Archive for August, 2010

18 Years!
August 31, 2010

I started at WFSB 18 years ago today!     I didn’t appear on air for a few days before finally filing a report on poverty (above.)   By the way, I still have that rain jacket.  I spent the first few days learning my way around Broadcast House and getting tips from Denise along with Jim Vicevich, Duby McDowell, Gayle King, Janet Peckinpaugh and others.  Al was on Channel 8 in those days.   

Here’s to 18 more.

How to Pronounce Bulkeley
August 30, 2010

First day of school, so here is a refresher on how to pronounce the high school in Hartford’s South End, and the I-84 bridge.

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

Former Dem. Party Boss says Obama and Pelosi not welcome in Connecticut
August 26, 2010

Former Connecticut Democratic Party chairman John Droney is sending a message to President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:  don’t come to our state to campaign for state Democrats.   During  a taping of “Face the State with Dennis House,” Droney (filling in for party chairwoman Nancy DiNardo) suggested their appearances on Nutmeg turf could hurt Democrats’ chances at the ballot box.  

The spurning of a President who won this blue state in a landslide in ’08 is a sure sign local Democrats fear a voter backlash at Washington could be percolating here in the land of steady habits.

According to the last poll, the President’s approval rating in Connecticut is at 50%, down from 72% just over a year ago,  and is under 50% in two congressional districts.    In the 4th district, Republican state senator Dan DeBicella is already planning to link freshman congressman Jim Himes to the White House.     In the 2nd, where the President’s approval rating is the lowest in the state, 46%, former television news anchor Janet Peckinpaugh plans to launch a similar assault against Congressman Joe Courtney.    In the 5th, state senator Sam Caligiuri has been telling voters Congressman Chris Murphy has more in common with Pelosi than Connecticut.       Just four years ago, those three congressional seats were all held by Republicans. 

While Droney may be saying “no thanks” to the President and House Speaker, state Republican party chairman Chris Healy is eagerly rolling out the welcome mat.      “I hope the President comes to campaign for Dick Blumenthal,”  Healy said during the “Face the State” taping.     

Later, party chairwoman Nancy DiNardo told the Hanging Shad’s Pat Scully and the Greenwich Time’s Neil Vigdor that Droney was speaking for himself and not the party.   Still, there was no outrage from the party faithful over Droney’s comments.     

My preview of the show posted late Thursday night has become one of the most read blog posts I’ve ever written.  Clips of the interview have been seen across the country, courtesy of realclearpolitics.com and has made the rounds locally, namely on WTIC AM 1080′s “Sound off Connecticut.” http://radioviceonline.com/former-connecticut-democrat-chairman-to-obama-and-pelosi-ummm-stay-home-please/

In case you missed the program, here is part 1 http://www.wfsb.com/video/24813866/index.html

Here is part 2 http://www.wfsb.com/video/24814064/index.html

A Fresh Page: Hartford’s New Mayor Pedro Segarra
August 26, 2010

Here is my article for the August edition of Hartford Magazine.

The long civic nightmare that has dogged your capital city for the better part of three years is now over.   Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez is likely headed to prison, the newest entrant  to a dubious roster of corrupt elected officials who have tarnished our state’s reputation by betraying the trust of voters who chose them to lead.

New Mayor Pedro Segarra is the most experienced mayor to lead Hartford in a generation.    He is a former prosecutor, former corporation counsel and most recently,  city council president.  As an historical note, he is the first openly gay mayor in city history and the first attorney to become mayor in decades.

Segarra will have to serve as ambassador for the city and head cheerleader,  by creating a strong message that Hartford is now business-friendly.  He  will also have to restore the loss of millions in  tax revenue lost during the Perez years when several high profile companies, Mass Mutual, MetLife, ING and WFSB fled for suburbia.     Segarra  should instead regularly sit down with the CEOs and merchants and find out what they are thinking and how they can all work together to improve Hartford.    This is a practice New Haven Mayor John DeStefano has used to turn around the Elm City.   I remember being stunned when a CEO of a major downtown corporation told me he had never met Mayor Perez.

Segarra’s task will be to encourage investors to come to Hartford to build, refurbish and help resurrect the renaissance began in the late 1990s with the state’s six pillars program.     The eloquent West Ender will essentially have to be the city’s chief business recruiter.    Downtown is full of vacant stores that are long overdue to be filled with shops and restaurants.  There are two empty hotels, dozens of vacant lots that were once home to thriving buildings, and more than a handful of empty eyesores.      The new mayor should be ready  to jump on a plane to meet with companies to persuade them to set up shop in one of America’s oldest cities that is full of culture, architectural gems, and loads of potential .

