Archive for December, 2009

No Governor Rell on the news tonight
December 28, 2009

You won’t be seeing Governor Rell on Eyewitness News tonight, even though she is making headlines by vetoing two deficit bills put together by the Democrats.  

The vetoes were announced in a press release given to us around 3:30PM.   The vetoes were somewhat expected, so early this morning our assignment  editor Andy Wilkins put in a request for one of our crews to talk to Governor Rell.  Later assignment manager Dave Ward spoke to the Governor’s handlers and put in a similar request.  Reporter Katy Zachry, who was at the capitol covering the veto story, also asked to speak to the Governor.

Later we learned the Governor left her office at the Capitol at 2PM, yet the announcement of the vetoes wasn’t given to reporters until after she had left the building.  Why?     I guess no interview for Channel 3.

The governor’s staff instead e-mailed a recorded audio file of what we are told is the Governor Rell talking about the vetoes.    It does sound like her.       

In the past few days,  the Hartford Courant’s Rick Green and WNPR’s John Dankosky have written about the issues that some members of the media have been having with Governor Rell’s handlers, and their reluctance to have her be questioned.     Green  wrote that he put in a request to talk to the governor and did receive a phone call from her.    As one of the top journalists in our state, the Governor should be talking to him.    The Governor has been invited to take questions from listeners on WNPR, but as  Dankosky wrote a few days ago, the RSVP has been “no.”

Telephone interviews  do not work for television news.  If you see them on Channel 3, that usually means it is breaking news and our crew has not yet arrived at the scene.   We do a telephone interview as a last resort.   They make for bad television and we since we live in a small state and can have a camera anywhere in Connecticut in 90 minutes,  what is the point of talking on the phone when the camera can be there?  

There are two reasons that come to mind about why telephone interviews don’t work for television.   First, how would we explain to our viewers as to why we are interviewing the Governor on the phone?  Senator Dodd talks to us on camera,  so does Senator Lieberman, and these are two politicians who have a plethora of reasons to run the other way.    We interview dozens of people on camera every day.  President Obama holds news conferences and takes questions, why not the Governor?

Also, you learn quite a bit from body language.    Did Governor Rell appear angry when she vetoed the bill?  Did she seem lackadaisical?    Smiling?   We don’t know.   Was it a difficult decision to make?   There are so many things a television interview can show that a telephone interview cannot.    The governor  could be reading off prepared remarks over the phone.  She could do that on television, too, but you’d know about it.

Rest assured, we work for you, the viewers and we will continue to try to interview your governor about the budget crisis that is impacting your lives.

Chris Cillizza on “Face the State”
December 27, 2009

 

Cillizza on “Meet the Press”  courtesy NBC

Chris Cillizza ’94        courtesy:  The Loomis Chaffee School

This Sunday morning we have a special guest on “Face the State,” one of the premier political reporters and pundits in the nation:  Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post.  He is the man behind “The Fix,” a must-read for politicos.  I really got into the “The Fix”  during the presidential campaign of 2007-08 and if you haven’t had your “Fix” yet, this Sunday morning is the time to check it out.    http://blog.washingtonpost.com/thefix/

Television viewers will recognize Chris from appearances on “Meet the Press,” and on MSNBC and other outlets.   Undoubtedly his visit to “Face the State” is the pinnacle of his television career!    At least here in Connecticut.   I love to tease friends at MSNBC about ratings.  OK,   their reach is all across the country, so they may have more viewers than we do.  However,  here in Connecticut the number of people watching their cable channel is a fraction of the viewers tuning in to Channel 3.   Sorry, Mika, it is a Nielsen fact!

Chris is a Connecticut native, raised in Marlborough where his parents still live (and watch Channel 3!) Truly a great guy, a family man whose life is much more than politics.  He loves to talk about his  field hockey coach  wife and his 9 month old son. 

On “FTS” this weekend we’ll get Chris’ take on the most vulnerable senator in the nation:  Chris Dodd.   He also talks about Joe Lieberman and the race for governor.   Chris is an amazing fountain of knowledge about campaigns and is so highly regarded, elected officials and candidates from all over the country call him!

