April 25, 2017

Op-Ed: Lifelong Conservative Democrat Says if you Want to Vote for a Brighter Future, Vote Republican

Unfortunately some political parties, to boost their standings in the political arena around election time, take to sticking positive labels on themselves and negative labels on their opponents, in hopes of changing people’s minds and winning the election based on untruths and lies. Now while most people hate history, a better understanding of what our future holds for us might be had by looking back at the  performance of the current politicians who hold office.

For the past 30 years the Democratic Party has held a super majority of votes in the Connecticut Legislature. Simply put what that means is that regardless of what party the Governor was from, the legislature has had the votes necessary to override any vetoes he/she might impose on bills/budgets that the legislature wanted passed. That said, we have a Governor with the lowest approval rating of any Governor in the U.S. and a list of Democratic Legislatures that rubber- stamped anything and everything that he wanted passed.

Let us place the blame of a faltering economy, loss of business that moved out of state, loss of jobs, high taxes and lost employment opportunities squarely on the shoulders of those responsible. Let us realize that we don’t have to wait two more years to replace a Governor to effect change in our lives, we have that opportunity this Nov. 8. It’s time to replace the supermajority that represents a party mentality and not the people that voted them into office.

Because of the lack of responsible spending/taxation, by our current Democratic Governor/Legislature, our State is on the verge of bankruptcy, our bond rating in the financial market is continually downgraded and the Democratic Party has the audacity to label the Republican Party the party of doom and gloom. They say that the Republicans don’t have any answers to our budgetary problems, yet when it comes time to work on the budget the Democrats lock the Republicans out of the Budget talks.

A majority of the people in this state wants our politicians to work together on their behalf but the Democrats won’t allow that to take place. The realistic approach to budgetary problems is to identify, analyze, and find solutions to the problems in a fair, even-handed, professional manner and the only party currently not responsible for this mess is the Republican Party.

We already know what a disaster the Democratic Party has imposed on us through overspending, and we can only expect more of the same from them by reelecting them to office. It’s time to take a different path, time to write tomorrow’s history, time to think ahead to our future and the future of our children, time to vote Republican.

There’s nothing progressive about:

  • High Taxes
  • High cost of living
  • High unemployment
  • Businesses moving out of State
  • Lost jobs
  • Lack of jobs for new college graduates

And there’s nothing progressive about Progressive Democrats.

It’s time to make a quality of life change for the better, time to put the doom and gloom behind us.

It’s time to vote out all those Progressive Democrats that are responsible for this financial mess.
We just can’t afford them anymore.

Please join me, a lifelong Conservative Democrat and now a proud Republican, in voting for the Republican candidates this November.

Editor’s Note: The author is a former Democratic Selectman for the Town of Haddam.

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Op-Ed: Himes Is Right On Brexit, But Can Connecticut Capitalize On It?

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Terry Cowgill

Terry Cowgill

The shockwaves felt by the United Kingdom’s stunning decision to leave the European Union reverberated around the world late last week, eventually finding their way to Connecticut. Interestingly, few public officials here have come forward to comment extensively on one of the most important European policy decisions in decades.

It’s difficult to know precisely what Connecticut’s congressional delegation is thinking since House websites have been down for maintenance for the last several days. Perhaps they’ve been too busy helping to stage the much-publicized sit-in for gun controllegislation to weigh in on this momentous move. Or perhaps they think we Nutmeggers are bored by foreign policy or …

Read the full version of this op-ed by Terry Cowgill on our Independent Media Network partner site CTNewsJunkie.com at this link.

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Op-Ed: Proposing a Memorial to Dick Smith

Like so many of our Deep Riverites, I am saddened beyond words by the sudden and truly tragic death of our dear First Selectman Dick Smith.

Few among us are not aware of how he labored continuously for years and years for the physical improvement of our town in so many ways as well as the enhancement of life for all of us who call this home.

The question now is,  what would be a meaningful and enduring memorial to remind us and those who will follow us of his great efforts?

Suggestions will come up, I’m sure.  And the more, the better.

I would like to propose one right now.  Simple.  I suggest re-naming our Plattwood Park “The First Selectman Dick Smith Memorial Park.”

After all, I for one have no idea why it was ever called Plattwood.  That has no emotional or historic pizzazz for me.  If it does for you, please let me know.  But I would find calling it the Dick Smith Park very powerful.

