Con­necti­cut from the rearview mir­ror

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Opinion - Michael J. Daly is edi­tor of the ed­i­to­rial page of the Con­necti­cut Post. Email: mdaly@ct­ Jacky Smith is on va­ca­tion.

Our old­est friend, Anne Dun­leavey — and by “old­est” I mean of long­est stand­ing — grew up in Bridge­port and was, in fact, the per­son who in­tro­duced her neigh­bor, the for­mer Sharon Tier­ney, now Mrs. Daly, to me.

Oh, Lord, we’ve been through a lot over the last 50 or so years in Con­necti­cut. Weddings, fu­ner­als, and many of life’s other ups and downs.

Anne be­came very suc­cess­ful in the in­te­rior de­sign busi­ness and is mar­ried to a won­der­ful man, Gerry Eisen­man, a for­mer state’s at­tor­ney, now re­tired.

They have a nice lit­tle con­do­minium pied a terre in Palm Beach, Fla., and a home on Ski­d­away Is­land in Ge­or­gia, just off the coast of Sa­van­nah.

For the sum­mer, they have been liv­ing in Bridge­port in the beau­ti­ful house they own not far from Long Is­land Sound. The house, like a lot of houses in af­flu­ent sec­tions of Con­necti­cut, is for sale, and has been for some time.

So our re­la­tion­ship is in yet an­other phase: Anne and Gerry are now res­i­dents of Ge­or­gia, part of the flight from Con­necti­cut.

They are but two of many suc­cess­ful peo­ple who are tired of the crush of taxes in Con­necti­cut, tired of con­gested roads, crum­bling bridges and liv­ing un­der the weight of loom­ing bil­lion dol­lar state deficits and suf­fo­cat­ing pen­sion and health ben­e­fits mount­ing in Hart­ford.

“Older peo­ple are mov­ing out,” Eisen­man said, “and young peo­ple are not com­ing in. So now you have peo­ple stuck with houses they can’t sell.”

“The taxes, the eco­nom­ics are just not work­ing,” he said.

The ex­am­ples are end­less.

But here’s an­other one: John M. Fabrizi, Bridge­port’s mayor from 20032007, a guy who bleeds Bridge­port, is now a res­i­dent of Florida.

“It was eco­nomic,” he ex­plained mat­ter-of-factly the other day.

We had a lengthy phone chat. He was in his house in Bridge­port, laid up with a lit­tle back is­sue. He said he planned to leave shortly for Del Ray Beach, his and wife Mary’s new home.

“I’ve lived here all my life,” he said. “It was a very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion, but the driv­ing force was eco­nom­ics.”

Fabrizi is 61 and has been re­tired since he was 57. A teacher and school ad­min­is­tra­tor be­fore he be­came mayor, he has a nice pen­sion.

Be­ing out of Con­necti­cut for six months and a day spares him the taxes on that pen­sion, Con­necti­cut’s per­sonal in­come tax, car tax, real es­tate tax and so on. Same with Anne and Gerry. Same with lots of other frus­trated, now for­mer, Con­necti­cut res­i­dents.

“My prop­erty tax is less than $1,000,” Fabrizi said, “and we’re sav­ing about $3,000 on mo­tor ve­hi­cle taxes.”

“And we’re lucky,” he said, “we are peo­ple who have the op­por­tu­nity to do this. A lot of peo­ple don’t have the op­por­tu­nity.”

This is the Con­necti­cut that ei­ther Demo­crat Ned La­mont, Repub­li­can Bob Ste­fanowski or in­de­pen­dent pe­ti­tion can­di­date Oz Griebel are go­ing to take over in Jan­uary.

Their task is go­ing to be not only to ad­dress the nuts and bolts — pen­sions, trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture, taxes, the pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, and on, and on — but also the pes­simism about the state that is per­va­sive both out­side its boundaries and within.

It’s only one man’s opin­ion, but as Fabrizi said, “The state looks like it will take at least a decade to get out of this — not years — a decade.”

Union con­tracts are cer­tainly one of the chal­lenges the new gover­nor will face.

“I can’t blame the unions,” Fabrizi said. “They’re fight­ing for their peo­ple, and the politi­cians want the unions to get elected. But the agree­ments in place now are not in sync with the times.”

“New folks have to get some­thing like a 401(k),” he said.

”The new gover­nor has to get Con­necti­cut not only sol­vent, but at­trac­tive to young peo­ple and busi­nesses. Right now, it’s dis­as­trous in Con­necti­cut.”

”When peo­ple with money are mov­ing out,” he said, ”that’s not a good thing.”

Mrs. Daly and I had din­ner the other night with Anne and Gerry.

It was a part­ing din­ner. They were leav­ing the next day for Ge­or­gia.

”You’re wel­come any time in Sa­van­nah,” they re­minded as we went our sep­a­rate ways.

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