Archive for December, 2010

A Look Back to 2010, Look Ahead to 2011
December 30, 2010

This Sunday on Face the State we ring in the new year with a look back at the year in politics and a look ahead at 2011.  Our duo of WFSB political analysts Duby McDowell and Brian Flaherty is joined by Rick Green of the Hartford Courant, and Tom Dudchik of CT Capitol Report.    Rick and Tom talk about the stories that received the most attention from their readers.   Duby and Brian have some fascinating predictions.

As for my blog “the Hartfordite,” 2010 was a busy year.   Traffic more than doubled from 2009.   My most read ten posts:

1.   Hartford Whalers Gear Goes Hollywood

2.  Hartford Getting a Version of Winter Classic

3.  Bringing Back Your Hartford Whalers

4.  McMahon Open to Running Again; Ad Blitz Set for Tuesday

5.  Dr.Petit Talks About His Life, Lawmakers, and the Legal System

6.  Former Dem. Party Boss Says Obama and Pelosi Not Welcome in Connecticut

7. Ted Kennedy, Jr. in ’12?

8.  Foley Reveals Personal Health Battle

9.  Simmons to Drop Out of Senate Race

10.   The New Dick Blumenthal

Tune in this Sunday at 11 for Face the State

Pay it or Fight it?
December 23, 2010

Kara and I would never intentionally park in a handicapped spot, never ever.     This past weekend we were out in my hometown of Norwood, Massachusetts when a car pulled out of a spot and we pulled in.    It was 9 oclock at night or so, and of course, dark.   When we got back to the car we noticed a parking ticket for parking in a handicapped spot.   

The next day we took this picture.   The sign was parallel to the spot, and we just didn’t notice it.   Someone  put a sticker over the universal symbol for handicapped parking.  

The ticket is $100.    What do you think?  Should I pay it without question, or fight it?    Is the covered symbol grounds for a fight?

Voters and Media Denied Access to Governor by Rell’s Handlers?
December 20, 2010

 Governor Rell’s last appearance on Face the State, Feb ’09

Last week when WNPR’s John Dankosky asked Governor Rell why she was the only public official never to appear for a full hour on his program “Where We Live,”  the governor told him she was “unaware of the slight.”    When she said that, she inadvertently opened a can of worms.   How could the most powerful woman in the state not be told of that? 

My experiences with Governor Rell have given and reinforced the impression that the governor is a honest person.  I believe she  told Dankosky the truth.    That raises the question, why was she unaware of the slight?    Surely her handlers would not have withheld an interview request from her, in this case, repeated invitations?  I wonder what the governor said to her handlers after the Dankosky interview.    Did it go something like this?     “Alright, who didn’t tell me about John Dankosky’s repeated invitations to appear on Where We Live? ”    Was the governor angry, or relieved?

Much has been made of the way this governor is tightly managed and handled.   Channel 3′s Susan Raff approached the governor outside the capitol once and an aide cut her off, and said the ” governor isn’t taking questions.”   Susan extended her microphone in the governor’s direction and asked the question anyway.   Eyewitness News was once refused an on camera interview with the governor, but offered a telephone interview even though the governor was in her Capitol office and our crew was on the grounds.   What was the reason?   Was the Governor in her bathrobe or something?    On principle, we wisely declined the telephone interview.     Had the governor been out of state a phone interview would have been appropriate, but not when the elected official can peer out the window and see the camera.  

In Dankosky’s case, he told me since Governor Rell came into office he has routinely invited her on his program for the complete hour and to take listener questions.   Dankosky was sometimes  given a definite “no,” sometimes no response, and after weeks without a response he would have to book other guests.    Dankosky says the Governor came on his program once, but not for the hour, only 20 minutes and absolutely no listener questions.

Our quest to have a long form interview with the governor is similar to WNPR’s  in terms of frustration.   Only once has the governor appeared on Face the State, and her handlers made it clear to me  before hand that she would not stay the whole half hour, only 10 minutes.    I pushed it to 13 minutes.  That was February of 2009.        More on that here:  http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/governor-rell-continues-to-freeze-out-reporters/

In early October, I sent an e-mail to the governor’s chief of staff Lisa Moody, inviting the governor to come on before the end of her term.   Here is her response:

“I will certainly ask her directly – someone will be back to you shortly. Thank you”

No one ever got back to me.

To be fair,  Channel 3′s Susan Raff was offered the standard 20 minutes in the governor’s office last week as part of a round of sendoff interviews, and it was heavily condensed into a 2 minute report for our newscast.

It is our policy to conduct all Face the State interviews in our studio, with few exceptions.     Recently, we interviewed Senator Chris Dodd in his Washington office, but that was to mark the end of a 30 year senate career.   In the past, the senator has come to our studios for Face the State, even during the height of Countrywide mortgage scandal.  

