Apologies in advance: this week I got lazy. Rather than writing, I’m cribbing from the thoughts of Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim that appeared in The Hartford Courant on Sunday, January 5, 2020.

I don’t know Mayor Florsheim, and his piece in the Courant isn’t about merging towns or other efforts to regionalize government, but his comments about the tendency of so many of us to accept the status quo and discount the possibility of change are consistent with and amplify some of my thoughts about we Connecticut Yankees.

Mayor Florsheim and I bring a Midwest perspective to life in Connecticut. He came to Wesleyan from Wisconsin in 2010 (the last time the Packers won a championship). I came to Wesleyan from Buffalo in 1965 (the last time the Bills won a championship). I’m guessing the Mayor actually graduated; I returned here in 1975, hoping no one in Middletown remembered me.

Noting that sometimes he thinks that “transplants are the only people who love Connecticut,’ Mayor Florsheim says:

“Many longtime residents regard life in this state as tantamount to being stuck in a bad marriage. It’s miserable, but doing something to change the situation would be hard and terrifying, so the despair drags on and the resentment builds. We suffer from a sort of reverse state pride, something that’s hard to imagine of Texans or New Yorkers or Californians.”

He says “the malaise is not totally without justification.” He references the Great Recession and Connecticut’s fiscal challenges. Just yesterday, the Courant reported that the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia projects that Connecticut is one of nine states that will suffer economic contraction in 2020.

We all know there’s a lot about Connecticut that needs fixing, but the Mayor says “challenges beget opportunities – if only we could quit being so fatalistic about it.” He goes on:

“Having not been reared in a tradition of civic pessimism, transplants like myself have a sort of superpower that allows us to see the great things about this state more clearly. We are able to diagnose our challenges not as immutable penalties for the original sin of being Connecticut but as eminently solvable problems.”

Maybe he’s put his finger on something. I look at our wasteful and inefficient cities and towns and think “we can fix this.” Some of my Connecticut friends tell me I’m dreaming. I guess when Carolyn and I first moved to Connecticut we didn’t receive a copy of the Connecticut Yankee manifesto that must appear on the back of Connecticut birth certificates, the message that says something like “Welcome to Connecticut, the Land of Steady Habits. The way it is is the way it is, and we like it like that. Even if it doesn’t work.”

Then the Mayor said something startling but true: “People want to love where they live.” We do, don’t we? And what does that cause us to do? When we’re out of town and we’re asked where we’re from, we tend to answer “Windsor” or “Newington” rather than “Hartford” because we love our towns and despite the fact that no one outside of Connecticut has ever heard of those towns. It’s time to admit that we live in a Hartford neighborhood, just like the neighborhoods where our friends live in Pittsburgh and Nashville and Raleigh, friends who are proud to say they live in Pittsburgh and Nashville and Raleigh and not in some town no one has heard of.

In closing, the Mayor references the state motto. Do you know it? I didn’t. It’s “Qui transtulit sustinet” or loosely translated, “He who is transplanted still sustains.” There you have it: transplants will sustain Connecticut. So, take it from a couple of transplants (the Mayor’s words, and I’m happy to borrow them): “Let’s resolve, going forward, to start from a place of positivity, rather than pessimism.”

Let’s fix our community so we all can be proud to say “I’m from Hartford.”

One Reply to “YOU GO MAYOR!”

  1. Mark, I like this — CT needs transplants just as the US needs immigrants. Their (your) energy and fresh perspective are critical to the continued growth of the state/country.

    A quibble — the state motto is more accurately translated as “He who transplanted us to here [Jehovah, in other words] sustains us still.”

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