Jahncke: Tolling Revenues Won’t Add Up

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There’s a new game in Connecticut. It’s called dodge-a-gantry. Right now, it is only a virtual game being played on Google Maps. Governor Lamont latest toll plan – he’s had many – is to toll only tractor-trailer trucks at just 12 highway bridges in the state. So what are truckers doing? They are getting ready to game Lamont’s proposed system. They are researching the best toll evasion routes, i.e. the best local roads to use to bypass the intended highway gantry locations. The governor and his advisors have failed to take into account a unique and fundamental obstacle to imposing

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Taking Stock of Ethics in Old Lyme

There are, at most, two degrees of separation in the State of Connecticut – less in a small New England town like Old Lyme – so it should come as no surprise to anyone that sitting on an ethics board is a thankless task. Given how rarely the town of Old Lyme’s Ethics Commission actually meets – the last public meeting was on May 7, 2019 – you couldn’t be blamed for wondering whether a town ethics commission is even necessary. In fact, as of 2009 only 70 of Connecticut’s 169 towns had even set up a board of ethics.

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A Tale of Two Projects

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When the Connecticut legislature passed a ban on most pesticides for athletic fields used by kindergarten through 8th-grade students in 2010, who knew (not an entirely rhetorical question) that a common alternative — even for towns less wealthy than Old Lyme — would be to construct playing surfaces out of countless tons of tires recycled into pelletized rubber? Before we agree to Milone & MacBroom’s May 2017 estimate of $990,000, or Milone & MacBroom’s December 2019 estimate of $2.3 million or Board of Finance Chair Andy Russell’s (presumably) more conservative number of “up to $4 million,” for an artificial turf

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Letter: Appraisal Estimates Don’t Add Up for Residential Owners in Sound View

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At the conclusion of the December WPCA meeting, Chairman Prendergast made the following statements recorded in WPCA minutes and CT Examiner:  His White Sands property and those of his neighbors had gone up 20 – 30% in the latest appraisal.  “Beach property values generally go up when the rest of the town goes down. When people install sewers, generally the property is worth more” he said.    I have had discussions with the town assessor and with other assessors in neighboring towns.  The professional consensus is that location, condition, and amenities drive price, and that buyers place no additional value

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Connecticut’s Hospital Tax Exploits Medicaid to Finance Irresponsible State Spending

Hartford is exploiting an anomaly in the Medicaid program to extract billions from the U.S. Treasury, not to finance health care, but rather to finance otherwise unaffordable state spending, primarily state employee health care and retirement benefits. This anomaly, or “shell game” (the term used in a U.S. Senate committee report) operates through the hospital tax. While all states impose this tax, no state imposes nearly as high a hospital tax rate. That’s what former Office of Policy and Management Director Ben Barnes told me in late 2017. He said Connecticut’s hospital tax scheme requires explicit federal approval, because the

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The New and the Old of It

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If you read the newspapers in America in 1780 or so – just as the modern familiar incarnation of the Christmas holiday is taking shape – you might be surprised to find that already critics and observers are fretting the loss of the true meaning, the spirit, of Christmas, much as they do today – because loss is not a defect or corruption of the winter holiday, but instead has always been a defining feature of modern Christmas feeling and expression. And it is much the same, the historian Peter Fritzsche explained, with New England. “It is New England and

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Editorial: A Round Up of What’s to Come

With a short legislative session in the spring, state and federal elections in the fall, we’re drawing up plans for nonpartisan election coverage, with the expectation that at least two state senate seats, and two or three house seats in the region will have exciting elections this fall – one insider has suggested privately that one seat, held by a popular incumbent, is a likely flip. Stay tuned. Over the next few months we plan to follow the Hope Partnership project at Spencer’s Corner in Centerbrook – set to begin early this spring – the unresolved State Pier negotiations in

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Happy New Year from CT Examiner!

Not quite twenty years ago, in the dead of winter, in a small newspaper room in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, Russia, I sat reading New Year’s Eve coverage for the years 1903 until 1923 in bound volumes of three or four dozen newspapers from the time. A city of Petersburg’s size had many tens, even hundreds, of separate papers – newspapers for businessmen, for housewives, for industrial workers, for Orthodox clergy, conservatives, liberals, and newly-arriving peasants. There were penny papers, and Jewish papers, evening papers, and morning papers. There were underground papers, papers for the newly-literate, and

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Checks and Balances — Julia Werth Reflects on her Work in 2020

Checks and balances, that’s what our country is built on. Everything from the federal government to the local school board needs proper oversight, questioning and input from a variety of voices to work best. Without in-depth reporting, a key check on the system is missing. This past April, when I started reporting at the Connecticut Examiner, my goal was to add that check back in. One story at a time, I hoped to keep residents informed. To break down the barriers between school districts and their constituents. To explain the good and the questionable actions that are taking place. To

