Archive for October, 2010

More at Stake for Murphy than Just a Congressional Seat
October 29, 2010

The new CT Capitol Report  poll showing Congressman Chris Murphy a point behind Republican Sam Caligiuri is not only threatening his re-election to the 5th District, but also the stealth race he’s been running for a while:  for the U.S. Senate in 2012.   

Murphy has always dismissed such talk with the pat answer “I’m focused on being a congressman,” or something along those lines.   However, it is no secret in political circles that the two term Democrat has his eye on challenging Senator Joe Lieberman two years from now.   Murphy’s name has appeared in polls for the 2012 race, and there was even talk earlier this year that if the Vietnam controversy forced Dick Blumenthal from the race, Murphy would replace him. 

 But something happened on the way to 2012.   One political insider who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told me while Murphy was  looking beyond ’10, he  was blindsided this summer by the strong race Caligiuri was running, expecting instead to be easily re-elected     Now he is spending loads of cash in the fight of his political life. 

If Murphy loses, his chances of running for the senate will be dealt a devastating setback.   If Jim Himes and Joe Courtney win, they would instantly be stronger senate candidates than a candidate whose last performance was a loss.   Throw in Susan Bysiewicz and possibly Ted Kennedy, Junior and it would be very difficult for Murphy to make a case for himself that he should be the one to take on Lieberman and the Republican candidate, who will likely be a formidable one.   The days of the state GOP putting up a sacrificial lamb candidate for the senate are over.   

Even if the entire congressional delegation is re-elected, Murphy still needs a strong win to buoy his chances in ’12.   If he wins a close nail biter and Courtney romps by a huge margin, perhaps the party will look at the man from the 2nd district.    A while back, a person close to Courtney called me up, a little peeved after we aired a story about a potential Murphy Lieberman matchup.   This person wanted to know why we only talk about Murphy running for the senate.    “Just because Joe doesn’t drop hints he wants to run like Murphy does, doesn’t mean he isn’t interested in the senate…..it’s just too early to be doing that,”  that person told me.   

If Himes pulls out a win over Dan Debicella, he could make a case to run for the senate.  Courtney and Himes are considered more moderate than Murphy, which could make them more appealing as  statewide candidates in a Lieberman challenge. 

We will learn much on Tuesday night.   Hard to fathom, but the race for 2012 starts next week.

A Fedex from Vince McMahon
October 29, 2010

When I arrived at work today I had a Fedex package from Vince McMahon of the WWE.  Inside a t-shirt, 2 hats, a headband, sweatbands, and this letter.

I am going to really miss this campaign season.

Festival of Light to Move
October 29, 2010

One of Connecticut’s biggest holiday traditions is moving.    Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra announced today the Festival of Light will move to Bushnell Park after 46 years on Constitution Plaza.   

The big news for the new venue?  The Festival will also feature a skating rink.   There was a rink about ten years ago that drew thousands of people to the Capitol lawn and turned a dark and dreary part of the park into a lively family spot.  Kara and I were there frequently that winter.

I used to be on the board of the Bushnell Park Foundation and think the park is the perfect location for a holiday festival.   The views of the Capitol, Arch and skyline will be enhanced by a Christmas tree, lighted trees and decorations.   The city might want to think of bringing in some horse drawn carriages and food vendors, and see if the Carousel can be opened.  For the long term, the city should look into reclaiming the Park River that runs under the park.  

The move makes plenty of sense.  Constitution Plaza isn’t what it used to be.   The Summit/Clarion/Sonesta  Hotel has been closed for 15 years, and the last time one our crews went in there they learned it was inhabited alright, but not by anything you’d want to spend the night with.   The site of our old home Broadcast House is now a big empty pit.   Plans to build a high rise there are on hold right now because of the economy.   To have the celebration at Constitution Plaza would essentially turn the Festival of Light into the Festival of Blight.

Who is paying for this?  The Greater Hartford Arts Council, The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, and the Connecticut Whale.  Title sponsors of the event are Connecticut Light & Power, Mohegan Sun and United Technologies.

Malloy Apologizes for “Offending Anyone;” Foley Talks About Being Boring
October 28, 2010

This morning on our pre-election edition of Face the State we are joined by the two major candidates for Governor, Democrat Dan Malloy and Republican Tom Foley.

