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Connecticut Must Support Community Nonprofits


By Gian-Carl Casa

Connecticut’s community nonprofits are important contributors to our quality of life and the state needs to support them with adequate funding.

Gian-Carl Casa

Community nonprofits do many things for people who live and work in our state, things like providing substance-abuse treatment, caring for troubled kids, helping people with disabilities, heating homes and bringing arts and cultural programs to communities across the state.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposed budget largely recognizes the role played by community nonprofits in delivering vital services to the people of Connecticut. Despite a difficult budget year, the governor would maintain funding levels for most of the programs operated by nonprofits that serve our residents.

It’s a good starting point and we thank him for that. But there is more work to be done to make sure that payments to nonprofits cover the cost of the services they provide — because in many cases they simply don’t.

Years of tough budgets included many cuts to nonprofits even as demand increased. A 2015 study of rates for behavioral health services showed an annual loss for the top ten procedures (by volume) was more than $27 million for approximately 250,000 service hours. State grants for mental health and substance abuse have been reduced by 17 percent Before the legislature approved targeted wage increases last year, nonprofits that provide services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities hadn’t had a rate increase since 2007.

Compare that with the devastating increase in deaths from opioid abuse and the 2,000-person waiting list for services from the Department of Developmental Services.

It’s been said that for many years community nonprofits have been on the receiving end of cuts because they are run by dedicated people who will provide their services regardless. While it’s true that nonprofits do their best to raise funds from donations and diversify their offerings the days of “providing their services anyway” are ending. We hear frequently about programs that have been curtailed or closed – for example, the closing of group homes for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities or reduced hours for programs that help youth with trauma in their backgrounds. It is system approaching its breaking point.

The state should treat the essential services provided by community nonprofits as if they are fixed costs in the state budget – and off the table for further cuts.

One way to maximize limited state funding is by shifting more expensive state-operated programs into the community and re-investing the savings into the service delivery system. Community nonprofits can reduce state costs and meet the demand for services our residents need in a wide variety of areas.

Community nonprofits do the hard work so government doesn’t have to. The governor’s budget proposal is a good start and should be seen by legislators as the basis for making up some of the lost ground caused by a state funding system that hasn’t kept pace with the need.

The people of Connecticut who need or use services provided by nonprofits will thank them.

Gian-Carl Casa is President & CEO of the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance.

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It May be Bumpy, But Lamont Sees ‘a path forward’


By Mark Pazniokas, ctmirror.org

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont cast his first budget proposal Wednesday as “a path forward,” a map for a wealthy state struggling to wriggle free of a crushing pension debt amassed over decades, end crippling cycles of deficits and spark economic growth.

In a televised, 35-minute speech to the General Assembly, Lamont politely challenged lawmakers to suggest improvements if they don’t like his approach, pleading for “a different type of politics.” But at least for now, the new governor drew few hard lines beyond which he would not cross, all but inviting a robust debate. 

“Politics in Washington is a dysfunctional mess. Let’s show that here in Connecticut, we can work together on an honest budget, on time, one that gets our state moving again,” Lamont said. “When we disagree, don’t go to a microphone. Come to my office. My door is always open. Let’s get it done.”

The plea prompted an extended standing ovation from both sides of the aisle.

But other applause lines — promises of a higher minimum wage, a paid family and medical leave program, a pledge to preserve collective bargaining for state employees — only resonated among the majority Democrats. 

“I think it is a responsible budget that meets our needs. We are facing a deficit of about $1.5 billion in the next year and more than that in the year after that,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, D-New Haven. “We need some additional revenues. We also need to make sure we have an economic development plan that keeps the state moving forward and promotes job development. I think that’s a key.”

Republican leaders, however, responded coolly after the speech to the governor’s ideas for raising new revenue.

“Well, clearly Governor Lamont has an interest in fixing the state,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “I think unfortunately the way he’s trying to do it now is only hurting Main Street America. The middle class is being hurt by far the most in this. I believe in a path forward for Connecticut as the governor mentioned, but this is not the path.”

Lamont, 65, a Democrat and Greenwich businessman, is only Connecticut’s second governor since Chester Bowles, who was elected in 1948, without experience as a legislator in either Hartford or Washington. The other was his predecessor, Dannel P. Malloy, who was mayor of Stamford for 14 years.

