Gov. Ned Lamont is at war with New London
Who in New London can forget Gov. Ned Lamont's now-famous broken promise, delivered with great pomp in the lobby of historic City Hall in front of television cameras, a solemn vow that the city "has a place at the table going forward" and will share in the profits of the state's transformation of its port.
That already seems like a lifetime ago, in early 2019.
Flash forward to the fall of 2020, with planning underway for Lamont's $157 million rebuild of the port of New London, and not only does the city not have a seat at the table but it is girding for a nasty battle, forced into a defensive crouch by none other than the governor himself.
Incredibly, the governor is siding with Eversource, the utility with lobbying tentacles that reach deep into state government, and its rich Danish counterpart, the offshore wind utility Ørsted, against the hardworking people of New London.
I know it's hard to fathom that a governor would side with rich utilities and their wealthy hedge fund investors against a poor struggling Connecticut city. But that's exactly what's going on.
This week, David Kooris, Lamont's henchman in the port wind deal, chairman of the board of the Connecticut Port Authority, challenged the city's assertion of a role in reviewing the state's transformation of the port on behalf of the utilities, saying, without any legal opinion, that a Municipal Development Plan that gives the city jurisdiction over the pier neighborhood doesn't apply.
Even the mob acknowledges laws, as it breaks them.
The MDP for State Pier, similar to one that governs plans to develop Fort Trumbull, is how the state came to acquire some 8 acres around the pier, demolishing a neighborhood there, with the idea that it would be purchased someday by taxpaying businesses that would want to locate near the deepwater port.
The plan, devised by a Republican governor, was meant to help the city profit from taxes on new development in the area of the pier.
Instead, Lamont the Democrat plans to turn over the remains of the seized neighborhood to the rich utilities for their exclusive use, without paying a nickel in taxes to the city or any sort of compensation for the city services they will use.
I know it's hard to imagine that the governor would enable these monopolistic giants to conduct their wildly profitable commercial wind business, with guarantees they can charge Connecticut customers above-market rates for the power they generate, on state land without compensating the city. But that's exactly what's going on.
First, the governor signed the deal, in which he pledged substantial subsidies and to cover cost overruns on the utilities' $157 million pier project but specifically left the city on its own to negotiate host city compensation.
City Mayor Michael Passero tried to make a deal, and the talks, not surprising, have stalled.
Now the governor's enrich-the-utilities team is challenging the city's law director and his assertion that the city has a clear stake in reviewing changes to plans for the pier area, a role spelled out by law.
In that televised news conference in City Hall in 2019, the governor promised the city a seat at the table, representation on the board of the port authority.
He claims he has been unable to convince lawmakers to create an ex-officio place on the board for the New London mayor. But all he has to do is appoint Passero to replace one of the gubernatorial nominees, like the state Democratic chairman, who have stayed beyond their term. Future mayors' participation could be enshrined into law later on.
Lamont could make good on his promise, but won't. I'm sure the utility puppet masters wouldn't like Passero on the board.
Instead, Lamont massaged through the last session of the legislature a new appointment for Kooris, who is doing his part to be sure New London gets no seat at the table in planning for a port that was supposed to help the poor little city find its own brighter future.
Apparently that's not how it works in Lamont world, where the rich get richer and the poor of New London get the wrong end of the governor's swinging boot.
Hat's off to Mayor Passero, who is doing all he can to prevent his city from being cheated.
And where are the region's senators, as the shoreline's capital city is woefully shortchanged?
You would think that Republican Sen. Paul Formica, who represents New London, would call out the Democratic governor. How about Republican Heather Somers of Groton, whose district is lapped by the Thames River?
Democratic Sen. Cathy Osten of Sprague should care about the governor's shabby treatment of New London. I hold some blame for Sen. Norm Needleman of Essex, who should be able to use his position on the legislature's Energy and Technology Committee, which created the wind deals, to pressure the utilities.
It's an election year. You would think all of them could collectively find a voice to stand up for poor New London.
Apparently only Mayor Passero is prepared to speak up and offend the utility gods.
This is the opinion of David Collins.
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