As we know so well, it was Dick who spear-headed the transformation of Plattwood from a weedy, don’t-bother-to-look-at-it-twice waterhole to the great and beautiful recreational complex that it is today—and with the ambitious work still going on.  A park that is the envy of many other small towns, which have become aware of it!

I further propose that a big, handsome boulder chosen with care from the quarry next door be set at the very entrance to the Dick Smith Park.  With a bronze plaque set into its face that would have both a smiling profile of Dick, yes, in genuine  bronze, plus our words of praise and pride and thanks.  He’s earned them.

Thus would his love of Deep River and his long and record-setting career of service for our town (and us) be proclaimed to all who enter the park.  He deserves no less.

One more thought: we might organize a tribute-writing contest for the plaque.  We have a lot of talent in town … 

A maximum number of abc’s (words and spaces) would be allowed for the plaque.

The especially appointed plaque committee would reserve the right to select the best submission in whole.  Or, if it chooses, just thoughts and phrases from the top three submissions, say.  With these best thoughts and phrases to be assembled into a final, terrific composite.  Of course, prizes would be awarded.

After all, those are the words that would be read by all entering our wonderful Dick Smith Park for decades and decades to come.

I suspect Dick is in a place where he’d be aware of this going on and would break out into an even bigger smile.

P.S. A very fine chairman for this committee would be Rev. Tim Haut.  A very fine member would be Jonathan Kastner.  I would ask for recommendations for another three, say.  Making sure there would be at least two women.  One of these would be our fine local professional writer and editor Christine Woodside.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of John Guy LaPlante.

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Op-Ed: Carney Says Proposed State Education Budget Cuts Will Seriously Impact 23rd District

State Rep. Devin Carney

State Rep. Devin Carney

Does Governor Malloy have a problem with communities that succeed? This is a question we need to ask ourselves. Year after year, the schools of the 23rd District work diligently to provide quality education to our youth. Our teachers and administrators add to the success of our state by instilling the proper foundation to produce the industrial, business, and community leaders of tomorrow. Many of our best and the brightest students chose to continue their education in Connecticut – something of which the governor should be incredibly proud. Just last year the valedictorians from Region 18 (Lyme and Old Lyme) and Westbrook as well as the salutatorian from Old Saybrook chose UConn.

We have seen two budget proposals over the past two weeks that would do damage to the schools in the 23rd District. The Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee released an incomplete budget that would cut Education Cost Sharing (“ECS”) funding to the towns in our district by 33 – 56%. This was bad enough. But, under the governor’s updated proposal, the four towns in the 23rd went from receiving a recommended amount of $1,831,496 in ECS funding to $0 for FY 2017 (July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017). A total of 28 towns were zeroed-out, while many cities, like the governor’s hometown of Stamford, were held harmless. Talk about a shared sacrifice.

These proposed cuts – made at a time when most local Boards of Finance are crafting their own fiscal year budgets – are unfair. The clear lack of respect and care on the governor’s part is alarming. All four towns in the 23rd District will now have funding gaps and may require local property tax increases to offset them. This would add an even greater burden to Connecticut’s taxpayers and Connecticut simply cannot afford to lose additional wealth at this time. However, that’s where these indirect tax hikes would be directed – all 28 communities being zeroed-out are considered ‘wealthy’.

Although these cuts are debilitating to small towns like ours – which already receive far less back from the state than we put in – we must keep in mind that this is only a proposal.

I remain committed to finding a solution with other members of the legislature to address this inequitable cut to our towns and to solving our $930 million deficit. The state wants people to move to Connecticut and one of our best selling points is our top-tier education. While we are faced with many serious and pressing economic issues, predominantly the ongoing budget crisis, great public education is one area on which we can pride ourselves.

I have written a letter to the governor urging him not to turn his back on the children and the taxpayers of the 23rd District and to request that he amend his updated budget and eliminate these cuts. The taxpayers of Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook provide a great deal to this state and the deficits would be much, much higher without us. If either the legislature’s or the governor’s cuts are enacted, then it would be only fair that some of the approximately 380 unfunded state educational mandates be eliminated.

Instead of education, the governor and the legislature must look to balance the budget through real structural changes in the way state government is run. Changes could include pension and benefit reform, re-negotiating of union contracts, a moratorium on unnecessary government projects, serious spending and bonding caps, and tighter controls on overtime. When I last checked, many don’t live in Connecticut for bloated government overtime, but they do for our great schools. In fact, it may just be the only thing keeping them here.

