HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont’s Reopen Connecticut Advisory Committee has grown, but no one is talking about how it happened or where someone can go to apply to become a member.
On April 23 when Lamont announced his Reopen committee there were about 46 members.
However, when a subcommittee of the group met for the first time in public on Monday, there were more members. There were initially nine members of the education subcommittee, at least two people appear to have been added: Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, and; Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.
How does one become a member of this committee that’s advising Lamont on when to reopen schools and the economy?
“Right now every interested group is talking to the Reopening Committee in regards to their particular industry or faith leaders, nurses, so we’re reaching out from that point of view,” Lamont said Monday.
He said the committee now has more than 48 people so it’s already “a little unwieldy.”
At the moment, he said he’s not interested in adding more people. However, the point of the question during the briefing Monday – which was made clear on follow-up – was more about transparency and how the new members got onto the committee in the first place. That question remains unanswered.
Aside from the April 23 press release, there’s no information about what changes may have been made to the membership of the committee, which is expected to advise Lamont about when and how the economy and schools should reopen.
The first phase of the reopening includes outdoor restaurant service, outdoor museums, retail space (like malls), and hair salons and barber shops. The guidance for reopening those industries was posted over the weekend, but seems to be changing by the minute.
Late Monday, NBC Connecticut reported that Lamont changed his guidance for hair salons and will now allow them to use hair dryers. Initially, use of hair dryers was banned based on the idea that they would help spread the virus through air movement.
“We talked to a lot of salon owners and there was a lot of trepidation about opening up a hair salon even on a very selective basis,” Lamont said Monday afternoon. “I was told that the idea of a hair dryer is more likely to be able to spread the germs and employees and customers agree it’s probably the safest protocol to not allow it for now.”
That seems to have changed.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said knowledge gives people confidence, even if they don’t agree with your policy. She said the lack of transparency and details has been the hallmark of the Lamont administration.
“People are never going to agree with every decision any of us makes, but what they need to have is confidence and all the details about what they should and shouldn’t be doing and what they can expect,” Klarides said Monday.
Lamont said he’s not sure what it will look like after May 20, which is the date of the first of the four phases of the reopening.
He said constituencies like parents and students interested in the reopening of schools “have been actively involved in discussions about what we’re doing going forward.”
“I’m not sure what the life is of this committee right now. It might be reaching the end,” Lamont said.
Deputy Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said the Lamont administration has departed from the traditional notion of open government.
He said he appreciates the back and forth he’s having with the chairs of the Reopen Advisory Committee, “but there needs to be a more formalized process.”
He said legislators are getting bombarded with questions they’re unable to answer.
“It’s starting to take on the flavor of the Star Chamber,” Candelora said.
Lamont, who has said from the very beginning that the committee is simply advisory, said he will be making the decisions when it comes to reopening.
“We have the clearest rules right now of any state in the country,” Lamont said Monday. “We’re sending out our protocols to others.”