Since taking office on Jan. 9, Lamont has invited a steady procession of legislators and other stakeholders, including the state-employee unions that contributed to his victory, to the Executive Residence, listening more than talking.

“Politics in Washington is a dysfunctional mess. Let’s show that here in Connecticut, we can work together on an honest budget, on time, one that gets our state moving again.”

Gov. Ned Lamont

On Wednesday, it was Lamont’s turn to speak.

He was not quite as relaxed as during his inaugural on Jan. 9, when he displayed a goofy charm, offering commentary and asides on his own speech as he delivered it. There were no taxes on the table then, no tolls, no hard requests. But he occasionally ad libbed, playing off the lawmakers’ applause —or their silence.

His promise to save nearly $600 million a year by curtailing borrowing and putting the state on a “debt diet” drew predictable applause.

“Now, I’ve talked to a lot of you,” he said. “I know you agree in principle, but then you generally have ‘one more special project that’s in the queue in my district.’ So be forewarned — if it is not tied to economic or workforce development, or cost-saving shared services, Connecticut is on a debt diet – and I am going to make sure we stick to that plan.”

He raised his voice, punching what was intended to be an applause line.

Lawmakers offered only a stony silence.

Lamont smiled.

“Crickets,” he said.

That prompted laughter — and applause.

If Lamont faces resistance from lawmakers about closing the bonding favor bank, he is looking at trench warfare over his call to end sales-tax exemptions for most everything but groceries and prescription medications. He noted he is seeking no raises in the rates for income or sales taxes, but said Connecticut needs to modernize its sales tax structure.

“Our current sales tax is designed for a Sears Roebuck economy driven by over-the-counter sales. Today we live in an Amazon economy, which is driven by e-commerce, digital downloads, consumer services,” he said. “So my sales tax reform would broaden the base so that digital goods are treated equally and more significantly that we are capturing a growing segment of the economy.”

He suggested there is no rhyme or reason to the current exemptions. Haircuts are exempt, not manicures. Netflix is exempt, not movie tickets. Lamont insisted he knows the size of the fight he is inviting, that he has been warned off by legislative leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers.

“Believe me, I’ve been forewarned by all of you —there was bipartisan consensus on this — that every tax expenditure has a strong lobby behind it and the pushback will be ferocious,” Lamont said.

The new governor promised to push back.

For the first time since announcing Saturday he would propose options for electronic tolling on all motor vehicles — not just trucks, as he promised during his campaign — Lamont explained his rationale to a live audience.

The governor said his lawyers convinced him that trucks-only tolling would survive judicial scrutiny only if the tolls were collected on specific bridges to pay for their reconstruction. He promised Connecticut car drivers would get discounted rates, as other states provide to their motorists.

Democrats applauded.

“By the way, it is estimated that over 40 percent of tolling revenue would come from out of state. As we foot the bill when we travel through their neighboring states, it’s time for out-of-state drivers to help foot the bill for fixing our roads and bridges,” he said.

Republicans, who see tolls as a wedge issue for 2020, did not.

Lamont cast tolling as part of a larger plan to grow the economy,  saying there is little chance of extended growth without modern transportation infrastructure, and there is no way of modernizing infrastructure without tolls.

Tolls would allow Connecticut to speed rail service from Hartford through New Haven and Stamford to New York City and add more frequent service to Waterbury and New London, he said. They also would help his economic-development team when companies ask about gridlock.

“Rather than nervously looking down at our shoes or checking our watch, our economic development team will now be able to answer, ‘I’m glad you asked me that,’ ” he said.

“I believe in a path forward for Connecticut as the governor mentioned, but this is not the path.”

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby

Lamont faces structural deficits, as did his predecessor, but the immediate task is not as daunting as the $3.7 billion shortfall that greeted Malloy. In some ways, however, Lamont faces a more difficult political task.

Eight years ago, Democrats working with their first Democratic governor in two decades readily yielded to Malloy on difficult revenue questions, such as the $1.8 billion tax increase Malloy proposed in his first budget. The novelty of working with a Democratic governor is long gone — as Malloy discovered in his final two years in office, when legislators shut him out of budget talks.

Lamont needs to find his own path forward, as well as a way to coax lawmakers to join him on the trip. That is a work in progress.

A key talking point Wednesday was Lamont’s intention to break the cycle of deficits, a tempting prospect for lawmakers exhausted by the constant struggle to balance budgets, ignoring the future while paying off debts from the past.

