November 17, 2023

In This Issue:

From Paddi's Desk

CT Agency Corner

Municipal Roundup

Inside Scoop

This Day in CT History

This Week's News:

Public defender official under fire for Facebook post...

Bridgeport school board member arrested while protesting at Ganim fundraiser has charge dismissed...

The election gift that keeps on giving..


Elections in Connecticut are still not over. I thought I’d keep you in the loop about two municipalities in fact are having do-overs! Of course we all know about Bridgeport who will hold a redo of their Democratic primary between Councilman Gomes and Mayor Ganim. As many of you recall, right after the primary, challenger Gomes contested the outcome of the primary based on a video of some suspect absentee ballot handling. After weeks of collecting facts and eyewitness interviews, a superior court judge declared a week before the fall election that Bridgeport would be required to redo the primary to ensure it was done in compliance with state absentee ballot laws. So, many thought that if Gomes was to win the election, then possibly the primary would be moot. But once again, based on the outcome of absentee ballots, the incumbent Mayor Ganim won the November election, and now Democrats will return to the polls on January 23, 2024 to, for the second time to choose a candidate for mayor.

The rules will be exactly the same as the primary rules, meaning same polling places, same hours of voting and the same rules for absentee ballots. This time, there will be increased scrutiny of all votes cast, especially absentee ballots. It will be interesting to see what happens if Gomes comes out on top. Let’s see if three times the winner, or maybe third times the charm. We’ll see soon enough. 

Then, a funny thing happened in Vernon. With the November election for a seat on Vernon town council ending with an automatic recount, the recent results surprised many in Vernon… it was a tie. Interestingly, in the “old days” it could be easily fixed with a flip of a coin or a gentleman’s agreement. But these days it a complete redo with same voting hours, same polling places. Some tried to work it out but at the end of the day, it’s back to the polls. What makes it interesting is that all polling places in Vernon are in the public schools so classes will be cancelled and the voters “go back to school” at least to vote! From what I hear absentee votes were not responsible for the close vote tally in this race. But once again, they were in play.

These two examples are only a few of the many close races this fall, and some may see the recent changes in absentee ballots and the tone of the voters as being the cause. Before the pandemic, the limited reasons for casting your absentee vote were clear and specific. The ability to vote by absentee ballot was expanded during the pandemic and anyone could use that process to make their vote count. It’s interesting to note that the town clerks operate absentee ballots while the actual elections are administered by the town's two registrars of voters, one Democrat and one Republican. With two separate systems operating during each election it’s a wonder that for the most part, it works. 

What doesn’t work is that there's still a lot of hanky-panky going on with absentee ballots. While the rules are clear and specific, it seems to very easy for some folks to manipulate the system in favor of one candidate or one party. Best guess is that the 2024 legislature for certain will be looking for better ways to monitor, investigate and ensure a transparent and fair election process. It will take the combined efforts of the Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas, the town clerks and the registrars of voters as well as concerned citizen groups to find the best resolution. 

As one top state official is reported by the media to say, “Connecticut doesn’t need to be known for Bridgeport’s election troubles.” How true.

Maybe this is one election gift that needs to be returned to sender. 

What Contributed to the Big Revenue Dip? 15th Anniversary of Consensus Revenue Estimates Fast Approaches

The announcement that the state budget surplus remains high, but revenue collections are down, brought a mixed bag of economic outlook among analysts.

Three times a year, the state requires the Executive and Legislative Branch fiscal offices to come to a consensus on the deficit or surplus on the books to help the state plan and budget. This law, which hadn’t passed until 2009, stemmed from years of in-house fighting between the governor and legislature over the final numbers that would be used during budget negotiations. The system has been heralded as a great compromise between the branches and has since taken something that should have never been political out of contention.

The budget remains strong with a balanced surplus of over $600M. But, the dip in revenue by $460M has some analysts wondering if Connecticut is starting to see the end of the “winning streak” of surpluses that have been celebrated since 2018. The dip in revenue is largely associated with income tax declines from the migration of high-paying jobs, but that dip could be offset by a couple of factors:

  • Businesses in the state added 3,200 jobs in September and the private sector has officially regained all of the jobs lost during the COVID shutdown.
  • Manufacturing added 900 jobs last month and construction remains above 60,000 jobs, more than 100% recovered, even with a 900 job decline in September.
  • We’re approaching the holiday season that by national trends is still seeing strong consumer confidence in spending, which could lift state projections on sales tax and offset the dip seen in income tax.

The signs of a healthy balanced budget for the state, for at least the next 18 months, are indisputable: Highest budget reserves ever recorded, historic unfunded liability payments and a surplus that doesn’t seem to be phased by declining revenues. That said, the stretch of bad budget cycles from 2008 -2017 will hopefully remind decision makers at the state level that streaks (unfortunately) do have to end at some point.