Tune in this Sunday and let me know what you think. 

Also this Sunday, we talk to Rudy Marconi, the first selectman from Ridgefield who is thinking of running for governor.  More on that race in my blog next week.

How to pronounce Bulkeley
December 26, 2009

I heard this Connecticut River landmark/capital city high school mispronounced on a local station (thankfully not the one that pays my salary) and it reminded me of this blog entry from last year:

http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2008/10/03/how-to-pronounce-bulkeley/

Why Won’t Governor Rell Talk To Reporters?
December 23, 2009

Is Governor Rell done taking serious  questions from reporters in 2009?     Today at a homecoming ceremony for National Guardsmen and women, Channel 3′s Heather Hegedus was asked if she wanted to talk to the Governor.   Heather said yes, and she told me one of the Governor’s aides  told Heather “only if you ask about the troops, nothing else.”   

Yesterday at a holiday media gathering at the Governor’s office, Channel 3′s Susan Raff asked to talk to the Governor about the sex offender treatment facility.   “Not today ,”  she was told by Chief of Staff Lisa Moody.  Moody then showed Susan some convulated paperwork as she disputed claims by Democrats about the Governor’s budget cuts.   Susan said “why don’t I just talk to the Governor, she is right over there?”   “No,” Susan was told.  “Not today.”   Susan is now wondering, “when?” 

As we reported before, Susan put in a request to talk to the Governor back on November 25th.    The state is in a budget crisis and the Governor should be taking questionsfrom reporters about the serious issues facing the state.  

I know Channel 3 Eyewitness News is not the only organization that would like to see the Governor’s handlers allow her to hold a news conference and take questions from reporters.   Voters, our viewers, want to hear from the Governor, not hear from our reporters reading an excerpt from a news release from her office.

Journal Inquirer reporter Keith Phaneuf called Governor Rell “the most tightly managed governor” he’s ever covered.      Seems the reins are being pulled in even more during the holiday season.

We’ ve talked about this issue before and it doesn’t seem to be improving:http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2009/12/04/fedele-says-he-will-be-more-media-friendly-than-rell/

Let me add that I like the Governor personally, and I have written about this before.    I  even emceed her inaugural ball.    The Governor also does a very good job in on-camera interviews, so I find it hard to believe it is her decision to not  be on television more often.   The Governor seemed very comfortable on Face the State when she was in here in February.  

However,   I will say I am disappointed the Governor (or her people)  has never taken us up on our regular invitations to join us for the entire half hour of Face the State, and has only appeared on the program once (this February)  since being sworn in back in July 2004.  

A Dad Update
December 23, 2009

I’ve been asked many times recently why I haven’t blogged about my son, born September 1st.   After all, I was reminded, I did blog about my daughter.  Whoops!

Anyway, Julian is doing great, although he doesn’t sleep as much as Helena did at her age.  He is up every three to four hours, and we might get a stretch of 5-6 hours, but that is rare.  So yes, Kara and I are sleep deprived.    Helena sleeps no later than 7:30PM, and we are usually up before she is.  Julian is especially fond of eating at about 3:30AM, and if he wakes up anytime after 5AM, he is up for the day…and that means so is Kara or me or both!

It’s all good, though.  We feel very blessed.  Thanks for asking.

Former Chairman Says Dodd Should Withdraw
December 18, 2009

Former State Democratic Party Chairman Ed Marcus  believes the time has come for Connecticut Democrats to  go with another candidate for the U.S. Senate.  During a taping of “Face the State” tonight Marcus said quote:

“If  I were the Democratic chairman I would sit down with Chris and indicate to him that for the good of the party he should withdraw… he is going to be a drag on the ticket .” 

Marcus went on “Chris has had Obama in for him, Biden in for him, a lot of tv ads and they havent moved the numbers.  Rightfully or wrongfully the perception within  the voting public in Connecticut is just negative toward Chris.”