“I will not allow this budget to be another scene from Groundhog Day, where I come to you year-after-year, hat-in-hand, lamenting the fact that we still haven’t addressed our structural deficits,” Lamont said. “Fixed costs inherited from the past consume nearly a third of Connecticut’s budget – much more than our peers. This hurts our ability to make investments in our future.”

He said he can offer a solution, but only if he is backed by lawmakers, selling his plan to business and labor, mayors and selectmen, town councils and boards of education. 

Everyone is going to have to sacrifice — take a haircut, as debtors tell creditors when there is not enough money to pay everyone.  And that includes paying the sales tax on every haircut.

Featured Photo Credit: Connecticut Public Radio

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United Way to Host Legislative Forum on Financial Hardship


HARTFORD — The Connecticut United Way on Feb. 25 will host a legislative forum in Hartford about the “true scope of financial hardship” and how working families can achieve financial security.

The forum will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Room 2E at the Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Ave. in Hartford.

The forum comes after a 2018 report on the increase in the number of Asset Limited Income constrained Employed, or ALICE households. These families in the state included those who despite working hard, live paycheck to paycheck and are unable to afford life’s most basic necessities such as housing, food, child care, transportation, technology and healthcare.

About 40 percent of Connecticut households are unable to make ends meet. They are considered ALICE households. Many ALICE households are one emergency away from a financial crisis impacting their ability to feed their family, heat their home, maintain their housing and ensure their medical care, organizers said.

The other sponsors to this event are the Commission on Women, Children and Seniors and the Commission on Equity and Opportunity.

For more information and to register click here.

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Legislative Caucus Urges Residents to Participate in Forum


HARTFORD — The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus is urging Greater Hartford residents to participate in a public forum to address general issues facing thier communities.

The forum will be on Feb. 19 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

People who wish to speak must sign up the day of the forum from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the LOB lobby. Speakers will be allowed three minutes. Written testimony may be submitted in advance to Georgette.Cicero@cga.ct.gov .

“We need direct input from the public, advocates and other lawmakers about their concerns and ideas about issues affecting Black and Latino communities across Connecticut,” said Chair of the Caucus, Rep. Brandon McGee.

Participation is crucial, officials said.

“The caucus plays a very important role in shaping major policy initiatives, and I am looking forward to advocating and leading legislation that in the long run will benefit all people of Connecticut,” said Rep. Geraldo Reyes, (D-Waterbury) caucus vice chair.

More information may be obtained by sending an email toGeorgette.Cicero@cga.ct.gov  or by calling (860) 240-8323.

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State Rep. Brandon McGee Launches Campaign for Mayor


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford State Rep. Brandon McGee on Monday announced his candidacy for mayor.

The Hartford native kicked off his campaign on Barbour Street, calling for a united city of different enclaves pitted against each other.

McGee, 34, was recently elected to serve a fourth term as a two-town representative in the General Assembly. His district includes parts of Windsor and Hartford. He said his run as mayor is a natural progression from his current position as a legislator because he has fought for education equity, fair housing and blight remediation.

He said he wants to tackle inequalities and spur economic development in neighborhoods, not just downtown Hartford.

“I want to create a city that embraces each and every resident and creates the conditions for them to succeed,” McGee said.

McGee currently serves as the chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. A Democrat, his bid for City Hall comes one week after Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin announced his reelection campaign.

Both McGee and Bronin will face other challengers in the Sept. 10 primary. So far, Hartford Board of Education Chairman Craig Stallings,  local television businessman J. Stan McCauley and an educator Aaron Lewis have filed papers to run for mayor. The general election is Nov. 5.

McGee currently chairs the housing committee and the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.

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A Push to End Housing Discrimination Against Ex-Offenders


By Mark Pazniokas, ctmirror.org

HARTFORD — As Connecticut’s prison population shows signs of stabilizing after years of shrinking, the General Assembly and administration of Gov. Ned Lamont are tackling new ways of lowering recidivism, including a push outlined Wednesday to discourage housing authorities and other landlords from barring ex-offenders as tenants.

A working group of the legislature’s Commission on Equity and
Opportunity released a 30-page report  that identifies restrictive
housing policies and a lack of re-entry support as obstacles to
Connecticut continuing to lower recidivism and shrink its prison
population.