We talked about taxes, undecided voters, the ads accusing Foley of closing down a factory for personal profit, and a radio ad.

The campaign ad featuring the voice of Governor Rell on behalf of Republican Tom Foley contains a word I really don’t ever remember hearing in political advertising before:  “temperament.” 

“Tom Foley has the right temperament to be governor,” Rell tells radio listeners.

 By all accounts, it is a swipe at Democrat Dan Malloy, whose temperament in a televised debate led Foley to call him “Angry Dan.”     Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green  wrote about it here:   http://blogs.courant.com/rick_green/2010/10/the-malloy-v-foley-debate

During  a taping of Face the State I asked both Malloy and Foley about the temperament issue.    I also asked them to respond to a viewer who said “she was offended by Malloy, and found Foley to be boring.”   You can see their responses morning at 11.

We also have analysis of all the races from Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie who also writes the blog www.dailyructions.com

Happy Anniversary Parking Lot!
October 27, 2010

hiltonhotel.jpg

23 years ago today, on a cold Sunday morning, a spectacular demolition was witnessed by thousands of people. A hotel that hosted weddings, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, other politicians and celebrities was reduced to rubble in seconds. The site is now in its third decade of serving as a parking lot. The drivers who ditch their cars there are treated to postcard views of the State Capitol, the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, Bushnell Park, and the skyline.

The Parkview Hilton, formerly known as the Statler Hilton , was a classic example of 1950s architecture.   The picture  above shows the hotel in its glory. By the end of the 1970s it was tired, and despite renovations and a more modern facade in 1981, it was closed by the end of the decade.   On October 28, 1990, it was imploded.

statler

The Hilton lot, with the views and proximity to the park, attractions, highways and train station was considered so desirable, it was called the “Mona Lisa of the Hartford real estate world,” by a real estate expert interviewed by the New York Times.

A World Trade Center for Connecticut was proposed for the site, along with a new world headquarters for United Technologies, but the projects never took off.   In 2010 I spoke with Cheryl Chase, whose Chase Enterprises owns the property.   She told me she never imagined the Hilton lot would still be empty 20 years later.  

Chase would very much  like to develop the property, but there has been little interest in building something in keeping with the caliber of the location.    “It is the first thing you see when drive into downtown,” Chase said.  She  envisions a landmark skyscraper with condominiums at the top, commercial in the middle and retail on the ground level.    

Chase blamed the economy for the fact that a prime chunk of real estate is nothing more than a sea of asphalt, but also complained “Hartford is tough.”       Like many in 2010, she was hopeful new Mayor Pedro Segarra will help bring new business to the city, but also believes it starts at the top.  “Connecticut needs to be more business-friendly,” Chase said.  

The Chase family tends to be community-minded  big thinkers and very creative, so when the property is developed, I have no doubt it will be a head turner.   Who can forget Arnold Chase’s “Winter Wonderland” and “Haunted Happenings” at the old G. Fox Building?     

Everyone is in agreement that it is a collosal waste and shame that such land is used for parking.   Can you even imagine such a lot bordering Central Park or the Boston Common?

The Hilton demolition was the second in the city that year. In April, Hartford’s first skyscraper was imploded. The Aetna building was the subject of a major battle between preservationists and the Society Bank for Savings, which wanted to build a 45 story skyscraper on the site. It was never built, and that parcel remains a parking lot.

aetnaimplosion

By the way, the beautiful Victorian building next to the Hilton in the postcard?  That’s the old Hartford YMCA, torn down for…you guessed it, a parking lot. 

You can watch the Hilton implosion from October 28, 1990 courtesy WFSB photojournalist Mike Fisher right here: 

http://www.wfsb.com/global/category.asp?c=208507&autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9454205

Here is some old video of other implosions in Hartford: http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/face-the-state-flashback-the-implosions-of-2001/

Also check out these cool images of what Hartford could have looked like: http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/what-hartford-might-have-bee/

My Presidential Endorsement?
October 26, 2010

When I was in high school I had the task of writing an endorsement that would appear in our school newspaper.  In an effort to avoid favoritism in the election of 1980, “The Witness” at Xaverian Brothers High School actually published three endorsements; one for President Jimmy Carter, one for Republican Ronald Reagan, and one for independent John Anderson.   I was assigned to write the one for President Carter. 

