From the Crow's Nest / Ed Chrostowski
Fair government sputters without county's energy
Published 1:06 am, Thursday, April 15, 2010
Are the voters of Connecticut ready to acknowledge that Fairfield County is the engine that drives the state and its economy?
They'll get an opportunity to add some sadly lacking fuel to that engine in this fall's election of a governor to succeed Republican M. Jodi Rell and a U.S. senator to succeed Democrat Christopher J. Dodd. Neither is running again.
For the first time in years, the chances are strong that their successors will hail from Fairfield County because the leading candidates in both parties for both offices are from our part of the state.
A Fairfield County resident has not been sent to the U.S. Senate since 1971 when Republican Lowell Weicker of Greenwich was elected. Indeed, he was only the third from the county in the 20th-21st century. Before him were Republican Prescott Bush, also then of Greenwich, in the 1950s and Democrat Brien McMahon of Norwalk in 1942. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a native of Stamford, was a New Haven resident when elected to the Senate as a Democrat in 1988, though he has since moved back to Stamford.
Fairfield County representation has been almost as sparse in the governor's office. In 20th-21st century, we have had only Robert Hurley, Bridgeport Democrat, 1941-42; Raymond Baldwin, Stratford Republican, 1943-46; Republican James Shannon of Bridgeport, a nine-month interim term in 1948; Republican John Davis Lodge of Westport in 1951-55 and then Weicker in 1991-95.
There is a strong likelihood that the line-up will change in November. The Democratic Party and the GOP each have three County aspirants for their gubernatorial nominations.
Front-running Democrats are Dannel Malloy, former mayor of Stamford; Ned Lamont of Greenwich, who won the primary for the U.S. Senate nomination two years ago but then lost the election to Lieberman, and Rudy Marconi, first selectman of Ridgefield.
Leading contenders for the GOP are Michael Fedele of Stamford, currently lieutenant governor; Tom Foley of Greenwich, former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, and Mark Boughton, mayor of Danbury. Larry DeNardis of Hamden, former president of the University of New Haven, is in the race but is likely to be an also-ran.
In the running for Senate nominations are Linda McMahon of Greenwich and Peter Schiff, a money manager from Weston. McMahon, who runs World Wide Wrestling with her husband, Vince, and Rob Simmons, former Congressman from Stonington, are regarded as favorites.
Dick Blumenthal of Greenwich, incumbent attorney general, seems to have the field pretty much to himself in a quest for the Democrat nomination for the Senate, though Merrick Alpert, a businessman from Mystic, is also running.
At long last, then, it appears almost certain that, no matter which party prevails at the polls in November, there will be a strong Fairfield County presence in Connecticut's highest governmental offices. Who they might be will come clearer after this summer' conventions and primaries choose the nominees.
Why is that important? Well, for starters, almost 47 percent of all of the revenue raised by the state income tax in Connecticut comes from Fairfield County. Similarly, a disproportionate share of federal income taxes is paid by County residents. We can assume that the County also generates the lion's share of sales taxes and corporation taxes because it is home to major retail centers and to most of the Fortune 500 companies located in Connecticut.
Balance those statistics against what returns to the County in the way of federal and state grants. As an example, a recent study by the Southwestern Regional Planning Agency found that the Town of Greenwich receives $1 in return for every $142 paid in taxes by its residents.
It may very well be time for a more equitable distribution of funds, something that officials from Fairfield County will recognize more readily than those from other parts of Connecticut, who too often are convinced that this really is the Gold Coast.
Recently, for example, federal funds were withheld from major road projects, notably in Stamford, although Fairfield County is the funnel through which all of the commerce between New York and Boston must flow.
Fairfield County doesn't mind being Connecticut's engine. Fortunately, it is able and willing to power the drive shaft. But maybe with some of its own people at the wheel, its pistons will get a fairer share of the fuel.