Ned Lamont Finally is ‘in the Room Where it Happens’


By Mark Pazniokas 

Connecticut’s new governor showed himself Wednesday to be affable, straightforward, optimistic, playful — and even slightly goofy — in his first address to the General Assembly, promising a collaborative approach to rebranding a state down on itself.

Less than two hours after taking office, Gov. Ned Lamont matter-of-factly warned lawmakers that the financially struggling state was teetering “on a knife’s edge,” then assured them he would deliver a budget in six weeks that would bring elusive fiscal stability.

“Let’s fix the damn budget, once and for all!” Lamont said. “You with me?”

Legislators stood, applauding.

Lamont chuckled.

“That’s it,” he said, his voice barely louder than a stage whisper. “Put the pressure on you.”

Exactly how that damn budget will be fixed, well, that is a matter that will wait until some time in February. On this day, the new governor was clearly reveling in the moment.

Lamont, 65, is a Greenwich businessman, a product of Phillips Exeter, Harvard and Yale, and an avowed fan of America’s most ebullient president, Teddy Roosevelt.

Over 23 minutes, Lamont had a bully good time.

He also is a fan of Hamilton, the musical. Lamont grew up in privilege, a man with a family tree in the U.S. that goes back to the time of Alexander Hamilton. But he made repeated references to Hamilton’s scrappiness and his burning hunger to be at the table where history is made, the “room where it happens.”

The line reflected Lamont’s losses in his two previous statewide campaigns for U.S. Senate in 2006 and the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2010.

“Thank you for welcoming me to the room where it happens,” Lamont told the legislators.

A prepared line on voluntarism turned into an impromptu riff on JFK’s inaugural, with Lamont leaning forward and offering a passable Kennedy imitation: Ask not what Connecticut can do for you, ask what you can do for Connecticut. As it turns out, Lamont thinks there’s plenty — from business, labor, politicians, pretty much everyone.

“More on that to come,” he said.

He assured the unions that supported him in the election that he remains committed to collective bargaining, then suggested he might be ready for some bargaining over pension liabilities. “As our liabilities continue to grow faster than our assets, together we have to make the changes necessary to ensure that retirement security is a reality for our younger, as well as our older, state employees, and we’ve got to do that without breaking the bank,” he said.

No hint at how, however.

His task Wednesday was to restate core principles, his approach to Connecticut’s various constituencies, and his expectation for how they all will come together. He warned of difficulties to come, changes he sees necessary in the delivery of government services by the state and municipalities.

“Mayors and first selectmen: Nothing will compromise your feisty independence,” Lamont said, smiling. “But so many services and back-office functions can be delivered at a much lower cost and much more efficiently if they are operated on a shared or regional basis.”

More applause for that line.

Lamont’s wife is Annie Huntress Lamont, a venture capitalist. At times, the governor sounded like a man making a pitch to investors — not expecting to close the deal, but drawing them in, suggesting there was something wonderful to come.

His vision for rebooting the Connecticut economy rests on four legs.

“First, I will take the lead by investing in the first all-digital government, and reverse engineer every transaction from the taxpayer’s shoes. The entry point to Connecticut will be through its digital front door, a one-stop-shop for everything our citizens need. We will be online, not in line,” Lamont said. “It won’t be done overnight, but let’s start today.”

“To attract millennials, top talent and leading companies, Connecticut will need to invest wisely in its urban centers, making them affordable and lively, where families want to live, work and play,” he said.

Third, Lamont signed on to a long-held dream of transportation planners and economic-development advocates, calling for a 30/30/30 rail system. That means 30 minutes fromm Hartford to New Haven, 30 minutes from New Haven to Stamford, and 30 minutes from Stamford to Grand Central in Manhattan.

He was interrupted with a sustained standing ovation.

The fourth leg is workforce development, ensurring that everyone in Connecticut is equipped to come along for the ride if Lamont ever upgrades his railroad. “It’s going to be an economy that works for everyone.”

