Bumpersticker politics is nothing new. Working to reduce what may be complicated political issues to short, rhythmic slogans repeated ad nauseum by supporters are a staple of every candidate, and every election season.

But even before they became a political strategy, newpapers had it perfected. Headlines (or newsies selling papers, for Disney fans) had to get you interested enough to get you to buy the paper, or in todays verbiage, click the link. Whether the headline was deceiving, or even blatantly inaccurate meant less if the end result was more sales, or yes, clicks.

So its no wonder Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie used a catchy, “Connecticut: Where Connections Matter More than Qualifications” headline to try and sell papers. It kinda rhymes. It has a bounce to it. And it reeks of political conspiracy,  a guaranteed money maker.

The problem is Rennie uses the example of Tweed Airport hiring Sean Scanlon as its new Executive Directory, followed by a convoluted stream of consciousness rant connecting the hiring to Governor Lamont and then Secretary of State Denise Merrill. Its not all logical, but to those of us in the geographic region that have been impacted by the lack of Tweed expansion, the column is written by someone clearly lacking the facts and a working knowledge of how corporate America works, which is key in this case.

Scanlon, who worked for Senator Chris Murphy and is elected as a state representative representing Guilford and parts of Branford, was approached for the position earlier this year. Rennie accurately points out that Scanlon has no direct experience in transportation or in managing airports.

The problem is, the Executive Director doesn’t manage the airport. A separate management company handles the day-to-day operation.

What the Commission was looking for in the hire is someone who can handle a long-standing issue at Tweed on two fronts: first, the political knowledge and maneuvering needed to get the runway extended, and second, the ability to convince major airlines to bring service to Tweed.

The opposition to the Tweed expansion is being led by two key elected officials, at least publicly: Democrat Martin Looney and Republican Len Fasano, both who represent the area, and more specifically, neighbors of Tweed who don’t want the runway extended. Additionally, despite a lawsuit being decided in Tweed’s favor, the Democratic attorney general, William Tong, is considering an appeal. Whether he actually files an appeal or is simply appeasing Looney depends on where you stand.

If you are the Tweed board tasked with hiring an executive director who can maneuver between the various political figures and has experience dealing with the public, as they would need to do with the Tweed neighbors, the choice of Scanlon, an elected official with working relationships with all key political figures, is an enlightened choice.

While Rennie makes much of Scanlons lack of airport experience, there is no airport manager that could come anywhere close to the political experience and connections with the specific figures involved that Scanlon possesses.

Second, those connections extend well beyond the state. The task of attracting large airlines to the area is monumental, and connections play a key role in making that happen.

Consider calls made to say, the JetBlue CEO, in an attempt to bring direct flights between Tweed and Florida. Two calls go in to the CEO’s secretary, one from an executive director with extensive day-to-day management at a tiny airport in New Haven , and another who is an elected official on the state level with strong ties to U.S. Senators Murphy and Dick Blumenthal (who serves on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation), not to mention Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

Which call do you think gets returned?

The selection committee likely doesn’t care about the opinion of Kevin Rennie and the Courants ability to sell papers, it cares about having someone who can get things done. Someone whose call gets returned. That takes connections. While the headline wants to push the idea of a connected official getting a job without qualifications, the selection committee knows different: those connections, which took years to make and cultivate, are the qualifications. They are what makes Scanlon a match for the needs of the position.

What makes the claim even more comical is simple: the position Scanlon is taking pays $105,000. Scanlon, if he so chooses, could announce he is leaving the legislature now and enter the private sector, and local lobbying firms would have a bidding war for his services, starting at double what he will be paid by Tweed. If he and his wife chose to relocate their family to Washington, the money would likely be well in excess of $250,000 a year.

Along the shoreline, we have lived, in real time, the impediment the lack of services at Tweed has had on economic development. We can champion bio-tech and Yale and every other corporation we would like, but there isn’t one forum or corporate tour where the first issue for every one of these companies is the inability to have a close, working airport. And to make that happen, the decision makers made an inspired choice, one that fills the very specific needs of Tweed with someone uniquely qualified to fill them.

Will Scanlon be successful? Only time will tell. But opinion writers like Rennie would do well to look at the facts, the needs of the region, and thought process behind a hire before pushing conspiracy theories. But, that may not sell papers.

(9) comments

Guest

The author seems to think it is better for his position at Tweed that he remains in the state Legislature.

However, doesn't that at least give the appearance of conflict of interest on its face? How can he represent his constituents who live in Branford who don't want more flights taking off and landing relatively low in the air directly over their homes?

Guest

The airport runway which can only be expanded is rwy 2/20 which has the RNAV and ILS landings. Rwy 32 which would take aircraft over the Branford area is to short for commercial aircraft and can not be expanded.

Guest

To start, I am all for expansion. But to clarify how this affects Branford, when the wind is from the South, the standard approach for most flights is the “left downwind to 20”, bringing them usually over Branford to the North and turning 180 to land to the South. When the wind is from the North, standard departure for most flights has them take off on runway 2, then turn 180 to the South, again usually over Branford. Personally, I enjoy it.

Guest

That's a fair point regarding a visual approach, the down wind would be fairly close to short beach but, much of the commercial traffic is on a flight plan and LaGuardia approach will line the aircraft for an instrument approach

Peter Black

First, his constituents live in Guilford, Stony Creek, and Pine Orchard, which are not in any low level flight path. His constituents will se noting but benefit from more flights from Tweed.

Second, I do live in Short Beach. The old DASH-8's often flew right over my house. I enjoyed looking down, saying, "There's my house!", particularly after being away for a while. I did, of course, hear the DASH-8's when they flew over my house without me in them. The new jets are much quieter, I never hear them. Flying one of the Brazilian jets recently, I couldn't see my house. They seem to have a steeper rate of climb and descent than the DASH-8's. The only air traffic that really bothers me is the helicopters, which often fly low and slow over the shoreline and literally rattle my house. BTW, it was really nice not having the long drive and parking expense of BDL, and when my wife couldn't pick me up, I had a short and cheap taxi ride home.

Guest

Thank you for that clarification, Mr. Black.

The question remains however about a potential conflict of interest. If state funds are needed to expand Tweed, Mr. Scanlon likely would vote in favor of them, even if a majority of his constituents thought that the state should stop spending money it doesn't have, no?

Ah, what am I saying? Voters in Connecticut don't seem to care that the state technically is running at chronic deficits with no apparent hope of ever turning the situation around.

Peter Black

Well, as a fiscally conservative Republican, I believe that the Democrats in Hartford have been doing that on many issues. While we have had surpluses in the last one or two budgets, they have come at the cost of increased taxes, lowering the scheduled pension contributions, and "scoop & toss" borrowing. Connecticut remains one of the most, of not the most, indebted states. Yet, as you say, voters don't seem to care and continue to support candidates who want to dig our hole deeper. The point of the editorial here is that Scanlon is good for Tweed because of his legislative connections, not whether or not he should continue as a legislator. That question is up to his district's electors.

https://www.mercatus.org/publications/49-ranking-states-fiscal-condition-connecticut

Guest

The position should pay nothing. It is a useless, not needed position. It should have gone unfilled just like Mrs. Obama's Hospital position in Chicago. (she made 450k and when she became first lady...the hospital in chicago never re-filled the position)

Why do i mention this? For this position scanlon is taking is a political position that really does not need to be filled. Its his payback from the party for being a good little boy and following the democrat party line!

Bottom line - Another do nothing job that the taxpayers have to pick up.

Sailsalot

The reason Scanlon was a good choice is because Democrats want to be sure one of their own doles out the candy for airport Halloween.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.