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It can’t be business as usual in Connecticut

In its 92 years, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has been a steady resource throughout the Greater Hartford region despite the rise and fall of the economy. We have been through uncertain times before:  the Great Depression… the oil crisis of the 70s and the recession that followed… the dot com bubble burst of 2001, and the 2008 Great Recession. While this fiscal uncertainty is not new, our response must be.  It cannot be business as usual. 

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Remembering a Hartford that didn’t kowtow to commuters

The New York Times reported last week that Hartford is “teetering on the brink of bankruptcy” — a forecast that didn’t hit me like a freight train.
As The Times noted, the capital city has for decades watched its tax base shrink while “its pension obligations and debts have piled up.” Hartford has all but lost its usefulness. As industries shutter — or in the case of Aetna, relocate to the nearby financial capital of the world — jobs flee subsequently. And it doesn’t help that the municipal government continues to turn its back on residents who don’t live within walking distance of Bushnell Park.

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Revenge of the Millennials: We quite like it here

It is so incredibly difficult to accentuate the positive in Connecticut.  Doing so is akin to swimming upstream, climbing uphill, and skiing through a revolving door – combined. In fact, when there is positive evidence staring us in the face, our Nutmeg reflexes kick in automatically.  We shut our eyes, the better not to see the hopeful signs or indicators of progress.

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Living within walking distance — important for a great neighborhood

We were looking for a house in West Hartford a quarter century ago, and were surprised to learn that houses closer to the town center were generally less expensive that houses further away. This made no sense to me. I could leave the car in the driveway, walk to stores, restaurants, town hall, gym, library, etc., and enjoy the safety that comes with other people walking by, and pay less? Where do I sign? Indeed, we bought a house in West Hartford Center. For the only time in my life, I was ahead of a trend. People are moving back to city and town centers. Pedestrian proximity is essential; a pillar of a great neighborhood. That’s the thesis of an intriguing new book, “Within Walking Distance: Creating Livable Communities for All,” by New Haven-based writer Philip Langdon.

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Adopting a pet is good for you and the animal

Did you know that in the United States every year, about 2.7 million cats and dogs have to be euthanized due to the fact that shelters are overpopulated? Connecticut has many animals that end up in shelters and need a forever home. People should consider adopting a pet instead of buying a new family pet for many reasons. If you choose to adopt instead of shop, you can help save an animal’s life. Adopted animals also cost less, and pets that are adopted make a great family pet. Adopting a pet is both beneficial for you and the animal.

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Let Hartford go bankrupt

Connecticut is in the midst of a financial crisis. The decisions made now will determine whether our state returns to its former glory days, or whether it continues on its present path of job contraction and depopulation as young people and retirees flee. The first step in bringing back Connecticut is to allow Hartford to go bankrupt. This will send a message to other big spending municipalities and the state itself that the party is over.

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Legal marijuana is coming to New England; Connecticut should benefit

Last week, House and Senate Democrats announced a budget proposal that, among other things, would tax and regulate marijuana. As a Hartford City Councilor, this was welcome news. Back in March, I submitted a resolution to support marijuana legalization as a way to generate revenue for our struggling cities that would not increase tax rates. But more importantly, marijuana legalization would create jobs and business opportunities for our youth, something Connecticut needs even more than revenue.

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Our garbage can – and so can yours!

When Oscar the Grouch so wisely exclaimed, “It’s called garbage can, not garbage cannot!” he wasn’t just referring to his treasured home on Sesame Street, but to the abundant source of life living – and working – in our garbage to help process our food waste, improve sustainability, reduce landfills and ultimately, help feed the hungry.

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The clock is ticking on sensible state budget reform

I read with great interest Keith Phaneuf’s recent series on Connecticut’s serious budget challenges. He is clearly the best journalist on this subject in our state. Last month I watched Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget speech from the floor of the State House. The governor’s budget has already resulted in significant discussion and debate. Three of his key and controversial proposals deserve comment. Connecticut has waited far too long to address them. It’s not a matter of if related changes will be made, it’s really a matter of when, how and by whom. The clock is ticking and time is not working in our favor.

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Reducing illiteracy will help close Connecticut’s achievement gap

One in four children in our country grows up functionally illiterate, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Did you know we spend $2 billion nationally every year on students repeating a grade because they face challenges reading? The state of Connecticut currently sees the second largest wealth inequality in the United States. While the state ranks as the fourth richest in the United States, children are still in need. On Feb. 25, Pi Beta Phi will donate 20,000 brand new books to Hartford groups serving low-income families at a book distribution through Pi Beta Phi’s partnership with First Book®.

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Data contradicts popular myths about towns’ ability to pay

In an article published in the Connecticut Mirror dated February 10 (“Legislators begin to push back on Malloy’s new budget”), Ben Barnes, budget director for Gov. Dannel Malloy, supports shifting tens of millions of dollars of school and other expenses to the towns. This shift, besides being a likely economic impossibility, ignores the fact that Connecticut is one of 33 states without a local income tax option.