Politics

Political news from WNPR

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The Historic District of Litchfield Connecticut is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a lawsuit regarding the rejection of plans for a synagogue in 2007. Chabad Lubavitch of Northwest Connecticut cited the Litchfield Historic District Commission for religious discrimination over the denial of modifications to their building. 

The commission and the Borough of Litchfield asked the Supreme Court on Monday to hear the case. The move comes after the lawsuit was at first dismissed by a federal judge, then reinstated by the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan in September.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Governor Dannel Malloy delivers his budget speech on Wednesday, an event we've anticipated for weeks.

The address is expected to include details about Malloy's big transportation plans for the state, and how he plans to balance the budget while changing the sales tax system.

In our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse, we preview his speech while looking at the big picture: What do budget addresses mean, and what are the messages they send?

Today's edition of The Wheelhouse is in two parts. Part one is a preview of the budget speech. Part two is a broadcast of the budget address in its entirety and a wrap-up with WNPR reporters.

Following heavy shelling in what had been a Ukraine-controlled city, the central government's force is retreating from Debaltseve, a key railroad and transportation hub. Ukraine says it has now withdrawn 80 percent of its armed forces from the city.

"I can say now that the Ukrainian armed forces and the National Guard completed an operation on the planned and organized withdrawal of some units from Debaltseve this morning," Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said, according to the Interfax news agency in Ukraine.

City of Hartford

The ceremonial groundbreaking for a new $56 million minor league baseball stadium in Hartford happened Tuesday. The park for the New Britain Rock Cats has to be completed in just over a year.

The effort build a minor league baseball stadium began last June, when Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra announced a plan to build the stadium in the city. He called it a done deal, though it was anything but.

The next series of months saw the fundamentals of the proposal change several times over. What began as a stadium project is now a $350 million development to remake an entire neighborhood.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

A century ago, in April 1915, an event began that’s come to be known as the Armenian Genocide. One scholar believes that massacre should remind us of the long-term implications of events playing out in our own time. 

It’s thought that up to 1.5 million people may have been massacred or expelled from their homes in the Ottoman Empire during the worst atrocity of World War I. For almost a century, Turkey has denied the enormity of the event, but that may be changing. 

Thomas de Waal works for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Recently, he returned to Turkey with a group American Armenians -- descendants of those who fled the genocide in the early 20th century. 

Think you have a knack for names?

The folks behind minor league baseball in the city of Hartford want you to try your hand at naming an entire team. The only catch: the name has to include the word "Hartford."

Mixed Bag for Gov. Malloy's Budget Proposal

Feb 17, 2015
Sage Ross / Creative Commons

In preparation for his two year state budget proposal, Governor Dannel Malloy has warned Connecticut residents the budget is "tough."

During an interview with WFSB-TV's "Face the State" broadcast on Sunday, Malloy said he will be proposing to reduce the state sales tax from 6.35 percent to 6.2 percent on November 1, then dropping it to 5.95 percent by 2017.

This Post Was Last Updated At 5:15 p.m. ET.

Two days before the first of President Obama's executive actions on immigration were to take effect, the new rules have been put on hold by a federal judge's ruling in South Texas. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen said the president overstepped his authority.

Governor Dannel Malloy / Twitter

An executive at a Connecticut vaccine manufacturer said it is difficult to consider expanding in the state because the governor's administration won't commit to buying the vaccine for state workers.

Dan Adams, executive chairman of Meriden-based Protein Sciences, which makes the Flublok vaccine, said he was frustrated that Governor Dannel Malloy received a flu shot made by an overseas company. A Malloy spokesman said the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District administered the vaccine to the governor last Friday, using what was available.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have resulted in a cease-fire which is set to begin Sunday. But there's still a long ways to go before a lasting peace can exist between the two countries.

Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman doesn't think the cease-fire will hold. He told CNN that the U.S. should send weapons to Ukrainian fighters to help counter Russian-backed troops and President Vladamir Putin.