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Public Engagement — Cate Hewitt Reflects on her Work in 2020

People often ask what I like best about my job as a reporter and writer. A few years ago I would have said the opportunity to bring attention and transparency to important issues, interview interesting people and learn about a wide range of topics. In a sense, nothing has changed because all of these remain high on my list of job perks.  But I’ve got a new one to add: increasing public engagement. Since joining CT Examiner in May, I’ve noticed the positive effect journalism has — or can have — as a catalyst for increasing citizens’ involvement in their

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32 Takes on the New Year with CT Examiner

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We asked 32 writers, politicians, educators, artists, journalists, acadmics to contemplate the New Year for us.

Participants include Ned Lamont, Joe Courtney, Paul Formica, Devin Carney, Justin Elicker, Alma Nartatez, Richard Stout, Tony Sheridan, Luanne Rice, Will Haskell, Sophie Spaner, David Kelsey, Jack Monmeat, Jerry Weiss, Gail MacDonald, Betsy Gara, Rolf Wolfswinkel, Brian White, Brittany Stalsburg and others...

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Letter: Barry Ricci will be hugely missed

Barry Ricci, longtime superintendent of the RI Chariho Regional Schools, was a hero beloved by the children and families of Charlestown and all of us who were privileged to work with him at Town Hall. We mourn his loss and we extend heartfelt condolences to the Ricci family. A quote from Barry when he became assistant superintendent of the Chariho Regional School District hints at how powerfully inspiring he was – his “long held beliefs about the fact that support should be unconditional and that we need to do whatever needs to be done to help a young person to

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Letter: Public Benefits from Werth’s Reporting on Schools

I have been invested in the article the CT Examiner published Few Rules, Little Oversight for 11 Million Open Choice Program as well as the editorial by Gregory Stroud, and the opinion pieces written by Portland Superintendent Phillip O’Reilly and the Board of Education Chair Sharon Peters. I thought the original article raised valid questions and concerns that we, the residents and taxpayers of these towns, should be asking our school boards and superintendents. First, I would like to thank Ms. Werth for shining a light on this topic. I thought it was extremely unprofessional and inappropriate for a superintendent

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Letter: Chair of Portland Board of Education Responds to Open Choice Reporting

I read the article in the CT Examiner entitled Few Rules, Little Oversight for $11 Million Open Choice Program.  I have served as the Chair of the Portland Board of Education since December of 2017 and beg to differ with the inferences and conclusions put forth in this article.  As stated in this article, the State views the Open Choice Grant as an entitlement grant and does not track a district’s expenditures. However, the Portland Board of Education conducts a great deal of oversight regarding all of the District’s financial decisions. We play an active role in formulating the yearly budget and

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Editorial: Stepping up to Help a Neighbor

Seven months ago we launched CT Examiner with a story by Julia Werth reporting on extensive flooding in the soon-to-be-purchased McCulloch property. At the time there was some push back, that the beavers were beside the point, and a fact of nature — and they were right. Beavers were beside the point, as Julia Werth followed up a few days later bringing public attention to the plight of Old Lyme resident Dave Berggren. The more important story was that Berggern, 81 years old at the time, was on the verge of losing his home, and had already lost basic necessities

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Letter: Portland Superintendent Responds to Open Choice Reporting

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I recently read the December 12th article published in the CT Examiner entitled, Few Rules, Little Oversight for 11 Million Open Choice Program.  I was astonished by two assertions raised in this article: First, the suggestion that funding used to supplement limited resources that support teaching and learning is a “slush fund” and not subjected to rigorous accounting procedures and oversight is entirely inaccurate. Second, the suggestion that a program designed to reduce the racial, ethnic, and economic isolation in Connecticut Public Schools is not having a positive influence on student learning is misguided and does not reflect the reality that I know.   The perceptions

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Letter: Day Story a Disservice, Ethics Code Lacks Clear Limits

Thank you, Frank, for spearheading the Sound View’s Summer Concert series for the past six years.  Please know that as newbies to Old Lyme, we laughed long and hard under the SV night sky kicking up sand, showing our grandchildren (to their embarrassment) that Grandpa and Grandma can still do the boogie woogie, and the twist.  “Oh, What a Night!” One we will not forget (nor will our grandchildren!) Section L of the Old Lyme Code of Ethics says “No public employee or public official, or a business with which he/she is associated, or a member of his or her

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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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Opinion: Lessons of a Manure Pile

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family that made their living as dairy and potato farmers. This meant lots of good old- fashioned farm work, but it also meant I could have a horse. That started a journey that lead me to the upper reaches of the equestrian world, but that is a story for another day Today I was out in the barn cleaning the stalls of my rescue horse “Wesley” and my miniature rescue donkey “Donkay Hoyate.” As I pushed the wheelbarrow out to the manure pile — I refer to this as wheelbarrow aerobics —

