Happy Holidays!
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Susan Bigelow

‘Tis the holiday season once again, and we’re all in a giving mood. And why not? We’ve survived another year, despite it all. So, in the spirit of the season, I can think of one very sad northeastern state that can always use something nice.

No, not New Jersey.

But, because I’m the sort of gift-giver who likes to cloak her own smug sense of self-satisfaction (plus a light sprinkling of spitefulness) under a cloak of responsibility, I’m not going to get Connecticut what it wants. I’ll get it what it needs.

Besides, Connecticut’s list is always the same:

  1. Give back Notch
  2. Cheap lobster roll?
  4. friends 🙁

Can’t really help with any of that, sorry.  

So here, in no particular order, is what I’m getting Connecticut for Christmas:

A Toll Gantry

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the state
Transit dorks were putting up
A brand new toll gate!

Just one! Put it on I-95 to nab all the people who drive through Connecticut on their way to Boston or New York, clogging up the roads and making the potholes bigger. How about right on the New York border? Most of us won’t even notice. Or better yet, make it congestion pricing so that it only costs money during peak hours.

Oh, I know we hate the idea. And yes, we went through this back before the pandemic. But someday all these marvelous, wonderful budget surpluses will end, and we’ll need a way to keep our roads, trains, and buses funded. And now that Gov. Ned Lamont has won re-election, he could circle back to the issue we all thought would define him forever in 2019.

This is the equivalent of getting your kid underwear for Christmas instead of toys. Like I said, I’m not a very nice Santa. But I am a practical one.

Regional school districts for all

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: town-based school districts drive inequality and make it way too tempting for wealthier towns to make very, very bad decisions. There’s no real reason schools need to be tied to municipal governments, it’s just how they evolved.

I’m not bashing towns here. I like our system of towns! It’s weird and unwieldy, but our 169 tiny fiefs are a big part of what makes Connecticut, well, Connecticut. However, just as we can regionalize services like 911 dispatch and animal control, we can regionalize schools. Imagine how different a school district that included, say, New Haven and its suburbs would be. Just think about that Hartford-West Hartford district, and how it could change things for the better for students from both towns.

Parents of students in the cities already deal with a kind of regional district: magnet schools. So it would be like that, except without the anxiety and heartbreak of a lottery for limited seats. Besides, we already have regional districts in rural areas, and they work fine.

Oh yeah, the suburbs are going to hate it. What did I say about me being a mean Santa?

Open primaries

And now to dump a load of coal into the stockings of the Republican and Democratic Parties. I’ll be honest, Republicans need this a lot more than Democrats do. Their primary voters have not been making what I’d call good decisions over the past decade or so. That’s why everyone should have a say in their party’s nominations. 

Closed primaries aren’t great for Democrats, either. Cutting a whole bunch of people out of the process is bad, and can lead to a lot of stagnation and apathy. This is part of how we end up with the same old people nominated year after year after year.

And if the parties don’t like it, then next year I’ll bring instant runoff voting. Ho, ho, ho!

Face masks and flu shots

So, uh, I don’t know if you noticed but that pandemic we thought was over? It’s still going on, and it’s actually kind of maybe … getting worse again?

Hospitalizations are on the rise, though not nearly as badly as last year’s spike. Still, with the triple whammy of COVID, the flu, and RSV circulating all over the state, it could end up being a very sick holiday season. Santa will drop a box of masks and a flu shot down your chimney from a nice safe distance. Please actually use them.

A stern reminder about why ethics rules exist

Kevin Rennie reported this past week that lobbyists and their clients, including some state contractors, are being encouraged by organizers to pay up to $50,000 to sponsor Gov. Lamont’s inaugural ball. Among the perks? Access to a VIP reception. See, the difference is that this incredibly political event isn’t a campaign, but an official state function, so … it’s okay? 

Santa is going to bring a giant picture of John Rowland in jail and hang it in the lobby of the Bushnell, as a reminder of why paying for access is still a bad idea, no matter where it happens.

That’s the list for 2022. 

What would you get Connecticut for Christmas?

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com or any of the author's other employers.