To read my letter to Governor Malloy: click here

To see how Connecticut towns fare under the Appropriations budget: click here

To see how Connecticut towns fare under the governor’s budget: click here

To read the governor’s budget proposal: click here

To see the approximately 380 unfunded educational mandates: click here

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Opinion: “The Menace in our Midst:” Comments Closed to FRA About Proposed Railtrack Through Old Lyme,

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder stands at the podium at Wednesday's press conference at the Florence Griswold Museum. State officials and some of the signatories of a letter to the FRA denouncing Alternative 1 stand around her.

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder stands at the podium at Wednesday’s press conference at the Florence Griswold Museum. State officials and some of the signatories of a letter to the FRA denouncing Alternative 1 stand around her.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 2.28.57 AMIn the space of just a few short weeks, the residents of Old Lyme have become aware of a menace in their midst. Most unusually for these same residents, their response has been to a man (or woman) identical. When that happens in this town — unquestionably, a rare event — you can be sure that, ‘Something is rotten (to misquote Hamlet) in the state of Old Lyme.’

The ‘menace’ in this case is Alternative 1 of the three high-speed railtrack routes proposed by the Federal Railroad Authority (FRA) in their Northeast Corridor (NEC) Future plan.

But let’s backtrack for a second — why is the FRA proposing these new routes? Their objective is, “to improve the reliability, capacity, connectivity, performance, and resiliency of future passenger rail service … while promoting environmental sustainability and continued economic growth.” Let’s say right away that we are fully supportive of this objective — we are huge fans of rail-travel — you cannot grow up in Europe without taking rail travel for granted. The trains there are fast, clean and efficient … they are a way of life. We absolutely wish it were the same in the US.

So what is the difference here? Why has the reaction to Alternative 1 been so strong, so united, so passionate? In case you are unaware, Alternative 1 calls for the high speed rail track to cross the Connecticut River over a new bridge a little higher up the river than at present and then travel to the center of Old Lyme bisecting Lyme Street by eliminating both the western and eastern campuses of Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts before turning north and crossing I-95. The 1817 John Sill House, currently owned by the Academy and situated on its campus, would likely be acquired by the FRA by eminent domain and then demolished.

The impact of a high-speed railtrack through that sector of town would be totally devastating for our community, effectively destroying its very heart.

This editorial could now run for pages to explain the full spectrum of impact to Old Lyme of this proposal.

We could discuss the horrific effects on our incredible local environment — one which has inspired artists for generations including some of the greatest impressionist painters in American history and one officially designated as a “Last Great Place.”

We could talk about the untold damage to the storied structures on Lyme Street and list the irreplaceable buildings that will either be completely destroyed or permanently scarred by this new train track construction, many of which are either National Historic Landmarks or on the National Historic Register.

We could mention that Lyme Street is the joyful, bustling hub of our little town — it has a unique personality and touches every aspect of our community life. It is home to our town hall, our public schools, our daycare, our youth services, our library, our churches, our village shops, our art college, our art association (the oldest in the country), and the Florence Griswold Museum (a national institution.) Can you even begin to imagine Lyme Street with a high speed railroad running across it?

And let’s just consider for a minute what this proposal, if implemented, would achieve? Bearing in mind that you can already travel from London to Paris (286 miles) in 2 hours and 15 minutes, would we be able to hop on a train in Old Saybrook and be in Washington DC (334 miles) roughly two hours and 45 minutes later? No, the current travel time of six hours would be reduced by a grand total of 30 minutes to 5 hours and 30 minutes. Unbelievable.

As we said, we could go on for pages but others have kindly taken care of that for us. There was a splendid press conference yesterday, which spelled out the craziness of Alternative 1 from every angle — coldly, clinically and objectively. The Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library has a full print copy of the NEC Future tome if you care to read it in its entirety. There are links galore on the Old Lyme Town website to the statement and attachments submitted yesterday (Feb. 10) on behalf of some 20 local organizations to the FRA.