Teenagers  are often influenced politically by their parents and at that time, my folks were what I call “Kennedy Republicans,”  sort of like “Reagan Democrats.”    Like many people in my Boston suburb of Norwood, they supported John Kennedy in 1960 (though they weren’t old enough to vote for him,) but drifted away from the Democrats during the malaise of the Carter years which overlapped Michael Dukakis’ first term as governor.    

My grandmother held firm for the Democrats, and she often referred to “her” presidents by their first names as if they were members of the family.   “Franklin did wonderful things,” Nana would say, or “it was so sad when Jack was assassinated.”  My aunt even had a dog named Lyndon Baines.

However, in my house,  the bloom was off the Democratic rose by the end of the 1970s, when   Massachusetts was living up to its nickname “Taxachusetts.”  I remember my mother and father always complaining about President Carter, the high gas prices, the Iranian hostage crisis, widespread unemployment, record high mortgage rates, even the boycott of the Olympics.    I vividly recall one morning as I was eating breakfast before school, the images  on television of a  disastrous failed  attempt to rescue the hostages.   Eight U.S. servicemen were killed. 

Back to my endorsement of President Carter.  Considering my environment and the times, it was tepid…at best.   Here is an excerpt:

                  “Jimmy Carter is not the ideal candidate for the presidency, but he is the best being offered to the American electorate this year.    It is true that his administration has been a disastrous disappointment.  However, he is our president, our leader.  He is the only candidate who can claim this qualification……”

Hey, what do you want?  I was only 16.

Carter was also not very popular among the student body, most of whom wanted change.   A poll published in the same edition of “The Witness” as my Carter endorsement , showed Reagan with 36%, Anderson with 28%, undecided with 19% and Carter with 15%.  

I wasn’t old enough to vote in 1980, yet I studied the election with tremendous fascination.  The subject of one of my papers that fall was Ted Kennedy’s run  against Carter for the Democratic nomination. 

By the way, if you are wondering what’s up with the headline “Cult Rocks Xaverian,” that refers to Blue Oyster Cult, whose performance in our school gym bumped the Election of  ’80 off the front page.   Ah..to be 16 again.

also read:   http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/its-all-about-norwood/

and:  http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/a-very-cool-place-to-wor/

Dem’s Advice for Malloy: Tax Low Income People
October 21, 2010

The next Governor will inherit quite a budget mess and a deficit of $3.5 billion.   Both Dan Malloy and Tom Foley have lacked specifics when it comes to exactly how they plan to balance the budget, but come  January 5th one of those men will have to get very specific, very quickly. 

During a taping of Face the State,  we had two municipal leaders offer their take on what the next governor must do.    Democrat Susan Bransfield, First Selectwoman of Portland.  talked about Malloy, and Republican Mayor Jason McCoy of Vernon offered some advice for Foley.   Both have met with the candidates of their party.

Bransfield’s straighforward approach to the issues in her growing town have gained her the respect of many in her party.   She is also the president of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns.

McCoy’s leadership  caught the eye of Governor Rell, and he is considered a rising star in the state GOP, likely to be encouraged to run for statewide office in the next decade. 

Bransfield told me Malloy should look at  the income tax, and she recommends he should change the state income tax so those earning under a certain income level will no longer be exempt from paying taxes.    “I happen to believe that everyone should contribute to the income tax.  I know there are people who don’t pay below a certain level, but I believe to have full input… to be part of the state,  you have to pay a portion of your income to the state of Connecticut,” Bransfield said.  

McCoy sees deregulation as something Foley should consider, along with putting the state unions on a par with the private sector.   

You can see the entire interview this Sunday at 11 on Face the State

DeLauro “Blessed to be a Congresswoman,” Rules out 2012 Senate Run
October 21, 2010

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro with Denise D’Ascenzo and Al Terzi, who happen to live in DeLauro’s 3rd District

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is running a campaign for re-election unlike many of her fellow Democrats.   Instead of running from the record of the Obama Adminstration and an unpopular congress, she is embracing her votes and touting what she calls the benefits of the health care and stimulus bills.    DeLauro proudly dismisses labels by her opponent that she is a “radical extremist” and too liberal for the district.