As a rule we also don’t do satellite interviews for Face the State.  The reason?  If we do it for one person, we have to do it for everyone.   During the2008  campaign, then Congressman Chris Shays declined our numerous invitations to appear on Face the State.   His staff offered us interviews via satellite or at his home in Bridgeport.    His challenger Jim Himes accepted every invitation with nary a complaint about the ride from Greenwich to the WFSB studios.  

It is clear the Malloy administration will be much more media-friendly that the Rell adminstration.   The governor-elect has appeared in the studios of all the local programs, and has indicated he wants to come in to tape Face the State as often as possible.   To their credit, former gubernatorial candidates Tom Foley, Ned Lamont, Michael Fedele and Oz Griebel also promised a more open administration. 

I’m personally disappointed the governor’s managers wouldn’t let her come on Face the State.    I think it would a fair, comprehensive interview and I feel badly for our loyal Face the State viewers who are being denied the opportunity to see their governor in that forum.

Speaker Donovan Open to Debate on Sunday Liquor Sales, Income Tax Hike, and Tolls
December 19, 2010

 This Sunday there will be people from Connecticut buying liquor.  They’ll be sitting at a bar or at a restaurant, and then perhaps driving home.    There will  also be people from Connecticut  buying liquor in Rhode Island,  New York or Massachusetts and bringing it back into our state to drink at their homes.   Why?  Liquor stores are open in those states but not in Connecticut, it is illegal here.

Sunday liquor store openings was a hot topic earlier this year that died quickly, thanks to a powerful lobby that represents store owners that do not want to open.  The issue will likely be raised again this year, and this morning on “Face the State” House Speaker Chris Donovan told me he is open to the discussion in the 2011 session.

There are several arguments for and against Sunday liquor store openings and plenty of rebuttals.

1.    Mom and Pop stores can’t afford to be open seven days a week

Rebuttal:       Lawmakers could rule that liquor stores must close on Mondays  instead of  Sundays

2.    People should be able to buy liquor on Sundays because it is a day of family events, sporting events, parties, etc.

Rebuttal:  People should plan their liquor purchases in advance

3.    Opening stores on Sundays would lead to an increase in drunk driving

Rebuttal:  If lawmakers are concerned about that why don’t they shut bars down on Sundays, or limit their hours

4.     Stores in border towns lose revenue to out of state shops

Rebuttal:  That’s life

And the list goes on.

Speaker Donovan also told me is open to a discussion about tolls, although he admits state representatives in border communities are against them.   In terms of a tax hike, he says if there is one, look for it to be a hike in the income tax for those making over $250,000.

Bannon Preps for First Democrat Administration in More than a Generation
December 16, 2010

Governor-elect Dan Malloy’s Chief of Staff Tim Bannon last worked in the Governor’s office twenty years ago, under then Governor Bill O’Neill.  There was no internet, no cell phones, and no bloggers.     In many ways it was an administration that was even older, having its roots in the 1970s, when Ella Grasso was elected Governor.

During a taping of Face the State, I asked Bannon if there are any policies or practices from those old days that will be resurrected on January 5th when Democrats will control the entire state government for the first time since 1991.     Bannon told me like Governor O’Neill, Governor Malloy will be focused on creating jobs.   

I also asked Bannon on how he will differ from the woman he will succeed, Lisa Moody, widely regarded as running the governor’s office with an iron fist, and a grip that extended beyond the State Capitol.    If you are not familiar with Moody’s tenure,  google articles from the Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender and Kevin Rennie to learn more.     Bannon told me he will not be a de facto Governor and that Governor Malloy will make the major decisions.

Bannon also filled us in on potential changes in agencies and departments in an effort to save money, and said on January 5th, the state will resume spending on tourism.    Citizens across our state were embarrassed last week when it was revealed Connecticut was the only state excluded on a guide of New England because it didn’t want to spend the money.

Tune in this Sunday at 11 AM for the complete interview with Tim Bannon.

The Frustrations of the Family Christmas Card
December 16, 2010

Two working parents, a 3 year old and a toddler, nap time,  a highly excitable cat, freezing weather, and unexpected events make for a difficult Christmas card.

Kara and I must have taken 50 pictures for our holiday card this year, and not one was perfect.   Some were blurry, all had either one child crying, looking the other way, picking her nose, making faces, or pulling the cat’s ear.    Red eye can be fixed, a finger in a nostril can not. 

In the end, we finally managed to come up with a card with three pictures: one of each of our children, and family one in the middle.  

Due to family birthdays, two out of town Thanksgivings, and  two out of town funerals we were starting the process a little late in the season.  Thanks to the good folks at the Camera Bar in downtown Hartford www.camerabar.com for getting our order done so quickly.   Ask for Richard Goldenthal and tell him I sent you.

Next year we will take a family picture in August!

Skating Returns to Bushnell Park
December 10, 2010

Historic Bushnell Park has been transformed into a winter wonderland thanks to a skating rink that opened tonight.     It runs through January 6th.   It’s been nearly a decade since there was last a rink here.    These pictures are courtesy Mark Dixon.