"I think if we give them the weapons to defend themselves, it actually raises the prospects that the cease-fire will hold because it creates a little more balance on the ground and creates a bit of a disincentive for Putin and the separatists to keep moving through eastern Ukraine," said Lieberman.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

A panel created by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy in the wake of the Newtown school shooting has issued a set of draft recommendations aimed at avoiding another tragedy like Sandy Hook.

The 256-page report from the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission was posted online Thursday.

The report offers recommendations in the areas of school design and operations, mental health, and law enforcement.

White House

President Barack Obama is asking Congress to formally authorize war against Islamic State militants.

The request is limited to three years, with no restriction as to where U.S. forces could pursue the threat.

Obama's proposal bans "enduring offensive combat operations," an ambiguous term intended as compromise between lawmakers who want authority for ground troops and those who don't. In a statement delivered Wednesday, Obama said his request "does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Iraq or Syria." He said local forces are in the best position to fight a ground war.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy is one of those opponents to ground forces.

"We’ve got to be smart about this fight," he said. "A smart strategy recognizes that combat troops, in the end, are just going to become bulletin board material for terrorists to bring even more forces to the fight in the Middle East, and across the globe."

Westfield State University

No trial date has been set yet in the federal lawsuit involving ex-Westfield State University president Evan Dobelle. Dobelle is the former president of Trinity College in Hartford.

In the 2013 federal complaint, filed three weeks before he resigned, Dobelle alleges that his constitutional and contractual rights were violated when he was placed on administrative leave and forced to resign from his post as president of WSU.

Creative Commons

Owners and managers of Connecticut car dealerships are urging state lawmakers to abandon legislation that would allow an electric car maker to sell vehicles directly to consumers.

About 70 auto dealers were at the state Capitol on Wednesday meeting with legislators to protest a bill benefiting Tesla Motors. Current state law prevents car manufacturers from selling their cars to consumers.

A bill before the legislature's Transportation Committee would make an exception for Tesla. 

Connecticut Senate Republicans

Connecticut's Republican legislators proposed a 30-year, $37.4 billion plan to fund a proposed overhaul of the state's transportation system on Tuesday. They'd like to do it without resurrecting tolls.

The announcement comes a week before Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy will present his two-year budget and transportation initiative.

Both Senate and House Republicans proposed dedicating a set amount of bonds to be used solely for transportation projects, starting with $441.5 million in fiscal year 2016. That would complement the approximate $600 million in bonding already spent annually for transportation.

In a move that is sure to set off a new round of debate over how the U.S. should fight ISIS, the Obama administration has sent Congress a request for formal authorization to use military force against the extremist group.

City of Hartford

The city of Hartford has reached an agreement with the developer of its new $56 million baseball stadium and with the team owners of the Rock Cats.

The revised development plan with DoNo Hartford LLC calls for improvements to the Downtown North neighborhood that would include a supermarket of up to 50,000 square feet, a brewery, housing, stores, and restaurants. The development agreement also includes hiring preferences for Hartford residents and minority or women-owned business in building the stadium.

A groundbreaking is scheduled for February 17.

U.S. Attorney CT / Twitter

Law enforcement officials are turning to billboards to root out corruption in Connecticut.

Billboards promoting the work of the Connecticut Public Corruption Task Force have popped up outside Bridgeport, Hartford, and Waterbury.

Mayors in those three cities have been convicted over the past decade or more on corruption and other charges, though convictions against Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez were overturned, and the case is now before the state Supreme Court. 

Federal Dollars Head To Metro-North For Sandy Repairs

Feb 11, 2015

Congressional officials from New York have announced an investment in Metro-North Railroad for capital improvement projects from Hurricane Sandy.

London Mayor Bullish On Boston Olympics

Feb 11, 2015

The snowy weather and public transportation gridlock have taken some of the steam out of a visit to Boston by London Mayor Boris Johnson. But while in the area, the mayor managed to make a pitch for Boston moving forward with its bid to host the Olympics.