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Statement by Scott Bates to the Transportation Committee Informational Forum

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December 4, 2019 Thank you Co-Chairs Leone and Lemar, and Members of the committee, My name is Scott Bates. I grew up in southeastern Connecticut near the banks of the Mystic River and the shores of Long Island Sound. I’m the son of a U.S. Coast Guard officer. My mother and her family made their home in New London.  I’ve always believed that it is an honor to serve one’s country and community.  That’s why, a few years ago when approached to accept an appointment to the Board of the newly formed Connecticut Port Authority, I was happy to accept

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Opinion: The Ongoing Game of Whack-a-Toll

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Highway tolls in Connecticut have become a game of whack-a-mole. Governor Lamont’s toll mole has popped up again, after having been whacked summarily by General Assembly leaders of his own party less than two weeks ago. The current mole is a variant of the Governor’s original trucks-only campaign proposal. Things have gone full circle. The whole toll mole game started with candidate Lamont’s vague trucks-only plan. Lamont whacked his own proposal after his inauguration, saying that truck tolls alone wouldn’t raise enough money. He added cars, and presented a sketchy 8-page plan with a smothering network of as many as

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Letter: Kevin Blacker Responds to Matthews Interview

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I was puzzled by the CT Examiner’s decision to omit relevant information and not challenge Evan Matthews, former director of the CT Port Authority, for making a statement that was blatantly factually incorrect in his recent interview with CT Examiner.  In characterizing events that led to Matthews’ departure from CPA the Examiner allowed Matthews to downplay one lapse in judgement after another with no mention of the incident that immediately preceded his departure from the CT Port Authority: when Matthews publicly called me autistic and antisocial, after threatening a referral to law enforcement.  The Examiner also allowed Matthews to purport that Ørsted /Eversource

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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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Letter: Questions Piketty as Basis for Income Inequality Arguments

I am no PhD in economics – only a mere BA – plus a MBA and 43 years in banking. I will grant Mr. Cunningham the observation that Mr. Gramm and Mr. Early have reached conclusions that are (likely) based on their political underpinnings. However Mr. Cunningham makes a similar error, in citing Thomas Piketty. Mr. Piketty’s magnum opus, “Capital in the 21st Century”, has been widely panned, as was noted by Marshall Steinbaum in “Why Are Economists Giving Piketty the Cold Shoulder,” Boston Review, May 12, 2017. “Lawrence Blume and Steven Durlauf wrote, “Capital [the noted book] is, nonetheless,

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Opinion: Vanishing Inequality, the Devil’s Greatest Trick

One of my favorite movies is the 1995 whodunit “The Usual Suspects.”  The last line of the film has always stuck with me: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”  This line originated in a book on Quakerism from 1834 in which John Wikinson wrote, “One of the artifices of Satan is, to induce men to believe that he does not exist.” Phil Gramm and John Early have apparently decided to ape this trick.  Their recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal includes “author’s calculations” implying that our country isn’t really very unequal

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Opinion: The Surprising Income Equality in America

This is a column about a column. On November 4, 2019, the Wall Street Journal published a column entitled “The Truth About Income Inequality,” by Phil Gramm, former U.S. Senator from Texas, and John Early, twice Assistant Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The column makes a convincing case that the U.S. enjoys remarkable income equality –  not inequality. This reality flies in the face of the almost universal belief that the U.S. suffers from gross income inequality, which notion serves as the foundation of all the extravagant proposals from one side of the political spectrum, ranging from

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Opinion: We Owe It To Public Health to Take Action on Vaping

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Late last month, I joined State Representative Jesse MacLachlan and prominent community leaders in Clinton for a panel discussion on vaping. I only wish we scheduled it sooner. In recent months, vaping and associated injuries and deaths have become a pressing issue. We must take it seriously and protect public health. As of November 1, more than three dozen vaping-related cases of lung disease and injury were reported to the state Department of Public Health, part of a national trend of more than 1,800 injuries and 37 deaths. Vaping experts are currently studying and searching for answers as to what’s

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Opinion: On Fixing Connecticut’s Budget

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Connecticut citizens wonder why the state can’t get its budget act together. Why is Connecticut’s infrastructure crumbling when improvements are supposed to be funded by the gas tax? Why can’t we get our heads — or budgets — around healthcare that works for everybody. Our public pensions are grossly underfunded. We’re backsliding when it comes to children and family welfare. All we ever hear is that our young entrepreneurs are leaving the state, and the cost of living continues to rise. All of this is significantly impacted by the way Connecticut budgets. In my 18 years in the General Assembly

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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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