A weekend of interesting news and commentary posts about Bridgeport – in case you missed them….

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Bridgeport Community Bank that Bridgeport’s BOE Chair Kenneth Moales Jr won’t pay back goes under (Saturday)

In an article entitled, “State Has First Bank Failure In A Decade, the Hartford Courant reported last night that, “The Community’s Bank, with its headquarters and one branch in Bridgeport, came under the receivership of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. late Friday afternoon amid mounting losses from commercial real estate loans.”

“Shocked and saddened” is what Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said in a statement, adding “…It is not clear how the state could allow this to happen.”

Shocked?

Not clear how the state could allow this to happen?

What Mayor Finch failed to reveal and the Hartford Courant didn’t report is that The Community Bank is one of the mortgage holders that Finch campaign treasurer and Bridgeport Board of Education Chairman, Kenneth Moales Jr, has failed to repay.

Since April of this year, Wait, What? readers have been learning about the massive financial problems facing Moales his church.

Read it at: http://jonathanpelto.com/2013/09/14/bridgeport-community-bank-bridgeports-boe-chair-kenneth-moales-jr-wont-pay-back-goes/

“I am going to keep this job till someone says I can’t” (Paul Vallas 9-14-13) (Saturday)

Ah, Paul… A Connecticut Superior Court Judge said you aren’t qualified to hold the job of superintendent in the state of Connecticut.  In fact, she actually ordered you to leave the post immediately….and you refused.

Now you are using upward toward $100,000 in precious taxpayer funds to fight the fact that someone DID tell you that you can’t keep the job.

The next chapter in your embarrassing attempt to hold on to a job that isn’t yours will take place before the Connecticut Supreme Court on September 23, 2013.

A piece of advice.  When you make sh*t up, you should at least make an attempt to try and make it believable enough to not look like a fool.

Instead, according to a new story in the Connecticut Post, “Paul Vallas says he isn’t going anywhere.”

The article goes on to say, “Despite a primary last Tuesday that makes it likely school board control will shift to members who do not support him, Vallas said in an interview late last week that he is going to work in the district until he is told to stop.

Read it at: http://jonathanpelto.com/2013/09/14/going-keep-job-till-someone-says-cant-paul-vallas-9-14-13/

The Connecticut Post’s Tale of two cities(Sunday)

While one Connecticut Post article yesterday featured Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas saying “I am going to keep this job till someone says I can’t,” Hugh Bailey, an editorial writer at the paper was observing in another piece that, “At school reform’s center, a resounding ‘no’.”

As Hugh Bailey so clearly noted in his commentary piece, while Mayor Bill Finch says “I want to keep Paul Vallas…He’s going to stay as long as I can keep him here,” the people impacted by the policies being foisted upon them by Finch and Vallas are clearly saying NO!

Read it at: http://jonathanpelto.com/2013/09/15/connecticut-posts-tale-two-cities/

Malloy/Pryor’s Chief Turnaround Officer, Debra Kurshan, bails…

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Despite pulling down $149,000 a year plus benefits, Connecticut “Chief Turnaround Officer” is on the move after eight months on the job.

Commissioner Pryor has announced that Kurshan, who previously served as the head of School Portfolio Development for Mayor Bloomberg’s school privatization efforts and also worked as a consultant to the superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District in New Orleans, is leaving the state to join an unnamed education consulting firm.

Before her short stints with the Bloomberg Administration and Paul Vallas’ old Louisiana Recovery School District, Kurshan was with the education reform group, Education Pioneers, where she worked at Village Academies Network, a charter school management organization operating two schools in Harlem, New York.”

In New York City, Kurshan worked on closing public schools to make room for charter schools and co-locating charter schools in public school spaces.

A prime example of Kurshan’s approach to her Connecticut job occurred soon after her arrival when, in late 2012, using her personal email rather than her state email she wrote to hedge fund manager and education reformer Whitney Tilson to ask him to post the news about Malloy’s education reform bill on Tilson’s pro-education reform blog.  Tilson, who is a “value investor” and owns Tilson Focus Fund and Tilson Dividend Fund responded by posting the following;

“My name is Debra Kurshan and I am the Chief Turnaround Officer at the Connecticut State Department of Education…As you know Connecticut passed a set of legislation reform items last summer and the Governor has laid out 6 key principles one which is to expand high quality school models. I am writing to ask if you would post some information about the letter of interest we are requesting from charter school operators on your listserv. This is part of our effort to increase the availability of high quality school models.  The letter can be found here.”

