Municipal lobby offers its own job stimulus plan

The chief lobbying agency for Connecticut’s cities and towns unveiled its own job stimulus proposals Monday, asking lawmakers to streamline economic assistance grants, assign a municipal ombudsman to cut bureaucratic red tape out of each state agency, and form regional state-local economic development teams.

“Economic development and job creation in Connecticut occurs within towns and cities” James Finley, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said. “In order for state efforts to improve our economy to be successful, such efforts must be aligned and coordinated with local and regional efforts.”

Finley noted that state government already has been successful at streamlining its Local Capital Improvement Program, a grant that awards communities funds for improvements to public buildings and other municipal resources.

A similar approach should be taken, he said, to two major economic development grant programs: the Urban Act and the Small Towns Economic Assistance Program.

A common theme raised by both state and local officials as well as the private sector has been a need to expedite and clarify state government’s regulatory review process. CCM recommended Monday that for three of the state’s most crucial permitting departments — Energy & Environmental Protection, Transportation, and Economic & Community Development — applications should be deemed approved if they aren’t acted upon within 90 days.

Town leaders also want a “municipal ombudsman” assigned to each state agency “to interact regularly and directly with local governments to improve coordination for economic development, planning, transportation, etc.”

Another option for streamline the state’s regulatory process would be to allow communities to use licensed professional engineers to certify that work done on economic development projects has met state permit requirements.

“Municipalities are anxious to be strong partners in reviving the Connecticut economy,” Finley added, “but are often frustrated by state agency bureaucracies and unreasonable delays in getting permit and other approvals.”