The difference between a political campaign and governing is like a controlled frenzy versus chipping stone. In government, you must chisel your way to get things done. That’s the nature of the beast when a chief executive must work with an equal-check legislative branch.
Ned Lamont, the businessman, anti-war warrior, establishment fighter, has found his way into the governor’s mansion via a circuitous set of circumstances after incumbent Dan Malloy eschewed reelection with one of the poorest approval ratings in the country.
The thing about Lamont that intrigues is his ability to walk into a corporate board room extolling his business credentials while shrugging an aw-shucks attitude to common folks in the streets who’ll never realize his vast wealth. Over the next four years his challenge will center on welding an economic plan that lifts up the state without betraying the urban votes that got him to the dance.
On Tuesday’s vote, shortly after noon, Lamont returned to the building that housed the former Harding High School where he had served as a volunteer instructor more than a decade ago. He greeted Bridgeport political supporters with his genial wife Annie, highlighting a declaration: I’ll not forget the people who helped elect me governor.
Lamont has pledged big-time things for Bridgeport: full funding of education and tax-exempt properties that means tens of millions extra for the city; an open, competitive process for a waterfront gaming destination; a businessman who’ll make Bridgeport a player at the table.
Lamont does not come across a phony. He sounds genuine.
Governors can use the force of will to get things done. Lowell Weicker, for whatever reason he had encompassing his 6’6 frame, did gigantic things for Bridgeport. Quick history lesson:
Weicker, a three-term Republican U.S. senator who lost a 1988 general election to Democrat Joe Lieberman, reemerged as an independent candidate for governor two years later. He won.
In June 1991 Republican Mayor Mary Moran placed the city into federal bankruptcy court arguing Connecticut’s largest city needed a fresh start from decades of deficit spending, union contracts and a tanking grand list of taxable property.
Weicker, backed by then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, declared Bridgeport was a child of the state, as a result, a bankruptcy petition damaged the credit worthiness of Connecticut. A federal judge sided with the state.
In November 1991, 32-year-old Joe Ganim (remember him?) defeated Moran in the general election. The morning after election, a groggy Ganim met with Weicker who boomed … kid, help me and I’ll help you … Withdraw the bankruptcy petition (under appeal) and I’ll help you revitalize your budget.
Weicker was so true to his word. He built a new Housatonic Community College, languishing on the East Side, on a Downtown location that now is the highest trafficked two-year program in the state with roughly 6,000 students.
What else did he do?
Relocation of the Troop G State Police Barracks From Westport to Downtown Bridgeport across from Housatonic.
-$5 million from the state to purchase Beardsley Park
-$5 million from the state to purchase the state’s only zoo
-$500,000 to remove the stinking East End demolition debris known as Mount Trashmore
-$10 million from gaming revenues with tribal nations
-Millions more in incentive packages to keep companies in the city during a massive New England recession
For young Joe Ganim it was manna from heaven and helped stabilize the city’s budget for a decade.
What’s the point of this?
Eight years ago Dan Malloy, who had been mayor of Stamford, became governor. He said this and that about what he’ll do to resurrect cities, except he took the easy way out over the course of two terms wiring extraordinary development plans to his placental Stamford.
He’s a disappointment to the state’s largest city that aided his elections. Bridgeport, for Malloy, was an afterthought. Malloy did not have the heart, nor will, to do the things for Bridgeport he did for Stamford.
Lowell Weicker was wealthy. He didn’t serve for the political paycheck. He stepped up for Bridgeport in extraordinary ways. He had a heart for Bridgeport.
Ned Lamont is wealthy. He’s not serving for a political paycheck. Will he do the same for Bridgeport as Weicker?