Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Stemerman’s Deep Dive

Eric Bedner, a Journal Inquirer reporter, has been on top of the crumbling foundations story from the very beginning. Bender recently wrote about Republican gubernatorial candidate David Stemerman, one of many politicians who have made the pilgrimage to homes the foundations of which have been destroyed by the presence of pyrrhotite in the concrete mix, “Stemerman appeared to be far more knowledgeable of the issue than many of his competitors, many of whom learn the basics for the first time when speaking with homeowners.”

That is not at all surprising. Stemerman, who hopes to win the Republican primary for governor on August 14, is used to deep dives and, more often than not, he emerges with pearls in his hands.

Kevin Rennie of the Hartford Courant recently showered Stemerman with a bouquet of compliments: “During the 16 years I have been writing this column, it has been both my privilege and burden to talk to a lot of candidates on and off the record. I've never met a candidate smarter than Stemerman” 

 Stemerman is rich and self-financing, like Democrat Party nominee for Governor Ned Lamont. He “possesses a nimble and curious mind… He relishes discovering and refining the array of new policies that will be required to reverse the growing despair over the state’s future that is the most poisonous legacy of the last eight years.” And, compared to Stemerman, Lamont is a bit of a duffer, in Rennie’s estimation: “Stemerman is the only Republican who can match Lamont’s taste for spending tens of millions on his campaigns. In the competition of ideas that should mark the next three months, Stemerman will show the way forward while Lamont continues to try to figure out which of his beliefs are safe to disclose to voters.”

Stemerman is a successful businessman and neophyte politician who can engorge himself with loads of data and, following an exhaustive analysis, almost instantly propose solutions that are doable and practical.

The crumbling foundations, Bedner knows, have been with us much longer than the sometime cloying solicitude of politicians hoping to round-up the empathy vote. There is no necessary connection between solicitude and solutions.

Stemerman has proposed an independent investigation that would “determine how the issue came about and who is responsible,” necessary, he believes, because “The stories that I’ve heard about the follow-up lead me to be concerned that because of business or political interests, we have not gotten the right story… I don’t think that the investigation of this problem has been held to the level that it needs to be. I am concerned that administrations dating back for years have been more concerned about covering this problem up.”

The investigation would be undertaken by a “’special counsel’ independent of the executive branch and the legislature, with subpoena authority to determine whether the problem was covered up when officials were first notified.”

Responsibility will be affixed: “The first financial responsibility should be in the private sector for those businesses and insurers for whom there is responsibility. Those businesses that poured the concrete, that owned the quarry of a product that is proven to be defective, we should understand what they knew and when and how they should be held accountable.” Insurance companies representing the concrete company and the quarry from which the concrete mix came would also be investigated. If elected governor, Stemerman vowed to “work to collaborate with the federal government and insist on shared responsibility, with the understanding that neither municipalities nor the state can solve the problem on their own,” according to the JI report. Very few details have been overlooked; the above commission also would be charged with ensuring that funding would be distributed responsibly.

Such an investigation is long overdue. The cracked basements were first reported many years ago, when St. Dick Blumenthal -- who used to break into night sweats whenever he discovered that a cereal maker was putting too much sugar on their flakes -- was Connecticut's consumer protection Attorney General. Everyone knows that a proper investigation will not go forward under Democrat auspices. Democrats at the time were winking when the insurance companies were adjusting their policies to expunge coverage of such expensive disasters.

The kind of thoroughness on exhibit here is actually a characteristic of political seriousness and competence. Stemerman is not here writing a campaign bumper sticker but a plan of action. Other of his plans of action detailed on his campaign site arise from a probing intelligence focused on practical results. Stemerman loathes politicians who over-promise. If government truly is the art of the possible, it may yet be possible that intelligence yoked to seriousness may, even at this late date, restore the vigor and splendor of Connecticut, a state more in need of restoration than reform.

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