The bipartisan applause stopped when Lamont turned to his campaign promises to establish a paid family and medical leave program and to raise the minimum wage in steps to $15, catching up to Massachusetts and New York.

“We’re going to do it responsibly, and we’re going to do it over time,” Lamont said.

Democrats applauded. Republicans sat quietly.

“OK, as one of the first governors who comes from the business world, I know how to get this done,” Lamont said. “My primary objective is to get this economy growing again. How do we extend opportunity for those being left behind?

“Growth!

“What’s the long-term fix to our budget?

“Growth!

“How do we attract the next generation of talent to Connecticut?

“Growth!”

He heard a particularly enthusiastic cheer to his right.

“Somebody liked that,” he said, chuckling again.

Lamont took a breath.

“All right, I’m a new governor. You’re a new legislature,” Lamont said. “What can you expect from me? I’m a straight shooter, an honest broker, and I think I’m a good listener. I know what I know, and what I don’t know. I do have a strong sense of where we need to go and what the people of Connecticut expect from us.”

Democrats, who hold comfortable majorities in both chambers, left happy. Republicans said they want to hear more.

Ned Lamont is finally in the room where it happens. Connecticut will find out in the coming weeks who is ready to sing along.

This was first published on ctmirror.org. Featured Photo by ctmirror.org.

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If You’re Over 50, Chances Are the Decision to Leave a Job Won’t be Yours


A new data analysis by ProPublica and the Urban Institute shows more than half of older U.S. workers are pushed out of longtime jobs before they choose to retire, suffering financial damage that is often irreversible.

By Peter Gosselin

Tom Steckel hunched over a laptop in the overheated basement of the state Capitol building in Pierre, South Dakota, early last week, trying to figure out how a newly awarded benefit claims contract will make it easier for him do his job.

Steckel is South Dakota’s director of employee benefits. His department administers programs that help the state’s 13,500 public employees pay for health care and prepare for retirement.

It’s steady work and, for that, Steckel, 62, is grateful. After turning 50, he was laid off three times before landing his current position in 2014, weathering unemployment stints of up to eight months.

When he started, his $90,000-a-year salary was only 60 percent of what he made at his highest-paying job. Even with a subsequent raise, he’s nowhere close to matching his peak earnings.

Money is hardly the only trade-off Steckel has made to hang onto the South Dakota post.

He spends three weeks of every four away from his wife, Mary, and the couple’s three children, who live 700 miles away in Plymouth, Wisconsin, in a house the family was unable to sell for most of the last decade.

Steckel keeps photos of his wife, Mary, and their three children on the mantel at his rented place in Pierre. (Ackerman + Gruber, special to ProPublica)

With Christmas approaching, he set off late on Dec. 18 for the 11-hour drive home. When the holiday is over, he’ll drive back to Pierre.

“I’m glad to be employed,” he said, “but this isn’t what I would have planned for this point in my life.”

Many Americans assume that by the time they reach their 50s they’ll have steady work, time to save and the right to make their own decisions about when to retire.

But as Steckel’s situation suggests, that’s no longer the reality for many — indeed, most — people.

ProPublica and the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study, or HRS, the premier source of quantitative information about aging in America. Since 1992, the study has followed a nationally representative sample of about 20,000 people from the time they turn 50 through the rest of their lives.

Through 2016, our analysis found that between the time older workers enter the study and when they leave paid employment, 56 percent are laid off at least once or leave jobs under such financially damaging circumstances that it’s likely they were pushed out rather than choosing to go voluntarily.

Only one in 10 of these workers ever again earns as much as they did before their employment setbacks, our analysis showed. Even years afterward, the household incomes of over half of those who experience such work disruptions remain substantially below those of workers who don’t.