Mayor Segarra will have to complete several projects Mayor Perez either could not or would not finish.  The new public safety complex, approved by voters in 2000, remains a pile of dirt with police headquarters out near the landfill.   Also, action needs to be taken on the old Clarion Hotel,  sat vacant since the 1990s.  At the beginning of his administration Perez told us he would take the building by eminent domain.   Instead it  casts a defiant, dark shadow over Consitution Plaza and serves as a Festival of Blight during the Festival of Light.    The so-called “butt ugly” building was all set to be torn down for a skyscraper, and if you want to see how that story ended, read the transcripts from the Perez corruption trial.

Segarra should also look to tourism to help boost Hartford’s fortunes.    Boston,  Providence, Newport, Portsmouth, Portland, Maine  and other colonial cities have pumped millions into their economies thanks to visitors who flock to see 300 year old buildings and walk on cobblestone streets.    How hard would it be for downtown to have just one street that would bring back visions of yesteryear?

The new mayor needs to be a beacon of hope during times of trouble.     When a nightclub was causing problems downtown and common sense dictated it should be shut down, the city needed a mayor to lead the charge to close it.     During the hit and run of Angel Arce Torres on Park Street that sent a message to the nation that Hartford was a heartless, out of control place, the city needed  a mayor to  be front and center calling for law enforcement and decency.

As the new face of the city,  Mayor Segarra has much to do in the 16 months left in his predecessor’s term.       For the sake of the people of Hartford and all across Connecticut whose taxes support our capital city, let’s wish him well.

My Assignment 18 Years Ago This Week
August 25, 2010

Eighteen years ago this week I was  on assignment covering a story that dominated our newscasts for much of the summer and fall of ’95:   the case of the People v. Simpson, otherwise known as the trial of O.J. Simpson trial.

The trial of the fallen football legend charged with a pair of vicious killings had been going on for some time when then WFSB news director Mark Effron sent me from Hartford to Los Angeles to get  the Connecticut angle.   Famed forensic scientist Doctor Henry Lee had been hired by the defense to help prove their argument that DNA evidence had been mishandled by the LAPD and I was there to be the familiar face with the familiar Channel 3 microphone. 

My expected three day assignment turned into eight after Judge Lance Ito cancelled testimony on a Friday, meaning I had to spend the weekend there waiting for Lee to take the stand again on Monday.   I certainly wasn’t complaining about having two days off on the company tab to hit the beaches of Southern California in the height of summer.  

During the week, I sat in the courtroom as often as I could, taking copious notes just feet away from a man whose football cards I had cherished as a child, a man who had become one of the most reviled people in America.  After court had adjourned for the day, I would track down Dr. Lee for a quick interview and then chase down Robert Shapiro and the other attorneys who became household names. 

I worked with a photographer from KCBS who knew the shortcuts to the murder scene, Simpson’s house on Buckingham, and most importantly how to navigate L.A.  traffic.    I actually met some ghoulish tourists from Connecticut snapping pictures of the walk where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death.   (insert disgusted look on your face)   Yes…that was my reaction, too. 

I got some great help from then KCBS reporter Harvey Levin, now the face of TMZ.          I also worked alongside CBS reporter Manuel Gallegus, whose reports we still use on Eyewitness News.     When I wasn’t at the courthouse, I was reporting live from the roof of KCBS, then located at the famous CBS Television City.  

That’s the way it was, in the summer of 1995.

Always Check your Grammar
August 24, 2010

“Nothing undermines your credibility more than a misspelling or grammatical mistake.”    Those were the words of a former news director here at WFSB after a silly mistake made it into a broadcast. 

Denise, Al, and I can’t stand when we see words spelled incorrectly or plurals and possessives being mixed up.   For example, I have seen  a menu that said “Appetizer’s,” or read something that said “check the cities website for more information on trash collection.”    It happens more than you think. 

Check out this bumper sticker that totally negates the message the driver was hoping for: 

It should read “Time to trim the Bushes,” referring to the now former presidents.    The last one left office in January 2009.  That’s  a long time to be riding in a car with a bumper sticker that would get an “F” in 5th grade English class.

Obama, Pelosi Ties to be used Against Himes & Murphy
August 19, 2010

It’s no secret we’ll have a red hot senate race this fall, and a tough fight for governor, but some of the congressional races in our state will also be must-see politics.   State Republicans are hopeful they’ll pick up at least two congressional seats this November.   This Sunday on Face the State, we’ll talk with two candidates who have their eyes on the two potentially vulnerable  members of the Connecticut congressional delegation.

