It’s late at night in Hartford. Mysteriously, a lone light shines from the executive suite in the State Capitol. A security officer walking by comments to his partner “Ned’s working late tonight.”
The partner replies “Yeah. The watch commander said he called some sort of meeting. Said he’ll be there a while.”
“I wonder what’s going on.”
“Nothing good, that’s for sure.”
Up in the office a group of ten men and women surround the governor’s desk in a semi-circle. Most are looking at their phones; some are looking at the clock on the wall. One dozes in his seat off to the side of the desk. All await the arrival of the governor.
“How much longer do you think he’ll be?” one participant asks the governor’s chief of staff.
“He’s eating dinner. It’s Wednesday. It’s hamburger happy meal night. He’ll be here after he finishes the fries and the apple slices.”
The group was jolted out of their silent reflection and began to chat. “Anyone know what this is about?”
“I’ll take a wild guess and speculate it’s tolls again.”
“Jeez Louise! How many time are we going to talk about tolls before we can all move on to taxing the people directly like we always have? I mean, the Malloy Administration must have been soooo much more fun.”
“Look,” said another. “Ned has an image he is trying to protect. He’s a man of the people.” Four of the ten laughed out loud.
The door opens and the governor bursts in. “Hey everybody. Sorry to keep you all so late tonight. Hey: no badmouthing the time of the meeting or the meeting. Let’s be positive tonight.” Groans emit from more than one participant.
“What’s up, Gov?” asked the chief of staff.
“Here’s what’s up. I have a new strategy for tolls.”
“Oh my God Ned,” piped in the communications strategist, “not again. Let me walk you through a little history. One: no tolls. Two: truck only tolls. Three: everybody pays at about 85 gantries. Four: everybody pays at fifty gantries. Five: back to trucks only. How many more times are we going to adjust?”
Ned replies “Don’t badmouth me. No change in the overall strategy. We will still disguise the ultimate goal as ‘trucks only’ tolls until I get reelected in three years. It’s how we’ll go about getting it passed. Let me fill you in.”
“I have the house people telling me they don’t trust the senate people, and I have the senate people saying they don’t trust the house people. Martin and Joe, Joe and Martin. Joe says you go first, and Marty says no, you go first. It’s what you call a stalemate. They won’t vote.”
“Do we have the votes Governor?” asked the man who had been napping.
“How in the heck would I know? Nobody tells me anything. But listen. Here’s what I’ve decided. I want the budget to reflect the purchase of 187 blindfolds. Every senator gets one and every representative gets one. Nothing fancy. Just something that will make sure they can’t see what the person next to them is doing. Try and get the ones that are in the kit they give me in first class on the airplane. Then we pipe loud music into the chamber so they can’t hear any conversations. I just made my ‘Best of Woodstock’ CD, so we can use that. Then I give an executive order….ummm, Max – can I give an executive order?”
“I think so,” Max replies. “Shall I check or shall we do what we have been doing and just assume we can.”
“YES!,” Ned replies. “Great plan. I assume I can give an executive order on the day the toll vote comes up, that everyone who is going to vote must wear the blindfold while in the chamber and they are forbidden to talk to one another. Get me an air horn I can blow when the vote in complete so they know they can take the blindfold off.”
“One quick point,Governor?”
“Sure Colleen. What’s up? NO badmouthing though.”
“No sir! My sense is that some of them, and maybe even most of them, will prefer to leave the blindfolds on for the remainder of the session. I assume that will be allowed?”
The governor smiled back. “Change that from ‘allowed’ to ‘preferred.’ We may be on the verge of a political breakthrough here in Connecticut that will set a trend for the rest of the country. Blindfolded legislators casting votes on legislation that they don’t understand or appreciate. Jill: get me a mock-up of a new license plate. CONNECTICUT. THE BLINDFOLD STATE.”
“Brilliant sir. I don’t know how Annie ….er, you…come up with these ideas. Blindfolds? Brilliant. Now we’ll finally get this bill approved.”
Ned calls for a huddle before the meeting breaks up, and they gather together in the center of his office and on three yell “Go Connecticut!”
Tom Smith lives in Branford.