Commentary: The grandstanding has to stop

Ryan Roger (D)

Ryan Roger (D)

These days, some politicians have found that taking extreme stances in front of the largest possible audience—grandstanding if you will—can lead to higher poll numbers and support. Even in the midst of serious issues demanding their attention, like fiscal crises or a stagnant economy, some politicians would rather find their niche in more exploitable and sometimes even manufactured issues.

In case you’re wondering, no I’m not talking about “the Donald”—I’m talking about our own incumbent, State Sen. Joe Markley.

The perfect example of this type of behavior was his opposition to CTfastrak. Markley had plenty of nicknames for this project, which he made sure to constantly and publicly discuss with former Gov. John Rowland—who ironically enough supported and began study of the busway plan. It was referred to as a boondoggle, the magic bus, the bus to nowhere. Don’t believe me? Google CTfastrak; Markley’s name comes up in just about every article speaking against it.

Markley regularly misrepresented the facts of the project, too, often claiming that the state of Connecticut spent over $500 million to construct the New Britain to Hartford separated busway. The reality, however, is that about 80 percent of the total cost was paid from already earmarked federal funding. This means that if not utilized in Connecticut, these funds would have found their way to another state’s transportation project instead of ours.

Since it started, CTfastrak has exceeded all expectations and is regarded as a huge success, but you wouldn’t know that if you took our state senator’s word for it. In fact, we don’t hear much at all from him on the subject as of late. This is surprising, since even the Republican Mayor of New Britain has embraced the project and supported economic development along its route.

The busway averages between 16,000-17,000 rides on weekdays and is spurring economic development along stops. You can even hop a ride onto it from feeder routes running from Cheshire, Waterbury, and Southington.  CTfastrak presented a layup for Markley and the 16th district; in supporting it, he could have helped with congestion on I-84 and simultaneously given his constituents an alternate and inexpensive form of travel to Hartford. Not to mention, a more environmentally friendly commute. Rather than work for the people, he took the opposition route and in turn gained publicity demeaning a project he undoubtedly knew would pass in order to build his profile and garner name recognition statewide.

Markley was wrong about this project but successful in manufacturing a non-issue with the hope of stirring up the emotions of frustrated voters. Again, this wasn’t a plan developed on a whim; it was studied for about 15 years. The studies began under Rowland when funding was not yet readily available. Three consecutive governors on both sides of the aisle found this project to be a win for the state. And Markley, whose district arguably benefits the most from CTFastrak, instead saw an opportunity to politicize the project.

We the people of the 16th district deserve better from our representation than the type of pure opposition incumbents that have gridlocked Washington D.C., caring more about bolstering their profile than taking care of their constituents. If you’re disgruntled with this type of legislator, if you’re sick of politicians who prioritize grand standing over real accomplishment, then there is an alternative this year. Support the candidate who puts good ideas over party politics and will always put the people of our district first. It’s long past time for pragmatism and good policy to take effect in Hartford. Our district and our state need leaders who will work for the greater good, rather than the greater punch line.

Ryan Rogers is a Democratic state senate candidate for the 16th district.

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