Editorial: Oversight of Education Funding Requires Action By Legislature

When the Regular Legislative Session convenes on February 5, I hope that members of the Education Committee will consider putting in place rules to guide the spending of state Open Choice grant money — about $11 million each year – by local school districts. That’s not to question the value of the program, or to say that the Open Choice program — which helps fund urban students to attend public schools in nearby suburban towns, and funds suburban and rural students to attend public schools in a nearby city — comes at an unreasonable cost. The grant money, which pays

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Editorial: Four Hours with Former Connecticut Port Authority Head Evan Matthews

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Four hours with Evan Matthews on Sunday afternoon and I left convinced that – if the downside risk can be negotiated favorably — the delayed Eversource-Ørsted deal is a good (maybe great) deal for Connecticut. Certainly Matthews – an industry professional with years of relevant experience — believes it’s a good deal and feels blindsided, and aggrieved, by the sudden collapse of the Connecticut Port Authority, in his telling, just as he was hoping to wrap up negotiations on July 1. It’s the first time that Matthews has spoken publicly since July 12, when he was placed on paid leave

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Editorial: Local Oversight and Regional Budgets

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It’s simply unimaginable as part of the budget, anywhere in Connecticut, that a town employee could propose a $2.5 million project, with significant, ongoing and uncertain maintenance costs, as well as ten year replacement costs, and expect to plan and approve the project without early and broad public engagement, and without the promise of a townwide vote. Whether or not a synthetic turf field is a good or bad idea for Lyme-Old Lyme schools, we’ll set aside for a moment. But let’s be clear — a good idea or not — everything about the decision-making process so far gives the

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Editorial: Recapping Election Week

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Monday morning — I hadn’t gotten in to work yet — instead I was out on a rocky overlook at Selden Creek Preserve chatting on the phone with State Auditor John Geragosian about the Connecticut Port Authority audit. He was reassuring. While not characterizing the contents of the referral to the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General, he emphasized that a referral was statutory requirement and routine… don’t read too much into it. Geragosian said had no complaints about the remaining board and staff, whom he described as helpful and responsive. Two days later, a Wednesday, in a meeting room

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Editorial: 5 Questions, a Possible Criminal Referral, 220k in “Contributions from Developers”

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In case you didn’t know, an audit of the Connecticut Port Authority for fiscal years ending in 2018 and 2019 was released on October 31 — a Thursday. The timing was not a surprise – give or take a day – after State Comptroller Kevin Lembo (who has come across pretty darn well in this whole mess) gave the CPA just three days – until Friday, November 1 — to explain why the authority had failed to release accurate financials to his office.  The “incomplete” accounting of expenditures  – among other failings – were acknowledged in an October 18 letter

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Editorial: On Denying Old Lyme Residents a Meeting by Petition

I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of a town in Connecticut denying residents the right to petition for a special meeting. In Old Lyme, at least, it’s not often that this quaint provision of small-town New England democracy is ever even attempted. I can’t cite a case when it’s been abused. To be sure, Connecticut General Statutes set a notably low legal bar – the petition of “twenty inhabitants qualified to vote in town meetings” – to hold the selectman duty-bound to honor the request. So, it demands some legal explanation, when sixty-one residents of Old Lyme petition the

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Editorial: A Lesson On Quasi-Publics and Tolling

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By any measure I should be an easy ‘get’ for the Lamont administration on transportation. Months ago I actually penned an opinion piece for CT Mirror advocating for the new administration’s signature transportation project to speed travel times to 30 minutes by rail between paired cities: Hartford and New Haven, New Haven and Stamford, Stamford and New York City. As opposition blossomed across Connecticut to the governor’s support for tolling, I sat on the fence — attracted by the idea of capturing out-of-state dollars, but wary of overhead, accountability and what could be construed as a near perfect clawback of

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A Call For Connecticut Port Authority Hearings

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If you believe in the ability of government to accomplish great good – think Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — then it’s incumbent on you, when you see government misbehaving, to hold it accountable. To say that accountability has been lacking in the case of the Connecticut Port Authority is an understatement. If you think you know why the quasi-public agency, with oversight over millions of dollars of public money, all but dissolved this past summer, you are mistaken. Even David Kooris, the current acting chair of the port authority, by his own account has never once met with the

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Editorial: A Hard look at Region 4 — Essex, Chester and Deep River

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Perhaps you don’t live in Essex, Chester, or Deep River and have decided to skip over Julia Werth’s remarkably damning news story detailing years of failure to follow state law and to exercise adequate financial oversight, both by the superintendent and the school board. Well don’t. If ever there was a learning moment… it would be a forensic analysis of how the Region 4 school district managed to spend more than $379,000 on a piece of property, without a public vote as required by law and without having money set aside to pay for it. We’ll have more on that

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45-Day Window for Connecticut Port Authority Hearings

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It’s remarkable that former board chairs Scott Bates and Bonnie Reemsnyder have so far not answered a single substantive question from either the press or state legislators about their leadership roles in either the pending wind energy deal with Eversource and Ørsted, or in the near dissolution of the Connecticut Port Authority. The same can be said for Executive Director Evan Matthews, who for all we know may still be be drawing a salary from the state of Connecticut. In that regard, I’d like to join State Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) and State Rep. Christine Conley (D-Groton) in calling for

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