The Tip: Things We Learned in 2012

 

$100 million can’t buy you love—or votes.
Linda McMahon’s private fortune may have paid the salaries of 200 staffers, funded an unimaginative, excessive two-note (jobs and taxes) blitz on TV, direct mail and the Internet, and even footed the cost of robocalls from Pat Boone—but it clearly didn’t win over the hearts and minds of Connecticut’s voters. At some point, just as it did during her race in 2010 against Richard Blumenthal, McMahon Fatigue set in and the helium seeped out of the campaign balloons. But all that spending didn’t hurt Connecticut’s economy one bit.

It really is almost impossible to fire state employees, even when they commit fraud.
After Storm Irene struck in August 2011, thousands of Connecticut residents applied for a special food stamp program for themselves and their families. Among them were hundreds of state employees, and among them were dozens who had falsified their personal financial information in order to receive the benefit. In the end, 103 state employees were dismissed, resigned or retired after they were found to have committed fraud. But they weren’t out for long. Last summer, 80 of the reprobates had to be rehired after an arbitrator determined their punishment had been too severe.

Sometimes that little voice of mayhem in your head is worth listening to.
If prior to late October you’d spoken with anyone who’d bought property on or near Long Island Sound in Connecticut, they would have acknowledged that it’s a high-stakes gamble, but one they were willing to live with. There are many, many pleasures to be found along the shore, of course, but big storms do have to be reckoned with, and sometimes your luck runs out. For the first 200 years of European settlement in Connecticut, the shoreline was shunned as a place to live. Amid the ominous signs of climate change, could we be headed in that direction again?

Even casinos can suffer from money problems.
Largely because it built its lavish MGM Grand addition in the teeth of a great recession, Foxwoods found itself in a money hole that even slot machine revenues couldn’t remedy. In October, the casino announced that it was implementing a $2.2 billion debt-restructuring agreement it had reached with bondholders. An earlier announcement of a new retail complex on reservation property suggested the Mashantucket Pequots may be looking for salvation in the form of high-end shopping rather than gambling.

One religion cannot dictate the health-care needs of an entire community.
A proposed merger of Waterbury Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital into one new facility under the umbrella of a third-party developer foundered after the Hartford Diocese tried to impose its beliefs on women’s health on the community at large. At last word, the third party had removed itself from the scene and Waterbury Hospital was looking to forge an agreement with a new partner.

The people of New Britain want to commute by bus.
At least that’s what the state was hoping as it broke ground for its much-disparaged busway meant to carry commuters from New Britain to Hartford (with stops in between). Opposition is perhaps not so much directed at the concept as the cost, which has risen from $75 million in 1999, to $337 million in 2005, to the present (but maybe not final) $569 million. It will take a lot of back-and-forth to make that project pay.

It’s probably better to spend $27 million over two years to promote tourism than $2.
The new money may be going into economic development as well as just tourism, but the “Still Revolutionary” campaign has already reportedly resulted in a significant uptick in visitors to Connecticut and dollars spent. Tourism/travel is a multibillion-dollar industry here, one of Connecticut’s largest, and the Rell administration’s dollar-a-year approach never made a lick of sense, even in a budget crisis.

People like nuns, don’t like Communists.
In September and October, we ran stories about nuns in Connecticut and a longtime Communist activist in New Haven respectively. Although all the people featured in both stories were doing what seemed to be nearly identical good works in their communities, the nuns were almost universally praised by our readers, while the Communist’s reception was decidedly mixed.

Sports facilities on college campuses go up a lot faster than libraries.
The new $32 million basketball practice facility at UConn will take two years to complete. Meanwhile, the new library construction project at Southern Connecticut State University has so far taken eight years, with no end in sight. Any chance the UConn practice facility will be saddled with delays that take years to resolve? No, I didn’t think so.

Always check, and double-check, your monthly utility bill.
Most of us pay our electric bills with a sigh or a groan, but we don’t drill down into the numbers to make sure the amount we’re being charged is correct. So it was with a Cheshire woman who learned that for 25 years, CL&P had been charging her for the electricity used by two nearby street lights. She received a check for $10,000 and an apology from the utility.

Sometimes good things come to you if you stay right where you are.
Over the last five years, ESPN has been busy bringing many of its far-flung operations back to Bristol, making a commitment to building and growing in the town from which it first went on the air back in 1979. Even so, Gov. Malloy made it one of his “First Five” companies, providing millions in loans, grants and tax breaks so it would agree to keep and grow jobs here in Connecticut; i.e., to do what it already was doing.

As I write these words, it’s only the beginning of November, so there’s lots more to come before year’s end. Here’s to finding lessons then, and lots more in the year to come.
 

The Tip: Things We Learned in 2012

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