“This isn’t how most people think they’re going to finish out their work lives,” said Richard Johnson, an Urban Institute economist and veteran scholar of the older labor force who worked on the analysis. “For the majority of older Americans, working after 50 is considerably riskier and more turbulent than we previously thought.”

The HRS is based on employee surveys, not employer records, so it can’t definitively identify what’s behind every setback, but it includes detailed information about the circumstances under which workers leave jobs and the consequences of these departures.

We focused on workers who enter their 50s with stable, full-time jobs and who’ve been with the same employer for at least five years — those who HRS data and other economic studies show are least likely to encounter employment problems. We considered only separations that result in at least six months of unemployment or at least a 50 percent drop in earnings from pre-separation levels.

Then, we sorted job departures into voluntary and involuntary and, among involuntary departures, distinguished between those likely driven by employers and those resulting from personal issues, such as poor health or family problems. (See the full analysis here.)

We found that 28 percent of stable, longtime employees sustain at least one damaging layoff by their employers between turning 50 and leaving work for retirement.

“We’ve known that some workers get a nudge from their employers to exit the work force and some get a great big kick,” said Gary Burtless, a prominent labor economist with the Brookings Institution in Washington. “What these results suggest is that a whole lot more are getting the great big kick.”

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Hartford Delta Sigma Theta Announces MLK Breakfast Speaker


HARTFORD — The Hartford Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority has announced its keynote speaker for its annual Martin Luther King Breakfast to be held Jan. 21.

The event will feature Shavon Arline-Bradley, a founding principal of R.E.A.C.H.  Beyond Solutions LLC, a public health policy and faith advocate. She is also the co-founder of The Health Equity Cypher Group, a collaborative of nationally recognized health equity experts designed to expand the work of health, equity, diversity and inclusion in all sectors.

Bradley also held the position of Director of External Engagement and senior advisor in the Office of the United States Surgeon General and served as the Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning & Partnership for the national NAACP.

The breakfast, which helps to keep King’s legacy alive, is the premier scholarship fundraising event for the Deltas and one of the largest Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations in Connecticut.

More than 140 Greater Hartford high school girls have been awarded more than $355,000 in scholarship funds.

The Hartford Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was founded in 1947 and is a private, non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide services and programs to promote human welfare. Since its inception, the chapter has placed a priority on providing monetary contributions to deserving young girls to further their education.

The breakfast is open to the public. Tickets are $55. For more information, visit www.dsthartford.com.

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Frontier Airlines Returns to Bradley International Airport


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Greater Hartford residents will now have access to more discount flights out of Bradley International Airport.

That’s because the discount airline Frontier will return to the region March 28.

Fares will be as low as $59.

Frontier will offer direct flights from Denver to Bradley. It will be one of three airlines offering flights from Denver to Bradley. Southwest and United airlines also offer service to Denver.

The news was announced on Tuesday at Bradley Airport by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Connecticut Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin Dillon, Frontier’s Vice President of Network Josh Flyr and other airport officials.

Airline officials said the Denver flight will be the starting point to add more destinations from Bradley.

“An indication of a strong route network is the continuous diversification of routes and airlines,” Dillon said. “With the addition of this new service, we’re pleased to introduce a renowned low-cost carrier to Bradley and to continue solidifying the airport’s strong reputation in the industry and its pivotal role as New England’s second largest airport.”

“It’s another step forward for our transportation system and its another step forward for our ability to be connected to the rest of the world,” Malloy said.

Airport officials said they look forward to Frontier’s return to Bradley.  The Denver-based previously offered flights from Bradley to Denver from 2007 to 2008.

“An indication of a strong route network is the continuous diversification of routes and airlines,” Dillon said. “With the addition of this new service, we’re pleased to introduce a renowned low-cost carrier to Bradley and to continue solidifying the airport’s strong reputation in the industry and its pivotal role as New England’s second largest airport.”

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Latinas and Power Picks Keynote Speaker


HARTFORD — Latinas and Power, New England’s largest and most influential networking and professional development symposium for Latinas, recently announced its 2019 keynote speaker: Dr. Betty Uribe.