That 3rd district, home to liberal enclaves like New Haven,  has been a Democratic stronghold for ages.  In fact, in the past 52 years, a Republican has won this district just one time.  Larry DiNardis was swept into office in the 1980 Reagan revolution.  He lost re-election in 1982.   If DeLauro is re-elected next month, and completes that term, she will tie the late Robert Giaimo as the longest serving 3rd district congressperson, on the eve of what will be her 70th birthday.

During  a taping of “Face the State” I asked Mrs. DeLauro how long she plans to try to stay in Congress.   Interestingly, she turned the tables on this interviewer by quoting a line from my WFSB biography, saying she is “blessed to have this job.”     She also told me she has “no interest whatsoever”  in running for the senate seat held by Joe Lieberman, but would have to consider an offer from President Obama to serve in his cabinet, should he tender one.

We also talked about the President’s falling approval ratings, the jobless rate here and what DeLauro plans to do about it.    She’s been accused of being  a rubber stamp for the President’s policies, but told me she does differ with him on certain issues.   DeLauro wants NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) repealed, saying it has “led us down the wrong path.”   President Obama supports it.  

A recent CT Capitol Report poll showed DeLauro with a sizable lead over her Republican opponent, Jerry Labriola of Naugatuck.  Despite great historical odds and a financial disadvantage, Labriola has been out there campaigning and you can watch my interview with him on wfsb.com

You can watch the entire interview with Congresswoman DeLauro this Sunday morning at 11.

The End of an Era
October 18, 2010

Our grocery store is closing this weekend.    The Waldbaum’s in West Hartford is closing its doors, and will re-open as a Big Y next month.   

The old store with the new name will still sell milk, bread, coffee and other supplies, but it won’t have Jenny.

Jenny has worked at the Waldbaum’s for 37 years.     She is the pleasant woman behind the deli counter, slicing turkey and ham,  always with a smile, even when doling out scoops of what I find to be revolting herring salad.     She even smiled today as she told me she had not been hired by the new owners to become part of the Big Y staff.    The 66 year old widow is not alone in the “what am I going to do now” department.   A cashier with 36 years at the store has chosen to retire and another with 32 years was not hired either. 

I’m not sure of the reasons Jenny wasn’t needed to help maintain the contuinity of service to the store’s customers, but I sure hope it wasn’t because of that time she kindly gave my daughter a small piece of mozzarella cheese. 

Best of luck to all the Waldbaum’s folks who served us so well.

Ganim Opens Door for 2011 Run for Mayor
October 14, 2010

2010 has been one crazy election year, and 2011 could be one, too.   Former Bridgeport Mayor and convicted felon Joe Ganim might possibly want to try to get his old job back.  

During a taping of “Face the State” Ganim repeatedly sidestepped the question about whether he would run, but essentially refused to rule it out.   At one point he said he “hadn’t thought about it.”   Still, in my view,  Ganim sounded like a potential candidate: pointing out the problems with Bridgeport while touting his accomplishments.    Since leaving prison and later a halfway house,  the 50 year old Ganim has been living outside the city, and obviously would have to move back to be eligible to run.

During the visit to our studios, Ganim displayed some of his same charm that endeared him to voters and the Democratic party years ago.    One of our staffers told me after she met him, that it “was hard not to like him.”     Another said “I can see why he was a successful politician.”   

And he was.   Ganim was a rising star in the Connecticut Democratic party,  ran for governor in 1994, ultimately taking the number 2 spot on the ticket.   John Rowland’s enormous popularity scared off Ganim for a another run for governor in 1998, and by the election of 2002,  it had all changed.

Ganim was brought up  on corruption charges and convicted in 2003.  He was sent to prison, and was released this past summer.    He is now fighting to clear his name.  

During the taping we talked about his conviction, the corruption, and what he told his fellow prisoners about why he was there.     I wanted to know whether he really believes he did nothing wrong.   I also asked Ganim if he kept in touch with any of his fellow Democrats while he was incarcerated.   He would only reveal one name:  Congressman John Larson.  Larson chose Ganim to be his running mate when he ran for Governor in 1994. 

You can watch the entire interview with Joe Ganim, this Sunday morning at 11 on Face the State.

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