GOP seeking urban gains – Waterbury Republican-American Editorial

March 19, 2015

Editorial as it appeared in the Rep-Am

Connecticut Republicans are pursuing a wise, farsighted strategy in the cities.

Yes, Republicans.

Yes, the cities.

And Democrats are in panic mode over it.

It’s no secret that the GOP lost gubernatorial elections in 2010 and 2014 mainly by ignoring urban voters. To be sure, an urban strategy wouldn’t have won them a single city. But they assuredly would have dented the Democrats’ advantage. Think about it: Do urban dwellers, keenly aware their schools, public services and employment opportunities range from lousy to abysmal, have any reason to love the Democrats who have been mismanaging their cities and the state? Might they be receptive to political campaigns that offer something different; something better?

Republicans believe they are.

The state Senate GOP’s 15-member caucus hired Avery J. Gaddis of Waterbury late last year to serve in the new position of director of urban affairs. Last week, the Republicans rolled out an urban agenda that includes a loan program for small businesses; tax credits for housing, commercial and mixed-use projects; and criminal-justice reforms, all targeting the cities.

It took about 30 minutes for state Democrats to administer a screechy rebuttal. “It’s hard to believe that after steadfastly supporting Tom Foley and his regressive urban agenda, (Senate Minority Leader Leonard A.) Fasano and the Senate Republicans are serious about revitalizing Connecticut’s cities. Republican priorities in the legislature have long disregarded the needs of working and middle-class urban families,” Democratic Communications Director Leigh Appleby said March 12.

Certainly, Republicans have had insufficient clout in the last 28 years to do much of anything, for or against urban dwellers and businesses. Only once during that period did they control either house of the legislature — 1995-96, when they held the Senate — and Republican governors have been limited by the preferences of uniformly Democratic legislatures before and after that brief period. To tie Republicans, but not Democrats, to the plight of Connecticut’s cities defies reality.

The GOP’s announcement puts Democrats in a tough spot.

If they allow any aspects of the Republicans’ urban agenda to become law, they’ll have to concede the proposals might actually be helpful to the cities. Indeed, New Haven Mayor Toni N. Harp, a former senator, conceded that point, saying, “I welcome anew my former Senate counterparts to the conversation about improving public safety, public education, and job growth in Connecticut cities.”

If legislative Democrats slap down every proposal, notwithstanding Mayor Harp’s welcoming words, they’ll give Republicans a potent weapon in future statewide elections — clear proof the Democrats care more about political power than actually passing laws that benefit people. That’s why it’s so urgent that Mr. Gaddis and the GOP keep up their urban campaign to demonstrate they’re serious about reaching into the cities, and improving the lot of those who live and do business there.