A recent Quinnipiac poll had some discouraging news for Democrats.   President Obama’s approval ratings here in Connecticut have been in a steady decline for the past year, from 71 % in April 2009 to 50 % this month.       It was 55 %  in January.  Should the trend continue, the President’s approval ratings will undoubtedly be in the 40s come the November election, hardly good news for Democrats trying to get re-elected.   The sub- 50%  area is a murky danger zone no politician wants to be in.

State Senator Dan DeBicella of Shelton, the Republican nominee running against freshman Congressman Jim Himes is well aware of this.   On Sunday’s show,  DeBicella lays out his strategy for beating Himes: linking him to President Obama, whose approval rating in the 4th district has now fallen below 50%.  

Also on the program this Sunday: State Senator Sam Caligiuri, facing two term Congressman Chris Murphy in the 5th district.   Caligiuri plans to tell voters that Murphy is more in step with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi than he is with the citizens of the 5th.   

Tune in this Sunday at 11AM for “Face the State.”

see also:  http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/ominous-signs-for-courtney-murphy-himes/

Dick and Linda, Jodi and Joe
August 19, 2010

I had to weigh in on my colleague Duby McDowell’s column on how to address politicians, nicely followed up by Pat Scully.  Their commentaries are below.

I’ve always addressed elected officials and politicians by their titles or Mr., Ms. etc.  after a lesson I learned in 1989, interviewing then Illinois congresswoman Lynn Martin at my first television job with WREX-TV in Rockford, Illinois.

Lynn Martin, former U.S. Rep. Lynn Martin (R) IL

After calling her “Congresswoman” she told me to call her “Lynn,” so I did.   What did I know?   I was a twenty-something cub reporter who did what an elected official told me to do.  Later my boss told me never to do that again. 

Two years later when working in Michigan, a similar edict came from my news director at
WWMT after a reporter called then Governor John Engler by his first name. 

When I came to WFSB I remember being surprised at a news conference with Senator Joe Lieberman when a veteran reporter prefaced a question with “Joe.”    This was Hartford, then the 23rd biggest TV market in the nation, not Rockford or Grand Rapids where such mistakes were somewhat expected.

Many of my guests on Face the State have asked me to call them Dick or Linda or Tom or whatever.   I told them I prefer to address them by their title.  That’s what Tim Russert did. 

When a congressional candidate came on recently I wasn’t sure what to call her.   I had called Janet Peckinpaugh “Janet” when she was my co-anchor, so Ms. Peckinpaugh seemed kind of strange.   Still, I think that’s what I’ll call her from here on in.

Duby:  http://thelaurelct.com/2010/08/16/richard-and-nancy-and-susan-and-linda-and/

Pat: http://scullycommunications.com/2010/gen-news/%e2%80%9cgovernor%e2%80%a6alderman%e2%80%a6madam-secretary%e2%80%a6ambassador%e2%80%a6%e2%80%9d/

The Parallels of 1970 and 2010
August 17, 2010

A Senator named Dodd was at the end of his career.   Republicans were hoping a wealthy candidate from Greenwich would replace him.   A popular governor had decided not to seek re-election.   Sound familiar?  That was 1970, and there are certainly similarities to 2010. 

40 years ago, Senator Thomas Dodd, a two-term Democrat,  was damaged by scandal and seen as un-electable.   Lowell Weicker was the GOP’s choice to run for his seat and then Congessman Thomas Meskill was the party’s candidate for governor.   Democrat John Dempsey had decided not to run for re-election after being governor for all of the 1960s minus one year.    Hartford Mayor Ann Uccello was the Republican nominee for the 1st congressional district.  

The highlight of the ’70 fall campaign was a visit to Hartford and Stamford by President Richard Nixon.  This Sunday on “Face the State” we dig into the WFSB film archives to show you his trip to the capital city.    Note the motorcade; just seven years after President Kennedy was assassinated, President Nixon was still out in the open as he traveled through the throngs lining the streets of downtown Hartford.  Such presidential events really don’t exist anymore.

Tune in this Sunday at 11AM for Face the State. 

Foley & Malloy on Sunday’s “Face the State”
August 12, 2010

Tom Foley and Dan Malloy are saying they won’t run negative ads in their campaigns for governor, but will they hold to that?  During a taping of “Face the State” the two nominees were asked if they will use the playbooks provided by the former opponents of their current opponent. 

Both men agreed that negative ads ended up hurting the candidates who ran them.      Both Malloy and Foley have agreed to take part in debates, including the WFSB CPTV WNPR debate planned for October.  

I asked both men similar questions, including which cuts they will make if elected.    Their answers were quite different.    I also asked their plans  for improving communities acr0ss the state, namely New London, New Haven and Hartford.    Again, their answers were different. 

Tune in this Sunday at 11AM for “Face the State.”

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