Other quotes:

“His staying is a disservice to the Democratic Party in Connecticut.”

” I don’t think the Republican field is strong at all I think there is anti Dodd sentiment.

 I think a poll with Blumenthal against the Republicans would show a hands down win of 20-25 points for Dick.”

Dodd’s campaign manager Jay Howser released this response:

“Ed who? To be honest, it’s embarassing for Ed Marcus that he’s still holding a grudge against Senator Dodd based his own ineptitude as State Party Chair nearly a decade ago. Ed’s judgment in the past has been questionable at best, and he’s in no place to be playing judge and jury with anyone. In choosing to grind his axe publicly, Ed reveals himself for who he really is –  a bitter has-been, instead of someone who once held an important position within the Democratic Party.”

You can watch the entire interview this Sunday at 11 AM on Face the State.  Marcus also talks about his endorsement in the race for governor and Senator Joe Lieberman,

Merchants Impeding Hartford’s Progress
December 14, 2009

If I told you Moe’s Southwest Grill opened a handful of restaurants in Metro Hartford you might say, “yes, there is one in West Hartford and one in South Windsor.”  You’d be right.  They are in highly visible locations in Blue Back Square and in Evergreen Walk.   But did you know there is also one in Downtown Hartford?  However,  if you walk around the streets of downtown you will never ever see it.

Yes, it is true.  I noticed it the other day when we brought our daughter to  Santa Claus  at State House Square.    There it was,  inside down a hallway from the street, mere steps from the line of families waiting to see Santa.  Guess what, Moe’s was closed.  Insert amazed look here.

Years ago, I believe it was  Hartford Courant columnist Tom Condon who wrote something along the lines  of “it is hard to feel badly for a city with two left feet.”    This is a perfect example. 

State House Square has several excellent eateries, all of which have very limited hours,  about 10-2,  only Monday through Friday.    According to some of the tenants, management of the Square does a terrible job of promoting these places.  There is no list of restaurants sign on Main Street beckoning pedestrians to come inside to what many people believe is merely an office building.   What is really strange about State House Square is that the prime location on Main Street has been empty since Bagel Boyz moved out a decade ago.    It would be a great spot for Moe’s.  

I also can’t figure out why the Square doesn’t open for special events.  45,000 people came to Hartford for the Connecticut Veterans Day Parade some were parked in their lawn chairs right in front of State House Square.  It was closed!!!  Can you even believe it?    One of the biggest complaints from parade goers:  no place to eat.   The Old State House needs to open on Sundays, too, but that is a story for a other day.

Merchants will argue that “we don’t open because no one comes downtown on the weekends.”    That is false.    From the new residents to games to concerts, to churches, to Festival of Light, to parades, to the museums:  people are here.  Hundreds every Sunday.  If you open, more will come. 

Think about it, if the stores in Blue Back Square decided to close on Sundays, word would spread and no one would go there.   If Downtown Hartford had a concerted effort to open on Sundays, word would spread and more people would show up.

The state has spent millions on Connecticut Convention Center, the Science Center and other projects.   Developers have poured in millions of their own money.  The Hartford Arts Council and Business for Downtown Hartford are also working very hard to bring more events to the city, and businesses should support their efforts by opening up.  How a multi million dollar corporation like Starbucks can remain closed with a throng of parade goers outside their window is mindboggling.   The company says it cares about the economic impact on the places where it has stores.  Guess the coffee giant doesn’t care about Hartford.

Some people get this.  Larry Gottesdiener of Northland has been criticized for his requirement that his new tenants open on Sundays, but I support his philosophy 100 percent.  His goal is to make a thriving downtown.   His residential tenants don’t move out on Sundays, why should his commercial tenants shut down on those days?  One of his restaurant tenants closed after griping about a lack of business.    This is the same eatery that Kara and I noticed was closed the night of a concert that had Pratt Street packed.  People were actually sitting on the steps of that apathetic  restaurant eating takeout from another restaurant.  Yep. .”lack of business” was the REAL reason they later went out of business.   