Uribe is a banking industry veteran, celebrated author, and nationally-renowned speaker. She will address the 16th Annual Latinas and Power Symposium, which will be held on May 16 at the Hartford Marriott Downtown at 200 Columbus Boulevard.

As an Executive Vice President for California Bank & Trust, a division of Zions Bancorp, Uribe runs the Greater Southern California Division, which is a $3.5 billion business line covering retail and business banking.
During Uribe’s tenure as Executive Vice President at CB&T, the financial institution has been named “Best Bank in Orange County,” for three consecutive years by the voting readers of The Orange County Register.
“I selected Dr. Betty, because when I met her at a Latina event in Mexico recently, I was immediately taken by her authenticity and ability to connect with people,” said Latinas and Power Symposium Founder Marilyn Alverio. “The Latinas & Power Symposium is all about identifying Latinas that are out here representing and articulating the important issue we face in today’s world. Her optimism is contagious. After reading her book #Value, I knew she was the right person to bring to Hartford, CT for our 16th annual symposium.”
As a significant thought leader in the financial and banking industry, Uribe is a recognized authority on the psychology of leadership, turnarounds, organizational structure, and peak performance. Her work is regularly featured on all forms of international, national and local media.
As an author, Uribe wrote #Values: The Secrets to Top Level Performance in Business and Life, which was selected by Inc. Magazine as one of the Top 60 Books on Leadership and also received an endorsement from the Vatican.
She has been honored consistently for her strategic intellect and humanitarian endeavors. Among the many honors bestowed upon Uribe are: First Woman in History to join the Rose Bowl Foundation Board; Fortune Magazine’s Top 50 Most Powerful Latinas in Business (2017 & 2018); and Pepperdine University’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award.
Registration and other speakers for Latinas and Power Symposium 2019 will be announced in the coming months.
For more info, visit: www.latinasandpower.com.

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Ned Lamont Pledges More Diversity and Inclusion


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Gov. elect Ned Lamont on Saturday reaffirmed his commitment to bring change to the state with diversity and inclusion, saying to a group of African Americans that he will “make sure everybody gets the same opportunity.”

Lamont spoke at the Connecticut State Conference of NAACP Branches’ meeting at the Hartford Hilton Hotel to more than 200 people, including black elected officials, students, clergies, fraternities and sororities.

African Americans voted overwhelmingly for Lamont in the 2018 election. Election results showed that 94 percent of African Americans supported the Greenwich businessman, who pledged to promote diversity in state jobs and to usher in more access to state contracts.

During his campaign, Lamont telegraphed his commitment to diversity and inclusion and followed through with the selection of two African Americans for high level positions in his administration. He recently hired Paul Mounds as his chief operation officer. Mounds, 33, will oversee commissioners and report to Lamont’s chief of staff, Ryan Drajewicz. Lamont also hired Melissa McCaw, 39, as his secretary for the Office of Policy and Management. She is the first African American to hold that job.

Moreover, he appointed State Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport and State Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven to his transition team. Both women are African Americans.

“I think that’s a good move. He’s showing that he’s trying to be diverse and inclusive,” said Greater Hartford NAACP President Abdul-Shahid Muhammed Ansari. “It really was the Democrats’ vote from the inner cities that got him over the hump.”

After Emancipation in 1865, African Americans voted for Republicans. But ever since the 1928 election, they have mostly voted for Democrats. Their allegiance to the Democratic Party was cemented in 1936.

NAACP President Scot X. Esdaile said he wants more return on that investment, calling for more inclusion in all branches of government.

“We want to make sure our people are included at all levels, the commissions, boards and throughout,” Esdaile said.

The meeting was titled “The 94% Black Leadership Summit” because election results showed 94 percent of black voters supported Lamont and the Democratic Party.

