Opinion: What has happened to Hamden? – By Ann M. Altman – New Haven Register

“In 1974, heavily pregnant, I moved to Whitneyville from New Haven. Hamden seemed a natural place for Yale faculty to raise a family, with excellent schools and public services and, in the 1980s and 1990s, it didn’t disappoint.

The elementary school, middle school and high school provided a wonderful education to both my children. My son, having completed the high school curriculum, was able to take courses at Yale University during his senior year, with the bill picked up by the Board of Education. My daughter benefited from the extraordinary theater program, helping to teach classes for special education students and winning ensemble prizes at the state drama competition. As she said on one such occasion, “When I saw that all the judges were crying, I knew we’d won.”

Now, decades later, what has happened to Hamden? It is still outstanding, first in its class in Connecticut but, unfortunately, not because of its schools and public services but because it has the highest per capita debt of all the 169 towns in the state.

According to the municipal finance indicators published recently by the state’s Office of Policy and Management, every man, woman and child in Hamden is in debt to the tune of $18,368.

To give you an idea what that means, consider that the per capita debt in Bridgeport is $13,776 and in Hartford it is $11,700. Even New Haven, the second on the list, only has a per capita debt of $15,595.

How do the financial markets view Hamden’s remarkable record of first- (or worst-) in-state? Moody’s has lowered Hamden’s bond rating to Baa3, one grade above “junk,” adjudging the town among the bottom three in Connecticut.

To meet the town’s financial obligations, taxes on homeowners have been raised exorbitantly, with the mil rate now approaching 50. In addition, homeowners have to pay separately for treatment of their wastewater, a service that was included in taxes paid in the 1980s and 90s.

Source: Opinion: What has happened to Hamden? – New Haven Register

Editorial: CT right to reconsider future power needs – New Haven Register

“It hasn’t emerged as a major issue in the pending state legislative session, but a speech this month from Katie Dykes, the state’s commissioner of energy and environmental protection, could be a precursor to a major change on how the state procures its power supply.

As in many states, Connecticut talks a good game when it comes to climate change, and has enacted policies that aim to limit emissions while preparing resilience plans for coastal communities that are likely to be the hardest hit by rising global temperatures. But the state also continues to follow old policies that exacerbate the problem, whether by encouraging suburban sprawl by focusing transit plans on highways or by continuing to build power plants that rely on fossil fuels.

This is a pressing issue. A recently opened power plant in Oxford can generate up to 800 megawatts of electricity, but it relies on burning natural gas. Another gas plant underway in Bridgeport will be smaller but also work against the state’s long-term goals of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. And an approved but as-yet-unbuilt natural gas plant in Killingly has drawn protests from around the state, with opponents saying the project is outdated and unnecessary.

Dykes appears to agree, which is striking given that DEEP, under previous leadership, approved the plant.

Natural gas has been held up by many officials as a necessary improvement from dirtier coal and oil, but while the emissions from newer plants are not as severe as the older facilities they are replacing, the overall impact of natural gas is far from benign. From the hydraulic fracturing that frees it from under the ground to inevitable leakage along the way, natural gas may on balance be just as harmful in the long term as coal and oil. Any real move forward on limiting emissions must reckon with the harms of natural gas power plants.

Dykes said a big part of the problem lies with ISO New England, which oversees the regional power grid and holds auctions for new power generation. The facilities still need to be approved by local and state governments.

Source: Editorial: CT right to reconsider future power needs – New Haven Register

Hamden’s Credit Rating Downgraded By Moody’s | Hamden, CT Patch

HAMDEN, CT — Moody’s Investors Service once again downgraded Hamden’s bond rating. It’s new rating is Baa3 from Baa2 and Moody’s outlook remains negative for the city’s foreseeable financial future.

“The downgrade to Baa3 reflects the town’s very narrow financial position, which will remain challenged in coming years due to a high equalized tax rate and high, and rising, fixed costs,” Moody’s said in its analysis. “The town’s long-term liabilities are high, largely due to years of under-funding pension liabilities, including in fiscal 2019.”

The ratings function much like a consumer’s credit rating. Generally higher ratings come with lower borrowing interest rates as the risk of defaulting on loans is lower.

Source: Hamden’s Credit Rating Downgraded By Moody’s | Hamden, CT Patch

Editorial: Ned Lamont for governor – GreenwichTime – Hearst (Newspapers)

“By just about any account, Connecticut is in an unhappy, uncertain place.

Look at most ranking lists titled “Best place in America to… (pick your topic)” and you will likely have to read down until you find “Connecticut” in a mediocre — or worse — position.

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Its roads are congested, corroding factors in a stagnant economy. Its rail system is balky, detracting considerably from a now-frayed selling point that the state is “conveniently” situated between New York City and Boston.

The state’s finances are critically out of whack — $4.5 billion short in the biennium budget set to go into effect on July 1, 2019; pensions underfunded by some $100 billion and demanding annual state contributions so large they choke the state’s ability to spend on other needs.

How did we get here? It’s easy — and completely inaccurate — to pin it all on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the 63-year-old Democrat who has held office the last eight years and who will turn the power — and the headaches — over to a successor on Jan. 9.

Today’s problems are rooted in decisions — and inaction — dating back at least to the 1990’s, including labor agreements, made during the tenure of former Republican Gov. John G. Rowland.

The challenges will not be solved in a short time. Nor will they be wrestled to the ground by imposed will alone.

All three candidates for governor are businessmen, none with state-wide governing experience.

Oz Griebel, of Hartford, a former Republican running as an independent, is energetic, knowledgeable about transportation needs, and optimistic about the state’s potential. His idea to hold off on funding the state pensions for two years, though, is an approach that contributed to the present plight.

Republican Bob Stefanowski’s proposal to eliminate the state income tax over eight years is unrealistic. The tax — about $9.5 billion annually — represents more than half of Connecticut’s tax revenue. What’s replacing it?

Stefanowski’s style seems to be of the “imposed will” school.

The Hearst Connecticut Media Group Editorial Board believes the best person for the job is Ned Lamont, the 64-year-old Greenwich entrepreneur turned investor.”

Source: Editorial: Ned Lamont for governor – GreenwichTime