Gottesdiener should hold his ground.    Hartford 21 could use something like a Vaughan’s, a JoJo’s, a Dish, a Hot Tomato’s, or any one of the other businesses that is open 7 days a week.    Maybe a Moe’s like the ones in the suburbs. 

I blogged about this Sunday problem last month.  Something needs to change.

   http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/if-youre-coming-to-hartford-bring-a-bag-lunch/

Where are the Women?
December 11, 2009

 

When Governor Rell said no to running for re-election the possibility of an historic all female race for governor (Rell v. Bysiewicz) was dashed, or was it?   Will a Republican woman join the race for governor?
 
State Republicans are scrambling now, as they face the prospect of their first primary in a governor’s race since 1994. The past three elections have been easy, as John Rowland and Jodi Rell sailed effortlessly to victories in ’98, ’02, and ’06.   However, 2010 is shaping up to be an entirely different story.

According to the polls, the front runner for the Democrats is Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz. The most recent Quinnipiac poll showed Bysiewicz losing to Governor Rell, but take a closer look at the other numbers in the poll. Among women, Bysiewicz beat Rell by 4 points, but against the male Democrats, Rell was ahead. Against Ned Lamont, the Governor was ahead among women by a very significant 16 points. In this poll at least, it appears an argument could be made that in Connecticut, many women tend to vote for women.

Of course Governor Rell has decided not to run, so one must now wonder how a male Republican will fair against Bysiewicz among women in the next poll. Women are becoming a greater force in the electorate, and Lt. Governor Michael Fedele and former Ambassador Tom Foley are going to have to work hard to hold on to segment of Rell’s constituency.  QU pollster Doug Schwartz also noted that Hillary Clinton did best among women voters in the 2008 Connecticut presidential primary beating all the men in the women voter category.

The Republican field is hardly set in stone. Among the names which may join Fedele and Foley in the GOP nomination hunt, are Larry Cafero, John McKinney and Oz Griebel. All men. Not a single Republican woman is being talked about as a potential candidate for the state’s highest office.

That is the subject of this Sunday’s Face the State.   Our guests are two Republican women:  State Senator Toni Boucher and State Representative Penny Bacchiochi.    It will be interesting what they have to say about this.

The Poll Democrats Fear the Most
December 8, 2009

 NY Times

There is all sorts of buzz about Senator Chris Dodd’s political future.  All sorts of speculation over whether  a year’s worth of bad polls will persuade his fellow Democrats to persuade him to retire  for the good of the party.  We’ve all read the scuttlebutt that some Democrats prefer the state’s most popular Democrat, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal,  arguing he would be able to beat Rob Simmons and Linda McMahon, something polls show Dodd can’t do…even in this Democratic state. 

In a recent article on politico.com,  Doug Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University poll,  made sure to mention that Blumenthal’s job approval rating is currently 78 percent — 38 percentage points higher than Dodd’s.     “Certainly the Democrats would be better off if Richard Blumenthal was their candidate and not Dodd,” Schwartz said. “Blumenthal is the most popular statewide elected official in Connecticut.”

When I read that I couldn’t help but wonder if Schwartz is adding a Blumenthal element to the next round of polling, expected to be released toward the end of January.  So far there have been no hypothetical Blumenthal matchups in the Q-U polls, but what if…

What if a poll shows Blumenthal handily beating Linda McMahon and Rob Simmons and still shows Senator Dodd still losing to both those Republicans?      No doubt the whispers will grow louder from Democrats that the party needs a new candidate for the senate to keep the seat in their hands. 

Many Democrats are worried about their own chances in 2010 if Dodd is on the slate.   The party last won the governorship in 1986, and sees next year as a realistic chance to grab the state’s highest office.   But, whoever ends up the Democratic nominee for governor can expect to be linked to Senator Dodd in negative campaign ads.    The GOP will hire the best agency to put together ads featuring  grainy black and white images of Dodd and the gubernatorial candidate with sinister music playing in the background.     Let’s use Susan Bysiewicz as an example here.  The ad’s narrator will call Bysiewicz and Dodd friends and she’ll have her name mentioned in the same sentence as “VIP mortgages.”   The editors will insert an old shot of Bysiewicz and Dodd together at an event, and if she was photographed with him in Iowa or New Hampshire, expect to see that snapshot used  over and over again.     

