ballot to divide the anti-Ganim vote, the felonious mayor just might steal the nomination.
At any rate, the party nominated a cable TV executive with a thin political resume whose chief claim to fame was losing two runs for statewide office: first to Joe Lieberman and later to Dannel Malloy, the man he eventually succeeded.
Lamont is, by all accounts, a decent man, and his personality is a welcome change from Malloy — the self-described porcupine. But the new governor’s lack of experience is really showing. His first major blunder as a candidate was insisting he only wanted highway tolls for big out-of-state trucks — a proposition that most of us who were paying attention knew was preposterous anyway. Then he changed his mind (or deceived us, depending on your point of view) and proposed to toll all vehicles by putting up more than 50 electronic tolling gantries on major highways throughout the state. That went over like a pregnant pole vaulter — so much so that Lamont hasn’t even been able to reach an agreement to haul the lawmakers back to Hartford for a special session to reconsider the topic. Now he is said to be working on a new plan. Really?
Big troubles at the so-called quasi-public agencies have been uncovered. Lamont has been beset by other needless controversies, such as the bizarre prepared meals tax (now reversed) that no one in the administration or the General Assembly wants to claim responsibility for. Then there is the question of whether to release school data on vaccinations (also reversed) and the ill-advised exemption from FOI of the board that will administer the $100 million gift to public schools from hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio.
Lamont’s erratic governorship has led the state’s largest newspaper, the Hartford Courant, to suggest in an editorial that he’s the “do-over governor.” In that same newspaper, a wealthy couple from Glastonbury who have decided to retire to New Hampshire and “live free or die” took some serious parting shots at the state. Finally, House Republican Leader Themis Klarides recently labeled Lamont “incompetent.”
My colleague Susan Bigelow, an admitted Connecticutophile, fired back at the Glastonbury goblins, saving CT News Junkie readers the trouble of penning their own missive by writing a clever form letter asking readers to fill out a multiple-choice template complaining of every ill — real or imagined —that plagues the state.
The scale of the outcry against Susan’s column surprised me. After all, we are talking about satire here. The reaction on social media against the Glastonbury couple’s op-ed was also fast and furious, with some readers questioning the Courant’s decision to publish it all.
Still, it’s not unreasonable to have serious concerns about what’s happened to our beloved state. While the state’s economy is improving slowly, Connecticut’s continuing woes are still garnering national attention.
There seems to be no end in sight to our fiscal problems. Consider the fact that now that his tolling plan is going nowhere, Lamont is considering borrowing for transportation infrastructure projects — this after pledging to put the state on a “debt diet.” In case you’re looking for Bob Stefanowski, he’s in his man cave in Madison, wearing his trademark grin.
Given Lamont’s record so far, and notwithstanding his good intentions, I fear the governor is actually making things worse. Unless Lamont’s fortunes change, watch for Republicans to make big gains in the General Assembly next year.
Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at CTDevilsAdvocate.com and is managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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