The press release issued when she was hired by Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education reported, “As the Department’s Chief Turnaround Officer, Ms. Kurshan will work to improve learning outcomes for children in the state’s schools and districts in greatest need. She will oversee the newly created Commissioner’s Network and guide execution of transformation strategies developed by Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts. Ms. Kurshan will also lead school accountability and improvement efforts, the charter schools office, and execute the state’s education technology initiatives.”

It was in her capacity as head of Pryor’s turnaround office that she gave the four Leaders in Residence and the three retired superintendents the news that they were no longer part of the state’s technical support team for Alliance Districts.  She was apparently also involved in the recent decision to remove the staff experts on English Language Learning, Bilingual Education, Multicultural Education and Safe Schools from the Alliance District program.  It was under her management that the state hired MassInsight, the out-of-state company that is providing five novices to do the technical support work of the turnaround office at twice the cost of what was being spent for the Connecticut experts.

Hello? Anybody home?

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Governor Malloy issued a call for a Special Session of the Connecticut General Assembly to deal with the growing state deficit.

That Session is taking place today.

The State Senate and State House or Representatives convened at 10:00 am and then recessed until 4:30 pm so that elected officials could attend funerals and memorial services resulting from the Newtown Elementary School Massacre.

When they reconvene at 4:30 pm, a joint session of the Legislature will be held so Governor Malloy and Legislators can hold their own memorial service in honor of those who lost their lives in Newtown.

And then the legislature is scheduled to debate and vote on a plan to resolve Connecticut’s $415 million budget deficit.

Governor Malloy has already made $123 million in cuts, mostly to social services and Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.  The cuts to UConn, Connecticut State University and the Community Colleges come on top of Malloy’s previous cuts to our public institutions of higher education, which were already the deepest in Connecticut history.

As the Hartford Courant noted in today’s edition,” Legislative leaders declined Tuesday to discuss the specifics of the budget deal, which was hammered out in a series of meetings last week

However, as the CTMirror is reporting, the non-partisan Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis, located at the University of Connecticut, has issues a report today noting that balancing the state budget exclusively with spending cuts could be the final straw that breaks Connecticut’s economic back, pushing it back into recession.

In a report about next year’s $1.2 billion deficit, the economists said that an “all-cut” budget could “trigger as many as 25,000 annual job losses between the public and private sectors combined.”

So, when our elected officials vote tonight, what type of budget reduction plan will they be voting on?  Will it be all cuts or a combination of cuts and taxes?  What programs are being cut and what taxes are being increased?

Will our legislators be voting to cut essential social services?

Will our legislators be voting to ensure that the wealthy finally start paying their fair share in state income taxes?

Will our legislators be voting to borrow money to pay for current expenses?

Will our legislators be voting on a plan that will mean higher local property taxes?

There have been no public hearings on this plan.

The discussions have been held behind closed doors.

According to the House Republican leader, Representative Cafero, the “tentative” agreement, is “truly a compromise.”

After speaking with legislators, the CTNewsjunkie explained that the compromise “means Democrats and Republicans didn’t get everything they wanted as they attempted to reach a deal on how to close the budget deficit estimated at $365 million to $415 million.”

“It relies more heavily on spending cuts than we would have liked,” the Speaker of the House told reporters as he left the closed-door caucus where Democratic legislators were briefed on this secret plan.

The Hartford Courant added, “Lawmakers are set to vote today on a plan to close a state budget deficit by scrapping longevity bonuses for nonunion state workers in favor of a new compensation formula and cutting payments to hospitals, among other measures.”

The state does provide hospitals with funds to help off-set care that the hospitals provide to non-insured people.  However, massive cuts to hospitals would definitely threaten the level of services at some hospitals and lead to a major shift in costs from those state grants to those who are insured.  That cost shift will translate into higher health insurance premiums for those of us who have insurance.    So is the legislature’s vote going to push our health insurance premiums higher?  Is that fair?

And cutting out longevity bonuses for non-union workers is certainly understandable, but it solves about 1% of the $400 plus million state budget deficit.

So where are cuts coming from?

While action is definitely needed to bring Connecticut’s budget deficit under control, passing a “plan” that has never seen the light of day is not only incredibly inappropriate, but it is down-right unfair and undemocratic.

This plan, if it looks like the “road-map” proposed by Governor Malloy, will cut deeply into some of the most vital and essential services the state of Connecticut provides our most vulnerable citizens.

Malloy’s budget road map looked like something that would be put out by a Republican governor, not a solution based on the values and ideals of the Democratic Party.

Perhaps the secret plan will be fantastic.

Perhaps the secret plan will be a disaster.

But voting on the plan without telling the media and the people what is in it is bad news for Connecticut.

The people of our state deserve better.

