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Editorial Thumbs down

January 1, 2019

With 2019 offering fresh possibilities of a year of thumbs-ups, this is the appropriate time to mine lessons from some of Connecticut’s biggest mistakes — aka, memorable thumbs-downs — of 2018.

Thumbs down to the jarring report that the state medical examiner’s office is struggling to keep up with the pace of autopsies resulting from the relentless rise in opioid deaths in recent years. The office reports that the preliminary number of accidental drug intoxication deaths surpassed 1,000 in Connecticut for the first time in 2017, reaching 1,040. Over the past five years, the office has reportedly experienced a 70-percent increase in the number of autopsies performed. The ME’s office says it is so overwhelmed that its accreditation is in jeopardy. If the state doesn’t have the resources to count the dead, we fear the state isn’t making the appropriate investment to address the epidemic. February

Thumbs down to the vote on Andrew McDonald’s nomination to chief justice of Connecticut. Though we supported his nomination, it’s not his denial we object to, but that not a single Republican was able to stray away from the party pack. Voters are left with little confidence that the candidate they elect is putting their demands ahead of those of the party. The vote makes the sole Republican supporting nod for McDonald on the House side from Livvy Floren of Greenwich all the more remarkable. April

Thumbs down to the results of a report showing that Connecticut drivers are the most unsafe in the country, a downward movement from a year ago when they were merely the second worst in the EverDrive Safe Driving Report by EverQuote Insurance. The report released last week ranked states on speeding, phone use, hard braking, hard turning and aggressive acceleration. Turns out, state motorists speed 56 percent of the time and use their cell phones 34 percent of the time while driving. It shouldn’t be too difficult to make the state’s roads safer — put away your phone and observe the speed limit, for starters. April

Thumbs down to discouraging data from a new Connecticut Voices for Children report that explores challenges Latino students face as a result of the shortage of educators who look like them. The 133,000 Latino students in Connecticut public schools bring high percentages to the state’s cities, including Bridgeport (48 percent), New Haven (45) and Stamford (44). Meanwhile, only 4 percent of the state’s educators are Latino. August

Thumbs down to the abysmal record of Metro-North Railroad branch line on-time performance. A Hearst Connecticut Media examination found that some commuters have only a 64-percent chance of getting to work on time if they’re relying on a train. The Waterbury branch performance was the worst, with that 64-percent on-time figure. The New Canaan and Danbury branches — at 78 and 87 percent respectively — were better, but still not what people commuting to jobs can depend on. September

Thumbs down to a report that suggests racial profiling remains a problem on our roads. The Central Connecticut State University Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy released data that indicated minority drivers were pulled over at higher rates than their white counterparts when it came to equipment violations. The study focused on Ansonia, Berlin, Darien, Monroe, Newtown, Norwich and Ridgefield. It’s somewhat encouraging that the researchers suggested it may not be individual officers who are displaying signs of discrimination, but that enforcement efforts are focused on places where minorities are more likely to be driving. Regardless, it begs for deeper exploration and discussion within our police departments. October

Thumbs down to the state’s failing D grade for fiscal maneuvers undertaken to balance the budget this year. Volker Alliance, a fiscal think tank, found Connecticut was one of only five states to borrow money for recurring expenses, the equivalent of paying your rent with a charge card. The new General Assembly is going to have to do better. At least the state got an A for budget accuracy. December

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