Last night, February 19, 2010, State Senator Andrea Stillman hosted a gathering of Southeastern Connecticut Democratic Town Committee Chairs and Elected Officials and other interested Democrats who heard the latest version of exploring gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy's stump speech and ask questions of the former Stamford Mayor.
Senator Stillman opened by stating this was a "Conversation with Dan". There is no question that she is a strong Malloy supporter. As part of her introduction she stated that Malloy "has leadership qualities..."(and) is "the right person to get this state on the right track."
Mayor Malloy started by providing his background and how his mother inculcated a "sense of community" in him and that he is committed to a government that has an infrastructure, colleges, schools, and facilities that provide a real future for our children and takes care of our seniors.
For infrastructure, the state needs roads, rail, trolleys, schools, etc. without the great pressure on local government to provide those needs with little state assistance. The State leaders need to "think outside the Connecticut Box" to be able to provide for people and employers.
The next governor will face a $3 billion budget deficit. The solution must be found that will maintain the safety net of health care and basic support for the less fortunate in society with measures to assist them out of their circumstances. All other activities of state government should be on the table and properly justify their expenditures.
Over the past ten plus years, Connecticut and Michigan are the only states that have lost jobs. The previous administrations have not been proactive in keeping companies in the state. Malloy used the example of the recent Pfizer reductions. When he visited the Pfizer Groton complex six or so months ago, he found out that neither the Governor or a member of her administration had contacted Pfizer management to determine what assistance the state could provide to keep the business in the state. In another case, he noted that a business friend of his was establishing a new technology company in Connecticut. When his announcement appeared in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, he received calls from the governors of Texas and North Carolina to see if he was willing to move or open his company in their states. He received no communications from any Connecticut official.
Malloy contrasted this inaction with the efforts he had done in Stamford to recruit, keep and grow business in Stamford as the rest of the State was losing business. The state needs to tackle infrastructure, housing (including affordable housing for the young worker), and energy costs in order to become competitive again.
Based on his record of accomplishment in Stamford, Malloy said he was ready to do the same at the state level.
Question and Answer Session.
Q - Currently, many, if not most, of the state contracts are awarded to out of state bidders because they are the "lowest bidder". Connecticut workers are being cut out of Connecticut jobs. What will you do to change this?
A- Will look to the legislature to institute changes to bidding requirements so they will be similar to Mass. where an contractor has to have an office in the state to bid on a state contract. It is possible that the bidding evaluation can be changed to give more weight to companies that will use Connecticut workers as opposed to bringing in workers from another state to accomplish the task.
Q- We in Southeastern Connecticut feel left out of state projects. For example, nearly all of the infrastructure projects in SECT ended up on the state's "unfundable list." What will you do to change this?
A- Agree that SECT has been shortchanged. Malloy will see to it that state projects are more balanced through out the state so that all regions will share in projects and investments. The state infrastructure is not business friendly or user friendly. It will not be fixed in a year but the effort must be started.
Q- The Governor has recently cancelled a number of bonding projects that would have improved the infrastructure and provided jobs, what would you have done?
A- $1 billion in infrastructure investment is 27,000 jobs. Dropping capital project bonding in order to bond operating expenses is wrong. The State should not borrow to pay normal, everyday operating expenses. We need to separate capital and operating expenses. It is telling that SE CT was the biggest loser in the cancelling of these bond requests.
Q- What is your feeling about closing State Mental Health facilites such as Cedarcrest?
A- The current governor is closing one facility while planning to build a new facility in Bridgeport. We should not close facilites that will place these people on the street where they may get into more trouble that will send them to a "more expensive place" instead of the supportive facility they had been in.
Q- Municipalities are having funding difficulties but don't seem to be willing to try regional solutions without state incentives. How can you get the towns and cities to work together on a regional solution without a "bribe" from the state?
A. When first became Mayor, two towns in Connecticut could not do together what each was able to do separately. As a mayor, I worked with the State Legislature to get the statutes changed so now towns and cities are able to do together what they are able to do alone. However, the system has to be changed so that local officials are able to show their citizens just how the proposed regional solution will save them dollars in the future. Right now, it is difficult for a local leader to do this. It may be necessary to form some sort of regional tax authority to take on the regional solutions. The State also needs to look regionally. As a Governor, it would be advantageous to see what a New Jersey, Connecticut, Mass. region could generate in the business arena. There is a reindustrialization movement developing in the U. S. and Connecticut needs to participate in this potential for great growth. Things won't change overnight but "the job can be done in a reasonable period of time."
Malloy certainly made a good impression on these local leaders. The real question remains if the leaders are able to transmit this to the rank and file of their Town Committees and even further to the voting Democrat in August and the voting citizen in November.