Malloy/SEBAC Deal Reached: Malloy’s “Classy” Response Slams State Employees – Yet Again

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(Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

Once again Dan Malloy’s rhetoric seeks to scapegoat Connecticut’s public employees and trivialize the fact that they have already voted in favor (and are working to fully adopt) the largest concession package in state history.

From his budget announcement last February to his press statement last night Dan Malloy has consistently said the wrong thing at the wrong time.

At 10pm last night Governor Malloy released a statement that an agreement has been reached between his administration and SEBAC and that another vote would be taken on a concession package.

According to Malloy, “This agreement saves the same amount of money as the last agreement– $1.6 billion over 2 years, $21.5 billion over 20 years – and it contains all of the same cost-saving provisions as the last agreement.”

With that, the Governor then concludes;

“I hope state employees ratify this agreement, but I am assuming nothing. If they ratify it, the vast majority of layoffs and painful spending cuts can be undone.  If this agreement fails, then we’ll unfortunately have to continue to lay people off and implement the spending cuts.”

And with that the Governor renews his familiar role of making this process as difficult as possible.

With the SEBAC by-law changes, 50% of state employees must now adopt this plan to fully authorize it.  Originally 57% voted yes (when 80% was needed).  The language related to the health care change that worried many state employees as been removed to ensure that no one thinks this agreement is part of SustiNet – the State’s comprehensive health care reform law.

Governor, continuing to lay people off pending the vote is mean-spirited, bad for the employees and the families of those being laid off, bad for the people who rely on the essential services these employees provide and bad for the state’s economy during the greatest recession of our lives.

Malloy could and should have suspended the layoffs pending the vote.

And yet again we see the double standard.

If a Republican governor was doing what this Governor is doing and if a Republican governor put out a press release like the one Malloy put out last night, Democratic elected officials would be condemning the action.

But regardless of whether Democratic legislators are silent, Malloy’s actions deserve to be criticized.

Thankfully, Connecticut’s state employees care more than this Governor when it comes to preserving vital
services and doing the right thing.

Malloy sends 57 Connecticut State Troopers to the unemployment line…

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Spooky coincidence?     Then Lt. Governor-elect Nancy Wyman spoke to these same troopers at their State Police Academy graduation ceremony last year saying “I am so proud to be a Connecticut resident…I wish
you the best of luck”

News of the layoffs came yesterday;

“HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Fifty seven newest state troopers have received layoff notices in a first wave of job cut….State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance tells The Hartford Courant that the layoffs are scheduled to take effect in about six weeks, on Aug. 21. Troopers being laid off are the most recent graduates of the police academy.”

Most of the layoffs will hit state troopers who were part of last year’s 121st Training Troop.

These are state troopers who entered the Connecticut State Police Academy in May of 2010.  After spending about 1,400 hours in classroom training and many more outside further developing their skills, the new troopers were put out onto the highways and streets of Connecticut.

While then Governor Rell spoke at the graduation ceremony, Governor-elect Dan Malloy, Lt. Governor-elect Nancy Wyman and United State Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal all attended the event.  (Always good to get your picture taken with police officers).

Lt. Governor-elect Nancy Wyman was quoted in the local Patch.com website as saying “I am so proud
to be a Connecticut resident…your job is to protect the people of this state – and that’s a big job. …This is a wonderful class. I wish you the best of luck.”

As these troopers are getting their pink slips, what is clear is that Connecticut taxpayers spent millions of dollars training and outfitting these men and women.

The savings from laying them off will be minimal since they were the lowest paid members of the state police force but they will need to be paid for their accrued sick leave, vacation time and pension payments.

Furthermore, since these young troopers were in front-line public safety positions, the cost of taxpayers will increase as the state police turn to older, higher cost troopers to cover the overtime needed to provide that vital coverage.

And that doesn’t begin to address the costs of unemployment or the impact on the economy as these public employees purchase less in their communities.

It is interesting that in this age of greater transparency, neither Malloy nor the Office of Policy and Management have provided any details on the actual costs associated with eliminating essential state employees.

The Power of Vengeance…Malloy Strikes Back (at the unions, at progressives, at the public?)

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Governor Dan Malloy vetoes one of the more important Health Care Consumer Laws of the last decade.

SB 11: AN ACT CONCERNING THE RATE APPROVAL PROCESS FOR CERTAIN HEALTH INSURANCE POLICIES.

It was a powerful tool put forward last year by then Healthcare Advocate Kevin Lembo as a way to make sure the public interest was heard when insurance companies asked for rate increases of greater than 10 percent.

It required a series of public hearing when insurance companies sought approval for gigantic rate increases.