Lamont was joined by his running mate, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, who invited attendees to send resumes and ideas.

“Send us your best. Go to our website,” Bysiewicz said. “We’re taking all good ideas because it’s for the benefit of our state.”

Lamont and Bysiewicz were coming from another meeting earlier in the day with the General Assembly’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, where they talked about ways to increase the number of black and Hispanic teachers.

He also talked about steering opportunities to the cities, training people for technology jobs, opening up contract bidding to ensure that more minorities have access to those jobs.

“I’m going to make sure everybody gets the same opportunity,” he said. ”Too many of those business opportunities, too many of those contracts seem to go to the same old gang, –and that’s not right.”

Lamont, who defeated Republican Candidate Bob Stefanowski after vote tallies came in from the urban centers the day after the election, said he believes in Connecticut’s cities. He vowed to also direct resources to cities.

“I’m a believer in our cities,’ he said. “Our state will never be great unless our cities are great and I’m going to commit every day to that.”

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Hartford to Hold Gun Buy Back Program This Saturday


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The Hartford Police Department will hold its annual “Gun Buy Back” program on Dec. 15.

The event will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Community Renewal Team 555 Windsor Ave.

Unwanted fire arms will be exchanged for Stop and Shop gift cards of up to $250 for assault rifles, $100 for handguns and revolvers and $25 for shot guns and rifles.

This will be the city’s 10th year in its initiative to help curb gun violence.

The effort is a part of the Capitol Region Gun Buyback Coalition’s initiative to bring awareness about gun violence prevention. Partners for the event are the State’s Attorney’s Office, Hartford Hospital, St. Francis Hospital and the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

In 2017, the city received 68 firearms, including 3 assault rifles, 1 machine gun, 25 pistols, 20 revolvers, 8 rifles, 8 shot guns and 3 Derringer.

Police said the guns must be delivered unloaded in clear plastic bags and ammunition must be delivered in a separate bag.

The guns will be destroyed after the event unless forensic testing shows that it was in a crime.

Guns can be turned in anonymously.

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Rally Scheduled for Hartford Woman Facing Deportation


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — In an effort to keep a Hartford woman in the country, supporters will hold a rally against her deportation on Monday.

Wayzaro Walton is scheduled to leave behind a wife and daughter on Dec. 14. That’s after she received a final removal order from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Walton was four years old when her parents moved with her to the U.S. Now, she is 34 and facing deportation to London, England.

The rally will be at the Hartford ICE Office Building at 450 Main St.

Supporters will be asking ICE to grant an emergency stay.

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How to Get Your Lawmakers to Listen


By Cynthia Gordy Giwa

Hello from the otherrr siiiiide…

You did it! In this month’s midterm election, you and a whole lot of your fellow voters turned out to the polls to make your voices heard. But you’re not done yet. Voting is just the beginning!

The User’s Guide to Democracy has always wanted to help you become not only a more informed voter, but also a more engaged citizen. So, with the winners declared, how do you get your elected representatives in Washington to listen to your voice now?

At a live event on Nov. 13 with the New York Public Library, Derek Willis (my colleague here at ProPublica) and Paul Kane (an ace Congressional reporter for The Washington Post) tackled this question with the help of a panel of Capitol Hill insiders. The event, called “Irregular Order: How Congress Really Works,” was moderated by comedian/actor/writer Wyatt Cenac.

James Wallner, senior fellow for the think tank R Street (and a former Republican Senate staff member); Lindsey Cormack, Stevens Institute of Technology assistant professor of political science; and Stephanie L. Young, communications director for When We All Vote (also a former Democratic House staffer); explained how to get lawmakers to listen to you and act on the issues you care about.

