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Editorial Breaking the gridlock

August 7, 2018

While the theme of an exodus from Connecticut keeps rising during conversations with the seven Connecticut gubernatorial candidates, so does the contrary notion that none of us can get very far because we’re all stuck in traffic.

The Republican candidates all stay in the same lane regarding the possible revival of tolls within state lines. Mark Boughton, who oversees a border community as mayor of Danbury, jests that, “I will strap myself to I-95 before I’ll let a toll be built.”

Boughton’s fellow Republicans in the race are steadfastly against tolls as well, mirroring the actions of the GOP members of the General Assembly when Democrats tried to push tolls forward as a solution to the state deficit.

On the left side of the aisle, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim comes closest to outright support of tolls, noting the uneven playing field that exists because of their presence in surrounding states. Greenwich Democrat Ned Lamont wants to focus on requiring tractor-trailers to pay their freight, leaving the option open to reconsider future tolls as technology develops.

Broader distinctions between the candidates emerge as they explore other modes of transportation. Ganim, a champion of his blue-collar city, is the sole candidate to express an understanding of how vital buses are to many constituents. Several of his wealthy Republican rivals point to the skies, suggesting investments should not be limited to roads and rail, but to the state’s small airports.

The Republicans also cover common ground in wanting to investigate existing resources. For Westport’s Steve Obsitnik, who served in the U.S. Navy, that would mean an inspection of costs. Former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst wants to initiate a forensic audit of the Special Transportation Fund.

Among the Republicans, Bob Stefanowski doesn’t attempt to cloak that several of the ideas he is pitching mirror the solutions of his rivals, notably former hedge fund manager David Stemerman of Greenwich. Still, they are concepts unlikely to be pitched by Democrats. Four of the Republicans are following the footsteps of President Donald Trump by selling the notion that government should be run like a business, by a businessman. As the candidates explain, this translates to privatizing the Department of Motor Vehicles, creating public-private partnerships on the airports and rebuilding the infrastructure by surrendering on the Department of Transportation and inviting competition from private contractors.

These non-politicians may be a little too green politically to grasp just how challenging it would be to strong-arm the unions and the legislature, but this is a time to welcome having such difficult conversations, a time to invite bold thinking.

Our Land of Steady Habits is overdue for some new ones.

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