So please read and educate yourself on Alternative 1, but most importantly, please, please write to the FRA with your thoughts. There are many questions as to why and how this proposal was able to be presented without a single public hearing being held closer than 30 miles away from a town on which it was having such a major impact. But that is history now …

The comment period was originally only until Jan. 31, but there was such a huge outcry as the reality of Alternative 1 began to be fully understood that it has been extended to next Tuesday, Feb. 16. The FRA needs to hear from each and every one of us — you don’t need to write an essay, you don’t need to write eloquently, in fact, you don’t really need to write much at all, but you do need to write — today or tomorrow, even the next day, but if you have anything to say about Alternative 1 and want your voice to be heard, you absolutely must write.

There are three ways to contact the FRA:

Online through the NEC website: Submit your comment directly at http://www.necfuture.com/get_involved/

Email: Send comments with attachments to comment@necfuture.com

Snail-mail: Mail your comments to:
NEC Future
U.S. DOT Federal Railroad Administration
One Bowling Green, Suite 429
New York, NY 10004

We sincerely hope that there will soon be a public forum of some sort where people can ask questions and comment in person but, in the meantime, we say again, PLEASE, PLEASE WRITE TO THE FRA!

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Op-Ed: We Have a State Budget

State Representative Phil Miller

State Representative Phil Miller

It was a spring legislative session full of posturing. Some are still insisting the sky is falling. The media found legislative and executive ideas and personalities fascinating. The legislative process features ever changing ideas, and people find this maddening.

Local property taxes have long been acknowledged as the most burdensome, yet little reform has come. Other states fund public education more through taxes based on income. When I came to the legislature in 2011, we had to fix a 3.5 billion dollar deficit. It came from substantial cuts, state employee concessions, and raising new taxes. This further burdened middle class taxpayers. When I ran for re-election last year, I campaigned on opposing new regressive taxes, making the case that our middle class is doing their share and disproportionately bearing the brunt of relieving higher earners and corporations of some tax obligations in recent times.

The Governor submitted his budget in early February. He was trying to keep his election year pledge not to raise taxes. Because more than half our budget is contractual, his two year budget had almost two billion dollars in cuts in other areas, such as education, higher education, human services, and other efforts.

When the proposed cuts became understood, I was receiving nearly five hundred correspondences a week from citizens of Haddam, Chester, Deep River and Essex. People were alarmed at pending cuts to programs and efforts in early childhood, cultural arts, conservation, including closing our fish hatcheries, and also hospitals, libraries, mental health, serving intellectual and developmental disabilities, municipal aid, tourism, veterans services, U Conn and our state and community colleges, and even our public health districts, youth service bureaus and prevention councils.

Many told me that they felt that the state should properly be the backer and partner in these efforts, that cuts would mean closed doors and less access, lowering our standards and making things worse and costlier to deal with. The other challenge beyond the property tax was deferred maintenance of our infrastructure. Our business community has long been demanding repairs and upgrades to roads, bridges and rails to better move our people, goods and services. The 2011 budget had started this necessary investment, and there has been a consensus that transportation is a worthy investment.

For a long time, people have suggested that our state is unfriendly to business, that we tax too prohibitively, and that we overregulate. Recent studies show that the total state and local tax burden on business in Connecticut, as a share of private sector gross state product, 3.4%, is the second lowest of all states. To be fair, this really attests mostly to our state’s very high productivity. Other studies put us in the broad middle. We will likely never be in the top fifteen, as are states like Florida, which are “right to work” states. This means that employees don’t have to join unions, that employers don’t have to pay a living wage. This is an issue for us, too, where large retail and fast food corporations, like Walmart, pay such low wages that most of the workers receive some kind of public assistance, because they don’t earn enough.

Making it equitable

The budget passed in early June, and there were several issues that still needed to be corrected in the subsequent implementing legislation. Increases in the data processing tax were rolled back to the current one percent, and it stopped a controversial reduction in Medicaid reimbursement. Proposed hospital taxes were reduced by thirty million. It restored cuts to the research and development tax credits.

It closes corporate loopholes in 2016 that have allowed some corporations to hide their profits elsewhere, and it reduces the ability of corporations to carry forward losses to offset future profits to avoid paying taxes. The corporate income tax is only 7.5% of the total business tax burden in Connecticut. The national average is 7.9%. Last year, even the Governor’s opponent, a successful investment banker, had called for ending corporate giveaways.

Our state workforce is 3.3% smaller than four years ago, as positions have been consolidated and streamlined. The new budgets cuts nearly a quarter billion in available overtime and other employee appropriations.