PT Vote / Flickr Creative Commons

Why do we vote the way we do? The easy answer, of course, is that we pick the politician whose values, beliefs and opinions most closely resemble our own. But while that does play a part, there are other, less obvious influences as well.

It turns out that much of why we make the voting decisions we do comes from our subconscious: biases we hold towards things like a candidate's height, weight, looks, tone of voice, and even choice of clothes. Campaigns have known this for years and, with every vote being fiercely sought, have employed a variety of tactics to make their candidate appeal to parts of our psyche we're not even aware of.

David Davies / Creative Commons

State lawmakers will hear testimony on legislation aimed at speeding up the development of ultra, high-speed, broadband Internet across Connecticut.

The General Assembly's Energy and Technology Committee scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday on the bill, which is co-sponsored by Senate President Martin Looney and other Democratic senators. The legislation calls for facilitating the rapid development of gigabit Internet infrastructure in cities and towns across the state. 

There may not be any officially declared candidates for president yet, but prominent Republicans from Jeb Bush to Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are making big speeches and jostling for consultants and donors. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton may not formally announce whether she is running for months. But any number of polls would indicate, without even declaring, she has a lock on the Democratic nomination.

Which got me thinking — who are the other potential Democratic candidates?

Heather Brandon / WNPR

The city of Hartford has executed agreements with the developer of a baseball stadium and the owner of the minor league New Britain Rock Cats, according to bond documents provided to investors.

But you can’t see them -- not yet, anyway.

Last week, we asked the city to see any executed agreements between it and either the developer, DoNo Hartford LLC, or the team owner, Connecticut Double Play LLC.  The city denied that request, saying it was holding the documents "in escrow until all negotiations are resolved."  Typically, executed contract documents are not exempt from disclosure.  (A clarification: We formally asked to inspect the documents with the developer; we only inquired as to the status of the agreements with the team's owners.  We got no response on the latter.)

A major battle is coming to a head over the fate of a century-old Boston Public School building that most recently housed the Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury.

The building is scheduled for demolition to make way for the first new school to be built in the city in more than a decade.

Some key Connecticut lawmakers say they are willing to pursue a compromise that would allow Tesla Motors sell its electric cars directly to consumers, but with some provisions that address the concerns of the state's independent franchise dealerships.

U.S. Senator Describes Train Wreckage

Feb 7, 2015

Two U.S. Senators and two congressional representatives Friday saw the wreckage and toured the crash site of Tuesday’s fiery Metro-North crash in Westchester County that left six people dead. 

The officials, including U.S. Senator from Connecticut Richard Blumenthal, spoke after viewing the charred train in a warehouse and then touring the crash site in Valhalla.

“Look inside the car and you can see those third rails like daggers going into the heart of that chamber.”

Ryan King / WNPR

When it comes to road design, more productive cities prioritize people over cars, according to Charles Marohn of the Minneapolis non-profit Strong Towns. 

Here in the United States, Marohn said, our roadways put cars before people. 

The same is true for Connecticut.

mrceder / Creative Commons

Just days after it was established and as a blizzard targeted the state, the Hartford Stadium Authority met, chose its officers, and approved tens of millions in borrowing that will allow the city to build a minor league baseball stadium for the New Britain Rock Cats.

The meeting was held last week. The sale of the bonds is apparently next week, and all eyes will be on what investors will charge the authority for its money.

Meanwhile, the city says negotiations are ongoing between it and the developer DoNo Hartford LLC.  A document provided to the stadium authority suggests that an agreement between the city and the baseball team has already been signed.

Ben Sheldon / Creative Commons

Governor Dannel Malloy has proposed major improvements to Connecticut's transportation infrastructure.

In the past, Malloy argued that the state gas tax could cover such costs, but the rise in fuel-efficient cars has meant a decline in revenue. How to fund transportation projects remains a question.

Speaking on WNPR's Where We Live, Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey said the gas tax is unfair to Connecticut residents.

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