This year, most of the attention concerning state government will revolve around fulfilling progressive dreams, such as marijuana legalization, tolls every few miles all over the state, paid family medical leave, and a $15 minimum wage. Democrats, no matter from what district, will sign on to all of these. Republican attempts to rationalize some of this stuff will be ignored, and the state’s mainstream media will swoon at the passage of each piece of legislation.
But there is something else happening, at a slower but more inexorable pace, that will eventually have an enormous impact on towns like Wallingford, and it will be completely ignored — just as a frog ignores the pot of water he is sitting in until he is boiled to death. That something is the slow erosion of local control that residents of towns will have over their budgets, their schools, and their government. In other words, any impact that they may have over the government that they supposedly control will slowly recede as state government continues to change the rules and assert themselves in our daily lives.
There are two recent examples that should alarm anyone who lives outside New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, Stamford, Waterbury, and perhaps a few other small cities, such as Meriden. One is the plan to “reform” the property tax. The most prominent feature of Senate Bill 431 is the repeal of the local property tax on vehicles; in its place will be a statewide vehicular tax, the revenue from which will go into a fund for reimbursing towns and cities that host tax-free institutions such as colleges, state buildings, and hospitals.
In fiscal year 2016-17, Wallingford collected $1,342,634 in property taxes on vehicles. Every dollar stayed in Wallingford; and the people living here, through the local government that they put into office, determined how every dollar was to be spent. When this new legislation is enacted, the money will go to Hartford; and the people of New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, and the other crumbling, destitute cities that totally dominate state government will divvy it up among themselves — in the spirit of fairness, don’t you know.
There are many other gimmicks in this so-called reform, the net effect of which will be to bleed money from the towns — most heavily those towns such as Westport and Madison inhabited by those icky, greedy, selfish, rich people. But while we’re stickin’ it to them, those Democrats such as Mary Mushinsky in Wallingford and Liz Linehan in Cheshire will be meekly going along, to the real detriment of their own constituents. Watch their votes carefully on bills such as this.
The other legislation by Senator Martin Looney, D-New Haven, is even more overbearing — forced regionalization of school districts in towns with fewer than 40,000 residents. Again, the motives are obvious. The urban school districts want more money, not that the additional funds shoveled into these districts will impact the education of the poor souls stuck in these failing schools.
Now what will this mean to Wallingford? We are over the 40,000 population threshold, but three of the towns bordering us (North Haven, Cheshire, and Durham) are not, and would be forced to abandon local control of education to a regional bureaucracy. And the towns mentioned may opt to join Wallingford. The inevitable upshot of this is a dilution of parents’ control over the education of their children and a heavier reliance on funding controlled — not in each town, mind you — through the state legislature totally dominated by urban districts.
In conclusion, as if the State doesn’t already dictate much of the curriculum our children are taught, I give you the perfect example of progressive meddling in local education. Democrat State Legislator Christine Palm, from Chester, has submitted a bill that would mandate instruction in climate change beginning in elementary school. Says she: it should be taught at a young age so “there’s no excuse for kids to grow up ignorant of what’s at stake.” (R-J online article, 1/16). Regardless of your position on this subject, how is it the business of the state legislature to be dictating curriculum? — if you really believe that is her objective and not pure progressive ideology indoctrination. View the statistics on mastery of math and reading for high school graduates in this state. Maybe Representative Busybody ought to be paying more attention to those dismal results.
Connecticut has a proud and enviable history of allowing towns to control much of their destiny, which in turn means that individuals control theirs. It is slowly being eroded away in the name of “Reform,” “Fairness,” “Efficiency,” and “Equality.” It is none of that.
I ask Rep. Mary Mushinsky: Mary, when you vote for the stuff just described, who are you representing? Where do the people of Wallingford fit into your plans? Just askin’.
Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford town councilor.