“Up to 95 percent of people who have been incarcerated in Connecticut will return to our communities one day,”  the report says. “Having a safe and stable place to live is essential for their successful reintegration. Research shows that if a person has stable housing, they are less likely to commit a new crime and end up back behind bars.”

Rep. Brandon McGee Jr., D-Hartford, the co-chair of the legislature’s Housing Committee, said legislation is being drafted based on the working group’s recommendations, as well as proposed directives for the state Department of Housing.

“Today starts the real work,” McGee said.

The report was released at a two-hour workshop at the State Capitol, where the participants include two new players in the state’s criminal justice reform movement: Correction Commissioner-designate Rollin Cook and Marc Pelka, the criminal-justice policy adviser to Gov. Ned Lamont.

Lamont, who was downstate, canceled a planned appearance at the
workshop, but his chief of staff, Ryan Drajewicz, told the group Lamont was intent on continuing and building on the criminal justice reforms of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a leader in the national bipartisan movement to reassess sentencing policies that have given the U.S. the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

His hiring of Cook and Pelka, who both have reputations as reformers, is seen as evidence of Lamont’s commitment, but McGee warned that the administration ultimately will be judged on what it delivers in resources and policies.

“We’re all in on this,” said Cook, whose references include Scott
Semple, the man he is succeeding as commissioner.

The workshop was Cook’s first opportunity to meet with a broad audience of community-service providers and policy makers. Cook, who comes from Utah, said he was attracted to the Connecticut job by what he sees as a commitment to progress.

He also noted that the profession as a whole was changing rapidly

“The thing that I’ve seen in corrections over the years is we’ve
changed.  Many people comment on my size,” said Cook, who has the frame of an offensive lineman. “The reality was when I was hired as a correction officer, I was hired for size and athletic ability. They didn’t ask if I could think. They didn’t ask if I could communicate. They didn’t ask if I could problem-solve. They didn’t ask if I was empathetic or anything like that. The world is changing in corrections.”

Connecticut is generally credited with making great strides in making prisons more therapeutic than punitive under Malloy and Semple, who recently retired as the correction commissioner. But community-service providers complain the state still could do much better in preparing inmates for release.

Nearly 11,000 men and women were released from prison from August 2017 through July 2018, with more than 6,000 leaving though parole or some other discretionary release. They typically had some continuing help in finding housing and employment. But 4,677 served their full sentences and left prison without supervision — and in many cases, without support.

Stable housing is crucial to finding and keeping a job, and steady work is one of the best ways to keep ex-offenders from returning to crime, researchers say.

“We don’t want anyone released into homelessness,” said Sarah Diamond, a researcher. “That shouldn’t happen.”

The report concluded that Connecticut has no unified system for tracking the housing status of everyone newly released from jail or prison, particularly those individuals who are released at the end of their sentence.

The working group recommends that the state Department of Housing revise policies that discourage or even bar families getting rental or other housing assistance from welcoming home a relative after a prison term. Parole officers should no longer reject public housing or Section 8 addresses as part of a release plan.

It also recommends legislation banning property owners from looking at criminal records beyond seven years and another bill that would automatically seal all or most convictions after seven years of a person’s release from prison.

The group urges that the sex offender registry be refined to focus on those judged as a danger by a formal risk-assessment system.

“In Connecticut, our sex offender registry is not an indication of risk
or danger to the community, and does not take risk assessment into
account at all,” the report said.

A state recidivism study in 2017 found that within five years of leaving prison, only 4.1 percent were arrested for a new sexual offense.

Featured Photo: Facebook

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Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin Launches Reelection Bid, Cites Progress


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin wants a second term in office.

On Tuesday, he and his supporters stood on the steps of Hartford City Hall and launched a reelection campaign, touting accomplishments since 2016.

Since Bronin entered office, he has tackled the city’s budget, moving the city from the brink of bankruptcy to what he calls stability. He negotiated with the state and received a $550 million bailout and a five-year financial plan, which averted bankruptcy. In return, Hartford officials ceded some power to run the city.

He has also followed up on his promise to address blight. So far, he hired a full-time blight director who runs a blight remediation team that has revitalized 137 buildings.

And he is not done yet.

“We’ve got lots of work left to do. But we’ve got momentum and can’t afford to slow down now,” Bronin said.

