Day Staff Columnist, Enterprise Reporter/Columnist
Published on 9/22/2005
As he puts it, almost nobody in the state is paying attention yet, but New Haven's Democratic Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is running for governor.
“Most people are thinking about getting to work, getting the kids off to school, whose parents are we going to visit over the weekend, your parents or my parents and let's not fight about it,” he said Wednesday. But make no mistake: The campaign has begun.
In a meeting with The Day editorial board Wednesday, DeStefano outlined his arguments as to why it's time to show Gov. M. Jodi Rell the door.
Never mind that her approval ratings have been through the roof, hovering in the vicinity of 70 to 80 percent.
“She's only had one opponent for one year and two months, and she's been running against him every day: John Rowland,” DeStefano said. “She has defined the race up until this point as a campaign against John Rowland. She is the anti-John Rowland.”
He plans to define other issues for the 2006 campaign.
“The message to Jodi is: Why are we 50th in job growth in America? Why are our families stuck in traffic and our kids not going to be able to buy a house in the town in which they grew up? Why are we forcing older people and young couples out of their homes and businesses out of state because of a property tax that is taking the very thing that makes Connecticut attractive and destroying it acre by acre by acre each and every day?” he asks.
“If you would see a travel poster of Connecticut, you would, odds on, see a covered bridge, right? We're losing that each and every day. Why do we say Massachusetts can provide health care to all its kids, but Connecticut doesn't? Why do we accept that?”
DeStefano points to what he's done in the city of New Haven, where he's been mayor since 1994.
Crime in his city is down 60 percent, he said, and murders have been cut by two-thirds. The city's nine high schools are graduating 60 percent more kids than 10 years ago, and the dropout rate has gone from 30 to 17 percent.
Thirty-five of the state's 45 biotech firms have set up shop in the greater New Haven area, and the top rental for an apartment downtown is now $3,500 a month.
DeStefano listed four things he said he would want to accomplish as governor.
“The first is job and wealth creation,” he said. “When you have a smaller work force, you have a smaller number of taxpayers, and this is all about the business of growing the number of taxpayers and wealth in the state. It should be the platform for everything else we do.”
The state should work on bringing in businesses that export goods, services and ideas, and that, he said, would include manufacturing.
“As governor, I think elimination of the personal property tax on machinery and equipment is the key thing to do if you want to keep manufacturing.”
Secondly, the state should stop subsidizing the financial services and insurance industries, businesses that can sell their products no matter where they're located.
“Think of how we subsidize that industry,” he said. “The state gives ING $10 million to move from one side of the river in Hartford to the other.”
The other thing the state has to stop doing is “building ballparks, stadiums and convention centers” because they don't create jobs.
“Our major economic development project in Hartford has been ... What? ... Adriaen's landing. $500 million. Do you know how many full-time jobs there are at the convention center? Seventy-two.”
The third area he would focus on is intellectual property.
“Twelve percent of pharmaceutical research in the United States occurs in Connecticut,” he said. “Number one per capita in issuing patents is Connecticut. Number two in advanced degrees is Connecticut. The fact is intellectual property is a great place for us to add value and create jobs.”
Business cannot grow unless the state develops its transportation infrastructure, he said. “The state should make significant investments in transportation: commuter rail, freight rail, and the intermodal links between them.”
For example, he said, “Over a 10-year time frame we ought to have commuter rail between Springfield and New Haven, if you want to grow jobs in that corridor.”
His biggest issue is the tax structure.
“We have a property tax and land use policy that actually are working against us creating jobs and are destroying the things that make Connecticut a desirable place to work and live.”
He points to the example of a mega mall in Canton.
“They put in a bunch of businesses, franchise businesses that are going to put out of business the local businesses that make Canton, Connecticut, Canton, Connecticut, and not Canton, Ohio,” he said. “Why in hell does Canton do something that would seem to be absolutely against their interests?”
The short answer is dependence on local property taxes to pay for education. That policy, DeStefano said, “encourages consumption of open space and sprawl development into places that don't really want it. Think of what they didn't build there: housing. Why didn't they build housing? Kids. And if they build anything, it's going to be age-restricted housing or a McMansion, and what's the consequence of that? It means most of the kids growing up in Canton will never be able to buy a house in Canton.”
As goes Canton, he said, so goes the state.
“This is not about Jodi. It's not about a choice between Jodi and John. We've got to change the choice,” DeStefano said. “Is Connecticut a better place for your kids to grow up in than it was for you? Or is it a worse place to grow up in? Only one state loses more 25-to-34-year-olds than Connecticut. Only one. Alaska. Think about that.”