Additional state aid goes to each and every town and city. These state funds, based on income, will substitute for some local property tax generated municipal income. This is a small and hopeful beginning for property tax relief, a long sought goal.

Military veterans’ retirement pay will now be exempt from state income tax.

Who pays more?

Besides the corporations who have been hiding profits elsewhere, there is a small increase in income tax rates for couples making over $500K per year and $1 M per year. This affects about two percent of our population. Our top income rates are still less than New York and New Jersey.

There are those who feel, on principle, that any budget that raises any taxes is unacceptable. I don’t know anyone in local, state or federal public services who takes pride in raising taxes. Our Senator Linares voted against this budget on principle. I voted for this budget because for me, knowing what compromised services would mean, it would have been irresponsible to vote no and not contribute.

There is one more aspect of this budget that will need to be fixed. To guard against weak revenues, there exists a hedge possibility in year two of lowering the property tax credit from $300 to $200. This has rightfully allowed critics to point that this budget really does hurt the middle class to a small degree. I will work next year to maintain the property tax credit at $300.

Editor’s Note: Representative Philip Miller (D-36) represents Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam in the General Assembly. He is the House Chairman of the Planning and Development Committee.

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Op-Ed: Let’s Do Something About Essex’s Tacky “Front Door”

Cause for concern:  the bridge carrying Rte. 9 at exit 3 is Essex's "Front Door"

Cause for concern: the bridge carrying Rte. 9 at exit 3 is Essex’s “Front Door”

Look at the “front door” to Essex, Conn.:  Tacky, patch-painted bridges and untamed brush.  Hardly welcoming enticements for visitors, and in sharp contrast to the beautiful center road “gardens” maintained by our beloved, hard working,  Ancient Order of Weeders.

There are two issues here: (1) refurbishment of the bridges themselves and (2) upkeep of the land around the bridges.

(1)   Expense for upkeep of these bridges and surroundings belongs to the Conn. Dept. of Transportation (DOT).  Conversations with the DOT regarding Essex’s tackiness
result in this:  due to budget constraints, repainting these  bridges (lead paint is huge issue) will only happen when the bridge needs major structural rehab.  However, were there grafitti all over the  bridges, the DOT could indeed get out and cover it.  Which is to say, the DOT could make the bridges look good without the necessity of the total overhaul.  But will not.  The solution is simple!  All I need to do is to get out with long-armed spray paint cans (would you join me?) and spell out something gross.  Just kidding.

Underneath the Rte. 9 bridge -- not a pretty picture.

Underneath the Rte. 9 bridge — not a pretty picture.

I challenge the so-called “budget constraints.”  While the DOT has no funds to fix the ugly Essex bridges, it does indeed have budget to mow down, — remove — all greenery in a large divider section on Rte. 9 at Exit 2.  You’ve surely noticed it.   Inquiries with State Rep. Phil Miller indicate the reason for the mowing was that there were invasive trees in that area.  So when or why does the DOT study and determine the quality of greenery on public lands?  Connecticut has a Forestry Dept. within the Department of Environmental Protection that studies and has funds to control such problems. The DOT has funds for invasive tree eradication, but not for tidying up ugly bridges.

A view of the Old Saybrook exit.

A view of the Old Saybrook exit.

As you can see, there is something awry here.  But, as it appears hopeless that such wasteful duplications in our State Government will be fixed soon, if ever, it seems that the only way Essex can get its ‘Front Door’ at Exit 3 spruced up, is by a special allowance to the DOT from State funds specific for “Bridge Beautification.”  I submit that as there are State Small Town Economic Assistance Program ( STEAP) funds granted for upgrades to replace crosswalks, tennis courts and parking lots, there surely are funds available to relieve Essex of its “Tacky Town” appearance.

I-95's Exit 70 offers a beautiful gateway to Old Lyme.

I-95’s Exit 70 offers a beautiful gateway to Old Lyme.

(2)   In contrast to Essex’s bridges and surrounding areas, look at the expansive, elegant and well-mowed plantings at I-95,  Exit 70, Old Lyme.  I hereby ask of the DOT to give Essex equal treatment.  And I hereby request Essex’s First Selectman Norm Needleman to request a State grant to the DOT to speed along this project.  In addition,  I hereby request our state representatives … Phil Miller and Art Linares … to assist in pushing these projects through.

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