When Democrats talk privately about Senator Dodd being a drag on the ticket,  images like that come to mind.

Fedele Vows to be more Media Friendly than Rell
December 4, 2009

I would bet there isn’t a reporter in the state who doesn’t like Governor Rell, but I would also bet there isn’t a reporter in the state who likes the way she deals with the media. After talking with several reporters, we all agree Governor Rell has been the least media accessible governor in at least a quarter of a century.   All agreed Governors O’Neill, Weicker and Rowland granted more interviews and were more accessible than the current Governor. Channel 3’s Al Terzi, our only staffer who covered Governor Grasso in the 1970s, said he even recalls she, too being more media friendly than Governor Rell.   

Case in point: Wednesday, November 25th, the day  Governor Rell released a statement calling for massive cuts as part of a budget mitigation effort.   Serious stuff.   Channel 3’s Susan Raff asked to interview the Governor.   She was told no, even though we were also told the governor was in her office, steps from where Susan was waiting with a photographer.   Instead  Susan was given Robert Genuario, the Governor’s budget chief.   

As of the writing of this blog, that was 9 days ago, and still the Governor has not granted Susan’s request for an on camera interview, or held a news conference so reporters can ask her about these cuts.   Journal Inquirer reporter Keith Phaneuf called Governor Rell the most tightly managed governor he’s covered, and says her staff’s practice of communicating through press releases leads to confusion and lack of information.

It’s been difficult to cover Governor Rell and to bring information to the viewers about their government. Two years ago, we asked to interview the Governor on the night of a big winter storm that created gridlock across Metro Hartford.   Earlier in the day the only way we could hear from the Governor was by phone because the car she was in was stuck in traffic.    Later, when the Governor had arrived at the State Capitol we fully expected to be able to interview the Governor in person.  We were told the Governor would only talk to us on the phone even though she was in her office and our crew was on the Capitol grounds.  It seemed silly.  This is 21st century television.   There was no good reason the Governor couldn’t talk to us on camera, but could talk to us on the telephone.   We declined the phone offer because how could we possibly explain this method of communication to our viewers?    

 I wrote about this issue in December of 2007.    Here is an excerpt from my blog:

On Friday, Channel 3’s Len Besthoff filed a report about the state’s handing of Winter Storm Alexander. We received many e-mails and calls from disgrunted viewers who sat in traffic for hours on Thursday. Many blamed the state government and Governor Rell. As the state’s top elected official we wanted to interview the Governor about the storm traffic and the state’s planning for it. On Friday, Len was offered a “media availability” with the Governor, but was then asked what he would ask the Governor. He was told he could ask about Saturday’s impending storm. Len said he wanted to ask about Thursday. He was told “no” and the availability was cancelled. With that restriction, we would have cancelled the interview anyway, and told you why we did that. Many who don’t understand journalism might have said “so what, just ask about Saturday, she is after all the governor.” That’s not what we do. When we agree to conditions and limitations of an interview, we compromise our integrity. We fail you, the viewer. Conditions of time, locations and details like that are understandable, but to have someone else, particularly an official elected by you: the public citizen, define our line of questioning, is unacceptable.

During tonight’s taping of Face the State Phanuef and I asked the governor’s right hand man,  Lt. Governor Michael Fedele if he will continue the Rell administration’s avoidance of the media.   In respect to why the Governor hasn’t had a news conference to ask reporters’ questions about last week’s budget cuts, I asked Fedele this:  Should the citizens be seeing their governor in these trying times?    Fedele’s response: “ I can tell you if  Mike Fedele is elected they will be hearing from me even in non-trying times.”

You can watch the entire interview with Lt. Governor Fedele this Sunday at 11AM on Channel 3.

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