Is Connecticut really that bad?

John J. Ryan, a former Republican state representative, and Joshua Fisher, a Hersam Acorn editor, share their back-and-forth about news going on around the state, among other items of interest.

Fisher: We’re looking for something positive to write about this week. Sometimes — OK, most of the time — we focus on what’s not going right in Connecticut.

Ryan: Maybe we aren’t challenging ourselves enough. As we usually run out of space and time to get to all the bad economic signs and nationwide rankings that continue to show the once great Connecticut economy struggling mightily.

Fisher: While Connecticut’s ruling class — and ruling hopefuls — might not be up to a challenge, we should be. After all, how hard is it to celebrate our home state?

Ryan: If we resume with the usual business and fiscal news concerning the Constitution State, we’d be discussing items such as “What’s the matter with Connecticut?” (, Sept. 1) and “Report: Connecticut economy offers fewer jobs, falling wages; lags nation in recovery” (, Sept. 2).

Fisher: Maybe the 14 years you spent suffering in the General Assembly, John, is making it harder for you to see what’s great about Connecticut.

While the state’s economy is sluggish and the government is poorly run, we do have low real estate taxes — when compared to the rest of the tri-state area. Property taxes in Westchester, Long Island and New Jersey can make Fairfield County look like it’s in the South.

Ryan: But Connecticut is still the last state in the union to celebrate Tax Freedom Day each year, which means Connecticut residents have to work more before they get to a point where they've made enough money to pay off all their taxes each year — including property, income, sales, gas and estate taxes.

Fisher: While that is certainly not a badge of honor, we are located in one of the best parts of the country. Where else can you hop on a train and be in New York City in less than hour or in Boston in less than three hours?

And while Metro-North Railroad gets a lot of bad press, the commuter rail does usually run well and does a decent job despite being under-funded by Hartford (which also doesn't understand its importance) and under-controlled by Connecticut. It just seems a lot worse because no one covers the railroad when it is operating well. And that one time every month or two that your train is late, is easier to remember than the trips that arrive on time.

Ryan: And as a regular mass transit user, Mr. Editor, you would be remiss in pointing out that most of our new Metro-North rail cars have arrived and are in service, with more coming (Thank you Gov. Rell!).

Fisher: According to Gov. Malloy the new cars are thanks to him and all transit improvements are in spite of the Republicans who preceded him.

Ryan: There must be a fall election coming up if the governor is revising history. Speaking of fall — Connecticut is a great place in the autumn. The weather forecasters have been agreeing that this will be a spectacular fall foliage season (due to a lack of summer rainfall and heat). See: "Expert sees fall foliage perfection on schedule" (, Sept. 8).

Fisher: That’s the spirit! (But I wouldn’t believe TV weather reporters, if I were you.) There are few places around the world that match October in Connecticut.

Ryan: All of those taxpayer dollars that go to promote Connecticut tourism can now go to detouring those folks clogging up I-95 on the weekends. Instead of heading off to Newport or the Cape, they’ll head up Route 7 to the Litchfield Hills.

Fisher: In October, I’ll take the Litchfield Hills over anywhere in Massachusetts or Rhode Island.

Ryan: Speaking of October, the campaign ads we've been seeing this month are just going to multiply. The state media must be happy with the relentless campaign commercials. See “TV ad spending reaches $450K a week in governor’s race” (, Sept. 12).

Fisher: It’s amazing they need so many ads — since the same candidates always seem to be on the Connecticut ballot because the Democrats always seem to win and the Republicans always pick the same losing candidates to try again. The GOP went with Linda McMahon for U.S. Senate in 2010 and ’12; Tom Foley for governor in 2010 and ’14; and Dan Debicella for Congress in southwest Connecticut in 2010 and ’14. Although it would be unfair to Mr. Debicella to compare him to Mr. Foley or Mrs. McMahon.

See: “Connecticut’s grand old losers” (, Aug. 28).

The same candidates every two or four years make it really easy on the voters — and newspaper editors who have to put together voter guides in the fall: It’s a simple cut-and-paste job.

Ryan: So there you go, readers: All the positive news that’s fit to print, — just in case you thought there was any good reasons left to be in Connecticut.

Fisher: We, like the once great state of Connecticut, can do better — and should do better.

We didn’t even touch on our state’s rich history and the benefits on Sundays of having both New York and Hartford/New Haven TV stations to choose football games from. And I am sure there are a lot more.

Email us at with your thoughts on why Connecticut isn’t really that bad — or why it's still great.


John J. Ryan is of counsel to the Fairfield County law firm Russo & Assoc., and served 14 years as Darien and Rowayton’s state representative — and has been writing this column for Hersam Acorn even longer. Joshua Fisher, who was the Darien Times editor for seven years, has been an editor with Hersam Acorn Newspapers since 2003.