NB Politicus

Remembering Bill Kerr, CCSU Politics Prof; Tribute Saturday, February 27th at New Britain Museum

Posted in CCSU, city politics and government by nbpoliticus on February 21, 2010

A celebration of the life of Charles W. (Bill) Kerr, formerly of New Britain, will be held at the New Britain Museum of American Art on Saturday February 27, 2010, at 1 p.m.


Kerr, 78, died on February 2, 2010 in his home at Sun City, Hilton Head, SC. A Missouri native, Kerr was a professor emeritus of Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) and served a Chair of the Political Science Department at CCSU.

In the early ‘80s I first met Bill Kerr and his wife Marietta at a meeting of the Caucus of Connecticut Democrats (CCD) a few years before moving to New Britain. Thanks to connecting with Kerr outside of the city, I got a quick introduction to the New Britain Democratic establishment when I moved here and was fast-tracked into local politics – winning a seat on the Democratic Town Committee in ’86, and beginning what’s turned into 24 years of being involved in campaigns and elections.

Meeting Kerr at the CCD – the liberal group that in its heyday mobilized Dems for direct primaries, civil rights and an end to the war in Vietnam – was no accident. Bill Kerr, the partisan, was an unabashed progressive – supporting liberal candidates and favoring groups such as the Legislative Electoral Action Program (LEAP) and the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG).

Though I was never in one of his classes, Kerr, the teacher, had keen insights and possessed a wry and dry sense of humor about politics that you would have had to be around to appreciate. Those attributes, not to mention a Ph.D in political science, commanded respect from the left and right, and from Rs and Ds in Connecticut.

At CCSU, Kerr had a good run of organizing conferences and workshops, bringing experts and pols of all stripes together. One year it would Cong. Nancy Johnson. The next it would be Barney Frank. He organized these forums under his Institute for Practical Politics (IPP), a fitting name at an institution drawing many sons and daughters of the working class to become teachers and professionals or, in some cases, local and state elected officials. Kerr’s Institute was no high falutin’ think tank, but a series of “practical” sessions among academics and citizens on policy and political strategy. Kerr’s knowledge of CT politics and players always made IPP conferences informative and helped extend his teaching of politics and government well beyond the classroom.

When someone we know and respect dies it can be a comfort to say we are better persons for having known that person. In Bill Kerr’s case, I and I’d guess many of his students would say we are better citizens for having known him as fellow activists or students.

— John McNamara

Desperation from Busway Opponents?

Posted in downtown, transportation by nbpoliticus on February 15, 2010

The arguments of opponents to the the New Britain-Hartford busway have a ring of obstructionism and desperation  in this Courant story by Don Stacom.  

With news of $45 million in federal money for a busway to leverage other funds,  the project may finally see a  light at the end-of-the-tunnel. It’s a little specious to oppose public transit because it will deny the DOT funds for highway and bridge repair.  It would seem some extra recovery money might be found to keep the bridges safe and the roads paved. And it’s not at all clear the busway will kill off the more ambitious, regional rail concepts that are only concepts at this point. 

Blocking the busway now might doom this part of Connecticut to just  more autos along the I-84 corridor for the foreseeable future.  However limited putting a lane alongside the railroad bed is, the busway has reached a tipping point as a realistic way to move public transit forward in central Connecticut.

And not to be parochial but New Britain has suffered too much from the 9/72 highway that cut the center of the city in two in the early 70s.  The busway is a start at making amends for that disaster and the highway mentality that brought it about.


A Vote For Dan Malloy

Posted in 2010 Election, Governor by nbpoliticus on February 7, 2010

In 2010 Democrats need a gubernatorial nominee who has the best chance of winning an office not held by the majority party in 20 years. The open seat for Governor has spawned a number of Democratic hopefuls, all of whom offer impressive credentials from local and state government and the business world. The choice boils down to an individual who can inspire rank and file Democrats and who demonstrates a capacity to govern that will translate into significant support from independent voters in a year when the electorate wants an end to State Capitol gridlock.

Dan Malloy, who led Connecticut’s fourth largest city for 14 years, is a seasoned and capable elected official who has credentials to navigate the state out from under its systemic fiscal problems. A Governor Malloy can restore public confidence in the Governor’s office. He offers an energetic approach to job creation, transportation, education and housing. His record in Stamford in those areas may be the best indication voters have as to what could happen throughout the state.

For months Malloy has been providing compelling reasons for Democrats to support him. A former prosecutor, Malloy is a feisty candidate who will take on the drivel that will come out Foley or whoever the GOP nominates. He favors the Citizen’s Election Program and a fair system of public financing. The suggestion by some that deep pockets are a prerequisite for a Democrat to win is a democracy-killing idea. We don’t need local reinforcement of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to completely turn the country over to the fat cats.

Malloy, as are other Democrats pursuing the office, strongly advocates for health care reform, including the health care partnership pooling bill that would have saved consumers and cities and towns many millions of dollars had it not died by the Governor’s pen in 2009. That’s about a million bucks in savings for New Britain.

On the economy, Malloy has offered sound criticism of a moribund Rell administration with a call for a more expeditious use of federal Recovery Act funds. On job creation, a Governor Malloy would streamline the alphabet soup of state economic development agencies that could use both cost-saving consolidation and marching orders from an engaged Governor.

There is a clarity of purpose to Malloy’s candidacy in 2010. He’s put in the sweat equity to earn the support of Democrats who backed DeStefano in 2006. A testament to the clarity is that he would be in the race whether the heavily-favored Republican incumbent was in it or not. After 20 years out of the corner office, the Democrats need a candidate who can inspire our base and expand support to unaffiliated voters in 2010. Malloy has shown the drive and commitment to be that candidate.

– John McNamara

Luddites May Need To Unite To Save Newspaper Legal Notices For Now

Posted in journalism, Legislature by nbpoliticus on February 5, 2010

The economic plight of newspapers in the internet age will be up for debate in the 2010 session of the Connecticut General Assembly and intertwined with arguments about the public’s right to know.

Gov. Rell has called for ending the requirement that governments publish certain legal notices in newspapers, according to the New Britain Herald in a Feb. 5th story

For many citizens posting public notices and other information on the public business is sufficient on a town’s web site. It meets the public’s right to know more effectively and it saves publication costs at a time when government is looking to scrimp and save.

The newspaper industry, however, is mounting a counter argument that many among us are essentially Luddites when it comes to where we get information. A substantial portion of the citizenry, the industry says, relies on public notices in a linear way or we won’t get it at all.  That is a strong argument in New Britain where a good portion of the reading public is older and accustomed to newsprint over using  the mouse to click on http://www.new-britain.net/

It seems the intent of public notice laws (and publication requirements) are to make information as accessible to the widest possible audience members who need to hear it. In that sense, it may not be enough to simply post on a city or town website.  The argument for publication in a general circulation publication is that the wide audience will know it.  It would seem a legal notice posted in an online publication would have the same weight as the printed page but at rates that are probably lower than conventional display ads. What should be determine is the real dollar savings of cutting out print ads versus the need for a greater portion of the public to be informed.  One possible compromise to the legislation — if it is not already there — would be to make the policy a local option law for each city and town to decide on its own.

The issue of printed legal notices is akin to newspaper classifieds which were once a cash cow for newspapers.  The internet is simply an easier way for renting, selling and all kinds of individual transactions that makes classifieds in newspapers dinosaurs. The newspaper business simply needs to come up with an economic model where more revenue comes out of information technology instead of the presses.

Having said all that here’s a Luddite vote to keep printing those notices for now but not much longer.