This year it passed the House 131 to 14.

It passed the Senate 36 – 0.

It passed the Appropriations Committee – with the Republicans voting no.

It passed the Insurance Committee – with the Republicans voting no.

It was sponsored by such notables as Senate President Williams and Senators Looney, Slossberg, Prague, Meyer and LeBeau, (some of the most moderate members of the Senate).

Other co-sponsors included Representatives Willis, Grogins and Nardello.

This year’s version had the strong support of Victoria Veltri, the Acting Healthcare Advocate, who took over when Kevin Lembo became State Comptroller.

State Senator Martin supported the bill saying “I believe that our state would benefit most if Connecticut’s rate review system met the federal requirements such that Connecticut would be permitted to perform its own rate review rather than having the reviews done by HHS.”

Other supporters included ConnPIRG, Citizens for Economic Opportunity, the Connecticut Citizens Action Group, the Connecticut Working Families Party, the CT AFL-CIO and the Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness – Connecticut’s leading advocate for those facing serious illness.

On the other hand, big business came out with all guns blazing.  The regional director of America’s Health Insurance Plans spoke against the bill (the nation’s primary lobbying entity for the insurance industry).

Other industry organizations against the bill included the IAC (Insurance Association of Connecticut), the Connecticut Association of Health Plans, the American Council of Life Insurers and Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield (who had requested and almost got last year’s record-breaking premium increases).

And then last Friday – hours before the long weekend was to begin – when media coverage was sure to be limited – Governor Dan Malloy came to the rescue of the insurance industry.  He took out his veto pen – for the first time – and used it to veto this important legislation ensuring his commitment to greater transparency was – once again – nothing but empty rhetoric.

Malloy’s rationale; “The Connecticut Department of Insurance already conducts an objective actuarial analysis of each and every rate increase request… The current process fully protects Connecticut’s residents from excessive and discriminatory rate increases.”

mmmm… I vaguely remember candidate Malloy trying to make a campaign issue of Anthem’s outrageous rate increase request last year…

More to come…

A reminder about Malloy’s definition of “Shared Sacrifice”. The $24 million in new municipal revenue

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A total of $15 million for the ten wealthiest towns, $1.6 million for the ten poorest towns

As the 2011 session of the Connecticut General Assembly comes to an end this coming Wednesday the Malloy Administration will remind us that the phrase that best describes this year’s session is “Shared Sacrifice”

Beginning with the ten times he used the word “sacrifice” in his February budget address, Governor Malloy has been pushing the concept that this budget is all about shared sacrifice. His point, over and over again, has been that we are balancing the Connecticut budget by asking everyone to sacrifice.

And there are a lot of sacrifices in this budget…

But lost in the rhetoric are some stunning examples of just how this Governor defines sacrifice.

First there was income tax proposal in which those making over $2 million a year are asked to pay just .02 percent more a year while the rest of us faced far greater percentage increases. This when the data shows that the wealthiest in Connecticut pay about 4.9% of their income in state and local taxes while those in the middle pay at least 10% of their income in state and local taxes.

Then there is the extraordinary example of Malloy’s plan to help Connecticut’s cities and towns.

While cutting deeply into a variety of programs, Governor Malloy not only maintained the level of municipal aid but proposed doubling the size of the municipal real estate conveyance tax as a way to provide cities and towns with a revenue stream that was separate and above what they received from their local property taxes and state grants.

The budget adopted by the Democrats in the General Assembly included this expanded tax.

While requiring those who sell their property to pay .5 percent of the sales price to their local municipality doesn’t immediately seem unfair, the truth becomes evident when you look at who actually benefits from Malloy’s proposal.

Starting July 1, 2011 – thanks to Governor Malloy and the Legislature’s Democrats – Connecticut’s ten wealthiest towns will share $15 million in new revenue from the expanded real estate conveyance tax.

The state’s ten poorest towns will share $1.6 million.

The benefit per person from Malloy’s plan?

The 203,000 people in the ten wealthiest towns will receive a benefit of $73 per person. All new money to help expand local services or allow the town to cut their local property tax rate.

Meanwhile, the 653,000 people who live in the ten poorest towns will receive a benefit of $2.45 per person providing those communities with no meaningful help in preserving services or cutting taxes.

The Governor and the Democrats could have increased the state portion of the real estate conveyance tax which would have raised a similar amount of money but would have distributed those funds based on need.

Instead, the rich got a break on their income taxes while Connecticut’s wealthiest towns will get an unlooked-for windfall.

Yes, the 2011 Legislative Session may have been about sacrifice but it certainly wasn’t a definition of shared sacrifice that most of us would recognize.