Gov.-elect Lamont: Cut New London in on the wind windfall
Dear Ned Lamont,
Let me start by congratulating you on your winning the governorship.
As you know more than any of us, your prospects looked a little shaky for a while, and a lot of we Trump alarmists were worried you were not going to be able to vanquish Trump-supporting Payday Bob Stefanowski, a candidate who did surprisingly well against the blue wave, given that he barely campaigned and largely ignored the media.
So you must know that you start your term with a bit of an excitement deficit. Of course, it's not like there are a lot of promises you have to deliver on, since you didn't promise much.
I have a suggestion for kickstarting your administration with some promising measures. I'll admit this is a little self-serving on my part, because it's all about making eastern Connecticut a showpiece of success for a first Lamont term.
The makings of this, as you know, are already in place, namely in the enormous pipeline of new jobs designing and building submarines for Electric Boat. Relatively speaking, this will be as dramatic a development for this region as Amazon opening part of its headquarters in New York City.
Less certain but also exciting are the prospects of major new development of New London's port, with talk of it becoming an East Coast hub for offshore wind turbine development.
There are no other seeds for prosperity as dramatic anywhere else in Connecticut that I know of. The towns at the other end of the state's shoreline, Connecticut's traditional bastion of wealth and income tax revenue, your home, have been bleeding taxpaying gazillionaires for a while now.
If just some of the many good things envisioned for New London come to pass, you have a golden opportunity to claim some credit for an economic renaissance in this part of the state.
The time is ripe now, too, to make sure the spoils of success are fairly distributed and leveraged in a way to develop even more opportunity and development here and elsewhere in the state.
Please don't let New London, the shoreline capital of eastern Connecticut, once again shoulder the burdens of helping the region and the state without compensation. This poor little city already is hosting an array of educational, health and social service agencies that don't pay taxes and help many people well beyond city limits.
How about a dramatic reversal of this inequitable arrangement? If the state's port facility is going to be as busy and as lucrative as people suggest, a wind windfall, then how about cutting the city in from the start.
Certainly the Connecticut Port Authority stands to profit handsomely from the billions that are to be spent on offshore wind, and some of that is going to come to the state by way of port fees.
Why doesn't New London deserve a generous percentage of these fees, as the host city? Generous is the key word here. It needs to be much more than a token amount.
Connecticut's other major port is also a troubled city, Bridgeport, that also could use your help.
Why not propose legislation that would enshrine in state law the reasonable edict that port cities receive a portion of revenue generated by state facilities that use their harbors. No other communities then could complain about not getting a cut.
In the case of New London, this wind windfall would be new money, and why can't the state share some of it with a partner that deserves it? It's also a gift to the region, because a stronger and more vibrant New London is good for every community between the Connecticut River and the Rhode Island border, an urban hub.
A better New London will brighten all of eastern Connecticut. And a boom in this part of Connecticut would have to help the rest of the state and you, as its governor.
Giving New London a fair share of the port revenue also would compensate the city if the port authority follows through on buying 12 acres of land on Crystal Avenue for port facilities, keeping it off the tax rolls.
After all, New London certainly taxed and profited by the whaling industry's use of its port. Why should the state now shield the wind industry from city taxes, without other compensation?
I wanted to put this idea to you directly and publicly because I am not sure I trust Mayor Michael Passero to drive a hard bargain. After all, when he went up the hill to Connecticut College to ask for payments in lieu of taxes, he got a pat on the head and a cookie. (OK, he did get a one-time gift of $100,000, but there is still no ongoing commitment for annual payments.)
Giving New London a piece of the wind pie also would distinguish you from your predecessor, who did little to help the city. Even Republican Gov. John Rowland, who couldn't count on many votes from New London, invested an enormous amount of energy and state money trying to help the city and create new development here.
I know that the excitement about the wind-related port development is about jobs, and surely some New London residents may get some of those jobs. But they are going to go to residents and voters in many other communities, too.
The prospect of new jobs, as exciting as that might be, is not going to help New London provide the infrastructure and services necessary to support a growing port.
The city should be compensated specifically for that.
So, good luck in the new job.
Think about a good start, blowing some big kisses toward the state's new wind capital.
Let the excitement about a Lamont governorship start here.
This is the opinion of David Collins.
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