Congress occasionally does investigations that take testimony in public and produce important information, expose scandal, and lead to policy changes. But the General Assembly never does. It eliminated its Program Review and Investigations Committee years ago.
While the legislature holds public hearings to gather comment on proposed legislation, these aren’t investigations. No one is subpoenaed and all testimony is volunteered by people pressing their point of view.
This lack of curiosity about the many discreditable happenings in the state may be a consequence of Connecticut’s longstanding one-party government. When the governor and the majority in the legislature are from the same party, there is little incentive to review anything that might embarrass the regime.
But state and municipal government are full of things deserving investigation by the legislature. A few months ago the overspending and even corruption in the New London State Pier project deserved a legislative investigation but it was foreclosed by Governor Lamont’s campaign for re-election.
Now the murder of Julie Minogue in Milford on Dec. 6, allegedly by the former boyfriend who long had been harassing her in violation of a protective order, practically screams for a legislative investigation. The woman called on Milford police to arrest her tormentor but the arrest was botched. The police prepared a warrant, a prosecutor quickly found it inadequate and returned it for elaboration, and weeks passed without additional action. Why? Maybe someone in authority will answer, or maybe not.
In any case protective orders for endangered women are little protection. They are mere disguises for government’s failure to act. State government refuses to provide the only thing that can protect endangered women: prompt prosecution.
The General Assembly’s public safety and judiciary committees should undertake a public investigation of the Minogue case to show what happened and fix responsibility, and then invite testimony about other failures of the criminal-justice system to respond quickly in domestic violence cases.
Then, if the committees are not too exhausted by the relevance of real life, the investigation could continue into the criminal-justice system’s failure to deal effectively with repeat offenders. Many terrible crimes in Connecticut are committed by people with extensive records who nevertheless were not imprisoned for long, if at all, even as some elected officials lately have boasted about the decline in the state’s prison population.
The tougher laws often advocated by legislators mean little if they are not enforced promptly, and they usually are not. Legislative investigation of the failure to protect endangered women and to put repeat offenders away for good might shock the public into demanding more than the usual posturing.
* * *
EXPLOITING THE CARIBBEAN: Like many school systems, especially in other cities, Hartford’s is having trouble filling teaching positions, largely because so many students are impoverished and neglected at home, and, when they arrive at school, when they show up at all, are indifferent and not ready to learn. Meanwhile many of the city’s better students are siphoned away to regional “magnet” schools.
Few people want to teach where students don’t want to learn and often misbehave. This problem isn’t happening just in cities anymore but throughout the country as student performance and behavior decline generally.
So Hartford is expanding its program of recruiting teachers from the Caribbean. Having begun with Puerto Rico, whose residents are U.S. citizens, the program is seeking teachers from other islands and already has recruited four from the Dominican Republic.
Since so many Hartford students are of Puerto Rican or Latin American ancestry, school officials and Mayor Luke Bronin think it’s great that the city’s students may see more teachers who “look like them” and have similar backgrounds. As a result, maybe the students will be more engaged.
Certainly in Hartford the recruits from the Caribbean will receive far higher salaries and benefits than they could receive at home.
But it’s still as if the Caribbean countries, which are even more impoverished than Hartford, don’t need their own teachers just as much.
Chris Powell (CPowell@JournalInquirer.com) is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.