Commentary: Don’t smoke, just duck [Journal Inquirer]

June 8, 2015

By Chris Powell

May 31, gunfire exploded at a party in downtown New Haven. Five people were wounded, one critically. The next day, Mayor Toni N. Harp held a news conference at City Hall, but it wasn’t about the mass shooting and the chronic violence among the city’s growing underclass. No, the mayor was observing “World No Tobacco Day” and lauding the new ordinance banning smoking on city government property.

“There is no known safe level of exposure” to tobacco, Harp said, implying by omission that most New Haven residents can handle exposure to the gunplay all around them as long as they strike politically correct poses.

While Harp was belaboring the obvious about smoking, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3rd District, held their own news conference in a parking lot in New Haven to remind people not to lock their young children in cars during hot weather.

What exactly is the federal government’s jurisdiction here? There isn’t any, but DeLauro said Congress will consider legislation prohibiting prosecution of people who break into locked cars to save endangered children — as if anyone wouldn’t do it anyway, as if police would ever arrest such good Samaritans, as if prosecutors would ever prosecute them, and as if the issue can’t be left to the states.

Two days earlier, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had gotten his own nanny-state ticket punched, issuing an official statement reminding people that hurricane season is coming and urging them to prepare emergency kits containing water, food, flashlights, batteries, a manual can opener (“if the kit contains canned food,” the governor added, there being, in case you couldn’t figure it out, no need for a can opener if there are no cans), and “a whistle to signal for help.”

While the governor neglected to encourage brushing one’s teeth, in light of the state budget he has just gotten through the legislature, Connecticut might not want to wait for a hurricane to blow the whistle for help. Connecticut already should be summoning help from candidates for elective office who aspire to be something more than the masters of distracting trivia, candidates who have a better idea of what government is needed for.

Diminishing penalties for simple possession of illegal drugs, Malloy’s legislation for a “Second Chance Society” is a necessary step toward rehabilitation. But even as the legislature considered the legislation last week, it was reported that Aaron Taylor, the unapprehended suspect in two recent shootings in Hartford, has been arrested 21 times and convicted of at least three felonies — that he already was a member of what might be called Connecticut’s “22nd Chance Society.”

Taylor fits a pattern Connecticut refuses to recognize — the pattern of the incorrigible, whose offenses go on and on, and get worse and worse without ever generating a prohibitively long prison sentence. That’s why the “Second Chance Society” should be accompanied by a “three-strikes” law, requiring a life sentence upon a third felony conviction.

As the leaders of the Republican minority in the state Senate, Len Fasano and Kevin D. Witkos, of North Haven and Canton, respectively, have suggested, the bigger problem with the new state budget is that its controversial tax increases were devised in secret by the governor and Democratic legislative leaders, and then sprung on the legislature and the public in the last hours of the legislative session, foreclosing ordinary review, deliberation and debate, which very well might have changed things.

As usual, as the budget and “implementer” bills are studied over the next few weeks, lots of strange things never discussed may be discovered, prompting people to wonder where they came from.

What Malloy and the Democratic leaders did was contemptuous of democracy. They must think few will remember at the next election, in which case their contempt will have been justified