Lamont's uninspiring visit to New London
Gov. Ned Lamont’s address to the local chamber luncheon Thursday in New London was aspirational when it needed to be inspirational. Rather than leading, our governor, who recently marked his 100th day in office, found himself literally pleading.
He came across as surprised by basic political realities.
“The state legislature, I am learning, is really three different parties. The liberal Democrats, the moderate Democrats and the Republicans,” Lamont told the gathering of about 200, held at the Port 'n Starboard at Ocean Beach Park.
He is learning? Working to triangulate its policy strategy should have been a fundamental approach from day one of the Lamont administration.
This was a chance for Lamont to make some news, to get squarely behind the legislative-approved plan to build the Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor. To be jointly operated by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Sun tribes, operators respectively of the Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun casinos, it recently received the final U.S. Department of the Interior approval that had stalled the project.
At the head table with the governor was Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler, who will soon accept the Citizen of the Year Award from the group hosting the luncheon, the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.
Butler referenced the $750,000 the tribes are committed to annually investing in the state’s largest cities, and the $10 million it would spend on tourism promotion, a badly needed investment. The chairman made his own news, announcing the tribes had recently made the required $1 million contribution to the Department of Consumer Protection to cover regulatory costs associated with the planned casino.
This is a real project, with real jobs ready to go, prepared to stem the flow of dollars out of the state to the MGM Springfield Casino. Yet Lamont has allowed doubt about the project to persist, his indecisiveness keeping in play the illusion of a Bridgeport casino, giving succor to an MGM stalling tactic.
Here was a chance for Lamont to squarely back the plan of the state’s federally recognized tribes.
As for an update on his administration’s talks to find a path to legalized sports gambling, involving the local tribal casinos — also nothing.
Then, taking a question of local importance that he should have seen coming, Lamont appeared clueless. A questioner wanted to know his take on the Seaside State Park in Waterford, which is a park in name only. The state has made a mess of the property that long ago housed individuals with developmental disabilities, and longer ago treated tuberculosis sufferers. Its historic buildings continue to deteriorate. Plans for private development were bungled by prior administrations, then abandoned. A new proposal to privately develop a lodge and make the site a true park appears stalled.
Granted, a governor has much to do deal with. But Lamont should have been clued in on the topic and its local interest. Just this week Day columnist David Collins wrote about it.
Clearly flummoxed, Lamont filibustered by talking in general terms about dealing with surplus state properties, before admitting, “In terms of the park in particular, I just can’t give you the details on that.”
Then Lamont concluded, “I can work with the community about what they think the best use of that property is.” He thus confirmed that he was oblivious of the ample water that has already spilled over the Seaside dam in that regard.
None of this generated confidence with the locals.
Give credit to Lamont for taking some politically tough stands. He is pushing for tolls to generate the revenues necessary to repair and upgrade the state’s transportation infrastructure without having to go deeper in debt. He is pushing for a debt diet by restricting borrowing to essential needs. Lamont is pushing back on the impulse of the Democratic legislature to keep raising the income tax on the rich, recognizing that it could be self-defeating in contributing to billionaire flight.
Editorially, we back these positions. And on Thursday the governor pleaded with those attending the event to back them.
“I’d love it if the chamber wanted to weigh in on some of these priorities and be helpful because these are tough votes in the legislature,” Lamont said at one point. “Weigh in, weigh in through (chamber President) Tony (Sheridan). Weigh in through the chamber. Weigh in through your state legislators.”
But a governor should not have to ask, he should inspire such support with a clarity of mission and a command of details. In New London Thursday, these traits were sorely lacking.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.