Representatives for Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and challenger John Gomes were at odds earlier this week over the proposed dates for a new court-ordered Democratic mayoral primary. Gomes pushed for a December 19th primary, while the city's attorneys advocated for a Janury 16th date, citing the need to comply with election rules, produce new ballots, and manage logistical challenges. Gomes challenged the results of the September 12 primary, alleging irregularities with Ganim supporters handling absentee ballots.

Gomes' attorney, William Bloss, initially sought a December 12th primary, while the lawyers for the Secretary of the State proposed December 19th. The city's attorney, John Kennelly, argued for a January election, citing the need to seal machines and memory cards post-general election, along with the challenge of training 250 certified workers during the holiday season. Gomes' campaign manager argued that the primary should occur in December to prevent a prolonged focus on soliciting absentee votes. Both camps are seeking guidance from the State Elections Enforcement Commission on fundraising for the second primary. In the end, the two camps decided on January 23, 2024 for the new primary date.

Mayor Ganim, who won the second primary and the subsequent general election, plans to be sworn in on December 1 despite the ongoing legal challenges. Gomes, undeterred, continues his fight, emphasizing his lead in the machine vote during the primary and expressing concern about the impact of absentee ballots on the electoral process.

In the Red

If you’re reading this you already know, it’s almost that time of year to get ready to dive into budget adjustments. Just this past week legislators, state government staff, agencies, and various other decision makers received a consensus revenue forecast from the Governor’s staff and the Office of Fiscal Analysis. As you will hear from the Governor, Comptroller, and others in the State Government’s financial world, things look good for coming year. While there is some revenue that declined, the state’s budget is apparently in balance, for now. The theme for the last legislative session for the Governor proved to be the income tax cut and the nimble ability for them to stay within their fiscal guardrails. But some promises were made last year around our state’s finances and around requests from stakeholders throughout Connecticut. Many legislators told various groups and state funded organizations to “come back next year,” to request funding as they wanted to see what revenue would look like. While we are on the subject of our financial footing next year, let’s jump into what January - February might bring.

Several groups who look to state funds for support flagged in 2023’s legislative session that their funding is running low. With ARPA funds and CARES Act funds running low, federal support came to an end for many. Their legislative requests, mostly around the budget, were denied because of the fiscal guardrails we have spoken about several times in this blog. These guardrails show now sign of being bent for 2024. You’ll hear leaders under the Golden Dome referencing the importance of funding social service programs (among others) while also discussing the need to tighten the financial belt. These conversations won’t change heading into the new year and next session. While it’s still November it is very important to get requests ready for next session and if they fall into requests for state financial support, it’s time to draw out justifications for why that money is necessary for your organization. Appropriators and state elected officials won’t have much funding to work with next session. Things could always change but given the financial guardrails and the revenue adjustments, Connecticut may not be able to fund all of the programs legislators want to. It’s important to make sure legislators have all the information they need to assist their decision making – like the holidays, session will come sooner than you think. 

November 17th: Eli Terry Gets the First American Clock Patent - His First of 10

Today in 1797, inventor and famous clock manufacturer Eli Terry of Plymouth received the first clock-making patent ever issued in the United States, launching an incredible career in manufacturing that helped make Connecticut the epicenter of quality clock manufacturing for the duration of the 19th century.

Born in the eastern division of Windsor in 1772, Terry displayed an aptitude for all things mechanical at an early age, and apprenticed himself to a local clock-maker as a young teenager before opening his own clock-making business at the age of 21. Four years later, he successfully applied for a patent for his clock-making design, and went on to secure a total of 10 patents during his lifetime. Not long after receiving his first patent, Terry began perfecting a system of interchangeable parts for his clocks, becoming a pioneer in the mass-manufacturing movement during the earliest years of the American industrial revolution. In 1806, Eli Terry stunned his investors by completing a massive order of 4,000 clocks in only three years’ time using his new system of mass-manufacturing — a feat that could have taken decades using traditional clock-making methods.

In addition to sparking a revolution in American precision manufacturing, Terry trained several protegees that went on to become prolific clock-makers themselves — the most famous being Seth Thomas. Terry also changed the way everyday Americans kept track of time and decorated their homes with his invention of the shelf clock, designed with small enough parts to fit neatly on a fireplace mantle. While tall-case clocks were typically luxuries that only the wealthy could afford, Terry’s shelf clocks were small, fashionable, and modestly priced, allowing thousands of American families access to quality timepieces. Many of these early shelf clocks became heirlooms, and Eli Terry clocks remain highly sought-after pieces of early Americana to this day. One of Connecticut’s finest innovators became one step closer to forever changing the way Americans measured their moments — today in Connecticut history.

To view the full story on the CT Historian's website, click here.

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