In Connecticut, the madness of March is clinical

Every other week, John J. Ryan, a former Republican state representative, and Advertiser editor Joshua Fisher, share their back-and-forth about news going on around the state, among other items of interest. Links to all the articles and other items mentioned in the column can be found in the Opinion section of

Fisher: When John Ryan was writing this column solo — back during his days as a state representative — each March he’d turn in a column with the suggested “March Madness” headline. At first it appeared clever. Then it appeared obvious. But now, nearly 10 years later, it still fits. For while March Madness means a lot of exciting college basketball games for most, in Hartford the madness is anything but exciting. It is an infuriating madness that is more clinical than collegial.

By the time the General Assembly session reaches March, we start to have a better idea of what bills have a shot at becoming law (such as the return of highway tolls) and what ideas and promises from local legislators are going to remain ideas and end up broken promises (such as reform to Connecticut’s developer-friendly affordable housing laws).

Ryan: A fair assessment from our editor. But wouldn’t it be more fun to talk about the NCAA basketball tournament? Maybe we could get more people to pay attention. For one of the mantras of the column is that it’s your state government, and if you the voter/taxpayer do not care to pay attention, who will?

But certainly “madness” makes sense as a label for Hartford. For instance, I assume you noted this Wall Street Journal item: “This Bill Establishing a State Polka Is Caught in a Legislative Two-Step” (, March 7).

Fisher: Fiddling while Rome burns. Maybe we could propose a bill that puts that phrase on state license plates. At least we’ll have something to dance to while the state continues to crumble under billion-dollar deficits.

Ryan: Not only is our state government struggling to make ends meet, even Saks Fifth Ave. is closing a store on the Gold Coast: “Saks Fifth shutting Stamford store in ‘14” (, Feb. 19). And even Connecticut’s casinos are making less money. See “Report: Revenue fell fast in ‘11 at Conn. casinos” (, Feb. 27).

But Gov. Malloy is not worried about such negativity: “Malloy says state on path to tough recovery” (, March 5).

Fisher: Is that gallows humor? Because either Mr. Malloy has a good sense of humor (that he has been hiding for years) or it appears that our governor thinks he can just spend his way out of this mess.

Ryan: And a good example of your tax dollars hard at work can be found in “Thousands of State Workers Will Relocate in Next Two Years” (, March 6), and “A Tax Drawback To State Buying Buildings” (, March 7)

Interestingly, what The Hartford Courant does not seem to notice (while consolidation is a wonderful idea) is what does it say about the Hartford commercial real estate market that such buildings are available in the first place?

Fisher: There you go, attempting to make sense again.

Ryan: My apologies, a violation of one of the most important commandments of government!

Fisher: Speaking of not making sense, the most recent Qunnipiac University poll shows Mr. Malloy with his highest approval rating since taking office more than two years ago: 48%.

Why has so much of the media coverage of this acted like that is a good rating? Last I checked, never having more than half of your constituents’ approval is not a good sign of doing well as a leader. See “Poll Has Good and Bad News for Malloy” (, March 12).

Of course with the state of the Connecticut Republican Party, Malloy won’t need much of a good rating to win re-election. That will have to be a topic for a future column, as the next Governor’s race is not until next year.

Ryan: While some readers ask why we don’t include more “good news” about the Nutmeg State, we don’t have enough room for all the dreary news.

Here is quick sampling of some more news that makes you worry about your home state: “MetLife To Consolidate Operations, Move 2,600 Workers To North Carolina, In $126 Million Investment” (, March 7), and “Hartford Projects Huge Budget Deficits For Years To Come” (, March 4). Then there’s “Hamden pension fund would be bankrupt in 5 years if no action taken, town official says” (, March 4).

Fisher: Of course, the highway toll topic is still quite alive.

Ryan: There is a real bill that is already out of the appropriate committee, so this is not a “theoretical exercise” anymore. See “Proposals For Highway Tolls Creep Ahead On Partisan Vote” (, March 6).

Fisher: I wonder which side of the aisle wants you to pay to drive on state highways in a state with one of the highest gas taxes and a state that takes money from the railroads to pay for other items.

If these sorts of things don’t get you riled up about the wrong direction our state is heading, I don’t know what will.

Ryan: Well, who better to cause real action than the intrepid columnist Chris Powell, because I confess, I had not seen a reference in print to that great poet Shelley in a long time — much less an invocation of Ozymandias. See “CCM’s false complaint; and Malloy as Ozymandias” (, March 2).

Only you Hersam Acorn readers have the erudition to appreciate such wry humor.

John J. Ryan is of counsel to the Fairfield County law firm Russo & Assoc., and served 14 years as Darien and Rowayton’s state representative — and has been writing this column for Hersam Acorn even longer. Joshua Fisher has been an editor with Hersam Acorn Newspapers since 2003.


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