Connecticut from the rearview mirror
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.