Every other week, John J. Ryan, a former Republican state representative, and Advertiser editor Joshua Fisher, share their back-and-forth about news going on around the state, among other items of interest. Links to all the articles and other items mentioned in the column can be found in the Opinion section of darientimes.com.
Fisher: I think most of us will agree that 2012 was a year that for many reasons we are not unhappy to see in the rear-view mirror. But what does 2013 portend for the issues and topics related to Connecticut?
Ryan: The prediction business is a pretty speculative business in general — you can amuse yourself pretty easily by going back and looking at what teams might win the World Series or the Super Bowl, and see how frequently the projections do not come close to reality. But regrettably for all of us, the world of Connecticut is fairly easy to predict.
Fisher: So you’re starting us off with some bad news that Hartford will continue to spew out bad news this year?
Ryan: Our job is to call attention to (and link to the source so that you can get all of the details) as much news as we can that you might want to be aware of as it relates to issues that Gold Coast denizens so readily ignore. For example, those of you who regularly commute to New York City know that “Metro-North Fares Go Up” this year (it happened on New Year’s Day), (NBCConnecticut.com, Dec. 28).
And keep in mind that the rest of the state thinks that they are doing too much already to subsidize “trains for the rich people.”
Fisher: For years, one of Hartford’s biggest mistakes has been to punish the rail commuters of Fairfield County. As you (by now) know, few things in this state can get me going more than how Hartford has used and abused rail commuters for years. If the governor isn’t using New Haven Line revenues to plug other state budget holes, it’s upstate politicians ignoring the traffic and other commuting woes that plague this county — which also pays more taxes than anywhere else in the state.
Maybe we should have stuck with sports talk. After all, your alma mater, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, are playing for the national title next week. I thought you would have wanted to focus on something positive like that. But instead, I assume you have something sour to say about Nutmeg State athletics.
Ryan: There will be plenty of bad sports news for Connecticut, at least as it relates to fiscal issues, this year. You should expect more bad news for the dissolving Big East Conference, see “Boise State Makes It Official, Pulling Out of Big East Deal” (Courant.com, Dec. 31). This means that not only will there be no large TV contract for UConn to share in — other costs (and losses) will only increase.
Fisher: There seems to be no end to the interesting news from the Connecticut state education system.
Ryan: Unfortunately, there is likely to be more, and here is just a sampling: “Panel: Pay raises of college system’s central office unnecessary” (CTMirror.com, Dec. 26) or “Connecticut’s higher education bureaucracy has 29 spokesmen at cost of more than $2 million” (RaisingHale.com, Dec. 19).
Fisher: Interesting that with all of the news of Connecticut’s large budget deficit, the news items about wild state agency spending problems keep right on coming.
Ryan: Our astute readers already know that the upcoming regular session of the General Assembly convenes at the State Capitol next Wednesday, Jan. 9. We can expect more stories with the words “shortfall,” as in “Legislators pass bipartisan bill to erase budget shortfall” (CTMirror.com, Dec. 19).
There will be stories of bipartisan accord and partisan strife and disagreement, but there will always be pithy commentary on what it all means to you from Chris Powell (and not many others ), such as “Disaster is only worse for being bipartisan” (NCAdvertiser.com, Dec. 23).
Fisher: Please do not use this as an opportunity to jump into Connecticut “big city” crime statistics. Our readers are from small-town Connecticut.
Ryan: We won’t, but when readers ask “why do I care about what happens in Bridgeport or other such places?” they need to be aware that a healthy chunk of the tax dollars that lower Fairfield County residents disproportionately send to the State Capitol are redistributed to those “Connecticut big cities.” Items such as “New Britain Mayor Hires $100,000 Consultant In Landlord Dispute” (Courant.com, Dec. 26), in reality, is where some of your tax dollars are going.
Fisher: Since the Connecticut economy is directly affected by what those folks in Hartford do to us, does that means we can look forward to more bad Connecticut business news?
Ryan: It is readily apparent that your editorial perspective skills are finely honed for the New Year. Nothing would make us happier than good news to report, but expect more stories such as these: “State Adds Just 300 Jobs in November” (Courant.com, Dec. 20) and “UBS Gets Loan While Connecticut Economy Falters” (Bloomberg.com, Dec. 24) on our state’s “interesting” economic development policies.
Fisher: This leads to the observation that we can expect reference to many varied sources on Connecticut’s continued demise in 2013. Even from across the Atlantic Ocean …
Ryan: And why not? Our state is prime for journalists’ picking. Did you see the comments on our state in “Revealed: The fastest growing states in the U.S. as population flocks to warmer weather, lower taxes and even an oil rush” (DailyMail.co.uk, Dec. 22).
Fisher: It makes you wonder if the Nutmeg State will be able to retain all five U.S. House seats (and all seven Electoral College votes) by the next redistricting in 2022.
Speaking of our future, do you have any resolutions for us in the New Year?
Ryan: Only the same ongoing resolution for readers/taxpayers here in lower Fairfield County, while the federal fiscal cliff is a frustratingly important topic, and you should indeed follow what happens in Washington and Wall Street, what goes on in Hartford often has more of a direct effect on your wallet and quality of life, and you have a better chance of affecting policies and results, if only enough voters paid attention.
And is it a futile effort? For example, the many folks who go into “the city” every morning are aware of the plummeting crime rates in New York, a place where the scale of problems are vastly larger than Connecticut’s “big cities,” and are there any lessons that Connecticut politicians could (and should) learn?
Or when driving by the wasteland that is downtown Bridgeport on I-95, have you ever reflected on what Pittsburgh looks like lately?
It’s your state government, and your tax dollars, so be a part of the process — or part of the problem.
And best wishes to you and your families for a healthy and happy New Year.
John J. Ryan is of counsel to the Darien law firm Tibbetts, Keating & Butler, and served 14 years as Darien and Rowayton’s state representative — and has been writing this column for Hersam Acorn even longer. Joshua Fisher has been an editor with Hersam Acorn Newspapers since 2003.