Courtesy of The New York Public Library

Even as Congress seems stuck, there are still things that you can do to influence your lawmakers. Here are a few suggestions from the panel:

  • Vote. Often. “We literally have the power,” Young said of the clout that comes with voting. “I think we forget that, and sometimes you feel powerless. … This is one opportunity for you to go out and make your voices heard, but you have to do it *every time*, and you have to encourage those that you care about, and the people who are influenced by you, to do the exact same. There’s no one who has greater influence than you do.”Even if voting sometimes feels like shouting into the void, the panel also stressed that your elected officials are actually paying attention to who their voting constituents are. “If you email or write something, and they have your address and your name, they’re going to look up your voter file,” Willis said. “The fact that they’re tracking that information should tell you that they’re concerned about hearing from their constituents, and that you’re important.”
  • Visit your district office. Young continued by emphasizing that every member of Congress has a district office you can go to. “There are staff that are there to hear from you. You can write letters. They actually read them; there is someone who is assigned just to do that, and they have to respond to you. I worked for members who were very keen on knowing their constituents — how they felt, what they thought, and they want to read those letters. … Don’t miss those opportunities that we all have because they actually matter. They actually work.”Town halls were raised as another opportunity where you can talk to your legislators in person. Kane recounted the example of Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who was moved by individual interaction with her constituents during the “repeal Obamacare” period of 2017. “She described how, throughout that spring and summer, she would have town halls when she got back to Alaska. Over and over again, people would tell their stories about a pre-existing condition they feared they were going to lose [coverage for], or a husband or wife battling cancer who was afraid to lose health care,” Kane said. “By the end, that won her over, and she voted no.”
  • Write op-eds in your local newspaper. “Senators and members of the house really care about their local newspapers,” Cormack said. “If you write an op-ed that describes why you disagree with what your member did, that freaks them out. That’s where they want their press releases to land. They want that space, and if they have constituents within their own district saying they have a problem with that, that’s a really big red flag for them that they need to come back to the district and figure it out, or they’re going to need to focus on whatever that issue is a lot more, or address it differently.”
  • Work with advocacy groups you agree with.Traveling all the way to D.C., possibly taking time off from work, or putting in the time to write and pitch a newspaper op-ed might feel like a daunting amount of investment to be heard by people who are supposed to work for you. Wallner recommended making use of advocacy groups (i.e. organizations like the Sierra Club or the National Federation of Independent Business).

“We talk about advocacy groups like they’re a bad thing, but it’s usually just the ones we disagree with,” he said. “They have people who care about the same issues, who focus [on them] and are paid to go down to D.C. They make life difficult for members; sometimes they help members. … See what they’re doing and try to participate with them. Their voice is going to amplify your voice, and it’s going to make it harder for Congress to ignore the issues that you care about.”

One thing many advocacy groups do is lobby Congress, both by encouraging members to visit their representatives and by hiring their own lobbyists. You can find advocacy organizations working on issues you’re interested in using Represent’s database of lobbying arrangements.

You can watch the full discussion here, thanks to the New York Public Library, or listen to it on NYPL’s Library Talks podcast. I promise, not only will you learn something, you’ll laugh too.

We’ve come to the end of the User’s Guide to Democracy — but, hopefully, this marks the start of your increased participation in our system of government. From Representto the Facebook Political Ad Collector, you have tools to track what your representatives are actually doing, as well as tactics to hold them accountable. Don’t hesitate to use them. And, remember: Congress works for you.

This was first published on Propublica.org. Cynthia Gordy Giwa is ProPublica’s marketing director.

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Hartford’s Winterfest is Open Now Through Jan. 3


HARTFORD — Hartford Winterfest has opened and will run until Jan. 3.

Greater Hartford residents can now participate in carousel at the Bushnell Park and free ice skating. Thanks to a $30, 000 grant from United Bank.

The grant from United Bank is to ensure that the event is free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Skate rentals are free. And skating lessons are free.

The Bushnell Carousel is open on the weekends and rides are $1.

There is also a Santa Workshop on Saturdays and Sundays from now until Dec. 23.

For more information about Winterfest, click here.

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