Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will face his 17th and last town-hall meeting on the budget tonight in Middletown, listening to compliments and complaints. But paying attention to signs waved at him? Not so much.
As union members were starting to suspect, it turns out that signs–especially the elaborate messages spelled out by audience members holding up individual letters at recent meetings – aren’t the best way to reach a dyslexic governor.
“I think people don’t remember that I am dyslexic. So people hold up these letters. Apparently it spells out words,” Malloy said, shrugging and smiling. “I have no idea what it says. Because it is not in any relationship I can put together.”
Malloy, who has not been shy about discussing how he overcame learning disabilities to earn undergraduate and law degrees from Boston College, can read, though not easily.
He read long speeches off a teleprompter for his inaugural in January and budget address in February.
An aide says Malloy memorizes words, recognizing them as graphic elements. But he has trouble taking individual letters and formulating them into words–especially when they run together or do not appear in a clear format.
The television word-puzzle game, Wheel of Fortune, is nonsensical to him.
“There is no way I can play that game,” Malloy said.
So it was lost on Malloy when an entire row of union activists at Manchester Community College held up individual letters that spelled out, “WE PAY TAXES WHY DON’T BANKS?”
State employee unions have been raising tax equity as an issue at the town-halls, complaining that Bank of America and other large corporations have paid little or no corporate taxes to Connecticut in recent years.
Malloy didn’t react when the activists held up the letters, but he wasn’t ignoring them. He had no idea what they were doing. After the town-hall meeting, Malloy turned to an aide, Arielle Reich, and asked what everyone was holding.
“They are holding these things, and they think I know what they are saying? I have no idea. Arielle has told me what it says. But for me to be standing at a podium, looking at an audience, and people are holding letters at different heights and stuff like that?”
He shook his head.
“Honestly, they can do that to cows come home,” Malloy said, laughing. “It doesn’t bother me. It can say, ‘You suck, Malloy.’ And I’d have no idea.”
At subsequent town-halls, the union members have mixed up their messages. At one meeting, they urged Malloy to “CLOSE LOOPHOLES.”
Matt O’Connor, a spokesman for CSEA/SEIU Local 2001, said the unions are planning “many signs, many banners” for the governor’s last town hall, even though he suspected Malloy was having trouble reading them.
“I figured he’d have a sense of humor about that,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said the signs were meant to visually reinforce–for the press as much as the governor– a spoken message about tax equity delivered by union members at every one of the town-halls.
One way or another, O’Connor said, Malloy is getting the message.
Tonight’s final town-hall meeting is at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Middletown High School, 200 LaRosa Lane, Middletown.