Himes Rules out Running for Lieberman Seat in 2012
December 10, 2010

4th District Congressman Jim Himes will not run for the senate seat in 2012 currently held by Senator Joe Lieberman.     During a taping of “Face the State with Dennis House,”  the recently re-elected freshman from Greenwich said his friend, 5th District  Congressman Chris Murphy is interested in running, and for that reason, he isn’t interested.      However,  Himes did leave the door ever so slightly open to a run, in the unlikely event Murphy decides not to. 

I tell you.. that is real friendship.    Senate seats don’t flip that often, especially in Connecticut.    Chris Dodd has held his seat for 30 years; Lieberman for 22.     Himes’ decision not to run means he is passing on an opportunity  that may not come his away again for many many years.     

Lieberman hasn’t announced his intentions yet, but Democrats have made it clear they want the seat out of his hands, even though the independent votes with Democrats most of the time.    In addition to Murphy, 2nd District Congressman Joe Courtney has said he is also considering the ’12 race.    Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz is widely expected to run and Ted Kennedy, Junior is also raised by some as a potential candidate, although the conventional wisdom is he won’t run.    2006 nominee Ned Lamont said he is “disinclined” to run, and it is highly unlikely he will change his mind.

As for Republicans,  Linda McMahon hasn’t ruled out running in 2012,  and Rob Simmons hasn’t either.     Tom Foley’s name has also been thrown in the speculation ring as a possible candidate.  

Also during the interview with Congressman Himes, we talked about the controversy over extending the  Bush tax cuts, the DREAM Act, and much more.  

Tune in this Sunday at 11 for Face the State.

Lamont Says Lieberman Beatable, but Won’t Challenge him in ’12
December 9, 2010

In the past quarter century only four people have won Democratic senate primaries in Connecticut:  Chris Dodd, Joe Lieberman, Dick Blumenthal and Ned Lamont.    Despite his inclusion in this elite club, it is highly unlikely Lamont will run for the senate in 2012.

During  a taping of “Face the State with Dennis House,”  Lamont told me he has been “through the meat grinder” a couple of times, and wants someone else to run, calling the Democratic party bench, “impressive.”        It is an unlikely scenario, but I asked Lamont if no one else were to run, and the party encouraged him to jump in, what would he say?  “I don’t think so,” Lamont told me.   He also believes Senator Joe Lieberman is beatable.

Lamont added “I believe in public service, and want to serve the people,”   but admits it does not have to be an elected position.     

We also talked about the potential senate candidates in ’12, Governor-elect Dan Malloy, and Lamont’s failed run for governor .  You can watch the entire interview with Ned Lamont this Sunday at 11.

Mindboggling Parking Policies Hurting Hartford
December 9, 2010

For as long as I can remember, people have complained about parking in Downtown Hartford.   Defenders of the current parking situation will argue there is plenty of parking and it is cheaper than many cities.   That may be, but the fact is,  downtown parking is difficult, confusing, frustrating, and is hurting downtown business.

The above picture was taken Sunday morning around 8:45AM on Church Street, across from the Hartford Stage.   Kara and I were there along with dozens of people rehearsing at the Stage for the Joy for the Kids concert.    

We assumed, wrongly, that we could easily park at one of the meters for free since the meters don’t charge on Sundays, and very few people come downtown on Sundays because very few businesses open on Sundays.   Even Starbucks is closed.

We encountered the above scene and then noticed meters throughout downtown were bagged with tow zone and no parking signs.    We couldn’t figure out what was going on, but didn’t want the car towed, so we actually paid to park in a garage!      I’m not against paying for parking, but on a cold Sunday morning in a desolate downtown, no visitor should pay a dime for parking when there are dozens of empty meter spots on the streets.   Denise and others came to downtown with the same expectation for parking and also ended up in a garage.  

I contacted HPD this week to find out why these meters were bagged.  Old friend Nancy Mulroy, whom I have known for years, gave me the official answer as to why street parking is banned:  “to prevent gridlock during the UConn game.”   The game was at 1pm, the meters were bagged when I saw them at 8:45AM, perhaps even earlier. 

I tell you, Hartford has a litany of problems, and gridlock is not one of them.  In fact, the city could use some good old fashioned gridlock, the kind that encourages people to stay in the city a little longer, perhaps grab something to eat and spend some money.  

I spoke to a local merchant about this, and she told me the bagged meters without a posted explanation have long been a point of contention downtown.   “People want to be able to park at a meter, not necessarily a garage, ”  she told me.  Some people actually believe the city is in collusion with the garage and parking lot owners to bag the meters and force visitors into the lots and garages.

Other merchants have complained about this, and believe it it is the city’s goal through its parking management and traffic patterns, to get people out of downtown as quickly as possible rather than have them stay!      Many meters ban parking from 3:30PM to 6:30PM, so the streets can hold more traffic and empty the city quickly.     That policy discourages people from coming downtown during these hours. 

If the city doesn’t think this parking meter and traffic policy isn’t hurting Hartford, I suggest looking at the growing number of empty storefronts and the decrease in foot traffic.    

There must be a better way.

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