Bronin, 39, will face Stan McCauley who launched his bid in November 2018, and Aaron Lewis who launched in December. 2018. Also rumored to run are State Rep. Brandon McGee and State Sen. Doug McCrory.

Bronin is vulnerable in his run for mayor, though. That’s because two years after he entered office, he launched a bid for governor. He was widely criticized by his opponents and encouraged by his supporters.

He also wrestled with the unions over concessions, leaving some dissatisfied. And some residents have complained about garbage and rodent problems that consume the city.

The challenges remain and Bronin said he has his performance in the last three years to build on.

“With crisis behind us, we’re going to focus relentlessly on those basic quality of life issues that matter in every neighborhood,” Bronin said. “But we have a path, and we have a plan. And I’m asking for your help to keep Hartford moving.

Bronin, who served as the legal counsel to former Governor Dannel P. Malloy, raised almost $1 million during his first bid for public office. He defeated the incumbent Mayor Pedro Segarra.

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Hartford Land Bank Receives $175K Grant to Address Blight


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Blighted properties in Hartford are scheduled to get some much needed attention.

Thanks to a $175,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The grant will help the Hartford Land Bank to assess about 400 vacant and abandoned properties in the city.

“The Hartford Foundation is proud to support this collaborative community effort that will help to revitalize the City of Hartford to improve the quality of life for residents, attract new businesses and create jobs,” said Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams.

The Land Bank is a new arm of city hall that has the power to buy, manage and dispose of blighted properties in an effort to revitalize the city. It was created in 2017 with the help of a $5 million state grant.  The Land Bank is also a resource to assist vulnerable property owners, including the elderly, by providing resources they need to maintain their properties.

Laura Settlemyer is the enforcement director for the Blight Remediation Team that works with the Land Bank. The remediation team already consists of inspectors and enforcement officers. However, the city plans to hire national experts to survey properties in the city.  They will collaborate with the city’s Office of Community Engagement, Hartford GIS Services and the Hartford Youth Service Corps.

At a town hall meeting in October 2018, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said the city has been looking at how it can be more effective in dealing with blight in the city.

Blight is a public health issue. According to a 2017 study by the Urban Institute, families living near vacant homes, abandoned buildings and vacant lots saw lower literacy scores for pre-k children and higher rates of chronic illness, stunted brain and physical development.

Other social impact include decreased property values and increased crime.

“Blighted properties have plagued our neighborhoods for decades, and that’s why we made it a priority from the very beginning to combat blight in an aggressive and systematic way,” Bronin said. “The Land Bank will help us accelerate that work and this generous funding will give us and all of our partners a more detailed roadmap for the entire city.”

Since 2017, 137 of blighted properties have been fixed up, officials said. The plan, they said, is to “use every tool we can.”

Bronin said the team is willing to work with property owners.

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Sen. Beth Bye to Resign to Join Ned Lamont’s Administration


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — State Sen. Beth Bye will resign to take a job with Gov. elect Ned Lamont’s administration.

Lamont picked Bye to lead Connecticut’s Office of Early Childhood, which was created in 2013. She will help to develop a cohesive early childhood care and educational system.

“Beth Bye has devoted her entire professional career to helping to build a more progressive and equitable early childhood system in which all children, regardless of their parents’ socio-economic status, can grow, learn and develop,” Lamont said. “It’s clear that the formative early childhood years are jey to providing children a solid educational base and platform, and I know Beth is the best person to take the helm of this critical agency.”

Bye is a Democrat who represents the 5th Senate District, which includes West Hartford, Bloomfield, Burlington and Farmington. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2007 and then moved to the Senate in 2011. There will be a special election to fill Bye’s seat because she was reelected in November.

Currently, Bye is the executive director of Auerfarm, a Bloomfield-based community farm that hosts 15,000 student trips annually. Prior to that, Bye led Great by 8, a community partnership to develop a program that supports optimal health and educational outcomes for children ages birth to eight. She also worked as Early Childhood Director at the Capitol Region Education Council and was Director at Trinity College Community Child Center and the University of St. Joseph School for Young Children.

She will earn $155,000 in her new job.

“I am grateful to begin this next chapter in my career, leading an agency I helped to spearhead and create,” said Bye. “Connecticut’s children—all of them—represent  the future of our state, and deserve to have the tools and support necessary to develop, grow and thrive.”

 

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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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